Following the “success” of the Royal Ulster Academy (RUA) exhibition hosted in Enniskillen last month, a number of arts advocates in Fermanagh have called for a permanent public gallery space in the island town. On the closing night of the RUA exhibition, arts activist and member of the Fermanagh Live Arts Festival (FLive) Board of Directors Noelle McAlinden highlighted why she believes Enniskillen needs a public gallery, addressing those in attendance which included Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Chair Howard Thornton.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Noelle said: “The recent success of The Royal Ulster Academy Exhibition at Waterways Ireland has proved that there is an increasing appetite for the visual arts, tours, talks and masterclasses among audiences of all ages and platforms.”

“Between the Clinton Centre and other potential vacant premises, perhaps there’s a new opportunity to rethink and recreate a new masterpiece, to contribute to the economy, cultural tourism and showcase the creative talent and skills of emerging as well as established artists locally, regionally and internationally,” she said.

“It’s not necessarily about creating something new but exploring what existing public places and spaces we have, to celebrate, perform, educate and collaborate in,” Noelle added.

“Without a doubt there is a need for a public visual arts gallery in Enniskillen,” said Louise Donnelly, Art and Design Lecturer at South West College. Noting that local artists have “limited options” to display their work, she added: “As an Art and Design lecturer in Tyrone and Fermanagh, I feel that my students often fail to see the immediate need for artists and the very important, often life altering work that they carry out with no permanent base for arts in this area.”

Commenting that she would “still argue for the re-opening of the Clinton Centre,” local arts enthusiast Patricia Thirgood said: “Waterways Ireland has stepped into the breach from time to time and has supported FLive and the local South West College for exhibitions but to have a thriving arts centre, purpose built in a central location, sponsored by local government and perhaps industry is a must for our community which includes many existing and up-and-coming artists and I feel would be really appreciated by our community.”

She continued: “You could say the significance of a town is judged by its support and promotion of the arts and at the moment we are falling short and failing both our community and our many visitors. Many smaller towns are pushing forward with the arts and we only have to visit our neighbours in Donegal, Leitrim and Sligo to see that a surge forward into the arts world is happening and very well received.”