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Artist Melissa Ryan in her studio at Birdhill. Photograph by John Kelly

Clare art project a shore fire success by the lake

Artist Melissa Ryan talks to Dan Danaher about a unique art exhibition showcasing professional and emerging artists near the shores of Lough Derg

SEVEN emerging artists from the Killaloe Ballina area are amongst 120 participants who have united to create a unique free outdoor community art exhibition near the shores of Lough Derg.
Carol O’Donoghue, Lori Foley, Teresa Kearns, Kathleen Valette, Kathleen Sheehan, Donna Lawlor and Pauline Quigley, were supported by the local Family Resource Centre during an innovative community project and competition.
One of the professional artists is Kerry Acheson, who lives in Killaloe, and is also an art teacher.
‘At One with Nature’, which opens this Friday and runs for one month, showcases 50 original works, with more than 120 artists using Malaysian pine boards, 150 cm by 150 cm hand painted in acrylics, along the scenic 2.2 kilometres Pollagh trail beside the River Shannon in Birdhill village.
The winners in different categories will be announced at the end of the exhibition during an open air presentation in Birdhill village park, subject to Covid-19 restrictions.
All the paintings will be posted on social media a week after the show to give people the opportunity of voting for a public choice award over a three-week period.
They have a nature-related theme with farm and domestic animals featuring prominently in several submissions.
A coat of varnish was added once the paintings were completed to ensure they are all rain and weather proof.
The idea is the brainchild of local artist, Melissa Ryan, an Australian native, now Birdhill resident, who has created and managed the exhibition, which is funded by Creative Ireland and Tipperary County Council. It is also supported by Tipperary ETB, Birdhill Tidy Towns’ Committee and local land owners.
Ms Ryan is delighted with the quality and range of artwork.
“You have all these variables and differences in the paintings. When all the boards are hung, it will be amazing.
“The whole purpose was to bring the whole community together through a love of art. We also wanted to support artists who didn’t have a platform for a long time, galleries haven’t been open and there has been no concerts.
“It will be an explosion of colour. Even if a person isn’t big into art, people like to walk and get some fresh air. If someone isn’t feeling the best, you have to come out from the trail feeling good.
“We wanted to lift the spirits of local people and showcase the great talent in the community. People can go and have a picnic in the village park and go and enjoy the trail.
“If it is successful, we are hoping to make it an annual event, and open it to more artists.
“We wanted to reconnect with art and support artists both professional and emerging. When I am working with adult learners through community education, it is all about learning to have a healthy mind and a healthy body.”
One artist painted her deceased dog with sun glasses, while another person depicted an aerial view of the Pollagh trail with Birdhill’s emblem, the eagle.
Professional artist, Ruth Riordan, painted the whole board with her finger print and glove to depict a fox at midnight.
While most of the emerging artists were concerned with the size of the board, they embraced it after a while and then really loved it.
People will have an opportunity to purchase the art boards in the trail.
Ms Ryan is a community education tutor with the Tipperary Education Training Board, and had a lot of people learning art on line including seven adult learners involved in a previous project with the Killaloe Ballina Family Resource Centre were down in the dumps due to Covid-19.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, she was teaching students from Ballina in the Bridge Arts Centre, Ballina, Killaloe, some of whom went on to St Anne’s Community Centre, and they had plenty of time on their hands during the subsequent restrictions.
Prompted by her daughter, Chloe Ryan, who attends Birdhill National School, Ms Ryan also approached a number of other national schools who were delighted to participate.
This innovative community project has united professional and emerging artists, ranging in age from eight to 79.
“We wanted to connect with the elderly who have been isolating for a long time due to Covid-19 and started walking just to meet people. I wanted to give artists something positive to aim for during the pandemic. Miraculously, it worked I got all these artists involved.
“Everyone has a story about why they wanted to connect through art. The range of people who have come together to show the difference in art is amazing.”
Some of the participants have additional needs including one 16 year-old secondary school students who has Epilepsy and experiences grand mal seizures on a regular basis.
Another young teenager who completed a painting has a sister with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Some secondary school students worked together on one submission to produce some stunning art work.
All young adults U-18 will be awarded a certificate of participation.

by Dan Danaher

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