The Luan Gallery.
Athlone's new art gallery will be known as The Luan Gallery and is due to open in mid-November.
Over 200 names for the new riverfront building were suggested by the public before being whittled down to just 20 by the board of Athlone Art and Heritage Ltd, who will manage the new venture based in the old Fr Mathew Hall.
Luan was top of the list of preferences presented to Athlone town councillors on Monday night at their monthly meeting, where a final verdict on the naming of the gallery was up for decision.
As it happened, the majority of members agreed with the first choice, a name which links in with Athlone's origins and the name of the town as Gaeilge - Áth Luain.
Giving an update on the Ä3m gallery project, Athlone Town Clerk Hugh O'Reilly explained that work was concentrating on the internal fit-out of the building at present and both it and Athlone Castle are due for completion by September 24.
Although he admitted there may be a little carryover on that, given snag lists and so on, he still expects both buildings to be handed over to the council in October.
The opening of the gallery has been arranged for mid-November with a major exhibition coming from the Irish Museum of Modern Art to coincide with that, he enthused.
As he asked councillors to consider the name of the new gallery, Mr O'Reilly stressed that time was of essence as signage and promotional material needed to be put in place prior to the gallery opening its doors.
Looking at the list of names, Cllr Mark Cooney said he felt that the art gallery was for the people of the town but they were also hoping to attract people in from elsewhere. For that reason, he argued the simpler the better, and suggested the name Athlone Art Gallery.
In terms of Luan, he said people wouldn't know what it is, and his preference was for a simple name which spells out exactly what the gallery is.
However, Cllr Kevin 'Boxer' Moran disagreed with that suggestion, pointing out that visitors he has carried in his taxi are always amused and interested in the Irish language and history. "The word Luan will get people talking," he said.
Fianna Fáil's Aengus O'Rourke commented that he was encouraged by the large number of suggestions from the public in relation to the naming of the gallery, and it struck him that the marketing people would have an easier job if the gallery title had the name of the town in it. He seconded the proposal of Cllr Mark Cooney to go with Athlone Art Gallery.
Keeping it simple was the right approach, Cllr Paul Hogan (SF) agreed but he said he found himself agreeing with Cllr Moran's suggestion, given the location of the gallery just yards from the ford of Luan, the traditional crossing point of the river. He believed Luan to be a catchier name and seconded Cllr Moran's proposal to go with that.
Initially preferring the title The Fr Mathew Gallery, Cllr Gabrielle McFadden (FG) said she liked the sound of Luan, a more classy option linked with the name of the town.
Speaking as Chairperson of Athlone Art and Heritage Ltd, Cllr Alan Shaw said a lot of work has gone into the naming of the gallery over many months identifying the different preferences. His personal favourite was Athlone Waterfront Gallery, he told the meeting, but he also liked The Luan Gallery and would certainly support that.
In his first meeting as first citizen of the town, Mayor Jim Henson remarked that the building should have an Irish name and Luan, in his opinion, was the most appropriate.
Independent Cllr Sheila Buckley Byrne said she understood where Cllr Cooney was coming from but given it was a creative venture it should be a little different and have resonance with the town.
Luan was a brand that set itself apart, she added, and although not everyone will understand it people will be interested enough to find out.
Cllr O'Rourke said the Luan Gallery might lead to confusion and would need to be checked that it didn't mean anything offensive in any other language.
Having heard all the contributions, Cllr Mark Cooney said he still believed the name should say what it is. "It's our town, our gallery. Luan could be anything, it is not explaining what it is," he added, saying that he has no problem with Luan if art was added in the title. However, Cllr Shaw felt this should be a decision for the manager of the new gallery. Athlone Town Clerk Hugh O'Reilly told members that there is no definitive meaning for Luan, being associated with a person or a border near a ford. It could also be related to the Latin for moon, he explained. Without a vote, members agreed afterwards that the preferred option for naming the gallery is the The Luan Gallery.
What do you think of the choice?
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