Image shown: How to be an Adult (2017)

The documentation bursary is an annual award which aims to encourage high quality, creative documentation of arts and health practice nationally. The 2018 bursary has been awarded to visual artist and musician Tess Leak and filmmaker Sharon Whooley to document Reading the Sky, a cross-disciplinary performance project with older participants in St. Joseph’s Ward, Bantry General Hospital.

Reading the Sky is taking place in collaboration with puppeteer Eoin Lynch and composers Darragh Kearns-Hayes and Justin Grounds as part of the Arts for Health partnership programme in West Cork, with the support of an Arts Council Arts Participation Award.

Reading the Sky recognises the non-verbal potential of puppetry to reach people with cognitive differences such as dementia. The film will take as its material a performance created by the participants of St. Joseph’s Ward and Tess Leak’s artist collective. Entirely observational, the film will adopt a cinematic approach, following the participants, puppeteers and musicians as they create a new work through exploratory sessions and during the performances, capturing communication and response in a heightened way that transcends limitations.

Tess Leak is a visual artist, musician and puppeteer living and working in West Cork. She is a graduate of The Curious School of Puppetry in London as well as the B.A. in Visual Arts on Sherkin Island (in conjunction with DIT). Tess is co-founder of the participatory book-making project Haiku Island Press and co-curator of The Museum of Miniature with artist Marie Brett, which completed a tour of 7 seven off-shore islands last year. Her solo show at Uillinn, West Cork Arts Centre in 2015 premiered a new composition by the Vespertine Quintet in which she plays cello. Tess has been an artist-in-residence in hospitals as part of the ‘Arts for Health’ programme based in West Cork since 2010. She recently collaborated with two other puppeteers and composer Justin Grounds to create the multi-disciplinary performance How to be an Adult and Other Musical Inventions.

Sharon Whooley is a film artist working and living in Baltimore, County Cork. She has been a director of Harvest Films, an independent film company, in a full time capacity since 2001. Whooley’s film work includes Nettle Coat, based around Alice Maher’s artwork Nettle Coat which was commissioned as part of the Arts Council’s Into the Light series, and Fathom, an experimental short filmed on the Fastnet Lighthouse, both co-directed with Pat Collins. In 2015, she was a recipient of the Arts Council of Ireland’s Film Project award for her film Distance which was completed in 2018. She has also been co-writer with Pat Collins and Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde on two feature films Silence (2012) and Song of Granite (2017). The latter was Ireland’s entry to the Best Foreign Language Oscar 2018 and has been nominated for three IFTAs.

Arts for Health partnership programme is based in West Cork and has provided a managed arts programme for older people in healthcare settings since 2005. The programme takes place in Community Hospitals in Castletownbere, Clonakilty, Dunmanway, Schull, Skibbereen, Bantry General Hospital Care of the Elderly Unit and Day Care Centres in Bantry, Castletownbere, Clonakilty, Dunmanway and Skibbereen. Managed by West Cork Arts Centre, Arts for Health runs all year round and is delivered by a team of professional artists from different disciplines.

The 2018 documentation bursary is funded by the HSE and the Arts Council.


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