Above the Fold caught up with Nichol Gray, the manager of Dublin’s newest creative hub, and Jordan McQuaid, the founder of Apollo Print, ahead of Dublin Culture Night 2017.
Can you tell me about your background and how you began working at the Tara Building?
N: I spent a year working in Smithfield, in a gallery and print studio with 100 artists working on site each day, that showed me the direction that I wanted to take with my career. I soon entered into Creative and Cultural Industries in DIT, which is an arts management degree that merges arts and business, so it didn’t offer much practical fine art practice, lots of theory and business modules that equipped me with the experience to run Tara.
I spent a year in the national museum after I graduated. Before that, we started talking about a project called IN PLACE, which I co-founded and ran over the summer of 2016, from there the Tara Building was born.
J: I always knew I was going to be an artist or musician for as long as I can remember. My dad was a graphic designer, mum was a chef, both creatively inclined. We always had paintings and art around the house. I tried to get into NCAD and failed the first time so did a portfolio course in Stillorgan, which boosted my chances of getting into NCAD. I studied Fine Print and learned how to screen-print while I was working for a studio in London.
Before the Tara Building was launched, the IN PLACE collective of artists took over this building producing work to highlight disused space in Dublin.
TARA was a by-product of IN PLACE, was that always your goal?
N: Not at all, we had no idea that this was on the horizon. I knew I wasn’t content at the National Museum, it’s a great cultural organisation but very jaded, a lot of their practices were stone age. So I was eager to experience something fresh and new and that’s how IN PLACE happened. We didn’t know that it would necessarily go further than that specific project.
J: IN PLACE is still going in terms of one to one collaborations and artists working on projects. When it began we had this amazing site, we turned it into a gallery and held exhibitions and performances. We had projects running throughout the city and I was working on a site down in Francis street as well. Tara was the only site where we were given full reign, so we took advantage of that.
Although IN PLACE is now continuing to grow as a separate entity from TARA, it was born from the same ethos of using spaces to cultivate and celebrate creativity and to thrive and be noticed, which TARA is also accomplishing.
Can you talk about the progress of the TARA Building since its opening?
N: So we are open five months, but it’s been a really busy 5 months. We have about a 100 members at the moment and it’s growing all the time and with so many exhibitions and events under our belt.
Our first exhibition was held by the Photography Society in Trinity College and then we hosted the Photo Ireland Festival. We’re working with Hard Working Class Heroes, Open House Dublin and have more lined up, every week is a completely fresh itinerary of projects, along with day to day business which is also expanding – so we are certainly kept busy.
On the second floor of the building Jordan you run Apollo Print a fully equipped silk screen studio. Who do you find coming through the door to use the studio?
J: In terms of the workshops and lessons, a lot of it is fuelled by people in the building. Now as Tara’s reputation and studio begins to grow, I have people enquiring from outside.
In the future hopefully more people will be come because Apollo is its own entity but I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Tara Building. I don’t think it would have lasted or be as promising for the future if it wasn’t for the kind of people we have here. The members who are here are so enthusiastic about the studio and about getting involved which is fundamental to its foundation.
N: That’s the biggest strength of the whole space as there’s a strong sharing economy amongst members and it is predominantly accounted to freelancers. People promoting their own practice want to help each other out and identify new ways to lend skills by helping the person working next to them – so it’s an inherent component of the space.
Can you tell me a bit about the members and the type of atmosphere that has been created?
N: The word that comes to mind is creative – graphic design is the most common practice in here, however we’ve also got animators, illustrators, writers, poets, journalists and screen-printers.
J: A lot of the members are multidisciplinary. For example one of the members is a full time accountant but in the evening time he’s an actor and writer. Although you do have people who on paper work in marketing or accounting, they themselves want to be part of a community that’s a bit more than that.
Being in a space that’s exclusively Fine Art or Graphic Design focused can pigeonhole you and the way you interact with things. I think it’s good that Tara is creatively inclined and I think that people who have careers at the other end of the spectrum are just as valuable to the space.
N: A lot of the people in more commercially driven careers have branched out and have a lot of projects where they are able to employ people they met through the Tara building.
So suddenly someone is now getting work through the fact that it’s a diverse workspace as opposed to one exclusive discipline.
I think the most important part of the space is the diversity of the people working within it and the conversations that are occuring.
Tara is a place where networking happens in a natural, organic way between creatives with diverse backgrounds and skill-sets. How do you guys encourage this support network further and is there any access for the public?
N: The in-house events team Tara Connects are facilitated by a group called Connect the Dots who workshop cultural environments with the members of that space, they are also speaking on Culture Night! In this case, we’ve been holding events with our members from the outset, where we sit down in the workshop, discuss our current model and alterations that may be needed, and what members like or dislike – this moulds Tara’s cultural direction so it has been really valuable.
We also hold public facing events like Creative Mornings, on the last Friday of the month at 8.30 in the morning – we invite different speakers to discuss a topic. Creative Mornings Dublin is hosted by one of our members Aiden, it’s photographed by another member Nathalie, Fiona live illustrates and I generally work at the door. There’s a whole community of people who pull things together to make it happen!
Have you created any future plans for the space?
N: At the moment we’re just watching it grow, managing it as best we can in the process and knowing what areas of it not to over-manage. Sometimes just letting it be, letting people do their thing and keeping the day to day functioning going while also hosting events. I’m really looking forward to the next series of events.
J: For Apollo Print to keep on growing, making long term plans will make it a more financially stable as a business. Trying to make sure financial stability doesn’t negatively impact the integrity of the business, to not produce artworks for whoever can pay the best, but instead working towards becoming financially sustainable without losing what I’ve always envisioned a space to work in being, one with integrity and genuine creativity at its heart.
Photos by Rudy de Souza.
Words by Róisín McGannon.
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