The council is seeking ideas for a €125,000 art commission on the local cycle route

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An aerial view of the cycle path at Abbey Road in Athlone. The council is inviting proposals for a €125,000 public art commission associated with the construction of the new cycle bridge over the Shannon.

Westmeath County Council is inviting artists to submit a proposal for between two and four ‘prominent’ and ‘intriguing’ public artworks along the cycle route between Streamstown and Athlone Castle.

The €125,000 initiative went out for tender this month as part of the ‘Percent for Art’ scheme associated with the construction of the new Shannon Cycle Bridge in Athlone.

The council described this as “a unique opportunity” for artists to develop a proposal to install their work at “between 2 and 4 separate locations” along the cycle path.

Artists have until July 1 to submit their proposal for consideration. The selection of the winning artwork should be finalized by the end of July, with the artwork to be installed by January next year.

The council said public art proposals should aim “not only to animate the trail, but also to provide the user of the greenway with an intriguing and engaging experience”.

The total budget for the project is €125,000 including VAT, although the council advised that the artist would have a budget of €110,000, as he had reserved the remaining €15,000 for floor work which he would realize on the scene of art. facilities.

The tender documents stated that artists submitting proposals must have at least five years of experience in “creating permanent outdoor sculptures” and must propose a “professional, imaginative and contemporary” concept.

The council called on artists to “react creatively to the public space along the old railway path” and said they should take into account the culture, history and heritage of the area, as well as other themes such as leisure, active travel and biodiversity.

The council also said that successful work should be “accessible to all, standing out as an important element that invites sustained engagement”, and it noted that the art would be “potentially seen from all angles of the greenway “.

He said public art should not block the cycle path, but “overall structures” can be considered to “frame long straights along the greenway”.

The proposed parts should be “low maintenance” and “can last into the future”, the local authority added.

Additionally, he said the art should “enhance the area and provide a new cultural context for the diverse groups of people who will be using the greenway”, noting that the “primary audience” for the work would be people using the greenway. Greenway. .

The council’s tender documents gave four examples of possible locations for the artwork (Streamstown, Crosswood Bog and two locations in Moate), but it stated that the artists themselves could identify suitable locations between the old Streamstown Railway Station and Athlone Castle.

When submitting a proposal, the artist is asked to include their concept for the work, a visual representation of what it would look like, a project plan, and examples of previous work.

The selection process, the council said, would take the form of an open competition, with the possibility for applicants to be invited to a second stage “if the jury deems it necessary for a pre-selected number of proposals”.

The identity of those who will serve on the selection panel was “to be confirmed” according to one of the tender documents.

The selection criteria were listed as assigning a weighting of 30% to the proposal’s “originality, artistic merit and concept” and 30% to its “feasibility and demonstrated ability of the artist”.

Around 20% of the marks are said to be based on “compliance with the specifications” while the other considerations taken into account were the environmental awareness displayed in relation to the part offered (10%) and the “value for money” (10% ).

Submissions from artists in relation to the program should be emailed to: [email protected] by 4pm on Friday 1 July.

In recent years another ‘percentage for art’ scheme, associated with the redevelopment of Athlone’s Church Street, proved controversial when some local objections were raised to the choice of the ‘Mask of the Shannon’ sculpture by artist Mayo Rory Breslin.

Objectors argued that the sculpture was based on inappropriate British symbolism and should have been dropped in favor of a piece focusing on the Irish mythological figure of Síonnan.

Despite the controversy, the piece went ahead and was installed at Custom Place, Athlone in December 2020.

The ‘Mask of the Shannon’ sculpture at Custom Place, Athlone.

Speaking at the Dáil, Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said he was looking forward to the new greenway bridge over the Shannon at Athlone.

His remarks came as part of a debate on the government’s national sustainable mobility policy, during which he highlighted the move towards active travel.

“We have followed the OECD recommendation to devote 20% of transport capital budget to active travel, so we are following the best international advice. We’re starting to see it paying dividends,” said Minister Ryan.

“Projects are not just taking place in our cities. Some 1,200 walking and cycling projects are being undertaken by local authorities across the country.

“The one I’m looking forward to is the new bridge over the Shannon at Athlone as part of the Dublin to Galway Greenway. The bridge will transform the beautiful and beautiful urban space on the west side of the Shannon into the city of Athlone.

“It will open up this area, bring significant rejuvenation and create a public place, while providing active travel infrastructure,” he said.

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