Waterford city has its own purpose-developed art exhibition space for the first time with the opening of a new gallery.

The city and county councils have developed the Waterford Gallery of Art in a previously disused building on O'Connell Street, owned by a software company.

It is close to the city centre and part of the area's developing Cultural Quarter.

The gallery provides the local authority with an opportunity to show off its municipal collection in its own venue for the first time, and it is opening the gallery with an exhibition of 47 paintings, entitled Aspects: Highlights from the Waterford Art Collection.

It has been curated by Dr Eimear O'Connor, honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy.

Dr Eimear O'Connor pictured in front of works by Paul Henry and John B. Yeats

The public opening is taking place as part of the Imagine Arts Festival which runs in Waterford from 18-28 October, with a wide range of events and activities across visual art, music and theatre.

A free guided tour of the exhibition will be given on Saturday 26 October from 3.30pm to 4.30pm by Dr O'Connor.

The Waterford municipal collection began in the 1930s when Dublin-born artist Hilda Roberts moved south and married Arnold Marsh, who was headmaster of the local Newtown School at the time.

They followed the example of collections in counties Dublin and Limerick by displaying works in the school.

"The entire collection then moved into Waterford City and the first exhibition in this collection was actually opened by Paul Henry in 1939," Dr O'Connor said.

"There is now a new gallery opened in what is Waterford's cultural quarter."

She focused on the connection with the 1930s and Newtown School in putting together the current show, and it features work by Paul Henry, John B Yeats as well as Hilda Roberts, Mainie Jellett, and many more, including some living artists.

"The interesting thing about this collection is that it's half and half male-female, so the exhibition itself is more or less half and half male-female, very interesting then to work with."

Inside the new gallery on O'Connell Street, Co Waterford

Waterford council hopes the new gallery, in a building which dates back to 1845 and is now being leased from a software company, will become a star attraction for the city. Admission is free.

"Imagine [arts festival] is our official opening event for the gallery and for the winter programme it's going to be open on Thursdays and Fridays and for special events on Saturdays," city arts officer Conor Nolan explained.

Opening hours are likely to be extended in the new year.

"We see this as very much part of the cultural quarter and very much part of the creative hub. We're open to the community, we've got boardrooms for the community as well and we want to really push art in this area because Waterford is, after all, a very arty city."

The opening is a milestone for the city, he added.

"It's the first time that Waterford has officially recognised the treasures that it has within the arts world, and it's the first time that we're working within a purpose-built gallery, purpose-built for the Waterford collection".