Public Art

Per Cent for Art Scheme for two commissions in Portlaoise, Co. Laois. 

Laois County Council Arts Office are now advertising  for two public art commissions in Portlaoise, Co Laois.

Permanent Visual Artworks that will involve the artist to engage with the public throughout the process. The artworks are for two different areas in Portlaoise, a roundabout that enters Portlaoise town and the new Cultural Quarter on the Main Street, commissioned by Laois County Council.

Rina Whyte

Project Manager and Curator



Nick Miller Pat Boran Watercolour July 2014 resizedPublic Art

Laois County Council has utilised this Percent for Art scheme over the years, commissioning many artworks and residency programmes. The scheme supports the commissioning of artworks, events and projects, permanent or temporary, in any art form or discipline, through funds generated from local authority capital expenditure programmes. The scheme is capped at €65,000. The guidelines for the scheme, published by the Department of Arts in 2004, encourages high standards of commissioning, seeking a vision for artists’ briefs in supporting artists to create new work in consideration of specific contexts. It also supports mediation, documentation and discursive and other events around the commission.

Under the scheme the Artists Residency programme at the Laois Arthouse, has been designed to engage specific communities in a participatory way with an emerging artist. Developing a programmatic approach to commissioning that has enabled us to use this scheme in partnership with the community, Music Generation Laois, Laois School of Music, Laois Youth Theatre and venues, building on successful curated programmes such as, Finding Portlaoise, 2008, UNIT, 2009, Emo Court, 2006 and sculpture symposia held in the 1990’s.

Since the opening of the Laois Arthouse in march 2011, a number of residencies such as NCAD Graduates, Vera McEvoy(2012), Coilin Rushe(2013) have been funded. Major projects include:

‘Sitting’, a residency project at Laois Arthouse, Stradbally, Co Laois with renowned artist Nick Miller, winner of the 2014 Hennessy Portrait Prize. Over the course of ten days, in July 2014, Nick painted portraits of members of the public . Nick also completed two oil paintings of well known artist, Cathy Carmen and writer, Pat Boran from Laois. Carmen and Boran were selected as sitters in recognition of their contribution to the arts in Ireland and as a welcome addition to the Laois County Art Collection. Sitting was curated by Arts Officer, Muireann Ní Chonaill in association with the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Click here  to view film.

Most recently  “En Plein Air – Artist Jock Nichol spent one month in the summer of 2014 at the Laois Arthouse. In that time he explored the stunning man-made and natural heritage of the Stradbally area. En Plein Air included  a public engagement element, with a week long intensive “plein air” drawing and painting workshop for the public. Various approaches to drawing and painting were encouraged; with instruction tailored to individual requirements and emphasis on developing the personal response to the landscape.  An exhibition of the work completed the week.  Throughout the project artist Lisa Fingleton filmed the residency and interviewed the participants and a catalogue was published. The En Plein Air booklet and film were launched in the Laois Arthouse in April 2016.  Copies of the book are available on request from the Arts Office. Click here to view excerpt from film

Other major commissions include:

The James Fintan Lalor Commemorative Sculpture sited at Áras an Chontae Portlaoise. The sculpture is a figurative piece in bronze with a limestone plinth. . The James Fintan Lalor Commemorative Committee raised a significant contribution from local sponsors.

Stradbally Library and Arthouse Percent for Art Commission.  “Growth” 2011, by artist James Hayes. Laser cut 3mm thick stainless steel, approx. 6.5m x 2.75m, float mounted 0.5cm on courtyard wall. This artwork presents a large, eye-catching contemporary sculpture for the garden space of the Arthouse Artists Studios. Of primary concern is that the artwork will be a source of daily inspiration to the artists using the studios. With this in mind I created an artwork which acts like a Rorschach inkblot. The positive and negative shapes of the artwork, the changing light and colours on the polished metallic surfaces will allow the artists and other visitors to free their imaginations and to see what they will in the artwork.

A Percent for Art sculpture “Autumn” by local sculptor Angela Delaney for the Ballyroan Waste Water Improvement Scheme. “Autumn” is made from limestone and in the form of a horse chestnut; the fruit bursting open as it reaches its full potential. The work can be viewed at the Green, Ballyroan.

Dunamaise Theatre and Centre for the Arts by Artist – John O’Connor. Three inter-related pieces of low relief metal sculptures, two inside the building and one on the outside at the disabled entrance. The basic elements in this proposal reflect the use of the Arts Centre both today and in the past i.e. use as a jail and as an arts centre.

Fitzmaurice Place, Portlaoise (Water Supply Improvements Commission) Artist – John O’Connor. The basic structure is based on the design of one of the wings of the plane which made the first Trans-Atlantic crossing from east to west, with Col. James Fitzmaurice, the Avaitor from Portlaoise as co-pilot. This stainless steel sculpture will be 7 meters high, in keeping with the height of the old wall. Incorporated in the work will be a water supply and lighting to illuminate the piece from inside at night.

Portlaoise Halting Site, Project by Artist – Caroline Conway “Travelling Through Time” – work by children from Oak Park, a three-month art project in Oak Park, Halting Site, Portlaoise, under the tutelage of Caroline Conway. During the interactive project participants created beautifully colourful tableaus depicting a journey through time from the historic travelling tradition through to the present day. Pictures incorporate elements of traditional and contemporary design and imagery.

Portlaoise By-Pass Artists: Robert Mc Colgan and Irene Benner “Doon” A two-part earthwork with metal superstructure. The earthwork is sited so that in plan an implied ring stretches across the motorway. The stainless steel sparred ring symbolising a gateway to Portlaoise and the Midlands.

Public Artwork for the M7M8 Motorway “Flow” by artist Eileen MacDonagh at Clonkeen, Portlaoise was provided under the Per Cent for Art Scheme in association with the M7 Portlaoise – Castletown/M8 Portlaoise – Cullahill PPP Motorway Scheme led by Laois County Council, under the auspices of the National Roads Authority.By Eileen MacDonagh, Skerries House, Athy, Co Kildare. “Flow”   takes its inspiration from the aerial view of the River Nore as it twists and turns and meanders its way through the local landscape

Public Artwork M7 Motorway “The Dandelion” by artist Michael Disley at Rathnaveogue was provided under the Per Cent for Art Scheme in association with the N7 Castletown Nenagh Scheme led by Laois County Council. A two piece carving with a figure seen blowing at a bas relief carved dandelion. The image depicts the journeys that all travellers make as we are scattered around the country. The large slab of stone takes inspiration from the shape of the Devils Bit Mountain Range with a piece seemingly bitten out of the rock. The 4 meter high sculpture sited perpendicular to the motorway also gives the idea that the clocks blown from the dandelion are taken further on their journey by the passing vehicles.


The Laois Sculpture Trail

The Laois Sculpture Trail is a major public art initiative, instigated by Laois County Council in 1993. The initial project, generously sponsored by McKeon Stone in Stradbally, resulted in the creation of six pieces of limestone sculpture, which are sited at different locations around the county. Highlights of the Symposium included Schools Outreach Programme, this involved visits by primary and post primary student to the stone yard to see the work in progress. The sculptors visited schools and gave slide presentation of their work.


The Sculpture Trail

Up to the time of the Sculpture Symposium in the county there was no modern Public Art in the county. The symposium created six pieces of sculpture for six principal towns. The Sculptors Society of Ireland gave much assistance to the project through sponsorship in kind, advertising the competition, and assisting in setting it up. On 12th November 1994 the Laois Sculpture Trail was launched, with accompanying booklet. – Limited copies are still available from the Arts Office

The works include:

Portlaoise ‘Instruments’ by Mary McGinty sited on James Fintan Lalor Avenue, Portlaoise

Stradbally ‘Lost by Dave Lambert sitedat Court Square, Stradbally

Mountmellick ‘Standing Stones’ by Eileen McDongh sited at Library Grounds, Mountmellick

Portarlington ‘The reclining Bather’ by Dick Joynt sited at Relief Road, Portarlington

Mountrath ‘Two Piece Standing Stone’ by Kieran Melody sited atRiverside Walk, Mountrath

Abbeyleix ‘Gailine’ by Cliodna Cussen sited at Temperance Street, Abbeyleix


What is Public Art?

Public Art is art that exists in the public realm and we recognise this as literature, dance, music, film and drama as well as the visual arts and that public art works may be indoor, outdoor, permanent or temporary. We will commission artworks to reflect the distinctiveness of the locality and people and which build upon our guiding principles of quality, inclusion, access and long-term value.


Background to the Per Cent for Art Scheme


The per cent for art scheme is a government initiative established in 1978 and provides opportunities for the artists of all disciplines to create work to exist in the public realm. Every public capital project, such as housing developments, roads, water and sewage schemes, as well as hospitals, schools and libraries has a percentage of the total capital costs allocated for the creation of a work of art. The scope of the scheme allows for the commissioning of unique artworks in all artistic disciplines. In 2004 Pubic Art: Per Cent for Art Scheme General National Guidelines was published by the Department of the Environment and these will be used to develop schemes in Laois.


Laois County Council

Laois County Council has a responsibility to commission artworks under central government funded capital projects such as roads, water services, housing schemes, libraries and swimming pools. We recognise the resource that the per cent for art scheme offers for creative intervention with communities and expanding the county arts programme. We intend to maximize its potential with this policy and a subsequent programme of commissions which reflect current best practice.


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