Cúig, ‘Creativity Unlimited, an Integrated Group’, are five artists with intellectual disabilities employed as artists in residence at the Mayfield Arts Centre.
Stephen Murray, Bríd Heffernan, Angela Burchill, Ailbhe Barrett and John Noel Keneally draw, paint and sculpt in a diverse range of mediums, creating works of art from their studio based in the Mayfield Arts Centre at Newbury House, a dedicated art space in the heart of Cork City.
Supported by a mentoring process, the artists train in a wide range of skills that they then apply to their own art practice. Working with local schools and providing art workshops to their communities, the group promotes the ability and inclusion of individuals with disabilities.
The Mayfield Arts Centre came about more than 20 years ago, manager Michelle Whooley tells the Echo.
“The art centre came about because back in the early nineties, there was a small group working from a little, tin shed in the garden of Newbury House. It was seen that there was a real need for an arts facility in the community, so Sister Ina Dineen and a local parish priest both took it upon themselves to apply for funding. They received funding from the Department of Arts to build this custom building here on the grounds. It's a fantastic facility, purpose-built so it's beautifully light and bright, fully accessible and a pleasure to work in.”
“In 2008 we then applied for community services programme funding, an initiative to help support people who are the furthest removed from the labour market to gain employment. We applied for funding to employ five artists with learning disabilities.”
“The artists each have their own style, their own technique and they have been developing that since they were first employed here, so they are coming into their ninth year now which is very exciting!” And Cúig is quite a unique programme, she adds.
“The idea that they are employed as artists is very unique, I think we are the only one of its kind in the country. It’s a very nice, creative environment that we create for them and that they contribute to!”
“It’s the only programme of its kind in that they are employed as artists. Because they are employed, it puts an extra bit of value on their work as well. Before this the artists wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be employed so it’s working on both levels, developing their skills as artists but also giving them opportunities to work. It’s an interesting combination because artists wouldn’t always be appreciated or valued as employees so it's kind of an unusual one.”
“They are supported by two arts workers and then we have admin and a manager to support the project. The artists are here five mornings a week, they work on their own professional practice supported by the art workers and we support them to be involved in the cultural life of the city, the country and they have also at this stage exhibited internationally.
Places like New York, Amsterdam, Australia, South America, They are quite prolific at this stage! They have also, more on a local level, run a lot of workshops, they each have their own skills and their own techniques and they share these techniques with their local community. So we do a lot of workshops with other groups, with their peers in care organisations and also with school groups, both primary and secondary.”
All five artists have exhibited their work in solo and group shows including Crawford Art Gallery, Wandesford Quay Gallery Cork and the Galway Arts Centre.
Their work has also been exhibited internationally at Southbank Centre London, Gallerie Outsider Art in Amsterdam, Belconnel Arts Centre in Canberra, Australia, the Paul Bardwell Gallery in Columbia, GThe Museum of Everything in London and HAI, in New York.
“We’ve exhibited in all the City galleries and in Dublin so they are very lucky to have so many opportunities, but it’s not just luck! It’s obviously based on their own creativity and creative practice as well.”