Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Niamh O'Connor, a visual artist based in Co. Monaghan. I am sure you, like me, have been following the arts council response to this current crisis, and it is this I wish to speak to you about.
I watched and listened with dismay last April 3rd, as the limited department response was rolled out and in that moment I decided that rather than giving in to the frustrations I was feeling I could perhaps try to be proactive! Do something to highlight the sheer number of people involved in our creative industries here in Ireland, who would ultimately be affected by any and all actions and decisions by the council and dept combined.
I believe there is a notion in the Irish psyche that we sit, feeling somehow entitled! That our industry members should be delighted with the "handouts" we get for the very little we do!, after all its not REAL work is it - music? painting? It is this very misconception that encourages me to bring awareness to the public at large and the powers that be, in a non-confrontational way, that real, hard-working, dedicated people are the heartbeat of our much renowned cultural capital, our artists, our performers, writers, musicians, and others, are real working people, with real bills to pay and mouths to feed and a dedication to the work they do that IS important to our very identity as a nation!
To this end, I started developing the nub of an idea, this project almost immediately. The idea: to call on our culture creators in a 'show of hands" that brings awareness to the public and the powers that be, exactly how many people work and contribute to our creative sector and our cultural and fiscal wealth. And how much our creative sector has been decimated by loss equal to that of any other industry!
I am a member of arts group Art As Exchange or AAEX, (Dundalk based) who's manifesto states we as individuals are "interested in coming together for the sake of making public art that is accessible, experiential and participative", I am delighted to be working in collaboration with AAEX on this project, their experience of participating in and creating projects of this nature is well proven.
What's this to do with you, you might ask..
Well simply it is this, this call to action is a simple 'make and share' project.
Creatives from all sectors of the arts are invited to use a piece of air-dry clay or craft based homemade salt dough, and form it in their hand and squeeze it to create a cast 'grasp' , the imprint of their unique creative and contributing hand.
We identified this form, this 'grasp' for several reasons, as each would be unique to its maker, visually interesting both individually and combined, would catch attention in large numbers across social media and of course for the metaphor it conjures...the literal 'show of hands', the 'fist' your hand makes to create the impression, the "grasp" on the situation in the arts, we hope to ignite an awareness of this situation...!
Participants would also be asked to attach a label to their individual piece giving their details, name/profession/location and a brief statement of what the creative industries mean to them. You are further invited to photograph your piece and uploaded it to social media platforms, the message being further expressed by hashtags:
#Irishcultureworks, #graspthearts, #mycontributinghand and #showofhands_IRE.
It is our hope and intention to collect these pieces and have a showing of them in a physical location/exhibition at a later and safer date, and thus continue the discussion around what we bring in our large numbers to our nation.
To this end and for the past two weeks we have worked on developing this website and plan of action to invite interested participants to assist, including the provision of instructionals on the physical make, contact details etc... We are delighted to launch the campaign this weekend and needless to say we would love your support!