Ballycullane NS, New Ross; Bunscoil Loreto, Gorey / Mercy NS, Wexford town / Scoil Mhuire NS, Wexford town

The Living Arts Project was established in 2013 as a long term visual arts educational scheme, further strengthening the existing partnership between Wexford Arts Centre and the Arts Department of Wexford County Council. The aim of this collaborative project is to make the understanding of, engagement with and the fundamentals of contemporary art more attainable for local audiences.

In April 2014, an open call took place for interested artists and schools to submit expressions of interest to participate in the programme, and after an overwhelming response the successful schools and artists began working together in September.

This year, the artists and schools selected for the primary school residency programme were; Oonagh Latchford with Ballycullane NS, New Ross; Mary Claire Kehoe with Bunscoil Loreto, Gorey; Els Dietvorst with Mercy NS, Wexford town; and Laura Ni Fhlaibhin with Scoil Mhuire NS, Wexford town. Each of these accomplished artists brought their own unique style and processes to the schools, encouraging each student and group to create diverse and original work; highlighting a huge variety of themes, materials and artistic approaches. The themes developed by these students have included representations of the body, landscapes and materiality. Abstraction, using varied materials and methods, was also explored as well as the use of technology. The project challenged young students to think and employ new, creative approaches, equipment and materials that they had not encountered before. The students engaged with contemporary and traditional art practices while gaining invaluable collaborative, confidence building skills.

An important aim of the residency programme was to prioritise the development of the artist's work within the project and use this development to encourage competent engaging work from the participating students. A mentorship programme ran alongside each residency, and each resident artist nominated an independent artist or curator they felt was relevant to their professional practice. This mentorship helped to ensure the effectiveness and integrity of the programme on an ongoing basis, while also providing positive critique for the resident artist. In addition, the programme helped to refine methods of engaging with the students throughout each residency, ensured that the work and processes were of high quality and the dynamic between artists and students was challenging and productive. The following mentors were involved in the 2014/15 project: Carissa Farrell, Eamonn Carter, Karla Sanchez O’Connell and Sheena Barrett.

An assistant artist’s programme runs in tandem with artists’ residencies thereby creating more opportunities for shared knowledge in relation to creating and mediating contemporary visual art. This year’s assistant artists are Pavlina Kubelkova, Nancy Rochfort-Flynn, Claire Butler, and Laurence O'Toole.

The Living Arts Project exhibition represents a selection of work produced by the participating primary schools and artists. The Arts Department of Wexford County Council and Wexford Arts Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank all schools, artists and mentors involved in the project, and the local community for their support and interest in the project to date.

Photography by Frank Abruzzese
Frank Abruzzese: www.frankabruzzese.com or www.cowhousestudios.com