Waterford artist James Phelan has been announced as one of the 31 recipients of the inaugural PLATFORM 31 bursary, A nationwide artist development scheme by the 31 Local Authority Arts Offices, in collaboration with the Arts Council.

James Phelan said: “’I am delighted to receive a bursary for my film project ‘Forsaken’ and with it, the feeling of both local and national support that Platform 31 entails. The genesis of this screen story emanates with my Mum and from within my home county and I really look forward to exploring and expanding this idea into an exciting and engrossing film project.’

Developed by the Association of Local Authority Arts Officers (ALAAO), in collaboration with the Arts Council, PLATFORM 31 offers financial and developmental support for the 31 mid-career artists awarded.

Speaking about Platform 31, Arts Officers, Margaret Organ and Conor Nolan, Waterford City and County Council said that they were fully supportive of this innovative scheme in terms of the professional development opportunity it provided and the unique networking supports it offered to the artists. They congratulated James Phelan on being selected to represent Waterford with his strong film project.

Participating artists will receive an €8,000 bursary to invest in themselves and their practice, combined with participation in an advisory and developmental framework and a peer network.

The pilot scheme is envisioned as a platform for the participants to value their time, to showcase their work and their collaborations, sharing their learnings locally and nationally as a legacy of the project.

For over 35 years Local Authority Arts Offices have worked directly with artists to ensure the arts thrive in all communities. Working in a grass roots and foundational way has allowed Arts Officers to identify and to respond to the needs of artists, keeping the arts and cultural agenda focussed and relevant in changing environments.

The carefully considered support network built into Platform 31 sets this bursary scheme apart. The scheme will establish a peer networking framework for participating artists, introducing them to a pool of critical thinkers to share their work and learnings, and encouraging a national conversation about creating work in local contexts. The exact nature of this artist support framework will be informed by the proposals and interests of the 31 artists selected.

The nationwide invitation went out to artists of any discipline and practice, based in Ireland, as well as multi-disciplinary practice.

“It is wonderful to see the quality and breadth of artists practice in the artists selected to participate in the scheme,” said Jenny Sherwin, Wicklow County Council Arts Officer.

“There was a wealth of good ideas and a clear need for artists to connect at this difficult time. The bursary will help them pursue work and thinking which otherwise would have potentially had no outlet, and the peer network and practical development opportunities they will receive will bring them through what we hope are the final months of such severe restrictions in our country.”

“The Arts Council is delighted to support this thoughtful local authority led programme to support artists around Ireland,” said Sinead O’Reilly, Head of Local, Place and Public Art, The Arts Council. “Support for artists continues to be much needed at this time and our congratulations to each recipient; I have no doubt the bursary, the network and peer support will be an invaluable experience over the coming months.”