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Visual Voices aims to increase access to arts in Clare

A NEW series of free online art tours specifically available to people of older age in Clare has been launched by Clare Arts Office. The series, ‘Visual Voices’ has come about thanks to funding from the Creative Ireland Programme.

Visual Voices links a number of projects and programmes by Clare County Council in the area of arts and health to deliver an in-depth programme of online visual arts experiences to older people who may have difficulty accessing galleries and exhibition spaces in Clare.

The series is based on Age and Opportunity’s ‘Azure’ programme, which was developed in collaboration with the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Dublin, and inspired by the highly successful art tours ‘Meet me at MoMA’ running for many years for those living with dementia and their carers’, at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

The Arts Office of Clare County Council has over two decades of experience in running arts in health programmes in residential and day care settings in the county, and has invested in training and supporting talented artists working in this field.

They have worked closely with Age and Opportunity and IMMA to upskill key practitioners in the delivery of arts and health programmes, most recently the Azure programme.

The aim of Visual Voices is to bring online gallery talks to older people county-wide generally and also specifically to dementia suffers in residential and non-residential settings in the county.

The project has been developed in line with the forthcoming Age and Opportunity Arts and Creative Charter, aspiring to best practice in working with older people.

A series of virtual visual art tours are planned over the summer and will be delivered by trained artist/facilitators through a number of organisations in Clare. It is hoped that in-person tours may take place when restrictions lift in galleries and cultural venues.

There are a number of strands to the programme. Firstly, the programme will be offered to all members of ‘Cultural Companions, Clare’, a network of older people, facilitated by the Community Department of Clare County Council, interested in arts and cultural events and activities. They will work with the artists Marie Connole and Sara Foust.

The second strand of the programme offers the same opportunity to people living with dementia throughout the county. The aim is to make art more accessible by exploring how people with dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s, and the people who care for them, can participate in cultural activities.

There will be a series of dementia-friendly art tours in four residential settings across the county: Raheen Community Hospital (where a successful pilot scheme has been running since January); St Joseph’s Hospital in Ennis; Regina House in Kilrush; and Carrigoran House Care Centre, Newmarket-on-Fergus.

The tours will be delivered by Azure trained visual artists Will O’Kane, Eleanor Feely (actress and artist in residence at St Joseph’s Hospital, Ennis, who has been delivering dementia gallery tours in glór, for a number of years, pre-Covid) and Nicola Henley, Arts Coordinator at Raheen Day Care Centre.

In addition to the virtual art tours online, Ennis-based visual artist Will O’Kane will curate an exhibition of selected artworks from Clare County Council’s Art Collection, creating a virtual exhibition which will be a tool to encourage people to take part in the Visual Voices programme along the way.

For further information or to get involved, contact Nicola Henley, Visual Voices Coordinator, on nhenley6@gmail.com or call Clare Arts Office at 065 6899091 / www.clarearts.ie.

By Jessica Quinn

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