If you’ve walked through Rathmines recently, there’s a good chance you’ll have noticed the word “Mart” popping up all along the street. Coming from the canal, you see it first on your left, on the front of one of Rathmines Road Lower’s old townhouses. Then it’s on your right, above a casino. Finally, on your left again, outside the old Rathmines Fire Station, which has been converted into the central hub of Ciara Scanlan and Matthew Nevin’s rapidly growing creative enclave.
Scanlan and Nevin founded Mart in 2006 as a multidisciplinary arts group, with the intention of putting on pop-up shows of performance art and experimental video in empty retail spaces in Galway, a city that Scanlan says at that time was “just loads of empty space”.
Exhibitions in Galway were soon followed by trips to London, continental Europe and the US to install pieces, teach workshops and perform. After a couple of years of travel, the pair found themselves back in Dublin and eager to find a place they could settle in to and work. After six months of searching, they found the derelict fire station, pestered the City Council to give them the keys and undertook the difficult task of bringing the place back to life.