About this project
Sixty years ago on 4 December 1951 the first Arts Act established the Arts Council.
To mark our 60th anniversary, the Arts Council is publishing stories about the arts using documents from our archive. Beginning with 15 stories from the early years of the Arts Council (1950s), this site aims to show the intricate connections that existed and continue to exist between the artists, the organisations that supported them, the public they served and engaged with and their relationships with the contemporary arts.
Archived documents on this website include correspondence between artists, the Arts Council, public bodies and politicians; the rationale behind corporate decisions held in administrative records; and how our funding commitments over the decades helped and continue to assist artists and arts organisations to develop work.
The six core functions from the Arts Act, 1951 provide a structure for the selection of the stories. The functions from the first Arts Act, 1951 remain central to our work and demonstrate the critical role continuity plays in the history and the development of the Arts Council.
Arts Act, 1951 – the functions of the Arts Council are:
- to stimulate public interest in the arts
- to promote the knowledge, appreciation and practice of the arts
- to assist in improving the standards of the arts
- to organise or assist in the organising of exhibitions (within or without the State) of works of art and artistic craftsmanship
- The Council shall advise the Government or a member of the Government on any matter (being a matter on which knowledge and experience of the arts has a bearing) on which their advice is requested
- The Council may co-operate with and assist any other persons concerned directly or indirectly with matters relating to the arts, and the assistance may include payments by the Council upon such terms and conditions as they think fit
Stories on this website begin with the early years of the Arts Council and are primarily told by presenting digital copies of documents from the Council’s archive including letters, minutes and photographs. You can access these stories by clicking on the timeline at the top of each page, or clicking on the ‘Timeline of stories‘ link in the navigational menu on the left-hand side. You can also view the stories by category or by theme by clicking on ‘Categories‘.
For each story we provide some background text as a context in which the archived documents can be understood. We have aimed to keep this text to a minimum so that you the reader can engage as directly as possible with the archived documents thus allowing you to build your own interpretation of the stories presented. We hope that the site will appeal to both scholars and general public alike.
The first Arts Act
Signataries of the first Arts Act