Taking the time to visit an art gallery is something most of us would often like to do, but rarely get around to doing. Strolling about, staring really hard at an abstract and pretending you ‘kind of get it’; looking at pictures of men in frilly collars; and racking your brain for some Leaving Cert art history knowledge so you can tell whoever’s with you that that apple in the corner ‘symbolises life’ – it’s an activity that’s hard to find the time for.
Here I offer you ten reasons to visit your local gallery, straight from Patrick, The Crawford Art Gallery’s caretaker – a lovely French man with some lovely glasses, and an abundance of knowledge of the art and exhibitions at The Crawford.
Reason 1: It’s free! “A lot of people don’t know that,” says Patrick – but yes, The Crawford Art Gallery is free to enter for everyone. It’s a privilege we don’t often think about, having such great artwork at our disposal for no cost at all: everything from priceless sculptures to Jack Yeats’ paintings with a price tag of up to a million euro. All that’s asked, really, is an optional donation at the door on your way out. Plus, everyone likes free stuff.
Reason 2: There are loads of brilliant exhibitions to see right now, including works by both Jack B. Yeats and Anne B. Yeats, and Seán Keating too. These are some of Patrick’s favourites, and come personally recommended by him because of their special relevance to Irish history and culture. Also featured in the gallery is the wonderful exhibition ‘Perceptions: The Art of Citizenship’ where the artwork is ‘vibrant and playful’ and seeks to tell us about ‘people, places, aspirations and hopes.’ As a layperson, this was definitely the exhibition I’d recommend the most to anyone. All of the colours and textures… and all that other artsy stuff, made it a really interesting experience.
Reason 3: Art Classes. The Crawford Art Gallery offers an abundance of classes, from children’s classes to classes for senior citizens, in anything from painting to creative writing. There are currently some creative writing workshops going on which will be taking place throughout the month of October, as well as ‘Symposium: Perceptions 2016’, which takes place between the 25th-26th of October. This is a multi-venue exhibition where participants are invited to consider subjects such as ‘creative citizenship’. The Crawford Gallery’s own website is full of information on all of its classes and events, so make sure to check it out.
Reason 4: “To protect your culture.” When I asked Patrick why it was important for people to visit art galleries, this was his reason. Supporting art galleries is a crucial part of protecting Irish history and culture, and Patrick explained that art is an important source when learning about politics in our country past and present: “No matter what your country, politics and art go hand in hand.” Throughout 2016, the Crawford has had a constant supply of exhibitions relating to the artists, themes and events of the 1916 rising, plus a ‘gallery trail’ of works accompanied by a logo so that visitors are able to track Ireland’s political history through the artwork.
Reason 5: An opportunity to meet new people. Whether it’s by getting involved in classes, or just wandering around, the Crawford is always full of interesting people to meet. Famous faces, up-and-coming artists, amateurs and enthusiasts, they can all be found in the Crawford on any given day. Patrick puts it simply & well, saying “there is always someone to have a nice chat with about what’s going on in the world of art.”
Reason 6: Creativity. It’s hard not to come out of an art gallery feeling a bit inspired. It’s an almost osmosis-like thing, like being surrounded by all that creativity just soaks into your brain…and with that pretentious thought, let’s move on to our next reason.
Reason 7: Bragging rights. Visiting art galleries is undoubtedly a distinguished way to spend your spare time. Sure, people might think you’re a pretentious wanker, but who knows – you might be getting to see some little-known artwork now that will be hugely famous in years to come. Secretly, we all love a ‘I knew them before they were famous’.
You could be, like, the first guy who saw that Banksy with the maid and the dustpan and thought – ‘cool’.
Reason 8: New perspectives and different cultures. The Crawford Art Gallery has a constant flow of new exhibitions from all over the world and from all different time periods. African short films, “Northern Art”, Irish Art from 1870-1970, plus a whole variety of other exhibitions from across the globe & from the distant past make visiting the Crawford Art Gallery, or almost any art gallery, an opportunity to get a view of life as other people see it. It’s an opportunity to glimpse into someone else’s mind and experiences, and from that gain a new perspective of your own.
Reason 9: The Crawford Café. Good coffee, would recommend.
Reason 10: Meeting the caretaker. Patrick has been a caretaker at the Crawford Art Gallery for 10 years, and meeting him is definitely a highlight of visiting the Crawford. As I said before, a lovely French man with lovely glasses, he happily passed on his knowledge of the gallery and its exhibitions to many of the visitors. Of his ten years in the gallery, he said: “Every day is a pleasure. Coming in, meeting new people, talking about art, discovering different things. It’s a pleasure to come to work. It’s not even work… it’s like a hobby!”
So, with that, I hope you’ve found at least one reason to visit your local art gallery. Whether it’s the art, the coffee or the nice staff, there’s always going to be something to find there.