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Mary Hawkes Greene, president and founder of the Burrren College of Art. Photograph by John Kelly

Burren College of Art turns 20

The Dean of Colombia University’s School of Art, a twice nominated Turner Prize painter, a former Danish Minister for Culture and a leading art theorist from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago are among the confirmed participants in a programme of events marking the 20th anniversary of Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan.

From July 17-20, works by some of its most successful and high profile alumni will go on show, with a symposium exploring alternative models of education, featuring contributions from groundbreaking Irish and overseas art education innovators. Irish-born American painter and printmaker and twice Turner Prize-nominee, Sean Scully will also receive an honorary doctorate.

Located at Newtown Castle, the Burren College of Art specialises in delivering a range of contemporary fine art programmes including photography, sculpture, painting and digital media. Postgraduate programmes at the college have been accredited by National University of Ireland, Galway since 2002.

Mary Hawkes Greene, president and founder of the Burren College of Art (BCA) said the upcoming 20th anniversary celebrations are aimed at showcasing the success of BCA’s alternative approach to education, by providing students the time and space to develop their individual talents amidst the inspirational landscape of the world famous Burren.

“By facilitating discussion amongst leading art education innovators from around the world and by showcasing the works of our graduates, we are seeking to highlight BCA’s contribution to the arts sector and to serve  as a creative springboard for re-imagining  what an art school can be at this moment of profound societal change,” she said.

By Nicola Corless

Ms Hawkes Greene added, “Creativity and innovation are critical to our economic and social survival; nurturing creativity is what an art school needs to do. We believe everyone has the ability to be creative in whatever they do and expanding this potential is our goal for the next 20 years.

“Establishing the college was, in itself, the creative act of a local, motivated by a passionate love of place and a vision to develop it appropriately. For the past two decades, BCA has been the all-year round economic and social mainstay of Ballyvaughan and the wider Burren Region, our students breathing life into a community whose own youth have emigrated.

“The college has operated sustainably on a non-profit basis without any operational funding from the State. We are very proud of this achievement and of providing an alternative educational model that is intentionally small and focuses on individual development,” she concluded.

The BCA 20th anniversary celebration gets underway on Thursday, July 17 when stories of historical and contemporary alternative approaches from the US and Europe will form the basis for the two-day Ex-centric Alternatives symposium.

Contributors include Uffe Elbaek, former Danish Minister for Culture, founder of Kaos Pilots design school and of The Alternativet political party; Professor Brian Butler, director Black Mountain College Museum; Dr Carol Becker, Dean of the School of Arts, Columbia University; Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, former rector of the Royal College of Art, London; Tracy Meisterheim, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden and James Elkins, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The alumni exhibition, entitled The Middle of Everywhere, opens on July 18 and will feature the work of 40 BCA past students from the US, Mexico, Canada, UK and Ireland.

The Sean Scully honorary conferring takes place on Saturday, July 19 and will be followed by The Best of the Burren – a banquet of Burren food and a recital by Ballyvaughan-born Naomi O’Connell, who has become an international opera star, accompanied by Archie Simpson, founder of The Lismorahaun Singers.

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