Putting street art at the heart of a Cork community

When a Cork Tidy Towns group decided to improve a drab walkway, they really put their art and soul into it, reveals ADRIENNE ACTON
Putting street art at the heart of a Cork community

One of the mural's painted by the volunteers.

IN recent times, home and locality have become more important than ever before.

People are striving to make their surroundings as pleasant as possible, be that home improvements or outdoor seating areas in town centres.

With that in mind, the wonderful ideas machine known as Macroom Tidy Towns suggested that a walkway in the centre of the town should be given a new lease of life.

GOOD THINKING: One of the mental health awareness messages in O’Leary’s Lane, Macroom
GOOD THINKING: One of the mental health awareness messages in O’Leary’s Lane, Macroom

O Leary’s Lane has long been a nondescript walkthrough from the Main Street to the mart area and beyond, but has now been transformed into a bright and inspirational piece of art that is truly a sight to behold — as you can see from the photos here.

Another Macroom mural.
Another Macroom mural.

To see their plan to fruition, the Tidy Towns group first approached the businesses at either side of the walkway, namely Purcell’s solicitors and the Greyhound bar, to get permission. With that secured, and the permission granted by the town’s engineer to also work on the street side, the art began in earnest.

GOOD THINKING: One of the mental health awareness messages in O’Leary’s Lane, Macroom
GOOD THINKING: One of the mental health awareness messages in O’Leary’s Lane, Macroom

A donations box was set up in Twomey’s Hardware Store where locals could help with the cost of paints and supplies, and the call went out on the Tidy Towns Facebook page to see if there might be any local artists that would be willing to offer their time and skills to the project.

Suffice it to say that the townspeople came through immediately, and with flying colours.

The costs to start the project were reached and the artists of the area were on hand immediately. They gathered in the alley to discuss themes and colours and inspirations.

Another one of the murals.
Another one of the murals.

It was decided to encompass animals into the work as a nod to the town’s agricultural history, intertwined with Celtic design. Inspirational quotes, and autism and mental health awareness messages were given pride of place in this beautiful, colourful place.

The volunteers decide to focus on mental health awareness as it is a subject close to many people’s hearts, especially during these pandemic times.

Three of the tidy town’s volunteers painted the alleyway white to give the artists a clean canvass.

MANY HANDS MAKE GREAT WORK: Larna, Desmond, Rosanna, Jamie and Eimbim were among those pitching into the art project. BELOW: Useful numbers in the mural, which aims to raise awareness of mental health
MANY HANDS MAKE GREAT WORK: Larna, Desmond, Rosanna, Jamie and Eimbim were among those pitching into the art project. BELOW: Useful numbers in the mural, which aims to raise awareness of mental health

Everyone gave of their time and talents freely and all agree it is a project that has generated the greatest respect for each other’s talents. The artists and volunteers now hope that they can work together on another project as the craic and camaraderie lifted everyone’s spirits.

Part of the Macroom Tidy Towns mural project
Part of the Macroom Tidy Towns mural project

Café 57 donated food, including pizzas, chips and drinks, to the gang free of charge and the compliments from passing locals has been an inspiration. This is truly a community effort.

The talented Larna Coleman Lynch tells me she has been painting and drawing all her life and comes from a very artistic family. Her late uncle Jack is responsible for many of the other beautiful art works around the town.

One of the images painted by volunteers.
One of the images painted by volunteers.

Jamie O’Keeffe, originally from the city but now based in Clondrohid is a painter and decorator by trade and is responsible for the artwork of the stunning lady with the beautiful eyes, most certainly the windows to the soul.

Desmond Lynch says he adores this hobby of artistry and hopes to make it a full time career in the near future. He has set up an Instagram page @desmond_lynch.

Rosanna Lenci, an industrial designer, says her inspiration came from her love of Celtic art, the Book of Kells and the Goddess of winter. She has already donated her talents to other areas in the town, not least the local fairy garden.

Eimbim Kenneally, who works with the Irish Guide Dogs, and her partner Colm Burke, like everyone else here, are passionate about this project and have given freely of their time.

Animals were included in the drawings.
Animals were included in the drawings.

They are hoping that the project will be completed in the coming days.

The Facebook page has added more than 200 followers since the start of this project and the interest in it has allowed new friendships to be formed. The Tidy Towns group say they are thrilled that the new members are young and full of fresh ideas.

The murals had important messages on autism awareness, as well as mental health.
The murals had important messages on autism awareness, as well as mental health.

Like the fairy garden in Macroom, the love and care that is being given to this project is inspirational, and whether it’s the children playing among the toadstools or the elderly stopping to admire the art in O’Leary’s Lane, the sense of community is stronger than ever and more important than ever.

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