It was the first curtain call for Belfast’s newest arts venue the MAC last night, as it opened its doors in dramatic style. With abseilers scaling the building to remove a drape from the front of the Saint Anne’s Square venue, accompanied by a 10 piece band, visitors knew they were in for a spectacular evening.

Ten years in the making with support from principal funders the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, DCAL and DSD, plus significant funding from Belfast City Council, Garfield Weston Foundation, the Monument Trust, Ulster Garden Villages and The Foundation for Sport and the Arts, the £18 million MAC offers a new and exciting space for locals and visitors to Northern Ireland.
The MAC opens with a stunning collection of visual art in its three galleries including a ‘A People Observed’, an exhibition that brings together, for the first time, two of the most popular artists L.S. Lowry and Belfast-born William Conor in the MAC’s climate controlled Tall Gallery, alongside a video installation by local artist Nicholas Keogh, while contemporary LA-based artist Robert Therrien’s huge table and chairs installation, is exhibited in the MAC’s vast Upper Gallery. Meanwhile, Dublin-based artist Maria McKinney’s intriguing installation is on display in the Sunken Gallery on the ground floor.
On 22 April the MAC’s live show programme commences with a compelling courtroom drama by award-winning playwright Owen McCafferty- Titanic (Scenes from the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry, 1912). Starring a stellar cast of national and local actors, some of whom are household names and directed by Charlotte Westenra, this MAC production has been attracting much attention.
Anne McReynolds, Chief Executive of the MAC said, “Today is a momentous occasion, not just for the MAC but for the arts in Northern Ireland. We have all worked extremely hard to create a world-class facility in the heart of this city. We have created a programme which will appeal to audiences of all ages and interests from the international art and live shows to our family workshops and our café/bar. We can’t wait to start welcoming visitors to the MAC from today to really see the building come to life.
“This project has been ten years in the making and we would like to thank our many public and private sector funders and all our supporters who have helped us get to this stage. We are confident that that the MAC will add another layer to the cultural offering in Belfast and Northern Ireland to help put this region on the worldwide stage.”
Len O Hagan, Chairman of the MAC Board added, “The MAC offers a spectacular opportunity for Belfast to feature on the worldwide arts stage. We are now offering tourists from across the world a selection of attractions in Northern Ireland to rival any European city destination. The economic benefits are not lost on the Executive who have supported this project and the many public and private sector bodies who will help shape the MAC. The organisation has already created numerous jobs and will continue to be a vital contributor to the local economy.
“The MAC is an essential part of the cultural future of Northern Ireland offering a hub to cultivate young, artistic talent in so many different genres including theatre, dance, visual art and music. The MAC is one of the most exciting things to ever happen to Belfast and it is fantastic to see the vision of the MAC finally coming to reality today.”
The Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín, Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland, Chair of the Arts Council, Bob Collins and Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile were in attendance at the launch.
Carál Ní Chuilin said: “This is an impressive venue and a focal point for the arts in the Cathedral Quarter which stands proud among the north’s cultural offering. Investment in the arts is a key economic driver which makes an important contribution to our society and leaves a legacy for generations. What we see here in the MAC is a tremendous achievement and a culmination of a lot of hard work. It is another prime example of how the Executive is building a better future for all of us. Congratulations to all concerned.”
Bob Collins, Chair, Arts Council of Northern Ireland added “The MAC is a stunning new building with a world-class range of facilities – fabulous theatres, an international-quality arts gallery and inspiring performance spaces. It is a wonderful new home for the arts in the heart of Belfast and its opening programme will be a major attraction to locals, visitors and tourists alike; bringing great art within the reach of all.
“Without doubt, this amazing venue will bring new energy to the city, enliven the Cathedral Quarter and generate new opportunities for cultural tourism so important to Belfast at this time. The Arts Council is delighted to have played its part as a significant investor.”
Nelson McCausland MLA, Social Development Minister said: “This exemplar building for the performing and visual arts will I believe grow into one of the jewels in the Cathedral Quarter. The MAC is a hallmark example of a successful regeneration project delivered by a comprehensive and integrated approach by government and the arts and culture sectors working together in partnership.”
The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile, said: “I’m delighted to see the opening of the MAC which is not only Belfast’s brand new creative arts venue but one that will put the city on the international map in terms of its unique and rich cultural offering. Coming so soon after the opening of the iconic Titanic Belfast building, it once again conveys that Belfast in 2012 can compete with cities across the globe for world-class visitor attractions.”
The MAC and Canteen (the in-house café/bar) is open daily from 10am until late Monday – Sunday 10am-7pm and entry to all the arts exhibitions is free. Tickets for the live shows are available at www.themaclive.com.