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Every two years IMMA puts out a call for applications from artists to join its Artists’ Panel. Coming to the end of the current phase of the Artists’ Panel, 2005 – 2006, this publication is intended to be a resource for current and prospective artists in advance of the next phase of the Panel 2007 – 2008, to make the role of the artists more visible and to encourage more artists to become involved.

The publication provides a brief overview of the current Artists’ Panel 2005/06: how it came about, what purpose it serves, who is on it and how to apply. It also contains a number of short, critical essays intended to stimulate debate and discussion about the role of the artist in a museum or gallery context.

IMMA has a long history of working with artists in a variety of roles though its Exhibitions and Collections programmes, the National Programme, the Artists’ Residency Programme and the Education and Community Programmes. The role of the artist as ‘intermediary’ between the public and the art work is a critical aspect of mediation strategies in museums and galleries in general and IMMA in particular and one which warrants recognition and critical consideration.

IMMA has always placed an emphasis on the centrality of the artist in its programmes and policies. The development of the Artists’ Panel over the past number of years is indicative of this commitment, not only to the meaningful development of IMMA’s programmes but to the professional development of the artists involved. By formalising its relationship with artists, articulating its expectations and putting support structures in place, IMMA has seen the role of the artist become more visible, more dynamic and more central to the work of the Museum.

In order to stimulate debate and discussion about the role of the artist in a museum or gallery concerned with contemporary art, we have commissioned a number of writers to write short, critical texts on this subject. The writers were given ‘artistic licence’ to respond to this task from whatever perspective interested them with a view to opening up the debate about this practice, to challenge assumptions, to explore methodologies and to consider the motivations of the institution, the artist and the public.

In his essay The Artist and the Institution, Mick Wilson, artist and writer, and currently Head of Research and Postgraduate Development in the National College of Art and Design, considers aspects of the roles and responsibilities of artists in institutions in general and poses a number of questions and challenges for both the institution and the artist.

Clíodhna Shaffrey, independent curator and critical writer who has a range of experience curating and commissioning artists, focuses on the role of the artist in terms of institutional critique and explores the implications of this for IMMA in particular, in her essay, The Artist and the Museum: Another Way. Clíodhna selected, at random, three artists from the current Panel: Patricia McKenna, Beth O’Halloran and Cliona Harmey and interviewed them about their experience. She also considered written feedback from many of the other artists on the Panel. In doing so she gives voice to the subjective experience of the respective artists.

Christine Mackey, a practicing artist and a member of IMMA’s Artists’ Panel for the period 2005 – 2006 provides a unique ‘insider’ perspective on the role of the artist in a museum or gallery context. Drawing on her own experience, she offers a model of the museum as ‘way-station’: a temporary site for exchange, debate and collaboration where the artist’s role is one of ‘inter-relation, contingent on audience participation’.

These essays are not intended to present a comprehensive overview of the role or experience of the artist in a museum context or in IMMA in particular. Nor do their findings and observations go uncontested. Hopefully, they will stimulate and inform further debate and discussion about the role of the artist in a museum as the Artists’ Panel enters its next phase in 2007/08.