Visual Artists Ireland is the current trading name of the Sculptors’ Society of Ireland. The Sculptors’ Society of Ireland was established in 1980. It was initially set up to improve the professional standing of sculptors, raise the profile of sculpture and develop the quality and scope of commissioning procedures and opportunities. As one founding member succinctly described it – “to make the country see sculpture as part of everyday living”.
In addressing these needs the Society initiated sculpture symposia and thus provided opportunities for sculptors to work with new materials, new contexts and fundamentally, to engage in dialogue with their peers. Exhibitions and conferences likewise provided much needed platforms for contemporary Irish sculpture, offering to critically appraise and encourage the development of the art form in Ireland. The SSI ‘Newsletter’ offered artists access to information and a forum for discussion around their practice.
The Society was also instrumental in facilitating the 1988 implementation of Percent for Art legislation in the Ireland, developed codes of practice for the commissioning of public art and led by example by taking on the management of commissions.
Since its inception the Sculptors’ Society encouraged the broadest possible definition of sculptural practice encompassing object making, lens-based media, digital arts, installation and performance. This open and inclusive policy as well as an enhanced programme of services and resources led to a significant increase in membership in the years following the demise of the Artists Association of Ireland in 2002.
In 2005 the Sculptors’ Society decided to undertake a re-branding of the organisation and adopt the business name Visual Artists Ireland. The organisation now caters for all visual artists and is the only all-Ireland representative body for professional visual artists.