Arts Workshop Anniversary

By Caitriona Murphy

The Trinity Arts Workshop this month celebrates its 50th Anniversary. The Workshop, founded in 1960 and originally known as the Dublin University Arts Workshop, has a colourful and fascinating history the members plan to celebrate through a number of different events.

The Workshop, whose foundation was announced in Trinity News itself 50 years ago, was set up with the aims of promoting artists and holding exhibitions, encouraging debate and discussion of art and forming a comprehensive art library. This simple agenda soon evolved into something much greater and during the 1960s the society became a revolutionary hub of artistic life.

In 1968 the society became the first to host open life drawing classes with nude models, attracting several well-known artists who posed for the students such as John Behan and Eamonn O’Doherty. Musicians were also welcomed, with visits from the Horslips and Jazz Therapy.

A controversial library, which contained radical literature including the works of anarchist sympathisers, was set up but closed within days due to the disappearance of a majority of the books. The Simon Community of Dublin also held their first meeting within the society’s walls.

In 1969 the Workshop played host to the exiled students of NCAD when they were locked out of college. Clippings from this period show the then President, Mr. George Wynne Jones, welcoming the students into the workshop to continue their studies. Students from this time still refer to the workshop as a refuge and it established a network between the two colleges resulting in several joint exhibitions.

The society has hosted many different classes going far beyond life drawing and painting. Fergus Byrne, the current president of the workshop, describes the 1990s as another strong period in its history. A huge variety of classes took place including bookmaking, jewellery and dance.

To celebrate the landmark anniversary the Workshop has arranged an exhibition at 191 Pearse Street from September 24-27. Dr. Nicola Gordon-Bowe, a former exhibitor with the Workshop and a celebrated art historian, will host the launch. The Workshop has also collected many articles and memories about its past that have unveiled some fascinating facts and stories.

Today the workshop hosts life drawing classes, ceramics, comic drawing and painting; membership is open to all Trinity students for €2.