2016 Press Releases

Our Place: Community Art Projects at the Glucksman

30 Sep 2016
Tadhg Crowley, Curator of Education at the Glucksman. Photo: Emmet Curtin.

Back in 2014 Mike Fitzgibbon sent an email to University staff seeking donations to help out with a Christmas Day event for children living in direct provision.The email described the troubled living conditions of the children and the lack of resources, activities or enjoyment in their lives. 

Glucksman Director Fiona Kearney brought the email to the attention of the rest of the gallery team with the view to running an art project/event for the children. At the Glucksman we actively seek to engage with community groups of all ages and backgrounds and to enable people to access different aspects of visual art. In the recent past we have worked with organisations such as the West Cork Development Partnership, the Parkinson’s Community, The National Learning Network and the Irish Wheelchair Association to name but a few. Groups undertook projects that were tailored specifically to their interests and abilities and were as varied as private tours of the exhibition to art making workshops to public exhibitions of created artworks.

We first met with Mike and Eileen Hogan to discuss the possibility of an art project with children living in DP back in the spring of 2015. Even at that early stage, without any funding, clear numbers or dates we were all determined that we would find a way to make this project work. Around the same time the Glucksman was named one of the host locations for a reading by Laureate na nÓg Eoin Colfer as part of the Once Upon a Place project. Once Upon a Place sought to bring storytelling to children all over Ireland focusing specifically on communities who may not have access to libraries, storytellers, writers in schools etc. These readings were to be held in extraordinary places that would help bring stories to life. The timing of the Once Upon a Place project and the proposed project with children in DP couldn’t have been more appropriate.

The first Direct Provision Centres were set up as a temporary measure back in 1999 in a year when the country experienced a surge in the numbers of asylum seekers coming to our shores. 17 years later there isn’t any evidence to suggest that we will see the closure of these centres and the replacement of this flawed system. At present there are 691 people living in direct provision in Cork, 223 children. Some of these children (up to ages 8-9 years) were born here in Ireland and have spent their entire childhood living in Direct Provision. Research undertaken by UCC staff has shown that “Direct Provision is a key contributor to and has caused serious mental and physical health deterioration in people seeking asylum; as a system, it fails to recognise people’s most basic social, cultural, gender, ethnic, and religious needs; it enforces penal conditions on people over long periods of time, and couples with this a continual boredom; it systematically isolates those seeking asylum, and enforces institutionalisation and powerlessness. It represents a state-imposed system of marginalisation and subjugation, and negatively impacts on people’s roles as parents with significant consequences for their children.”

It was in December 2015 that 22 brave, wonderful young children came through the Glucksman’s doors and in a burst of energy and excitement they swept us along on an artistic adventure that ran all the way into the Spring. We had some beautiful moments, saddening glimpses at their realities and lots and lots of laughter. Over six Saturdays children aged 6-12yrs from the Kinsale Road and Glouthaune centres came to the gallery to partake in a wide variety of art making activities that looked at the idea of 'place'.

One project we undertook over the six sessions was a short film, directed, recorded and starring all the children. The talking heads-style film asked children to tell us, if they met a magic genie, what would they wish for? The majority of the group dreamed of becoming famous footballers or living in exotic mansions. Halfway through the film we are stopped by the heartbreaking wish of a young Syrian girl who dreams of ''seeing my father again'. This moment strikes home the reality of these children's lives. Children who laugh, play and joke like everyone else but who have undergone traumatic and distressing experiences. Children who have fled their homelands out of fear, often losing family members, and arrived in Ireland to be met by a system that fails them.

The six art workshops culminated in a public exhibition of the children's work alongside that of their peers (from school and community groups around the county) and a reading by Laureate na nÓg Eoin Colfer at the Glucksman in March 2016. 

University colleagues like Michael Blaney (ACE, UCC); Claire Dorrity (Applied Social Studies, UCC); Mike FitzGibbon (Food Business and Development, UCC); Dr. Eileen Hogan (Applied Social Studies, UCC); and Dr. Jacqueline O’Riordan (Applied Social Studies, UCC) have campaigned for the end to DP since its inception. They have also worked to bring some form of enjoyment and distraction to these peoples lives through Christmas and Easter events, food events and day trips. The UCC Student Union offers places on its Summer Camps to children in DP while the UCC Amnesty International Society has donated to and funded events and projects for the DP community. It was the generosity of our University community that allowed the Once Upon a Place project to happen here at the Glucksman and it’s their continued generosity that will help us to bring small rays of happiness and positivity into these children’s lives in our future initiatives.

The success of the Once Upon a Place project created a demand amongst older children in the DP centres to be given an opportunity to get involved with extra curricular activities. Our upcoming project Navigating the Urban Landscape is supported by the Arts Council through its Young Ensembles Scheme. The project invites teenagers from the four DP centres in Cork to come to the Glucksman over six Saturdays and working with artists Roseanne Lynch, Cassandra Eustace and Dervla Baker to create artworks that respond to their city. Working with photography, drawing and film the teenagers will explore the university campus and beyond, plotting and mapping routes and creatively documenting their interactions and experiences. The project will culminate with a public exhibition of the created artworks at the Glucksman in December.

Tadhg Crowley is the Curator of Education at the Glucksman.

The Glucksman is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 5pm and Sunday 2-5pm. For information on its education programme please contact education@glucksman.org or visit glucksman.org.

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

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