Galway street art may be granted more creative freedom with new bill

By Eimear O’ Dwyer.

As of now, if you want to install a piece of street art in Galway City, you need to acquire planning permission from the City Council and the approval of the Arts Office for your proposed work.

Sinn Fein TD, Eoin Ó Broin is seeking to change the law in this area. He hopes to make it less cumbersome for artists to create street art.

Public Art Mural Bill

He introduced a Bill to the Dail on the 3rd of February titled, “Public Art Mural (Exempted Development) Bill 2023.”  The Bill is currently at the second stage of debates.

If enacted, the Bill will allow artists to create street art, without acquiring planning permission from their local councils.

Margaret Nolan

Margaret Nolan, Galway-based artist says this Bill “would be definitely a much better way to go, I prefer working that way, with freedom to express how I feel fit.”

“I know it can’t be a free for all but so long as the artist has experience and previous work on walls they should be allowed to work as they see fit.”

“Some like to totally plan their work others like me allow the art to come out of the wall,” says Margaret.

Galway street artGalway street art

Murals by Margaret.

She says that young people need to be able to express themselves and that artists’ work transforms into different forms over time.

“It allows young people to express themselves.”

“There is a teaching value in street art. It conveys meanings.”

Before starting a project she thinks a lot about her ideas and leaves judgement behind. Rather than planning, she begins painting and finds her flow.

Many artists follow similar processes, following their art, rather than planning it extensively.

Thus, artists like Margaret argue that freedom of expression is hindered when planning permission is required.

“Learning how to make your mark,” is an important part of the process she says.

Margaret’s street art is inspired by the community and the urban landscape. She spends a lot of time outdoors and creates street scenes.

Moreover, she says street art transforms dirty walls around the city and brightens people’s days.

Electricity boxes painted by Margaret. 

Shane O’ Malley

Galway visual artist, Shane O’Malley reiterates the importance of street art.

“The art movement adds an energy and a vibrance to areas of a city that are at times overlooked.”

When Shane started out, he painted graffiti on walls and now creates murals and studio paintings. Shane also leads street art tours with artist Finbar McHugh in partnership with the Galway City Council Arts Office and Outset Gallery.

“Street art and murals take artists’ work off the canvas, out of studios and onto walls in public spaces. Murals add value to the people living in Galway as well as the tourists visiting the city,” he says.

Galway City Council

“Street art, thoughtfully and skilfully developed, has the potential to challenge, unite, inform and inspire,” says Galway City Council Arts Development Officer, Muiriosa Guinan.

However, on the matter of the Public Art Mural Bill, Galway City Councils’ communication officer says they do not have a comment at this time, as they are still in the process of examining the Bill.

Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein TD, Mairéad Farrell says the implementation of the Bill “could mean beautiful art around Galway City and County and add to the already vibrant and artistic county that we have.”

Additionally, Eoin Ó Broin says the Bill would reduce the need for punitive legal action against artists. He says it would also encourage “high-quality public art to adorn the streetscapes of our cities and towns.”

If implemented, the art will have to have “cultural or artistic merit.” It will require the consent of the property owners and will need to conform to certain exceptions.

Furthermore, the art cannot be a commercial advertisement, it must not conflict with the Equal Status Acts.

Finally, planning permission will still be required in the case of listed or protected structures.












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