Creative match: Businesses and artists team up on exciting projects

The willingness of Irish SMEs to engage with the arts in new ways to enrich communities and reach new audiences was a key theme at this year’s Allianz Business to Arts Awards.

The level of creativity and success that is achieved when businesses and arts organisations join forces is much higher than would otherwise be possible. To illustrate this point, we’ve taken a closer look at three winning partnerships and a shortlisted partnership in the 2018 Allianz Business to Arts Awards.

Colourtrend and Waterford Walls International Street Art Festival

Winner of the 2018 Best Small Sponsorship Award

Schoolteacher Edel Tobin was inspired by an event on the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia when she came up with the idea for the Waterford Walls International Street Arts Festival. In 2014, the Djerbahood Project involved 150 street artists using the island as a blank canvas to transform it into a real-life open air museum.

“I saw a lot of similarity between that place and the demographics and history in Waterford,” says Tobin. “After the recession we had a lot of vacant, derelict buildings. I wanted to partner with Waterford City Council to basically re-imagine the city by bringing in street artists and brightening up specific areas.”

Tobin started on a small scale with the New Street Gardens project, where schoolchildren painted murals to revitalise a disused space near the city centre. In 2015, 25 derelict buildings were transformed by murals painted by street artists like James Earley as part of the first Waterford Walls Festival.

Since then, the festival has grown to the point where there are over 130 painted sites around the city, forming art trails and driving workshops geared towards both schools and business groups. The murals are left where they are for a full year for people to enjoy, but to date only about half of them have been painted over.

“After the first year, we were inundated with artist submissions from all over the world,” says Tobin. "For the 2016, 2017 and 2018 festivals, I sat down with curator Louise Flynn to decide which three to choose as the headline artists. We are also very focused on encouraging and nurturing local talent. Because the festival is free and people can access all areas they can really get a sense of how an artist works in an intimate setting. It really is special in that way.”

With paint stores in Waterford City for the past 15 years, Colourtrend was the main sponsor of Waterford Walls in 2015 and has supported it ever since.

“Funding was always going to be a struggle in the first year as we were trying to change people’s perceptions that street art is a valid art-form and not vandalism,” says Tobin. “Colourtrend supplies us with thousands of litres of paint each year and the staff in the Waterford stores bend over backwards to facilitate us. The artists tell us they couldn’t work with a better emulsion brand.”

Street artists often have colour requirements that are outside of the norm. Colourtrend will work with them to give them exactly what they need by, for example, manipulating the tinting system to make a colour look old or providing advice on the blending of materials such as spray paints and metallic paints.

“We can give advice on what will go on and stay on. There is quite a lot of technology involved with certain surfaces. The last thing you want with a mural is that the paint will peel off,” explains sales and marketing director at Colourtrend Liam Holland. “When Edel approached us we were quite happy to help to enhance the environment we live in as this is what our brand is all about.

“The festival has come on in leaps and bounds and has achieved national exposure. But for us it is more about the community aspect and the fact that we are giving a little back.”

A mural by Lula Goce, part of the Waterford Walls International Street Art Festival

A mural by Lula Goce, part of the Waterford Walls International Street Art Festival

A mural by Sonny, part of the Waterford Walls International Street Art Festival

A mural by Sonny, part of the Waterford Walls International Street Art Festival

Highlights of Waterford Walls 2017

Highlights of Waterford Walls 2017

Brave Maeve Children’s Myth & Art Trail

Winner of the 2018 Best Use of Creativity in the Community Award

New life has been brought to the shelters along Bray’s seafront thanks to the introduction of Brave Maeve Children’s Myth & Art Trail. This series of hand-painted murals was created through a highly collaborative process involving arts practitioners, Bray Municipal District and local businesses and children.

Independent arts practitioner Donna Carroll spearheaded the project.

“I had always been told there was a sleeping giant under Bray Head,” she says. “I thought if children were to make up their own new myth, this might make them more invested in Bray’s culture and community as they grew older.”

Carroll’s first step was to make a call to children’s author and illustrator Chris Judge.

“It turns out Chris had family in Bray and was very interested,” she says. "Together we organised two workshops for 50 children aged four to eight. Chris suggested that the giant be a girl and prompted the children use their imaginations to come up with her story together."

Judge went away for four weeks to flesh out the story and do all of the illustrations. David Forde, district administrator at Bray Municipal District, gave Carroll permission to use the land and property along the seafront for the project. The local authority also agreed to match whatever funding was secured from businesses.

One of the artists who revived the mosaics in Bray Dart station, Jay Roche, is also Judge’s brother-in-law. They worked together to convert the small illustrations into large murals, which were then covered in graffiti-proof varnish.

“Chris and Jay’s budget was favourable, but we wouldn’t have been able to go ahead without the support of the municipal district,” notes Carroll. “This made it easier for us to secure funding elsewhere as it made the project more tangible.”

“The art trail has solved the problem of antisocial areas and graffiti on the seafront. It has made the promenade much more family friendly,” says Forde. Bray Municipal District has made the story available online as a free downloadable PDF and promotes the trail at every given opportunity.

Platform Pizza was one of the local businesses to come on board with support, along with Bray Credit Union and Megazyme. Owner Conor Duggan’s children Abi, Erin and Hannah took part in the workshops and he has also incorporated Brave Maeve artwork into the restaurant’s children’s menus.

“So many restaurants have the same ready-made kids’ packs,” he says. “My kids love Chris Judge’s books and having the artwork on the menus gives my staff something to talk to children about. I like the fact that the murals are staggered along a 1km stretch, which helps to get children active.”

Illustrator Chris Judge working on the Brave Maeve sketches

Illustrator Chris Judge working on the Brave Maeve sketches

Jay Roche working on one of the Brave Maeve murals

Jay Roche working on one of the Brave Maeve murals

TileStyle Supporting the Arts

Winner of the 2018 Best Large Sponsorship Award

TileStyle’s long-standing engagement with the arts took on a new dimension in 2017 with its decision to sponsor the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards for three years. Supporting over a dozen projects at various levels annually, the company’s approach to arts support has been to “do a little, quite a lot”.

The partnership with the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards is the first time TileStyle has committed to a large-scale sponsorship with national interest. Since they began in 1997, the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards have celebrated the achievements of the Irish stage each year. Three independent judges visit professional productions across the country, reflecting on the highest standards of production, performance and design.

“For the past number of years the awards didn’t have a sponsor and there was a lot of pressure on the Irish Times to keep them going,” says Claire Looby, marketing manager at the Irish Times. “We feel in TileStyle that we have a real partner involved that wants to make sure the awards take place. The team was positively disposed to changes we wanted to make, such as making award categories more relevant, and really got behind us in every way.”

“This is the biggest single thing we have ever done in supporting the arts,” says Gerard McNaughton, retail director at TileStyle. “All of our branding is around three words: design, innovation and creativity. When we looked at those concepts and what the awards celebrate this was a match made in heaven.”

In addition to associate branding on all collateral relating to the awards, the partnership includes advertising space in the Irish Times, TileStyle branding on monthly theatre features in the paper and associate branding on social media in the build-up to the awards ceremony.

“There are all sorts of key performance indicators with this partnership,” says McNaughton. “Being able to invite 100 interior designers, architects, clients and friends to the awards created a lot of positivity towards us. Weeks afterwards, people we invited were still coming into our showroom to do business with us. It was a great way to open up a dialogue and connect with people in a different environment.”

TileStyle’s new partnership with the National Library of Ireland was similar in this way. The architectural tour series involved three exclusive private tours for 20 TileStyle staff and invited guests from the design community.

“There is an oasis of interest in the National Library, including WB Yeats’ private book collection,” says McNaughton. “The tours were all oversubscribed. They allowed our staff to spend a couple of hours with designers and architects in a setting that wasn’t about selling them something.”

Katherine McSharry, head of services at the National Library, says the partnership with TileStyle fitted perfectly with its vision to share the story of Ireland with the world and reach new audiences. “The National Library’s history and magnificent buildings really resonated with TileStyle’s clients, several of whom have engaged with us since,” she says. “We might never have reached them without the architectural tour series.”

Architecture was also the focus of another of TileStyle’s new art engagements over the past year, this time with La Biennale di Venezia, the foremost global forum for architectural exhibition and debate. It runs every second year in Venice, Italy, attracting over 260,000 visitors during the six-month long event, as well as widespread international media coverage.

Laurence Lord, co-commissioner/curator of the Irish national pavilion Free Market, approached McNaughton with an idea for the 2018 exhibition – to use materials supplied by TileStyle as part of an installation. The Free Market team had to design and curate a pavilion that looked at the market spaces of Irish towns and what they could become.

“With the support of TileStyle we were able to access the mosaic tiling synonymous with Irish doorways and shop fronts that tied in directly with the subject matter at hand,” says Lord. “This greatly enhanced the design and feel of the space and gave TileStyle an opportunity to showcase its products to a wide group of architects -- not only in Venice for the Biennale but also in the summer of 2019 when we return to Ireland with the pavilion and tour a number of towns that the exhibition describes.”

TileStyle worked with students from NCAD to create ceramic sculptures

TileStyle worked with students from NCAD to create ceramic sculpturesExhibition space at TileStyle showrooms

Anne Clarke and Aaron Monaghan, ITITA winners in 2015 and 2018, respectively (left and far right) with Laurence Mackin, arts editor of the Irish Times and Gerard McNaughton, retail director of TileStyle

Anne Clarke and Aaron Monaghan, ITITA winners in 2015 and 2018, respectively (left and far right) with Laurence Mackin, arts editor of the Irish Times and Gerard McNaughton, retail director of TileStyle

Pianist Máire Carroll, supported by TileStyle

Pianist Máire Carroll, supported by TileStyle

Gerard McNaughton, Retail Director, Tilestyle

Gerard McNaughton, Retail Director, Tilestyle

Axonista and Irish Film Institute

Shortlisted for the 2018 Best Large Sponsorship Award

Irish Film Institute’s (IFI) Irish Film Archive collections have been brought to phone, tablet and TV-connected devices for the first time thanks to IFI’s partnership with Irish video technology company Axonista.

On behalf of the State, the IFI Irish Film Archive collects, preserves and shares Ireland’s national moving image collection, which chronicles over 100 years of Irish achievement and experience. It launched its online platform, IFA Player, in 2016. Axonista’s Ediflo interactive video technology product enables brands to bring rich interactive video apps to market much more rapidly than was previously possible.

Within a few months of working with Axonista, IFI Irish Film Archive was able to showcase its content for free to a global audience via a suite of apps available to download from Google Play, the App store, Amazon TV, Android TV and Roku.

“This has been transformative for us,” says IFI director Ross Keane. “Instead of our 30,000 cans of film and 10,000 broadcast tapes being held in controlled vaults, the material is now real and vibrant and curated for people in a way that is easy to navigate on their chosen mobile device.”

One-fifth of users accessing IFI’s material now come from outside Ireland. The launch of the Irish Independence Film Collection last March was particularly remarkable in terms of take-up – within 24 hours 30,000 users had viewed the newsreel footage.

For Axonista, the partnership has allowed the company to test out its latest product before going to market with it.

“The IFI was the perfect partner to build our video service with and productise it. It was great for us to be part of something of such national importance,” says Axonista CEO Claire McHugh. “Our target market is TV around the world. This project was a way for us to give back to the Irish film industry.”

Axonista CEO Claire McHugh speaking to Will Goodbody for RTE Six One News

Axonista CEO Claire McHugh speaking to Will Goodbody for RTE Six One News

Axonista CEO Claire McHugh and Ross Keane, director of the Irish Film Institute

Axonista CEO Claire McHugh and Ross Keane, director of the Irish Film Institute

The IFI Player App

The IFI Player App

Read more about arts and business partnerships in the 2018 Allianz Business to Arts Awards here.