One of Ireland's oldest arts centres, The Wexford Arts Centre, will re-open its doors to the public this week following a major €3.2 million redevelopment project. The existing historic structure has been purposely re-designed to include a large 3 storey extension with enhanced accessibility and world class visitor facilities. A new gallery space named after the renowned historian Dr. Billy Colfer will complement the centre’s existing contemporary art gallery and theatre. Described as a significant addition to Southeast Ireland’s cultural portfolio, the new centre was officially launched on Saturday by the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Peter Burke TD.
The project was designed by award-winning, Dublin-based, ODKM Architects whose previous projects include Ireland’s Embassy building in Tokyo, Japan. Speaking at the launch, the Wexford Arts Centre’s director, Elizabeth Whyte, described the completion of the project as a major celebration for the region:
“Today is a momentous occasion as we celebrate the biggest redevelopment project of the arts centre since it opened its doors almost 50 years ago. The new development will allow us to greatly expand our vibrant arts and theatre programming. The centre now has the capacity to become a major creative hub for Ireland’s Southeast, a significant new amenity for the local community and key attraction for visitors to the area”.
The centre’s new gallery space has been named after Dr. Billy Colfer, the renowned historian, artist, and local educator who passed away in 2013. The gallery’s inaugural exhibition pays tribute to Dr. Colfer’s life's work and speaking at the launch his son, author Eoin Colfer, remarked:
“My father was a passionate board member of Wexford Arts Centre and a champion of the local heritage and culture of Wexford. He loved this place and it’s wonderful to have his work recognised as the centre embarks on the next exciting chapter in its history.”
The project has been funded by a €1m grant from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, with Wexford County Council providing funding of €2.2m. Officially launching the new centre, Minister Burke praised both organisations on their delivery of the project:
“I am delighted to officially open the new Wexford Arts Centre. Its location in the heart of Wexford town is an important feature, cementing the reputation of the town as a vibrant, cultural and creative hub. I welcome the collaborative nature of the project, with Wexford County Council, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and Wexford Arts Centre all coming together to create the world-class facility we are standing in today”.
It will be the first time that the Wexford Arts Centre will be fully accessible to wheelchair users. Speaking at the launch, the Mayor of Wexford, Councillor Maura Bell, remarked on the centre’s transformation:
“As a proud Wexford native, I’m deeply honoured to formally open the new Wexford Arts Centre following its incredible transformation. Elizabeth Whyte, her team, and the gallery’s board should be congratulated for the commitment to furthering their vision of positioning Wexford as a key cultural destination for contemporary arts and theatre. It will be the first time the building is fully accessible to wheelchair users. I would encourage both locals and visitors to the area to come visit the centre and to be inspired. Congratulations also to Wexford County Council’s project team for delivering a project of such quality”.
The new Wexford Arts Centre will officially open to the public this week. Current exhibitions include “Right of Way” an exhibition by visual artist Laura Fitzgerald winner of the 2019 emergence Award. From 24th - 27th of November the centre will present the Frederick Douglass Civil Rights Festival in memory of the famous abolitionist who visited and spoke at the centre formerly the Assembly Rooms in 1845.
For more information visit wexfordartscentre.ie
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