Artists running out of space in the city

Pallas Projects/Studios, who has provided artistic production and exhibitions in Dublin city for over 20 years, are now seeking new pastures due to a lack of spaces throughout the city. 

Pallas Projects sits in the heart of the Liberties, nestled down a side alley on The Coombe, sharing the same laneway as BIMM. Aspiring musicians flock to class, often lugging their instruments.

You can hear the laughter and chatter of schoolchildren from the neighbouring St Brigid’s National School as you venture up the laneway to a gate that leads you into the Pallas Projects courtyard. Vague hop-scotch markings can be seen on the ground, now a space for budding artists to produce and exhibit their work on the grounds of what used to be an old school building.

Pallas was set up in 1996 by Mark Cullen (co-director) and Brian Duggan, later being joined by Gavin Murphy (co-director) in 2006.   

“It  began as an impulse to create a space for both working together and working within, in parallel or in a community with other artists, and it has survived to witness a wide intermeshing of an  artistic community across Ireland,” Cullen says.   

Since its inception, the project has inhabited 11 different spaces. Pallas has been in precarious renting situations due to a lack of spaces in Dublin city, according to co-director and curator Mark Cullen.   

Director of Pallas Projects/Studios Mark Cullen and Eve Woods Curator/Programme Producer 

Pallas Projects persisted, spending five years in old council flats that were scheduled to be demolished. It was a space of four empty flats repurposed for art, a building being slowly vacated of its people and families, he recalls.

Having moved from space to space, Pallas agreed to a ten-year lease from a private landlord in The Coombe in 2012. “Next year, the studio will again be in another uncertain situation,” says Cullen.

Image of front of Pallas Projects/Studios taken by Emma Haugh 

“We’re going to have a massive cultural problem if we do not have cultural venues and artistic spaces to share our civic lives”

Mark Cullen, co-Director and curator of Pallas Projects/Studios

Cullen worries Dublin city could risk losing its deep-rooted cultural authenticity if it prioritizes commercial redevelopment over affordable spaces for artists and exhibitions.

“We are always trying to be one step ahead of the developers, the city is developer-led with artistic and cultural venues being pushed aside for hotels and co-living spaces, we’re going to have a massive cultural problem if we do not have cultural venues and artistic spaces to share our civic lives,” he says.

“The problem is that planning allows the market to decide what is allowed to be built, if you want to build a hotel you can, but that is not good planning in terms of civics of the city,” Culled adds.

Cullen suggests Dublin City Council incentivises ‘meanwhile use’ of derelict buildings and follows Fingal County Council who put a levy on development and uses a proportion of it for public art.

In 2019, Fingal County Council launched their ‘Fingal Arts Plan’, showing their commitment to “making space for art, enabling excellence and developing their capacity.”

“Why do developers need to get the properties empty and then sit on it for a few years? Is there a way to incentivise ‘meanwhile use’?”

A new Zoned Land tax introduced in Budget 2022 may deter land hoarders. It is aimed at developers who fail to build on land with planning permission. The Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar has said that this new tax sends a clear message that the government is “coming to tax developers who hoard land”.

With their studios positioned in an area with an abundance of schools, colleges and community groups, Pallas has engaged with their neighbours through active programmes and outreach.  

Events open to the wider public such as talks, workshops, performance events and gigs were also held at Pallas Projects; all events borne out of collaboration and community.  

One thing is for sure, Pallas Projects/Studios have left a cultural legacy in the Liberties that will be missed following their move in 2022.