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.
In 2011, VAI undertook the first detailed survey on The Social, Economic, and Fiscal Status of the Visual Artist in Ireland. As a result of the survey, VAI started the Ask! Has the Artist Been Paid? campaign, which lead to the introduction of payment rights for artists as part of funding conditions. In 2018, VAI’s advocacy contributed to the introduction of Job Seekers Allowance for Artists, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, VAI was asked to form a special interest group from the arts that would directly communicate with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, assisting the design and delivery of supports during the pandemic and beyond.
As the principle body, we offer the broadest range of services that are designed specifically for visual artists and visual arts organisations by specialists. Our mandate comes directly from: individual visual artists, artists groups, arts organisations, and independent art workers who recognise us as the primary authority. Our goals are to provide: information, support, advice, and applicable examples of best practice in an accessible and clearly understood manner.
Our dedicated team achieve this using the financial support of our members, the Arts Council of Ireland, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Dublin City Council, self generated income, as well as through financial and service donations