One of my favourite things in the city in recent years has been the Dublin Canvas project, which is funded and supported by Dublin City Council. Since 2013, DCC have experimented with an art programme involving the traffic light control boxes of the city. To date, dozens of boxes have been painted right across the city, bringing a touch of colour to these rather boring features of the urban landscape.
Particular favourites include ‘Bo’ by Áine Macken (fittingly enough right beside Dublin’s historic Cowtown), Sarah Macken’s gorgeous tribute to Oscar Wilde, and Sheila Flaherty’s ‘Art Inspires The World’.
Many of the boxes have touched on local history and folklore, ranging from the United Irishmen of the 1790s to Dublin street characters. I was delighted to stumble on Mr. Screen earlier this week, while making my way along Tara Street:
Until recent times, Mr. Screen stood outside of the Screen Cinema (originally The New Metropole) on the corner of Hawkins Street and Townsend Street. With its focus on independent and foreign films, the Screen certainly built a cult following around itself. Among other films, I watched the Leonard Cohen documentary I’m Your Man there, almost having the entire place to myself (maybe such solitary film screenings were part of the problem!). Like many, I was sad but not surprised when its closure was announced in February of last year. Two years before this, its beautiful neon signage was taken down, and replaced by a considerably less inspiring ‘IMC’ branding. It was the beginning of the end.
The work of sculptor Vincent Browne, Mr. Screen found his place on the street in 1988, thanks to the Dublin Cinema Group. A uniformed cinema usher (and not a bus conductor as some believed), he pointed his torch towards the cinema. 1988 marked the so-called ‘Dublin Millennium’, and Mr. Screen was joined by Molly Malone in that same year, as well as the two female shoppers who sit on Liffey Street.
Earlier this year, Mr. Screen was relocated across to the Northside of Dublin, where he now directs punters in the foyer of the Savoy, a considerable step-up from the humble Screen Cinema. Thanks to the artist David Flynn, he is now closer to home.