The Permanent Present, Mark Garry, 2012 ©

Mark Garry

Situated in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter is the MAC, an award-winning arts venue hosting visual art, theatre and dance, alongside a vibrant programme of family and educational activities.

The MAC prides itself on being a shared space, a hub for the people who live in and visit Belfast to experience contemporary culture in all its forms. For the MAC, it is important that visitors are able to sit and talk in a social environment, rather than being rushed in and out of the galleries in silence.

The venue is open 363 days of the year, and the staffing is community-led, with a team of 100 volunteers forming a bulk of the workforce. Nicknamed ‘MACtivists’ due to their passion for the venue, the volunteers wear t-shirts printed with ‘talk to me’ to encourage visitors to engage in conversation.

Art for all in the heart of the city

One of the first things visitors encounter at the MAC is a large sculptural work in the main foyer. Consisting of 400 coloured wires, the piece, by artist Mark Garry and titled The Permanent Present, stretches across the open space of the lobby in a delicate web, inspired by the rainbow effect produced by a refracted beam of light.

The image at the top of the page gives an impression of the sculpture, stretched in a canopy above the heads of gallery visitors. It is the MAC’s only permanent piece of art, with the venue’s main focus being their rotating exhibition programme.

This programme includes work by artists both local and international. In 2016, Belfast-based artist Liam Crichton installed a newly commissioned work in the venue’s Sunken Gallery. With a background in interior architecture, Crichton responded to the architecture of the space to produce a large-scale sculptural installation that resonates with the physical and social barriers that have historically divided the city of Belfast.

Watch the artist discuss the work, which takes its name from the drug Benzodiazepine, in the video below.

The MAC box office ©

The MAC Belfast

The MAC ©

The MAC Belfast

Bringing the world to Belfast

Alongside exhibiting artists from Northern Ireland, the MAC’s programme features artists and performers of global fame. Last year, the exhibition David Hockney: I Draw, I Do brought audiences from all over the country – and beyond – to the venue. It was the first major presentation of Hockney’s work anywhere in Ireland, and drew unprecedented crowds to the MAC.

In the film above, hear how visitors who never normally go to art exhibitions were drawn into the buzz of the opening night.

Bringing the best in international arts to the heart of Belfast and creating a shared space for residents and visitors, the MAC’s truly inclusive work extends the possibilities of the art it showcases beyond the walls of the gallery to all corners of the city, to be enjoyed by all.

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