STEPPING out into the Belfast night for the late night art and watching everyone move from gallery to gallery in the city centre without a care always makes me feel like we have a really vibrant  cultural life in the city.

While Artcetera Studio held a show of its melting pot of artists, Ekaterina Solomatina wowed the crowds with her 'Salad Curse' exhibition at Pssquared – a part sculpture, part 3D virtual reality experience in Irish.

As we walked to the Mac for their three new exhibitions the words of architect Declan Hill rang in my ears – he said when the Mac was built they will need to get something really good in the top gallery to persuade people to get up into it. This time it's a piece called the 'Long Table', which  is literally a long table where free events will happen with a number of organisations that will change and shift over the period of time that the exhibition runs.

The small Back Gallery has been turned into a children's space where kids can spend some time on a soft floor with lots of stimulating materials  to play with. The Tall Gallery is filled with Louise Wallace's 'Midnight Feast',  a sumptuous outpouring of magical colours, painterly technique and a perspective that moves into another reality.

Sharon Kelly's 'Red to Red' in the Sunken Gallery reveals the repeated fragility in her work with paintings on paper completed during her Arts Council of NI  fellowship at the British School in Rome (which was interrupted  by the pandemic). It's nice to see her sculptural pieces complement the space with the raw use of the colour red throughout, which seemed to emphasise our mortality.

On Good Friday the compelling work of Hannah Starkey was revealed in the Ulster Museum, 'Principled and Revolutionary: Northern Ireland's Peace Women', in conjunction with the Belfast Photo festival. Anna Leisling and Clare Gormley's co-curation hits a sweet spot in terms of atmosphere and the 'art' of the subject matter. Patience was required with some women taking over a year to pin down. There are a few other women-in-peace art exhibitions around that I can think of that pale in comparison. 

In this exhibition, we're told: "Starkey’s artwork aims to ignite a conversation about the impact and importance of women’s leadership, not just here, but globally. The 21 portraits in this exhibition highlight some of the many women who have been pivotal to peace building and community activism in this country through their work in the political, cultural and social spheres. Through exploring these – too often untold – stories, we hope to shine a light on the legacies and impact of women’s activism here and to inspire younger generations of women to make their voices heard."

The subjects depicted aim not to be a definitive list of women – the project started through recommendations and it is great to see some familiar faces, be it Helen Crickard of Reclaim the Agenda, Avila Kilmurray, Judith Cross (a student of mine on a women's development programme), who has gone on to do amazing policy/lobbying work on a number of issues. Ann Carr, Bronagh Hinds of DemocraSHE, Linda Walker – all Women's Coalition members, along with Kate Fearon, who has gone on to work in Afghanistan, Georgia, Sudan and Kosovo.

I'm surprised that there's no mention of the fact that the UN Security Council's Resolution 1325 on Women and Peacebuilding was put in place because of the women of Northern Ireland's contribution to the peace process; nevertheless I think the exhibition will inspire different generations of women and girls to be more aware of women's unique contribution to peace locally. Bring your daughters and sons to read the profiles of these amazing women and consider 'What would the world be like if women were in charge?' as is written on the floor of the gallery.

The exhibition runs until September 10 with a 'Women, Art and Activism' symposium on June 3 and a talk as part of the Belfast Photo Festival.