Monto – Celebrating art in Dublin City Centre

Posted July 3, 2016 in Arts & Culture Features


The annual Monto picnic will be taking place on Thursday 14th July in Liberty Park on Foley Street. Five of the area’s galleries and studios, ArtBox, The LAB Gallery, Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Oonagh Young Gallery and Talbot Gallery & Studios (known collectively as the Monto Arts Group), are welcoming everyone to join them between 10am and 3pm to celebrate local art with a diverse programme of events.

We met with Sheena Barrett, of the LAB Gallery, to hear about what this year has to offer. She explains: “We want to make all of the rich cultural activity that happens in this area visible, and reclaim the natural spaces around the area – the park. Get everybody in there to relax and enjoy some music and celebrate the culture that’s around here. We’ve got all of these contemporary art spaces, lots of artists living in the area, lots of work being made, but sometimes it’s just not visible to people who are working here or passing through.”

“What we’re trying to do is encourage people to see that the facilities are already here. The park is there, and it doesn’t take much to use it in a way, together, that makes it feel like a friendlier place, somewhere you want to spend a bit of time. Through our art projects a lot of what we talk about is this idea of giving people permission to wonder. We want to encourage people to linger, just to spend a bit of time in the area.”

With events that will appeal to all ages, the Monto Arts Picnic sounds like a perfect family day out. The day begins with a free Tai Chi class hosted by Dance House, followed by a tour of the five local arts venues at 11am. The picnic itself runs from 12pm to 2pm and includes live music from emerging bands, programmed by Angela Dorgan of First Music Contact. There will also be an installation of visual artist Rita Duffy’s The Souvenir Shop, curated by Helen Carey, and a preview of Vanessa Donoso Lopez’s 2016 LAB exhibition. Artist Seoidín O’Sullivan will be running activities for children in collaboration with DCC Arts office, local Montessori Kids Inc. and Dublin Adult Learning Centre. The LAB will be working with Kids Inc. in the weeks leading up to the picnic to make works for the park.



The rich history of Monto is at the forefront of the work of the collective. The final event of the day is a walking tour with local historian Terry Fagan at 2pm.

Sheena says, “Contemporary art is about ordinary, everyday lives. But we’re always conscious in this area that there’s such a rich history to the area, and it touches a lot of the work that we do. A lot of the artists who come here respond to the history of the area, whether it’s in an invited way, like the programmes this year related to 1916, or just because you can’t not feel the layers of history related to the Magdalene Laundry or the way women would have been treated in the Monto in particular over the years. There’s also a huge history around the area’s connection to the Docklands. So we’re very conscious of that, it affects the work that we’re doing. And we have an amazing resource; Terry Fagan is a local historian who we’ve all worked with and he just knows everything about the place. Any of the artists who come to stay in Fire Station Artists’ Studios, one of the first things they do is go on a tour with Terry Fagan. Outside the LAB, in one of the blacked out windows, we have this great vinyl piece that Terry wrote the text for and some photographs from the past. He does all his tours starting there so you see these troupes of visitors, Irish or international tourists who are coming to find out about this area. It’s a nice way of connecting the two.”



The Monto Arts Group have been collaborating informally for many years. Since last year they have been making a more concerted effort to work together, to grow their audiences collectively. “I think we’re all interested in what it means to work together and try and use our different skills to have an impact on our community and our neighbourhood. We’re all very invested in this area.”

This year’s picnic will build on the success of last year. Sheena emphasises the community spirit on show at the event. “The parks department really get behind it and the place is absolutely shining. Everybody comes out, all the residents are on their balconies. There’s just a lovely welcoming feeling… There’s something magical as well about live music – it makes everywhere feel like a film set.”

The picnic takes place on Thursday 14th July 2016, 10am-3pm Liberty Park, Foley Street, Dublin 1

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Words: Naoise Murphy


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