Visual Artists Ireland: The Representative Body for Professional Artists. It provides practical support to visual artists in all art forms throughout their careers. It provides services, facilities and resources for artists, operates an artistic programme and acts as an advocate for the interests of artists.

VAI Infographic


  • PROVIDE services, facilities and resources to individual artists and the visual arts sector
  • SUPPORT the activity of professional contemporary visual art practice
  • REPRESENT and act as an advocate for individual artists, the visual arts sector and the arts in general

The Three Pillars of Visual Artists Ireland

  1. Advocacy, Advice, and Membership Services
  2. Professional Development;
  3. The Arts News Centre.

Programme Activities

Advocacy, Advice, and Membership Services

Primary Goal: The Advocacy, Advice and Membership services provide access to independent, accurate information that improves equality of opportunity and provide a pathway to professionalization of the visual arts. However, sometimes more is needed. Some people are at a disadvantage when claiming their entitlements or seeking advice that they need because of perceived inequalities, literacy or language difficulties. This means that our advocacy and advice supports them to assert their views and claim their entitlements and where necessary represents and negotiates on their behalf.

Who: The VAI Advocacy, Advice, & Membership Services are aimed towards professional visual artists at all stages of their career.

What: VAI Advocacy & Advice Services offers a confidential advice/helpdesk service for visual artists that covers the wide range of professional concerns being experienced by artists today.  This advice includes: the creation and provisions of contracts; financial planning and taxation issues; non-payment for the provision of services; fraudulent practices by agents that effect individual visual artists; setting up of artist led initiatives and studio programmes; representation and creation of mediation panels; and the raising of awareness of consultations and policy creation that have a direct impact on visual artists.

This programme works in tandem with the VAI Professional Development Programme and VAI Information resources.  It’s content and focus is informed by: current professional practice; the input of VAI staff; VAI members; our primary UK partner Artquest, on-going needs analysis and evaluation; an advisory panel involving visual art professionals with a range of expertise; and dialogue with our international partners such as CARFAC, NAVA, Culture Action Europe and the IAA.

Our membership services are a critical feature for Visual Artists Ireland. These are what make it attractive for people to become members of Visual Artists Ireland. The organisation relies on our advertising sales and membership income to maintain the level of services for artists. These work in parallel to our funding by ACNI, the Arts Council of Ireland and smaller grants. Currently the range of membership services include:

  • Membership Card (with IAA Option – Linking our card to the IAA means that members can gain free access to exhibitions, and in many cases can skip the long queues in some of the more popular venues such as The Louvre, Tate, MoMA etc)
  • Discount Scheme (service providers offering specific rates for VAI members);
  • Equipment Hire (Traditionally this was Dublin based although we do have a courier service to bring equipment to all parts of Ireland. With our rates set significantly lower than commercial rates, this has been an affordable service for members. In 2012 we reached an agreement with DAS so that our Northern Ireland members can avail of their equipment hire service, and self-funded the joint purchase of equipment so as to expand their already extensive offering);
  • Insurance for Visual Artists (Although this is not a unique service for artists, we have researched other forms of insurance and have found that our offering is priced at a keen rate when compared to commercial prices. The coverage is far in excess of that offered for free by other organisations. We feel that this service is based on quality rather than as a marketing ploy);
  • Legal Advice & Debt Collection (It is unfortunate that artists find themselves in difficult legal situations. These include contractual, non-payment and fraud. For this reason, and to support our main advice service we have agreed specific services that offer direct contact with barristers for advice, and also a debt collecting service with one of Ireland’s leading law firms.);
  • Studio Exchange (Through our partnership with Artquest, we can offer our members access to a service that allows them to advertise their willingness to do a studio swap with fellow artists from across the world);
  • Address Book (Members can provide details about themselves and their areas of interest so that curators and other interested parties such as researchers and commissioners can find them. This service includes a contact service that allows them to receive messages without their personal details being given out). This information is further available through our Smart Phone App – ArtConnect (funded by Mayo Public Art Office);
  • Awards – We now operate four self funded Awards:
    • DAS Residency Award (for a VAI member to take advantage of a fully paid 3 month residency in DAS);
    • The Valerie Earley Residency Award (In its first year, this award is dedicated to our late Membership Manager Valerie Earley who died in 2013. Valerie worked with VAI for over 17 years and we felt that this award would perpetuate the love that she showed for our members. The award offers a fully funded two week self catering residency in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre);
    • The Directors Award (This award is aimed at graduates. Each year we visit every graduate show in Ireland and we select one artist who has shown excellence in terms of: dedication to practice; presentation; clear provision of support information, and readily accessible contact details);
    • The Visual Artists Ireland Critical Writing Award (This award, funded by Dublin City Council, is aimed at those engaged in critical writing. The award offers a financial prize and the opportunity of being mentored by both VAI editorial staff and members of AICA Ireland).

Why: We support professional visual artists in their business, legal, and financial needs, assisting them to: develop on-going creative and financial opportunities; engage with best practice; and connection with professionals in other disciplines relevant to their work. We have these aligned with our key responsibility to support artists as well as provide them with access to affordable services. The aim is to empower artists to work in a professional manner. The key thinking in this area is Professional Artists working in a professional manner and being treated as professionals.

When: These services are provided 5 days a week and are available through our telephone service as well as by email and written correspondence. They are supported online with advice and datasheets on the broad range of topics that we cover.

Where: These are supported by a number of local area information sessions during the year that are part of the Professional Development Programme. The services are also supported through our online presence with tips, tools and templates available through our websites, and the highlighting of issues and programmes through our online (eBulletin, websites, Facebook, and Twitter) presences, as well as our newspaper (The Visual Artists News Sheet).

Professional Development

Primary Goal: We deliver learning, advice, networking opportunities, and information provision, supported by an Artists Resource Centre of on-going information, tips, techniques and templates for visual artists in key areas such career development, finances, legal, marketing, and peer critique.

Who: The VAI Professional Development Training (PDT) Programme is aimed towards professional visual artists at all stages of their career.

What: VAI PDT offers daylong workshops; talks; information sessions and seminars on a range of professional practice topics across three strands. These strands include:

  • Practical skills & knowledge;
  • Career pathways;
  • Peer centred critique.

This programme works in tandem with the VAI Advocacy Programme and VAI Information resources.  It’s content and focus is informed by: current professional practice; the input of VAI staff; VAI members; on-going needs analysis and evaluation; and an advisory panel involving visual art professionals with a range of expertise.

Why: It aims to support continued skills and knowledge development for professional visual artists in response to their business needs, assisting them to: develop on-going creative and financial opportunities; engage with best practice; and connect with professionals in other disciplines relevant to their work.

When: Training is offered at a variety of regional locations with events programmed Feb – Jun and Sept-Nov each year. While the detailed programme is planned a year in advance we maintain some capacity to respond to requests from groups and organisations for training when needs and issues arise. An example of these is the Sectoral Meetings provided by ACNI, which VAI assists in resourcing.

Where:  Training is delivered at partner venues.

The Arts News Centre.

Who: The Arts News Centre is a unique and core provision for both visual artists and visual arts organisations. As an information provider, VAI is the leading source of information, news, discussion, jobs, visual arts opportunities, and event & exhibition advertising. As well as being designed for visual artists at all stages of their career, VAI ANC is designed to be attractive to a broader audience as will be seen in the detail of design and distribution below.

What: The Arts News Centre is based on contemporary thinking regarding media in the context of: media convergence, the participating culture, and collective intelligence. We, like other media organisations, realize that because of the progress of technology various different types of media (e.g. Computer, Television, Radio and Newspaper) are combining into a single media. Television and computer technology are increasingly becoming the same thing. Websites have video on them and the Internet is an important part of the offer of most broadcasters. Computers and network technology has allowed television to offer “video on demand” services moving away from traditional “linear” or scheduled television.  Equally the Internet has become important for newspaper publishers. Consequently, Visual Artists Ireland has concentrated in the creation of an information exchange strategy that combines the printed newspaper with a range of online outlets that reflect not only our information provision, but also support all of the key areas previously mentioned in this application.

Why: As we deal with a wide range of age groups, some more at home with print media, others who prefer to receive their content online either by computer or mobile technology, we have integrated our services so that the delivery mechanism can be seen as a tool, and that the real strategy lies in the information, support and interactions that we provide through our services.

Simply put, we as an organisation must be able to deliver across a wide range of platforms so that we can achieve the broadest reach for our support of visual artists, arts organisations and the visual arts sector in general.  It makes us a special case with regards funding, as our online services are not simply a shop front, but are in fact core to our business.

The Arts News Centre comprises of the following:

  • The Visual Artists Ireland News Sheet;
  • Visual Artists Ireland Critique;
  • eBulletins
  • Visual Artists Ireland websites;
  • Visual Artists Ireland on Social Media.


Visual Artists Ireland also has a policy of working with artists and artist run organisations on the development and delivery of collaborative projects.  VAI also undertakes different strands of support mechanisms dealing with specific art disciplines & practices.  These are aimed at providing on-going career development within these subjects, dealing with the specifics of skills and production.

We take on the key issues that concern professional artists generally in relation to their status, rights and income. This includes monitoring policies and undertaking research into issues that affect artist. We also represent the interests of individual artists on a case-by-case basis in relation to specific, one-off issues.

VAI works closely with:

  • The Arts Council of Ireland;
  • The Arts Council Northern Ireland;

and is an active member of:

  • Culture Action Europe (CAE);
  • The International Association of Art (IAA);
  • The International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA).

VAI also enters into dialogue with IKT (International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art), and The International Association of Art Critics (AICA), as well as other national and international representative bodies in the interests of hybrid collaborations that further increase awareness of the varied needs and purposes of artists.

Unique and Distinct Attributes

Visual Artists Ireland is unique and distinct. We are acknowledged as a truly equitable organisation. We make the majority of our services available to our members and non-members. We operate in all corners of Ireland and have a close relationship not only with our individual artist members, but also with visual arts and multi-disciplinary organisations in all 32 counties of the island of Ireland.

Our remit is broad and our services are far reaching.  As one radio interviewer summarised us… “there should be a Visual Artists Ireland for everybody who lives in Ireland.”

We strive to drive forward best practices in the visual arts sector and initiate research that goes towards providing the visual arts with a researched and unified advocacy voice that is otherwise missing.

Our Services, Facilities and Resources our Discount Scheme, Help-Desk, New Provision and The Manual: A Survival Guide for Visual Artists are unique within the sector. Given the scale, quality and relevance to the sector of our Visual Artists News Sheet and e-bulletin these too are seen as key and necessary provisions.