The Art Life - Calling Post Primary Schools in Balbriggan & Swords

Calling Post Primary Schools in Balbriggan & Swords to apply for The Art Life – an arts-in-education initiative for 2020 

Arts-in-Education Initiative for Transition Year students in Swords & Balbriggan

Project title:  The Art Life

Delivery Timeline:  January – April 2020

The Art Life is an expansive project that unites Transition Year and Third-level Fine Art students in an enquiry into the interconnected ways that cultural producers use their creativity to work, live and affect change in their localities.

A focus of the project is to look at how critical thinking and creativity can be used to live in a thoughtful way in the contemporary world, with climate change and the built environment as background context.


- To provide students with an in-depth encounter with both contemporary visual art practice and creative ways to live in the community.

- To facilitate engagement with multiple types of cultural producers in a variety of contexts and gain a sense of the richness of possibilities that can manifest through critical thinking, creativity and work.

- To provide a framework to explore what it means to be an artist, both from the point of artistic practice, and the reality of making a living as an artist and in creative professions.

- To grapple with questions concerning care for the earth, in a way that encourages curious, committed enquiry, critical thinking and a sense of agency.

- To make visible how the combination of ethical and creative thinking can manifest in an approach to living and working.

Who is involved
Fingal County Council Arts Office & Fingal Architects Dept., Superprojects and Project Manager Rayne Booth , The School of Creative Arts, TU Dublin, Artist Ruth Lyons, Artist Jenny Brady, Callan Workhouse Union, Proeftuin Pioniers (tiny house collective based in The Hague).

Delivery Dates & Content

1. Monday 20th January
This will be an introductory and practical workshop day for TY students and TU Dublin Fine Art Students on the TU Dublin Campus with the two artists and TU Dublin staff. 
TY students will collaborate with the 3rd level students to make an architectural structure from a selection of structural materials and fabrics provided by staff. Staff will be available to oversee and assist during this day. The purpose of this day is to give the TY students the opportunity for a hands-on introduction to architectural themes within the project, whilst working in teams with the Fine Art students. In addition, it will also give them a taste of the everyday experience of studying Fine Art at third-level.

2. 10th – 14th February  AND  9th – 13th March
Each school will receive eight workshops in total during these two weeks.
Ruth Lyons and Jenny Brady will each deliver four workshops in each participating school, aided and assisted by one of two 3rd year fine art students from TU Dublin. Themes and ideas of their work and workshops can be found below.

3. Thursday 20th February
Talk in TU Dublin by Proeftuin Pioneers Tiny House ecological collective. These are a collective of eight people - social entrepreneurs, artists, technicians, builders, programmers, architects and activists - who have each built their own ‘tiny house’ on a plot of land owned by a property developer BPD. They are part of the only ‘Tiny House village’ in The Netherlands. This encounter with their work will give students a perspective on another way of living that requires less consumption, involves less debt, is more collaborative and is somewhat nomadic. Like Callan Workhouse Union, they are working with city/county councils, in order to develop their work and community.

4. 27th OR 28th February
Field trip to Callan Co. Kilkenny to meet the Callan Workhouse Union.
Based in an old Workhouse in Callan, County Kilkenny, this collective works with artists, designers, architects and crafts-people to develop projects examining housing, civic infrastructure and the commons, engaging people with the spaces and places we live in. Curators Rosie Lynch and Eilis Lavelle will host a workshop that will explore ideas of how we can affect change on our environment through a spatial movement and mapping workshop, and a design and print workshop. Rosie Lynch will also talk to the group about her experience working with Kilkenny County Council on a creative consultation process that engaged with over 300 children and young people between the ages of 0 – 24 years. This will inform the students in their task of knowledge exchange with Fingal County Council’s Architects team. 

5. 2nd April
Day of talks at TU Dublin by artists, students and a presentation of the work made during the workshop process.

6. Finally, we will host a meeting in April between the students and Fingal County Council’s Architects Dept. This will be an opportunity for exchange between the students and the Fingal Architects with responsibility for developments in the county, thereby giving the students the opportunity to link their new experiences with their local context.

Students can expect to:
- create a collaborative artwork supported by professional visual artists
- gain experience of experimenting with ideas and materials
- gain new perspectives on career paths from art
- gain experience on the realities of studying fine art at university level
- learn about ecology, architecture and the built environment
- have the opportunity to present their work outcomes in front of a professional audience

The Artists & Workshop Themes

Artist Ruth Lyons

Four workshops titled:  ‘Origins’ - exploring deep time and the materials of the earth

‘My work is concerned with landscape and deep time. I am fascinated by the spectrum of human engagement with landscape throughout history and the incredible forms this has resulted in from megalithic monuments to the underground cavities of contemporary mines. My work originates from an experience of landscape and a consideration of human engagement within it from an anthropological perspective. I am always questioning what constructed forms, whether functional or abstract say about the spiritual dimension of a people. Over the course of the workshops we will explore notions of geological time contained within commonplace materials that we encounter everyday. The students will be asked to investigate these materials, to trace a line of contemporary manufacture back to their raw material origins within world landscapes. This fact-finding exercise will inform a practical workshop in which the students will design and construct ‘monuments’ using specific materials they have selected. In line with the idea of building totems to spirit animals in indigenous world cultures, these sculptures will act as honorary totems to a spiritual dimension of the earth contained within extracted materials.’

Artist Jenny Brady

Four workshops titled: ‘A-weighted response’: exploring deep listening techniques, field recording and slow cinema

“The eye is always an organ of exertion, labor, and concentration. The ear of the layman, on the other hand, as contrasted to that of the music expert, is indefinite and passive. Music as an art has always been an attempt to transform the indolence, dreaminess, and dullness of the ear into a matter of concentration, effort, and serious work.” Hanns Eisler & Theodor Adorno Language is our main communication tool, so most people feel that we need verbal language to think critically. But I believe there are some things that can only be understood somatically or that can be communicated with sound. What if there were other languages we could to communicate with? A-weighted response is a project that draws from an ongoing interest in my work around the affective qualities of sound, and seeks to build, through collaborative processes, a kind of sonic literacy. Working with Transition Year students from two secondary schools in Fingal, we will use deep listening and audio recording techniques to explore themes of attention, duration and perception in our experience of time and space. The workshops will involve on and off site field recording, introductions to audio recording techniques using contact, binaural and underwater microphones, text based environmental observations and practicing sonic meditations of composer Pauline Oliveros. Using this accumulated material, we will make a collaborative sound work that presents a portrait of space. At a time in which human attention is becoming a scarce commodity, this project looks to slow down our experience of looking at and listening to our immediate environment.

If you are interested in the project on behalf of your students please email an expression of interest to at Fingal Arts Office, no later than Wednesday 11th of December.

Your Expression of Interest should include:
• a statement of interest in the project
• an agreement of participation on behalf of a TY group
• a brief explanation of how this will benefit the students (max 80 words)
• a named contact teacher and contact details


Image Courtesy of: Youth-led architecture and sound workshop led by Spanish architectural collective Todo Por La Praxis and sound designer Ed Devane; Callan Workhouse Union Callan, 2017