Sonya Kelly on why we need more studio space for artists

As Dean Art Studios offers a welcome new space for creatives in the capital, writes acclaimed playwright Sonya Kelly Culture about the urgent need for more studio space in Ireland.


“Writing? Yes, that’s a real job.”

Every time I have a show, I can be pretty sure I’ll be asked the following question. “Oh my god, where do you find the time to write all those words?” The answer is simple. it’s my job I get up every day, go to work, sit at a desk and try to organize my thoughts into compelling dramas that people want to buy tickets to.

I plan my day on the way to work. Where did I stop yesterday? Who needs what from me most and what can wait? Where in my story do I have to go by four o’clock to pick up the baby? It’s a crazy job, but someone has to do it or our cinemas would be empty – and if this long, harsh lockdown has proven anything, it’s that the collective live experience can never be replaced by a box set.

Sonya Kelly’s new play The Last Return premiered at this year’s premiere
Galway International Arts Festival

I have been working in theater and art for 25 years, first as an actor and now as a writer. It was hard. It has taken time, patience and a great deal of dedication to skill development to reach a certain standard. There have been many failures and occasional triumphs, but the only thing that remains constant is the sense of privilege of having a calling to write and tell stories for the theatre.

But here’s a great idea: Not every building in our big cities needs to be turned into a hotel.

I consider it an honor to live my life as a creative person so that the fruits of that creativity can pay my bills and support my family. I believe that culture and theatre, the sector I work in, is an essential part of a free society. Theater is as old as democracy. Where would we be without her?

Artists (LR) Karen Donnellan, Carla Rogers, Thais Muniz, Brian Teeling, Rafino Murphy,
Shane O’Reilly and Chinedum Muotto open Dean Art Studios

A brand new dedicated space at Dean Arts Studios provides me, as an artist, with the psychological cornerstone for a healthy relationship with my daily practice. Initiatives like these are vital to art and a sign of a society that values ​​culture. It takes time and space to let creativity run free. Having this space with like-minded artists on similar journeys is an invaluable resource that should never be taken for granted, especially in a city where a piece of real estate is so easily viewed as ripe commercial fruit ready to be plucked.

But here’s a great idea: Not every building in our big cities needs to be turned into a hotel. Libraries are good. Art galleries, recording studios, theaters and creative spaces for children all play their important roles in making up the rich tapestry of our urban spaces. What’s special about the Dean Arts Studio is that deep in the heart of Dublin city there are painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, dancers and choreographers who aren’t trying to make art in their bedrooms. They come and go to work every day to work in a vibrant creative hive on Chatham Row – because it’s their job, and if they didn’t we’d all be poorer for it.

Dean Art Studios will officially open on Thursday 28th July 2022. More information about the studios and residents can be found here.

Druid Theater production by Sonya Kelly The Last Return is at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh from 4th – 28th August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Gate Theatre, Dublin from 13th October – 5th November 2022, as part of this year’s Dublin Theater Festival.

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