From the Birches to the Basement
17 participants from The Birches Alzheimer’s Day Centre in Dundalk created artwork for exhibition. A group of 12 young people aged 15-16 years took part in a workshop based on the exhibition.
12 participants from The Birches Day Centre began art and life history work prior to pandemic restrictions.
Signed, Sealed & Delivered
100 care home residents received letters and artworks by Rozzi Kennedy.
12 nursing homes took part: Curam Care, Dundalk; St Francis’, Mount Oliver; Blackrock Abbey; St Peter’s – Trinty Care, Castlebellingham; Sunhill, Termonfeckin; Carlingford Nursing Home; St Joseph’s Hospital, Ardee; Moorehall Lodge, Ardee; Moorehall Lodge, Drogheda; St Mary’s, Drogheda; Boyne View House, Drogheda; Aras Mhuire M.M.M., Drogheda.
30 phrases/sayings (words of wisdom) were selected from a total of 232 submitted. Contributions were from residents and staff of 10 nursing homes: Curam Care, Dundalk; St Francis’, Mount Oliver; Blackrock Abbey; Sunhill, Termonfeckin; Carlingford Nursing Home; St Joseph’s Hospital, Ardee; Moorehall Lodge, Ardee; St Mary’s, Drogheda; Boyne View House, Drogheda; Aras Mhuire M.M.M., Drogheda.
Pride of Place
130 residents learned art-making techniques.
12 nursing homes participated: Curam Care, Dundalk; St Francis’, Mount Oliver; The Sisters of Mercy, Dundalk; Blackrock Abbey; St Peter’s – Trinty Care, Castlebellingham; Sunhill, Termonfeckin; Carlingford Nursing Home; St Joseph’s Hospital, Ardee; Moorehall Lodge, Ardee; St Mary’s, Drogheda; Boyne View House, Drogheda; Aras Mhuire M.M.M., Drogheda.
Nine homes had in-person art workshops and three homes had online workshops. 85 of 130 participants contributed to the final artwork and online exhibition.
What’s the story?
The 12 nursing homes from the above project participated in What’s the Story?
110 participants contributed to the exhibition and booklet of writing and artwork. A school group of 11 students with four teaching staff participated in an art workshop based on the gallery exhibition.
In 2019, Rozzi Kennedy was the recipient of An Táin’s residency programme which aims to assist emerging artists in their career development and support those who wish to develop a collaborative practice by engaging with local communities.
Rozzi’s aim was to gain experience working as an artist in healthcare settings by assisting people living with dementia to express themselves through art making in the social environment of The Birches Alzheimer’s Day Centre, Dundalk. A secondary aim was to present the residency outcomes with an exhibition at An Táin’s Basement Gallery.
In March 2020, The Birches were working with Rozzi and An Táin again on a new project, Memories Matter when both centres had to close because of the Covid-19 pandemic. An Táin aimed to swiftly redirect funding to enable artists to adapt their working practices to best reach communities and audiences within the new parameters.
Contact with the Memories Matter participants was not feasible at that time, so the arts centre team developed the accessible postal project Signed, Sealed & Delivered, gifting artwork and letters to 12 nursing homes with the intention of easing loneliness and brightening lockdown days at a time when residents could not have visitors.
The aim of the Wise Words public art project in 2021 was to highlight older people’s voices with an interactive outdoor artwork.
The Pride of Place project in the same year aimed to build on the new relationship and trust between the artist and nursing home communities when closer working methods again become available. Residents of some of the homes were missing their weekly art classes which had ended due to restrictions, so an objective was to provide a series of workshops. Many people were still spending all their time within care home grounds because of Covid so another objective was to produce bespoke artwork to enhance a communal area of each shared home.
Coming out of the pandemic in 2022, What’s the Story? aimed to facilitate the sociability of group work, residents reconnecting after isolation through storytelling, creative writing and producing visual art with the aim of processing emotion including the effect the pandemic had on participants. It also aimed to connect the care homes with other homes through shared stories and with the reopened arts centre building for a gallery exhibition and outing to the launch event.
During a three-month residency at An Táin Art Centre’s Basement Gallery, Rozzi visited The Birches Alzheimer’s Day Centre twice a week to make paintings and drawings with the group. Her approach was to promote participants’ confidence in mark-making using art materials with support from staff at the day centre. She had existing skills harnessing the therapeutic benefits of activity, developing work as an activity coordinator in psychiatric and dementia care.
The artistic merit of the work produced was achieved using the residency studio space and materials budget to provide exhibition quality materials, surfaces and presentation. In the last month of the residency an exhibition of participants’ paintings and drawings was carefully curated in the public gallery and Rozzi’s adjoining studio was open to visitors for the exhibition duration.
The team at An Táin were brainstorming fresh ideas possible within the new Covid restrictions when Community Focus (An Post’s free postage scheme for nursing homes) was announced, sparking the idea for Signed, Sealed & Delivered. Rozzi contacted County Louth nursing homes and almost all said their residents would like to receive artwork in the lead up to Christmas 2020. Each home selected 8-10 of their residents to get a package. Inside each one was a framed, signed artwork ready to go up on the wall and a letter from the artist with conversation relating to the painted subjects. The paintings featured colourful, relatable subjects including animals and nostalgic objects like toys.
The next project Wise Words took place the following May. Care home staff collected words of advice from residents. Rozzi painted these onto bright ribbons and installed them around trees on Market Square Dundalk to evoke the Maypole dancing tradition.
Pride of Place began shortly afterwards, as government and care home restrictions were reduced. Rozzi gradually started facilitating workshops with the 12 homes. While some were online, Rozzi received the required Covid vaccinations and followed guidelines to make in-person workshops possible in most of the homes, with support from activity coordinators and other care home staff. Each participant received a set of drawing and painting materials for individual use in accordance with current infection control measures. After easing tentatively into the classes with step-by-step drawing and painting, each group decided what artwork they wanted to produce for their home. Statement artwork was created for corridors, courtyards, reception areas, a lounge and a relaxation room, showcased with an online exhibition.
By 2022 nursing homes were welcoming visitors again and workshops could all be facilitated in person. It was now possible for An Táin to introduce the innovative cross-artform project What’s the Story? and bring more artists to the nursing homes. Residents of six of the 12 care homes worked with creative writer and story facilitator Sarah Guppy to reflect on memories and imagine new stories through a series of creative writing workshops. Sarah produced recordings of her voice introducing and reading the completed poems and stories. The recordings inspired artwork by residents of the other six care homes with support from visual artists Órlaith Cullinane and Rozzi Kennedy.
From the Birches to the Basement
30 paintings were exhibited, three of which were purchased for Louth County Council’s permanent collection – Taisce Lú: Come Fly With Me by Ita, Seagull by Bernard, Landscape with Cottages made collectively by project participants.
Signed, Sealed & Delivered
100 (6×6”) original acrylic paintings with accompanying letters were made by Rozzi Kennedy.
A temporary outdoor artwork was installed for one month.
Pride of Place
26 artworks were exhibited online with a live-streamed launch event. These included:
- Printed digital collages (made from participants’ paintings),
- Oyster shell sculptural artworks,
- Acrylic paintings on canvas,
- Framed watercolours,
- Tiled mosaics suitable for exteriors,
- Exterior acrylic murals on board,
- Glass painting on windows.
What’s the story?
Care home participants were able to attend the gallery for the exhibition launch.
20 poems and stories were chronicled, written, or inspired by participants.
23 artworks: collages using handmade prints and paintings were inspired by the stories.
A printed booklet of the stories and art was designed and printed.
Participants responded to the Signed, Sealed & Delivered postal project with return letters and cards, or sent thanks via care home staff and management.
Rozzi submitted five project blogs and two written reflections to An Táin Arts Centre. These took a personal approach and included photographs of artwork and workshops.
Writer Sarah Guppy and Rozzi both submitted end of project reports for What’s the Story?
Sarah made notes before and after workshops and voice recordings which all contributed to the written pieces produced.
Artist facilitators asked participants, care home managers and staff for feedback.
Signed, Sealed & Delivered 2020
Excerpts of letters from residents and staff:
‘There was great excitement when the packages arrived and admiration for the way the paintings were wrapped. The brown wrapping paper and the string were great talking points. We reminisced about receiving parcels from America and England, full of lovely surprises. Your letters giving the background information on the paintings were also very well received, in fact two of the residents were so interested in your letters they didn’t bother looking at the paintings and we all had a difficult job getting to see the paintings themselves.’ – Sinead Almole, Activity Coordinator, Curam Care Home, Dundalk
‘Excuse the writing but I am 100 years old now. We all appreciate getting the paintings, we used to have art classes… but not since the virus. As a child I used to love art but there was little encouragement then. Colour always just fascinated me, and I would love to paint flowers.’ – Maura Healey, Curam Care Home, Dundalk
‘Thank you for sending me the beautiful picture of my favourite bird the Robin. I think everyone loves the Robin – when we were children, we said little poems such as “The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow and what will the ROBIN do then poor thing.” We used to say it at Christmas if there was snow.’ – Sr. Therese Kilkenny, Aras Mhuire Medical Missionaries of Mary
‘We chose eight residents who we thought would greatly appreciate your gifts, and every single one of them were over the moon with their painting … also thank you for lifting their spirits.’ – Bronwen Jones, Activity Coordinator, St. Peter’s – Trinity Care Home, Castlebellingham
Pride of Place 2021
Quotes from participants:
‘I love painting.’ – Brid Mc Donnell, Blackrock Abbey Nursing Home
‘It was great to see the artists coming out of the woodwork, you gave me the confidence to start painting again.’ – David O’ Reilly, Activity Coordinator, Blackrock Abbey Nursing Home
‘Really enjoyed taking part, I didn’t know I could paint.’ – Kathleen Clarke, Blackrock Abbey Nursing Home
‘I enjoyed the painting project immensely as I discovered my colours. I was able to paint the flowers despite my failing eyesight.’ – Sr. Teresa Rafferty, St Francis’ Nursing Home, Mount Oliver
‘I found I learned a lot from the art classes. They showed me how to draw and how to put the colours in place.’ – Sr. Mary de Salles Coolahan, St Francis’ Nursing Home, Mount Oliver
‘Working as a group was so enjoyable. Each Friday we took time to appreciate what each one of us had done and we had much fun and laughter.’ – Anonymous participant
‘Hope we can do another one soon.’ – Carmel Bradley, Blackrock Abbey Nursing Home
What’s the story? 2022
Quotes from participants:
‘Frequently throughout the week the classes would be talked about, and they would want assurance that she was back that Wednesday. Honestly can’t thank everyone involved enough for giving us this opportunity.’ – Bronwen Jones, Activity Coordinator, St. Peter’s – Trinity Care Home, Castlebellingham
‘It was great to see all the residents so concentrated on their work and how proud they were of everything they accomplished. Rozzi did a great job with everyone, especially our residents with dementia. It was something they looked forward to every week. The day trip to see their work in the gallery was great to see how all their hard work paid off.’ – Amy Kavanagh, Activity Coordinator, St. Peter’s – Trinity Care Home, Castlebellingham
‘I didn’t realise how many people I knew behind the project until I saw them in the gallery. Fantastic people. I feel strongly about the arts and being creative and this helped me express myself.’ – Frank Keogh, St. Peter’s – Trinity Care Home, Castlebellingham
‘It was a thrill to be invited to your art display, which reflected memories of real life. I was very inspired reading your accompanying booklet with stories and artwork. It made me reflect on memories of my own life experiences and maybe someday I will create my own tapestry.’ – Anonymous participant
‘As I looked around at the exhibition, I realised that very clever planning and hard work had gone into it. The exhibition was very striking, the colour, the shapes, the coordination between the different art forms and how well the pictures fitted in with the stories and poems, all made for a beautiful scene. It was lovely to see so many people enjoying the work and being able to connect with their contribution to it, being out in company again and enjoying the chat and the tea. Congratulations to all who made it possible and thanks to you all. It was a very worthwhile project and I hope it will lead to more.’ – Anonymous participant
Documentation and Dissemination
All exhibition artwork was photographed by the artist facilitator apart from What’s the Story? which was professionally documented. Letters written to residents on Signed, Sealed & Delivered were scanned before posting for documentation.
Exhibitions were advertised in An Táin’s seasonal printed programmes, and invitations were distributed to subscribers and customers.
Gallery and online exhibitions and launch events were attended by participants, care home staff, artists, families, friends and the public.
Artist blog posts and reflections, participant and healthcare staff feedback, and project photographs were shared by An Táin via social media.
The Wise Words exhibition was documented by a videographer and displayed on An Táin’s website.
What’s the Story? end of project reports were submitted to the Louth Partnership by An Táin. 150 printed booklets were distributed to participants and visitors to the exhibition.
Local newspapers The Argus and Louth Leader published articles on The Birches to the Basement, Signed, Sealed & Delivered and Wise Words.
Marissa Lucchesi, producer and presenter at Dundalk FM, interviewed Sarah about What’s the Story? and Rozzi about the Birches to the Basement, Signed, Sealed & Delivered and Pride of Place projects. Sinead Brassil, producer and presenter at LMFM, interviewed Rozzi about Memories Matter.
The Birches Day Centre, Dundalk
Curam Care Home, Dundalk
The Sisters of Mercy Retirement Home, Dundalk
St Francis’ Nursing Home, Mount Oliver
Blackrock Abbey Nursing Home
St Peter’s Nursing Home – Trinty Care, Castlebellingham
Sunhill Nursing Home, Termonfeckin
Carlingford Nursing Home
St Joseph’s Hospital, Ardee
Moorehall Lodge Nursing Home, Ardee
Moorehall Lodge Nursing Home, Drogheda
St Mary’s Nursing Home, Drogheda
Boyne View House, Drogheda
Aras Mhuire Medical Missionaries of Mary, Drogheda