Participants in this year's Arts Ability Programme were the celebrated guests at the launch of an exhibition of their paintings, sculpture, poetry and music in the County Hall in Carricklawn.
The exhibition titled 'Rainbows & Bandaged Skies' is the work of adults attending the County Wexford Community Workshop in New Ross; Killagoley Training and Activation Centre, Enniscorthy; Wexford Residential Intellectual Disability Services, Enniscorthy and Wexford Mental Health Association.
Now in its 15th year, Arts Ability is an initiative of Wexford County Council's arts department in association with HSE Disability and Mental Health Services, the Arts Council and the participating centres.
It offers people in healthcare venues the opportunity to develop their personal and artistic potential through working with professional artists who this year included Declan Kennedy, Kathleen Delaney, Sylvia Cullen, Emily Redmond and Oonagh Latchford.
County Council chairman Cllr. Keith Doyle congratulated the artists on 'a truly amazing selection of artwork, writings and music' and said he hoped they will continue to create more amazing art for many years to come.
The chairman welcomed a new partnership between Wexford County Council and the HSE which was established this year to promote music as a medium for well-being and recovery from mental health difficulties as well as promoting community integration among service users.
Inner Harmony, a new community choir formed as part of a Wexford Mental Health Association programme, performed at the exhibition launch with their teacher/conductor Emily Redmond in a singing and drumming display which included the beautiful song 'Bring Me Little Water Silvie'.
The exhibition of 80 artworks and a poetry corner (with scrolls of individual poems to take away) by 44 visual artists and 22 writers, was officially opened by Helen O'Donoghue, a senior curator and head of engagement and learning with the Irish Museum of Modern Art who said it was wonderful to see the work of one county drawn together across various art forms.
She said the Arts Ability programme is about belonging to a place where people care about us and allow us to express ourselves.
Ms. O'Donoghue said there is a common thread in the work that reveals careful attention and teaching and it is 'really, really beautiful'.
'Please continue to paint and draw, to sing songs and write poetry because it really is an important part of who we are', she said.
County Wexford Arts Officer Liz Burns acted as MC and described the exhibition as a display of 'really strong sustained art practice on all levels'.
'It's great to see the work being celebrated and showcased', she said, thanking the technical team for the installation work. The exhibition continues until May 17
It was put together by guest curator Catherine Marshall who wrote a response to the work in an accompanying brochure, explaining that the title was prompted by Andrew Murphy's concept of the bandaged sky and the rainbow which is also referenced in the writing of another exhibitor, John D. Yates. 'Andrew Murphy's Bandaged Sky suggests healing, perhaps in reference to global warming and climate change', wrote Catherine, adding that: 'Whatever the cause of the wound, art is the cure, while John D. Yates's rainbow is the smile of women and children, of innocence and beauty. And so it is, not just for the artists, writers and musicians in this exhibition but for all of us'.
'Why do we sing, wrote or paint, if not to reach across boundaries, sometimes to others, sometimes just to ourselves. In that act of expression and creativity, we are saying, as Jane Clarke pointed out:'My life matters and your life matters too'.
'It has been a great privilege to work with the artists, writers and musicians from across County Wexford who participated in this exhibition of work from communities of very different interests. I made many visits to the county during the process of selection but they were never enough. I went away each time, wishing I had an excuse to stay a bit longer, feeling that my life too, mattered', she said, adding that this was due to the participants and also to the extraordinary vision, sensitivity and commitment of the artists.