Arts for Health Partnership Programme: Artists Sarah Ruttle and Áine Rose Connell, Bantry General Hospital, 2022. Photo credit: Sarah Cairns.

Áine Rose Connell, a visual artist and poet, brings her background as a Speech and Language Therapist and her experience of collaborative poetry making to bear in Wherever you go, a written exploration of her emerging arts and health practice. Áine considers how the SLT skillset, with its emphasis on enhancing communication pathways, can inform her work as an artist in healthcare settings. She focuses particularly on approaches to supporting the individual participation of people who have dementia and aphasia.

Combining research, experiential learning, and dialogue with artists and healthcare professionals, Wherever you go has been funded by the emerging artist bursary 2022. In addition to providing time and scope for a critical interrogation of her practice, the bursary afforded Áine the opportunity to take part in formal and informal peer exchanges, learning from artists with an established practice in Irish healthcare contexts.

Áine’s practice focuses on interrogating notions of identity by producing visual and poetic art unique to a specific individual or group of people. Exploring themes pertaining to memory, introspection, interpersonal relationships and communication, her artistic practice draws from her background as a Speech and Language Therapist both within the HSE and in private settings.

Wherever you go: Artwork by a participant in Skibbereen Day Care Centre that inspired the theme of a collaborative poem, 2022.

This reflective document is catalysed at the emerging side of an experiential artistic continuum. It positions itself as the first attempt to understand the link, or ‘bridge the gap’ between my own clinical experience, in particular speech, voice, language and communication, and how these experiences can ultimately enhance or foster new connections when considering my own practice that deals with identity and notions of the self. – Áine Rose Connell

Áine began exploring the potential for inclusive poetry making in 2020, collaborating with local women in Donegal who were involved in the craft-making of carpets and subsequently with a gentleman with early-onset Dementia on the poem ‘Boats’ which was read by him at his local Men’s Shed. The following year Áine facilitated a social-portraiture project with older members of the community to increase social participation and wellbeing, funded by Clare County Council.

More recently, Áine has been supported by the Arts for Health Partnership Programme in West Cork to develop her poetic practice with older people, working with artist Sarah Ruttle in Bantry General Hospital and in day care centres in Skibbereen and Clonakilty.

Through my own work in [collaborative poetry], I have found that when working with individuals who may not have previous experience with poetry generally, even the label ‘poetry’ may incite negative connotations that may bring up concerns pertaining to educational background, writing ability, etc. It is perhaps better to reframe as a ‘story conversation’ or a term that embodies less ‘formula’ or ‘rules’. – Áine Rose Connell

Wherever you go: Collaborative poem by participants at Skibbereen Day Care Centre and Áine Rose Connell, 2022.

Áine currently works as a Speech and Language Therapist at the Cork-based Teleatherapy team, an app that aims to digitalise elements of Speech Therapy for individuals with Parkinson’s Disease, as well as on the Arts for Health programme in West Cork. She paints and writes from her home in West Cork.

Read Áine’s reflection here:

The emerging artist bursary affords time and space for an early career artist to reflect on their arts and health practice. The 2022 bursary was funded by the HSE and the Arts Council.


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