Students drop in and say 'art makes me feel better' and 'allows me to de-stress'
Room 13 Inquiry is a collaborative programme in which two schools in Fingal, Scoil Bhríde Cailíní NS, Blanchardstown, and Tyrrelstown Educate Together NS, host an art studio for their students and an artist-in-residence.
Orla Kelly is now going into her fourth academic year as artist-in-residence in Scoil Bhríde Cailíní.
"It's mystifying that we didn't do it before," says Ms Kelly. "It's such a simple idea - put an artist's studio in a school and let the pupils see the artist at work, and make their own work beside the artist in a shared space. The response has been incredible.
"We focus on fifth and sixth year students, because they get so much from it. We don't just stay onsite, we go out visiting the National Gallery, IMMA and other places to broaden their understanding of art.
"After a trip to the Francis Bacon Studio, one group of girls started talking about what art means to them, whether art creates meaning, or allows them to understand meaning. I never tire of their philosophising.
"Such conversations are not part of the school curriculum, but having them helps children understand their curriculum and their lives in a richer way. It's an example of how art fosters curiosity, and helps children understand their world and what it is to be human.
"Students often drop in at lunchtime and ask, 'Can we hang out and watch you draw?' and while I work I hear them say things like, 'Art makes me feel better,' and, 'It allows me to de-stress'.
"They experience not only the front end of producing art, but the back end too, where people are curating work and commissioning artists.
"Fifth class girls last year created an event using photos taken on a Polaroid camera; they formed teams, with some looking after finance, others admin, others dressing the space and so on.
"Even those who've gone on to secondary school come back.
"Not only are other primary and secondary schools taking notice of our Room 13 Inquiry programme, teacher training colleges are also bringing in artists-in-residence to parallel the model at third level, which is fantastic, because when student teachers understand how arts enrich lives, they can bring that creativity to everything."