Visual artists of international renown, from Paul Henry to Jack B Yeats, have long been inspired by Mayo’s dramatic landscapes and seascapes, fast-moving skies and constantly changing light. Many highly acclaimed artists, such as Alice Maher and Dermot Seymour, have been drawn to live in the county, and Mayo prides itself on nurturing emerging talent and celebrating the visual arts whenever possible. Westport – arguably the artistic hub of the county – boasts a host of galleries, as well as its own arts festival, while its satellite towns are also home to several beautiful art houses. Here’s a guide to just a few.
Eight ways to get arty in Westport
1. Custom House Studios Gallery
The Custom House Studios and Gallery was set up in the 1980s, when a group of locally based artists put their creative heads together to push for a centre for the arts that offered both studio space and a dedicated exhibition space.
The old Custom House at the Quay was subsequently carefully restored, conserving its historical architectural features, and it now houses seven studios, a printmaking workshop and a beautiful two-storey, light-drenched gallery space. Check out the www.customhousestudios.ie to find out what’s on when you’re in town.
2. Green Fuse Gallery
Green Fuse is a fine-art gallery that features the work by leading contemporary painters, printmakers and sculptors based in, or influenced by, Westport and Mayo. The gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 12.30pm to 6pm, and outside of these hours by appointment. Please contact: email@example.com to arrange a viewing and follow our Facebook page for information about future exhibitions and events.
3. The Clew Bay Hotel Gallery
The Clew Bay Hotel Gallery has become a much-loved space for group exhibitions and solo shows, particularly among lesser-known artists. You’ll find it just passed the lobby of the hotel, which is located on James Street. The best part? Because it’s a hotel, you can order a glass of gin to sip on as you peruse the work. Nice!
4. Westport Town Hall Theatre
The recently revamped Westport Town Hall Theatre frequently hosts art exhibitions, often by respected local artists. Past exhibitions have included work by sculptors Ronan Halpin and Marie Wood and artists Breda Burns and Pauline Garavan. Turn a trip to this gallery into a night out, and catch one of the theatre’s many shows. Check out www.westporttheatre.com to see what’s on.
5. Western Light Art Gallery
Why not take a spin up the coast (sure, the scenery’s as good as a gallery anyway) and discover some artistic delights on Achill. You’ll find The Western Light Art Gallery on the Sandybanks at Keel, and within you’ll be treated to the island’s largest collection of images of Achill, including paintings, giclée prints, photography and sculptures. Past exhibitions have included work by Padraig McCaul, Claire Siobhan Walsh, Alex McKenna and John Behan.
6. Ronan Halpin Gallery
Open since 1999 and also on Achill, the Ronan Halpin Gallery welcomes public during the summer months – June, July and August – from 11am to 5pm, or off-season by appointment. It shows the sculptural work of Ronan Halpin, as well as some of his furniture and lighting, and the landscape paintings of Amanda MacMahon, which are mainly oil on paper or oil on canvas.
To get a taste of Halpin’s work, just take a stroll to the bottom of Peter Street in Westport, and gaze at the magnificent six-foot-tall bronze/stainless-steel sculpture, named ‘Sentinel’. The sculpture depicts a ‘spirit horse and rider’, pointing the way to Croagh Patrick for pilgrims while protecting the townspeople; angel and guardian. It was commissioned by the town to celebrate being named The Best Place to Live in Ireland by The Irish Times.
For more, visit www.ronanhalpin.com.
7. The Linenhall Arts Centre
A mere 20 minutes from Westport, The Linenhall Arts Centre hosts exhibitions by contemporary visual artists year-round. Previous exhibitions have included special shows by people with disabilities, refugees, children and older artists, as well as work by established national and international artists. If you fancy getting stuck in yourself, check out if the centre is running one of its art workshops. It also has a jam-packed schedule of theatre, music, cinema, opera and dance.
8. The Claremorris Gallery
Hop in the car or take the train down to the bustling town of Claremorris, and visit the Claremorris Gallery on Mount Street. Just a 40-minute spin from Westport, the gallery is dedicated to an ambitious programme of work by contemporary artists at varying levels of their careers and development. Its principal focus is on the presentation of the work of Irish and American artists. Renowned artists to have pieces hung in the gallery include Alice Maher, Dermot Seymour, Martin Gale, Charles Tyrrell and Camille Souter.