Tending Joy

‘Tending Joy’ - An Exhibition of Prints by UCC's First Year Occupational Therapy Students

Twenty-nine first year CK704 Occupational Therapy students from School of Clinical Therapies UCC exhibited their work in the Jennings Gallery at Brookfield Health Sciences Complex. 

The prints explored the theme ‘Tending Joy’ and depict the many and varied ways that the students experience joy in their everyday lives, from travel, to sea swimming, to beloved pets, music, good cups of coffee and cherished relationships.

Odhrán Allen, CEO of the Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland and OT Students. Photo: Gerard McCarthy

Dr. Eithne Hunt, Occupational Therapist and College Lecturer, School of Clinical Therapies selected the theme ‘Tending Joy’ for the students to explore, reflecting the philosophy and content of the year one curriculum. 

Dr. Hunt said: “In their printmaking sessions, our students were encouraged to reflect on how they experience and cultivate joy in the big and small moments of their daily lives. Helping the people with whom we work as Occupational Therapists to find moments of joy in their lives is a great privilege and something for us to nurture amongst our students. In Occupational Therapy, we believe that “occupations” are all the ordinary and extraordinary activities that make up our days. Oftentimes, it is only when we are unable to do what we need, want and have to do in our daily life, that we come to truly appreciate how many of these ordinary activities we might take for granted. COVID19 also taught us all how ordinary activities matter so much for our lives and wellbeing. When we can’t do what matters to us, it can have a powerful impact on our health and wellbeing”. 

UCC’s first year Occupational Therapy students have this opportunity to participate in printmaking as part of the module OT1005 Creative Occupations and Health. The module was designed and is led by Dr. Eithne Hunt in collaboration with Cork Printmakers. The students participate in printmaking sessions for two hours each week over six weeks, and then critically reflect on their experiences in the end of module written paper. 

Since the foundation of the profession of Occupational Therapy in the early 20th Century and influenced by social movements including the Arts and Crafts Movement Dr. Hunt said “art, craft and creative activities have played a central role in Occupational Therapy. The printmaking sessions allow students to explore this heritage and to examine first-hand the potential therapeutic power of creative activities.”

To this day, Occupational Therapists are problem-solvers who work collaboratively with their clients and patients to figure out solutions to challenges in health or life circumstances, and to restore or find new joy and meaning in daily life. Being able to think creatively is central to that. Indeed creative thinking is one of UCC’s Graduate Attributes and Values and is one of the top 10 skills of 2023 according to the World Economic Forum. “It’s essential that we cultivate creativity amongst our students” says Dr. Hunt.

Professor Margaret McGrath, Odhrán Allen, CEO of the Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland & Dr. Eithne Hunt. Photo: Gerard McCarthy.

Professor Margaret McGrath, UCC’s new head of the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy adds “Regardless of where or with whom Occupational Therapists work, creativity is central to supporting meaningful engagement and participation in daily life. For Occupational Therapy students, learning to explore, understand and embrace their innate creativity is a critical milestone on the journey towards professional practice”.  

In her poem Don’t Hesitate, the esteemed poet Mary Oliver wrote, “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.” 

Dr. Hunt explains: “The scientific evidence suggests that in so doing, we expand our brain’s capacity to experience joy and tilt the balance away from our evolutionarily hardwired tendency towards noticing threat and danger in our lives. In the words of writer Zadie Smith, joy multiplies itself dangerously. Ross Gay is a professor of English at Indiana University. His books include a book of essays, The Book of Delights in which he observes that we can often overlook small joys in our busy lives. He uses the phrase tending joy to bring to life the engagement and action required to really experience and cultivate joy”.

The exhibition was opened by Odhrán Allen, CEO of the Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland who said “Occupational Therapists, with our creative and practical approach to problem-solving, have so much to offer in identifying and providing solutions to the many complex healthcare challenges for individuals and society”.


A very busy and enjoyable opening night, attended by students, staff and Prof Josephine Hegarty, the new Chair of the Jennings Gallery Committee.

‘Tending Joy’ ran until April 2024.

To find out more about the students, their artwork and see photos of the exhibition opening, please view our ‘Tending Joy’ Exhibition Catalogue.

The Jennings Gallery

Áiléar Jennings

College of Medicine and Health, Brookfield Health and Science Complex, College Rd, UCC