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Painting by Kilrush's Brian Cusack, chosen to take part in the Connecting Artists 2022 exhibition in Dublin

Clare artist part of unique new national exhibition

A WEST Clare artist has been chosen to participate in an inaugural exhibition to platform artists with intellectual disabilities.

Brian Cusack from Kilrush is one of ten artists chosen by Connections Arts Centre (CAC) to participate in the bold and innovative exhibition to be held later this month in Dublin’s Royal College of Surgeons.

Brian says, “My love of art emerged as a young man and it has grown over the past 15 years. I mostly work with acrylics, and paint a wide variety of subjects, usually from existing images, but more recently I have taken to open-air painting. I am really happy and exciting about exhibiting in the Connections Arts exhibition.

“I am so lucky that I and three colleagues are supported to run our own business called ‘Woodwebs’, we have a stall in Kilrush Farmers Market selling woodcraft. It’s a place that is important to me, full of colour, energy and laughter where craft workers and artisan food producers come together to sell their wares.”

Connections Arts Centre, dedicated to connecting members of the Disability community through the arts was the brainchild of Miriam Spollen, a long-time advocate of, and worker in the arts and disability sector.

“I lost my job in 2021 due to Covid, but really it was a blessing in disguise as I now had time to develop a business idea that I had been contemplating for over 10 years. In the midst of Covid, Connections Arts Centre (an online platform) was developed to connect and support people with disabilities through the arts”.

“In March 22 ‘Connections Arts Centre’ (CAC), opened its base in Rathgar in Dublin, where they now run a selection of Training, Arts, and lifestyle programmes”.

“We have supported 600 participants since our inception just last year; this has been a mixture of online and in person and it has been so rewarding and encouraging to see the engagement and enthusiasm by participants. We have worked with and supported participants from organisations such as Enable Irelands, Rehab, Walk, Gheel Autism services and more.”

Connecting Artists 2022 was developed when Miriam spotted a need to support and highlight the work of artists with intellectual disabilities from all over Ireland.

“This programme provides an immersive, supportive and interactive environment for artists with intellectual disabilities, empowering then to develop their creative practice and to hone their natural talents. The exhibition at the RCSI is showcasing the work of ten Artists who participated in the online programme”.

But this is not the end for these artists, they are developing their own collective and will continue to meet monthly online with the support of CAC.

“There is a wonderful atmosphere amongst our online community, the artists feel part of a wider arts world which feeds their wonderful creativity and imagination. It has been great to see such positive energy and community amongst the artists.

“It’s been so fulfilling to watch so many artists support each other and develop their practice. It’s all about connections and giving the artists confidence, helping them to develop and perfect their natural creativity and highlighting their incredible talents to the wider community, while breaking down barriers.”

Miriam says that the reaction to the upcoming exhibition in the RCSI is hugely positive and encouraging.

“It is a wonderful achievement for the artists themselves first and foremost, and we are truly heartened by the response we are receiving from the broader public, both business and community.

“We have received some very welcome financial support for this programme from the Bank of Ireland’s ‘Begin Together Arts Fund’ in partnership with ‘Business to Arts’.

“We had a very high level of entries for the exhibition, 67 in all and the quality was superb. It was so difficult whittling the list of exhibitors down to just 10 but really all the artists who got involved in any way are beacons of light for artists with intellectual disabilities. Our plan is to run the programme again in 2023 to support a new cohort of artists.

“We’re all so excited about this forthcoming exhibition. The artists themselves can’t wait and we can’t wait to showcase their incredible talents.”

The exhibition is running at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin from June 26 to June 29 from 3pm to 6pm.

Admission is free but booking is essential at https://www.connectionsartscentre.ie/connecting-artists-22-exhibition-bookingpage

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