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Galway 2020: The Deepest Shade of Green

Date posted: 17 February 2020

Image shown: Viriditas – Ceara Conway, 2019

Saolta Arts and Galway 2020 are presenting The Deepest Shade of Green, an Arts and Health programme for Galway’s European Capital of Culture 2020. This programme, taking place in partnership with Galway University Hospitals and Saolta University Health Care Group, runs for the whole of 2020.  

Inspired by a 2006 publication by patients of Merlin Park University Hospital, in which older people shared their knowledge of the Irish landscape and its customs, The Deepest Shade of Green explores the importance of connecting our hospitals with the natural world outside and of listening to and learning from those who use them. Nature and familiar landscapes of the West are brought into the wards, corridors, and waiting rooms of Saolta’s hospitals and used to imaginatively escape the clinical environment.

Participating artists

Newly commissioned works include a song cycle by Ceara Conway, shared as a series of intimate performances for patients and as an album incorporating recordings of hospital equipment, plants, and the tools of sound healers. Deirdre O’Mahony creates an online audio-based artwork using a scripted voiceover and ambient recordings made in Saolta’s catchment areas to evoke the particular character of the West of Ireland. Sarah Fuller and Manuela Corbari collaborate to lead young patients and their families through an enchanting garden of stories, combining puppetry, storytelling, and shadow theatre in a tour of Saolta’s paediatric settings.

Offering to transform the experience of hospital, The Deepest Shade of Green brings Galway 2020’s cultural programme to the people, and to the people who stand to gain most:

The Deepest Shade of Green programme can be accessed by the public but, importantly, it brings cultural experiences to the people who aren’t able to access other Galway 2020 events through ill health and enhance their experience of hospital.‘ – Margaret Flannery, Arts Director of Saolta Arts

Programme of work

During the first season of the year-long programme IMBOLC (Feb – April), the healing properties of plants is explored in the exhibition West of Sumer and new work by acclaimed Irish singer and visual artist Ceara Conway, who has composed Viriditas, a song cycle in response to an extended process of engagement at Galway University Hospitals.

Viriditas takes the listener on a journey through songs inspired by conversations with staff and patients, and recordings of hospital equipment, singing plants, and tools used by sound healers. Interweaving newly composed contemporary songs with traditional European healing songs and rythms from Georgia and Italy, Viriditas is available online at saoltaarts.com from 17 February. Viriditas will also be presented as a series of intimate performances by Ceara Conway with Anna Mullarkey for patients at Galway University Hospitals between 16 – 21 February.

In partnership with the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, and the Chelsea Physic Garden, West of Sumer presents the work of artists interested in the collection, classification, control, and reproduction of the natural world. The exhibition at University Hospital Galway presents botanical art and photography of plants associated with modern medicine, traditional herbal remedies, and the global journey of plants used in the pharmaceutical industry – from field, to lab, to factory. The show includes work by the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society (UK), Tom Molloy (IE), Sophia Rosamund Praeger (IE), Diana Scherer (DE/NL), Françoise Sergy (CH/UK) and Lydia Shackleton (IE).

During the second season of the Galway 2020 programme BEALTAINE (May – July) the programme will launch a newly commissioned audio-based artwork by renowned Irish artist Deirdre O’Mahony. POST_ uses a scripted voiceover and ambient recordings made in regions served by the Saolta University Health Care Group to evoke the particular character of the West of Ireland and transpose listeners from their situation.

POST_ will be accessible online at saoltaarts.com from 2 July to coincide with the launch of Call if you are passing…, an exhibition presenting examples of the artist’s socially engaged practice in rural contexts in Ireland, Denmark, and the USA. The exhibition at University Hospital Galway draws attention to our relationship with landscape and the shared experience of rural communities on both sides of the Atlantic. It includes pertinent examples from the Saolta Arts Participative Arts Programme to reveal patients’ insights into place, memory, and home.

For younger audiences, theatre practitioners Sarah Fuller and Manuela Corbari transform the bed areas of young patients in a series of immersive and intimate bedside performances. Incorporating puppetry, storytelling, walkabout theatre, shadow play and soundscapes, A Bird at My Window and Other Stories was developed through an extended process of engagement with paediatric patients and their families at University Hospital Galway where a parent said, ‘The experience was magical. My little girl forgot where she was.’ 

These bedside performances will tour to the five Paediatric Units of Saolta University Health Care Group during SAMHAIN. Documentation of the project will feature in A Deeper Shade of Green, the programme’s closing exhibition on the UHG Arts Corridor, offering a privileged peek at the artists’ transformations of the clinical setting. During the final two seasons of the Galway 2020 programme LUGHNASA (Aug – Oct) and SAMHAIN (Nov – Jan), this exhibition looks at the benefits of integrating nature with our healthcare buildings.

For further information visit saoltaarts.com

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