Martin McElligott with a piece by local graphic artist Omin
Take a walk around Dundalk one of these cold winter evenings and you might notice a few eye-catching artworks adorning once abandoned corners of the town centre.
It's all part of a new initiative thought up by Martin McElligott, manager of Dundalk BIDs office since 2016. The project, which has seen the BIDs office commission, local artists, to paint urban artworks, is one which ties in with the BIDs office aim to “represent the ratepayers and constantly strive to come up with new exciting ways to make Dundalk a nicer place to live and shop”.
As well as making the areas seem more inviting and safe, Martin hopes that they will help get people shopping back in the Dundalk town centre again.
Martin explained: “We want to make the transitions from the main streets to the back roads a bit friendlier for people by lighting them up and commissioning urban art projects and installing planters, festoon lighting and CCTV cameras.
“We're trying to take forgotten and neglected spaces back in Dundalk town centre and urban art is an excellent way to do that. It's temporary, quick and effective. It's also a great way to promote local artists.”
Dundalk man Martin says he hopes the project, and others which the BIDs office is working on will help to change negative perceptions of Dundalk.
He said: “We want to change the mindset of people and get them back into the town centre. There are more spaces to park in Dundalk than the Marshes and the Retail Park. I think perception has damaged the town centre.
“With projects like this one, we want to change any negative impressions people might have of Dundalk - especially people who are visiting the town for the first time.
“I think Dundalk has been knocked down a lot over the years and that we can forget our strengths sometimes. We're a very artistic, creative town.”
So far there are about six of these artworks adorning spaces across the town centre. Local artist Sean McGuill created the mural at the side of Roe River Books on Park Street and Dundalk BIDs have worked with local graphic artist Omin on the rest.
Martin says Omin has been fantastic to work with: “I usually come to him with a theme and he will come up with something brilliant. For his most recent piece he took pictures of people walking down Clanbrassil Street for research and included them in the finished piece. So it's very personal to that area.”
During his chat with the Dundalk Democrat, Martin also told of the BID's office ambitious plans for the future: “In 2019, we'll go into a new five year term as a company. We're happy to be supported by the local business community and delivering the right projects for the development of the town.
“A lot of the projects we have in the pipeline are very visual that will help to show off Dundalk's personality.”
One such project is a 10-day street art festival in June 2019 which will see artists creating art on urban spaces around the town centre.
Martin explains: “All of the works will be themed - we want to keep it personal to Dundalk. Half of the particpants will be international artists and we'll be showcasing local artists too. Artists will also be encouraged to express themselves through the mediums of sculpture and painting.”
This exciting festival and Dundalk BID's other efforts are all part and parcel of moving Dundalk in the right direction. Martin adds: “Dundalk town centre is evolving. Hopefully, we'll see a bit more growth. I think art puts a smile on people's faces. It helps to take back the areas and contribute towards its future.”