The Argus

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Now is the time to Grasp the Arts


Visual artist, Niamh O’Connor.

Visual artist, Niamh O’Connor.

Visual artist, Niamh O’Connor.

Grasp the Arts is a solidarity campaign to highlight the importance of Ireland's cultural and creative worker, says its instigator, artist Niamh O'Connor.

A member of the Creative Spark print studio and the Art as Exchange (AAEX) collective, Niamh explains her motivation for launching the campaign, which hopes to unite the arts community and the general public.

'During the COVID-19 pandemic, artists, musicians, theatre producers, writers and other creative and cultural producers, including those who work behind the scenes, are being asked to vie with less support than ever before,' she says.

'She points out that the sector is being asked to aid in 'healing the nation' by Arts Minister Josefina Madigan , yet many feel strongly that the support given to the cultural industries falls far behind that given to other sectors or provided in other countries, as highlighted by the National Campaign for the Arts.

The Monaghan-based artist explains: 'The Grasp the Arts campaign calls for a show of hands from within the sector in support of colleagues and peers and to raise awareness and understanding of the contribution by the arts sector to our society, which often taken for granted.'

With the support of her fellow AAEX members, she is calling on all those involved in Ireland's creative and cultural sectors to make a cast of their hand by creating a cast of their clenched fist in clay, salt dough or paper pulp. She then wants them to label the piece with a comment on the importance of the creative industries to them as individuals, and share a photo of their piece along with hashtags #graspthearts #showofhandsIRE #mycontributinghand #cultureworks and #weareirishculture to their own social media pages.

Already a number of prominent artists have already given their backing to the campaign including fashion designer Helen Steele.

'We have such a rich culture in this country, yet it's often taken for granted and I wanted to highlight the fact that so many people work in the industry,' she says. 'So much is make of the made of the cultural currency of the arts in Ireland, yet this sector has been decimated during the lockdown and will be one of the very last industries to return to normal given that social distancing may become a new norm for the foreseeable future.'

She points out that 'thousands of already perilously and irregularly paid creatives are now permanently unemployed yet still toiling away to produce works for cancelled and postponed exhibitions and shows that may never come to pass.'

'The future is not only uncertain for the artists and performers themselves but the very venues, establishments, and stages they perform on and for, as well as many small businesses supplying and depending on the sector.'

Niamh explains that the idea of grasp the arts is 'to flood social media' with the images and statements by those working in the arts.

While the campaign aims at highlighting the difficulties faced by the sector, she also hopes that it can be a positive initiate, building connections between various creatives around the country.

Eventually, she would love to see the an exhibition of all the 'Grasp the Arts' pieces.

A native of Dublin, Niamh has been living in Co Monaghan for the past 17 years. She describes herself as a mixed media/encaustic artist and an abstract expressionist, and she got involved in Creative Spark and the AAEX initiative when she decided to further establish her interest in exploratory printmaking.

'Louth is a fantastically accessible option for me as opposed to Dublin, the 50-minute commute could be fit around family living and as a resident in the North East it's marvellous to have such a resource on our doorstep - or at least on the neighbour's doorstep!,' she says. 'Additionally, the AAEX model was something I've been seeking for a long time, a rural contemporary collective, invested in arts for art's sake and a community of like-minded individuals generously sharing their expertise and talents in an inclusive and collaborative

way. It is only with the support of my peers in AAEX I have an opportunity to follow the creation of this campaign, their support in this endeavour is invaluable.

To find out more about the campaign and to get recipes to use for casting your grasp, check out the website

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