By Áilín Quinlan
THE gloom of a January afternoon shattered into a froth of tulle and a whisper of pink satin yesterday (Wednesday) as a flock of tutu-clad young ballerinas pirouetted into Skibbereen’s spectacular new Arts Centre.
The 100 or so dancers – all members of the Alan Foley Academy of Dance – were thrilled by their first sight of the state-of-the-art dance studio that awaited them in the five-storey, €3.6m centre named ‘Uillinn’.
Alan says the studio in Skibbereen rivals anything he has seen in New York or London.
‘This studio is specially designed for dance with a special sprung floor, beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows and full-length mirrors, as well as ballet barres – we have waited for this for many, many years,’ enthused Alan, principal of the academy and creative director of the Cork City Ballet, who has held classes in the old premises on North Street for two decades.
‘The children are ridiculously excited about it. Everything is new. It’s absolutely wonderful to have a facility of this kind in Skibbereen.
‘Our students in Bantry and Clonakilty will also avail of these facilities,’ said Mr Foley, who paid tribute to the staff and the board of management for what he described as the ‘many years of hard graft’ it took to bring the project to fruition.
Aside from 10 staff and two Community Employment scheme workers who transferred from the old building on Monday January 5, the youngsters, who range in age from two-and-a-half to 20, are the first members of the public to enjoy a class in the new West Cork Arts Centre in the centre of the town.
The first ballet class in Foley’s weekly ballet dance programme took place in the new centre yesterday afternoon.
A full schedule of activities begins next Monday, January 19, starting with Arts for Active Minds, a visual arts programme for the over-55s, along with Arts for Health, Art Club, Explore Art, Advanced Drawing, Life Drawing, Arts Participation, Arts of Active Mind, and WCAC Youth Theatre.
The centre annually holds about 10 large exhibitions, as well as up to three activities per day.
The inaugural exhibition will take place on January 31 at 3pm with the opening of an exhibition entitled ‘Fourth Space’, by nine artists.
The official opening will take place in early summer.
The new building comprises two galleries, the University College Cork/Bollinger Family Space Dance Studio, along with workspace for art workshops, three artist-in-residence studios, administration offices, and tea rooms.
‘We would be hoping to hold many colourful events here into the future,’ said spokesperson Rita O’Driscoll.
‘The new arts space will provide a quality arts facility and a new social space for the community, enhanced workshop, dance, performance and film club facilities and improved exhibition space and studio spaces for artists.
‘It will continue to focus on the visual arts and provide a centre for excellence in the visual arts at local, national and international levels,’ she said.