Excerpts: Clippings from the Backwater Vaults
An archival exhibition curated by Backwater Artists Group Studio Coordinator / Research Assistant Brian Mac Domhnaill.
The origins and evolution of the Backwater Artists Group studios, from its inception in 1990 to the present day, are narrated through a selection of print, photographic, video and written word archival material. This archive in the making documents artistic output, changes of premises, the contemporary cultural and economic landscape, and shifts in technology and fashion. Although never intended to form an official and formal archive, the material fortuitously retained by Backwater to date forms the beginning of what will be a longer-term project. Future archiving work will involve the acquisition and digitizing of photographs, slides, videos, publications, posters and flyers from the private collections of current and past members.
“It has been a privilege to rummage through the archive material and to get to know the various cohorts of artists who have been part of the organisation over the last 28 years. The story behind Backwater Artists Group reveals admirable levels of enthusiasm, creativity, cooperation and resilience and it has not been without its reward. There have been exciting and fun times for the artists and they have achieved a great deal individually and collectively. For one their impressive studio facility is a testament to the efforts of the founding members and a shining example of what can be achieved with hard work and adequate support.” Brian Mac Domhnaill.
The origins of Backwater Artists Group
“The idea of the studios came from three young artists at the end of 1989. Tina Cronin, Kieran O’Connor and Deirdra Nolan held a meeting at a house on Back Watercourse Road, Blackpool to discuss a way forward. It is from this address that the group took the name Backwater Artists Group. The group first rented a premises at Watercourse Road Industrial Estate in the spring of 1990. Tina, Kieran and Deirdra were joined by Chris Samuels and Éilis Ní Fhaoláin that summer to make up what would be the founding board of directors.” Backwater Artists Group, A Pictorial History, Archival DVD.
In February 1992 the group moved to 12 Pine Street, a self-contained premises that provided space for sixteen artists. In November of the same year, due to continued and ongoing demand, the adjoining premises at 3 Devonshire Street was also acquired increasing potential capacity to thirty artists in all media. By January 1993 the spaces had been renovated, partitioned and painted accommodating a total of twenty-four members. Following their first successful Arts Council funding application Backwater Artists Group was incorporated as a limited company in June 1993 and in July and August the group held their inaugural exhibition at the Triskel Arts Centre. The funding also allowed for the initiation of a touring exhibition and artist exchanges. The group then began to focus on securing a permanent home and so representations were made to Cork Corporation to acquire a building (the B.A.G. show exhibition catalogue 1993).
In 1995 the City Manager of Cork agreed to assist in the purchase of a premises that would house both Backwater Artists Group and Cork Printmakers, provided that the Arts Council and the Department of Arts, Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht funded the necessary renovations. A premises was finally identified on Wandesford Quay and in March 1997 Minister Michael D. Higgins announced the success of an application for CDIS funds by Backwater and Cork Printmakers. With additional funds from the Arts Council everything was in place and by 1999 the studios were finally complete (the wandesford quay project, backwater artists group exhibition catalogue 1999).