Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre

(Lochmaddy Arts Centre)

An important cultural centre in Lochmaddy (North Uist), Taigh Chearsabhagh (occasionally known as Lochmaddy Arts Centre, but literally meaning Kersivay House) occupies a former merchant's mansion and inn prominently located on the way to the ferry terminal. In addition to acting as a focal point for the local community, Taigh Chearsabhagh represents a valuable draw for tourists, promotes the Gaelic language and culture, and is one of Scotland's leading centres for environmental art. It makes a significant contribution to the local economy, with 13 staff and more than 31,000 visitors annually (2010).

Constructed in 1741 by Neil MacLean, a merchant, on the site of an old salt house, the building served as a merchant's house, inn and storehouse. It was one of the first buildings in North Uist to have a slated roof. From the 1950s it became a workshop for North Uist Estate and, having become disused, was leased to the community-based Taigh Chearsabhagh Trust in 1993, an organisation dedicated to conserving and interpreting the heritage of North Uist and promoting the arts in the Uists. The building was restored and converted at a cost of £270,000, opening to the public on 25th March 1995. Its popularity considerably exceeded expectations and Taigh Chearsabhagh re-opened in 2001 having been extended at a cost £550,000 to add a third exhibition area and a new café overlooking Loch Maddy. This development was supported by the Scottish Arts Council, Western Isles Enterprise and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Formed in 1993, the Taigh Chearsabhagh Trust is a partnership between North Uist Heritage Centre (Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath) and the Uist Art Association. While the Trust manages the buildings and employs the staff, the two partner organisations are responsible for planning events, exhibitions and activities.

Today, the centre includes a small museum, three gallery spaces, an historical and family history archive, an artists' studio, a small shop, post office and a popular café. Facilities are provided for artists including print workshop and a photographic darkroom.

In addition to temporary exhibitions, there are permanent displays on the history and development of the settlement of Lochmaddy (1600 - 1995) and North Uist archaeology, examining the importance of Fife textile manufacturer Erskine Beveridge (1851 - 1920) to its interpretation. Taigh Chearsabhagh also runs a series of events relating to the visual arts, film, music, literature, heritage and education, and has commissioned a number of permanent public art works which encourage exploration of the landscape of the Uists. The first of these, in 1996, was the Mosaic Mackerel, located nearby on the foreshore. This was followed by the Hut of the Shadows at Sponish in 1997 and then the Road Ends Sculpture Project which includes Reflections at Carnach (1999), Stone Swim to Islands at Balivanich (1999), Sanctuary at Sidinish (2000) and The Listening Place at North Glendale (2001).

Taigh Chearsabhagh collaborates with Lews Castle College in relation to formal arts education.

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