The Department and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) are working with a number of arts organisations to deliver the world class arts and cultural facilities that Belfast needs and deserves.
Government allocated £18m for arts infrastructure, primarily in Belfast, underlining government’s strategy to encourage arts and culture to lead the way in the city's social and economic regeneration. In addition the Department secured a further £31.6m capital for the period 2008-2011 for allocation on arts capital projects across Northern Ireland.
In 2005, a £4m Challenge Fund for the arts and cultural sector in the North West was established. The fund was distributed in two strands: a £3.2m challenge fund for projects capable of making significant contribution to regeneration and arts provision in the area and £0.8m for a piece of iconic artwork to mark the regeneration of the city.The Foyle Public Art Project, entitled Mute Meadow, provides a major contemporary public artwork in the city. Mute Meadow, located at Ebrington is visible from both sides of the River Foyle. The piece, which provides the city with an internationally recognised signature was officially opened in June 2011.
The Gasyard Development Trust, a purpose built multi-functional arts workshop space, was the first project to be completed under the Challenge Fund. Other projects carried out under the Challenge Fund include the refurbishment and extension of The Playhouse and Waterside Theatre and the new build of Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin Irish Language and Cultural Centre which were completed in 2009.
The Lyric Theatre was in a very dilapidated state of repair and the Department allocated up to £9.5 million to redevelop the theatre on its existing site in Ridgeway Street.
The Arts Council awarded a further £2.4 million from the Lottery Fund. Over the years the Lyric has nurtured the talents of some of Northern Ireland’s most gifted artists.
The spectacular new theatre has increased capacity from 300 to 400 seats and includes a new studio space, offices and improved backstage and front of house facilities.
The old Lyric was demolished in 2008 and work started on site in March 2009. The new Lyric Theatre was completed in March 2011 and the opening was celebrated with a weekend of events culminating in a gala evening on 1st May 2011.
Metropolitan Arts Centre
The new Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC), which opened in April 2012, is a stunning, state of the art purpose built centre located in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast.
The MAC is 6 storeys high and houses 2 theatres (one 350 seat and one 120 seat), 3 major visual art galleries, a dance studio, education, workshop and rehearsal spaces, offices for resident arts groups as well as a resident artist and (of course) a cool café and bar.
The MAC offers a world class programme ranging from blockbuster events and exhibitions to challenging, experimental new works. The Department contributed £10.76m to the overall project cost of £17.56m.
Crescent Arts Centre
From drama and verbal arts to dance and from Tai Chi to popular and classical guitar, it is all available at the Crescent Arts Centre. However, the Crescent was increasingly falling into a state of disrepair with only 50% of the building useable due to dereliction/deterioration.
It competed for funding in the 2003 BBC ‘Restoration’ Series, unfortunately without success. The Department provided funding of £4.5 million towards the cost of restoration. The Arts Council awarded £1.2 million from the Lottery fund.
The project commenced on site in September 2008. The newly refurbished and extended Crescent opened its doors in April 2010 and the new facilities are being enjoyed by many.
An Chultúrlann has recently undergone a major extension and refurbishment of its existing premises on the Falls Road in Belfast. The project provides increased work and exhibition space, improved accessibility, gallery space and an enhanced tourist information area providing a wider range of services and products.
The Department contributed £500k towards the refurbishment. Other funding comes from the Arts Council, NI Tourist Board, the Department for Social Development and the International Fund for Ireland.
Work started on site in September 2010 and the project was completed in September 2011. President Mary McAleese performed the official opening ceremony.