Local Artist Donates Painting To Cathedral Buildings Fire Fund After Husband Loses Studio

A local artist has donated a large piece of artwork to be auctioned off for the tenants of the Cathedral Buildings fire last week.

Esther O’Kelly, whose husband Paul Kelly had his entire studio incinerated in the fire, said she was devastated to hear the news last Monday morning.

She said: “It was shocking to hear about Cathedral Buildings. I knew immediately that in losing his studio Paul, and all the other creative businesses, had lost so much more than hardware or materials but also the home that supports their creativity. 

“An artist’s studio is central to their practice and now another successful space in the city is gone.”

Last Monday (Oct 3) over 50 firefighters and eight fire trucks worked throughout the day to bring the blaze under control.

An 18 year old man has been charged with arson and remanded in custody.

Throughout the building 14 businesses and organisations including culture, arts and voluntary spaces have been plunged into turmoil as they attempt to rescue and rebuild their businesses.

Around 40 people who worked in the building have been left displaced and concerned about the future.

Paul Kelly, design director at Form Native, a brand and digital design studio, arrived to work as normal on Monday to find his studio engulfed in flames with eight fire trucks at the scene.

“The morning I called Esther, to tell her that Cathedral Buildings was burning down, she was finishing moving into a new studio –ironically to get some hard won long term stability” explained Paul. 

“Finding the right place in Belfast can be a challenge, Cathedral Buildings was an example of that working. 

“We both know that being in any part of the creative industry is more than just a job. You invest a lot of yourself and want to see this city benefit from that. 

“The small independent community of businesses that worked in Cathedral Buildings need help and support and for Esther to offer this painting in support of them feels right. 

“I hope it plays its part in keeping those creative people together in Cathedral Quarter, which really needs them.”

Esther has donated her 1x1m original painting on canvas Lost Sun to the campaign to get the tenants of Cathedral Buildings back on their feet.

It is one of a collection of vibrant and striking pieces representing the landscape around us.

She said: “The creative community in Belfast show up for each other. It feels natural for me to offer this painting in support. Lost Sun comes from that feeling of summer fading – losing something cherished and nourishing. 

“I hope it becomes a valued piece for someone and makes a small difference to the Cathedral Buildings tenants helping them move forward as a community.”

Paul was a tenant of Cathedral Buildings for eight years. The loss of his studio is more than just the physical space and items within it.

Much of what Paul lost in the fire will never be able to be replaced.

He said: “The fire at Cathedral Buildings has profoundly impacted my business. Design is all about communication, bringing different things together to create something new, exciting, compelling. 

“That’s what we had in Cathedral Buildings, a mixture of people, experiences, skills and attitudes that make working in the city rewarding. 

“My studio held the physical library and archive of twenty years’ practice – the irreplaceable things that nourish your creativity and give you a working home. Like so many others we are heartbroken to lose that. Now we want to work hard not to lose our community as well. 

“I am deeply grateful that no lives were lost and now aware that we want space where we are not just surviving but able to thrive again. 

“I want this to be another opportunity for us collectively to think about what a city is and who it is for – liveable and alive for everyone.”

Bidding for Lost Sun ends at midnight on Friday 14th October. Currently sitting at £1400 to lodge your bid contact Esther via Instagram @estherokelly.

To support the crowdfunding campaign to help the tenants of Cathedral Buildings get back up and running go to https://igg.me/at/cqcollective 

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