Northern Ireland's new Metropolitan Arts Centre: what the first visitors think
Artists, architects, couples and curious sightseers milled through the MAC’s doors yesterday, as Belfast’s new Metropolitan Arts Centre opened its doors to the public.
Ten years in the making, the MAC and newly opened Titanic Belfast building could generate up to £50m in extra revenue, attracting an additional 800,000 visitors to the city, according to current predictions.
Tucked away discreetly in the centre of Belfast’s cobbled Cathedral Quarter — and adjacent to St Anne’s Cathedral — the building looks deceptively small from the outside.
Visitors who walked through its doors yesterday said they were struck with the feeling of being outside as they stared up through the building’s sunlit central atrium.
A total of 400 copper strands cast in the colours of the rainbow cascade down the central staircase — intensifying the feeling of being outside.
Constructed from Belfast brick and basalt from Antrim, the MAC is rooted in the city.
It has also opened with a new exhibition of Belfast’s William Conor.
Belfast-born Conor — whose work hangs alongside paintings by the world-renowned LS Lowry — was commissioned by the Government during World War I to produce official records of soldiers and munitions workers.
In another gallery, celebrated Chicago-born artist Robert Therrien displays a series of his works, including his renowned Table and Four Chairs — an Alice and Wonderland-esque take on a household table and four chairs.
Meanwhile, in the Sunken Gallery, second-hand tables have been stacked haphazardly in an exhibit by Dublin-based artist, Maria McKinney.
The £18m six-floor building houses two theatres, three art galleries, a dance studio, cafe and bar.
At its gala opening this week, Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland predicted the MAC would be a “jewel” in the Cathedral Quarter.
He said: “The MAC is a hallmark example of a successful regeneration project.”
Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council, said the breadth of work on display was exciting in itself.
“Conor, Lowry and Therrien will certainly be popular, but the real surprises will come when the visitors see the inspiring new work by our local artists.”
Anne McReynolds, MAC chief executive, said the facility is the product of a vast amount of work.