Earth Explorers – Full Text

Earth Explorers

The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children, Dublin

Our world is a constant playground for creativity and nature has always been an important source of inspiration. Ashleigh Downey – exhibition curator

Earth Explorers was one of The Ark’s flagship projects in 2009. It included an exhibition, workshop, and outreach programme.

The exhibition was designed to encourage people to engage with their surroundings, inspire their creative potential, and explore the impact we all have on the world around us. The exhibition included artworks by 16 artists whose arts practice look to nature and explores its potential from a number of different viewpoints and creative approaches. Some used found and discarded objects to tell a story; others engaged with city life and how humans interact with nature. There were pieces that move or make noise, recreating the sounds of the city and presenting the music of the countryside. Imaginary worlds made from natural materials and created on a miniature scale were placed throughout the exhibition, inviting viewers on a game of hide and seek.

Exhibiting artists: Anthony Collins; Laura de Búrca; Aoife Desmond; Cathy Fitzgerald; Paul Henihan; Maggie Madden; Brigid McClean; Patricia McKenna; Daragh Muldowney; Moya Muldowney, Ailbhe O’Connell; John O’Connell; Beth O’Halloran; Seoidín O’Sullivan and Robbie Perry.

Curated by Ashleigh Downey, The Ark’s Visual Arts Programmer.

Alongside this interactive exhibition, I developed a full visual art workshop programme, including workshops for children (aged 5-12), family workshops, visual art summer schools, creative toddler session (1-3 years), and The Garden Party – a unique creative experience in the Ark’s intimate theatre space which ‘grow’ over the summer.

A partnership between The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children and The Dublin City Council’s Red Stables Artists’ Studios was also developed as part of this summer programme. This saw a very unique Environmental Sculpture Residency, for children aged 12-14, take place in the stunning surrounds of St. Anne’s Park.  This was rare opportunity for young people to create very unique public art.

I designed the exhibition and accompanying creative programme to engage with children, families, teachers and artists. The Earth Explorers programme, through a wide variety of creative avenues and media, encouraged people to engage with concepts related to our natural environment and planet Earth, build awareness around issues of environmental protection, sustainability and recycling and our impact on the Earth.

Producing a summer project of this magnitude and with artists of this calibre would not be possible without the support of The Ark’s funders and supporters. I gratefully acknowledge the support of the Arts Council in making Earth Explorers possible. Earth Explorers is part funded by Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism / An Roinn Ealaíon, Spóirt agus Turasóireachta and the project supporters are Exploration Station; Vodafone; The Community Foundation for Ireland; NCTE; and The Red Stables.

I am also grateful to The Ark’s other annual supporters: Department of Education and Science;National Development Plan; PPDS; Temple Bar Cultural Trust and Dublin City Council.

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