The folks of Contact Studios in Limerick are being kicked out of the studio space that they’ve occupied at the HSE Ireland St Joseph’s campus in Limerick for the past twenty years. They’ve been notified that they have to be out by this Friday.

I could write something about the importance of providing a community of artists in Limerick city with collaborative space that they can use to create work which can be enjoyed by the people of Limerick. I could write something about the vibrancy added to the city just by virtue of having artists working in an urban location. I could write about the worth to Limerick and its citizens of being able to see art conceived and made by artists who have chosen to live in Limerick and produce that art here.

All of that is true. But I’m not going to prattle on about that, because it should be self-evident to anyone with a working brain. I’m going to go on about something else.

Since 1997 the artists of Contact Studios have been working with mental health organisations in Limerick city, particularly Le Cheile on Sexton Street, and have provided thousands of hours of classes, workshops and social gatherings for people who use the services of those organisations. This is what they’ve done in exchange for being allowed to retain the studio space in St Joseph’s. They get to use part of a building which is not being used for anything else – and which the HSE has no plans to use for anything else – and they provide classes which are hugely beneficial to people. Essentially, they’ve been doing a chunk of the HSE’s work for them. It’s an arrangement that has perfect symbiosis and directly helps with the mental health of this city.

It’s a model that should be replicated in every city of Ireland. Instead, the HSE has decided that they want their building back, even though they have no plans to do anything else with it. So the artists lose out, Limerick city loses out, the mental health services in Limerick lose out, mental health service users in Limerick lose out… and the HSE gets a building back that they will then ignore completely.

For twenty years, Limerick has had an admirable and beneficial arrangement between the national body responsible for health in Ireland and a group of artists. The biggest winners over those twenty years have been the people of Limerick. Now that this arrangement has come to an abrupt end at the behest of the HSE, the biggest losers will be the people of Limerick – and among those, mental health service users, who are some of the most vulnerable people of Limerick.

Keeping the studio and retaining the arrangement should be an easy call to make, shouldn’t it? Don’t you think?

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