What Did I Miss? 

A nationwide series of engagement workshops for The Ark, 2021

To accompany their live stream of What Did I Miss? by Shaun Dunne as part of Brightening Air, The Ark embarked on a nationwide engagement project with 5th and 6th class groups in schools across Ireland.

These online workshops were a collaboration with illustrator Duffy Mooney-Sheppard. Through visual art and speechwriting prompts, we encouraged 5th and 6th class children to express, through art and words, their experiences of the pandemic and their feelings about coming to the end of another difficult school year or completing primary school at such a turbulent time.

In the workshop, the children created memory books which looked back at their primary school experiences. Through thinking about the past, present and future, the drawing and writing prompts equipped them to then create graduation speeches.


Laois Artists in Schools 2020/2021

Slow art-making project with Scoil Phádraig Naofa, Mountmellick 

Ms. Greene’s Fifth Class and I spent a number of weeks walking the Owenass river track in Mountmellick town. The project was based on slowing down, on thinking about our place in nature, and on tuning into our senses: looking, listening, feeling. It culminated in an exhibition of photography and poetry along the walk. 

Before we set out, we played visual scavenger hunts in the school yard, training our eyes to look at things in greater detail, to notice objects and elements in the environment we might at first overlook. We made handmade origami field journals in the classroom to collect our observations. We spent time photographing nature in close-up. Drawn from the observations and language bank they accumulated in their journals over the weeks, the boys’ wrote poems in a Japanese haiku-style, written to be read in a single breath. Their photographs invited viewers to get as close to nature as they did when composing them, to look in detail at things we might not see in our busy day-to-day lives.

In exhibiting their work, the boys hoped that other walkers might be inspired to slow down, to stop along the river, to notice something they had never noticed before, to feel like they were walking the path for the very first time.

Community of Belonging

Laois Education Centre, 2021

Celebrating the gift of diversity and interculturalism with creativity

“In November 2020 Laois Education Support Centre began a conversation with teachers, parents, groups and students from our local community. We wanted to know what life and particularly education looked like through their eyes. We listened and we heard the word “belonging”. We live, work, learn, play and belong in our community. But what does it really mean to “belong”? What does that look like from your perspective, your point of view?” ~ Laois Education Centre

I was the artist consultant on this project, in collaboration with teacher Jenny Buggie. Over 5 weeks from the 26th of April to the 24th of May 2021, we invited schools and communities to participate. Suitable for all ages, participants could get involved as a class, family, group, or individual. Each week, a Creative Spark was announced on social media. Sparks were overall based on bringing awareness and visibility to the diversity of language, culture and tradition within the community.

The Sparks invited participants to: 1) take a fresh look at familiar spaces by choosing a different route through them; 2) to show the diversity of language in the community by labelling objects in the public domain; 3) to explore the personal experience of place through mapmaking; 4) to investigate and celebrate the story behind a friend’s name; and 5) to explore personal histories by sharing the story of a favourite item of clothing.  

We invited school, community and family leaders and participants to think about one or all Sparks, to make it their own, and to photograph and share it with the hashtag #LESCbelonging.

Finding Steve-O

2018 Laois Teacher-Artist Partnership

Visual storytelling project with Scoil Phádraig Naofa, Mountmellick 

In a residency that spanned a full academic year at the school, I facilitated a visual storytelling project with Fifth class, in partnership with class teacher and HSCL.

The project involved an initial child-led explorative period, discovering the history and experimenting with techniques for creating non-verbal texts. The boys decided to focus the project on developing a photo-comic, writing, performing, designing and producing a magical realist graphic story centred on their school caretaker, dragons, and a secret portal beneath Mountmellick, all set against the backdrop of the 2018 Slieve Bloom mountain Fires.

We established a Writers Room, where the class worked collectively on the story they wanted to tell, collaborating to establish plot, settings, characters, actions.

We then explored storyboarding, experimenting with how to tell a story with only pictures, and encountering the different types of shots, foregrounding techniques etc. A team of students worked across the school site as actors, directors and camera crew, and a second team in the classroom worked as illustrators, background scenic artists and sound effect typographers.

Parents and families were invited to become actively involved, becoming actors in one of the scenes. Finally, in the Editing Room, the boys were introduced to Photoshop skills, where illustrations were merged with photographs and arranged into a comic grid.