An exciting and special year for new head of Cork's art and design college

The Crawford College of Art and Design will have a new woman at the helm — Rose McGrath. COLETTE SHERIDAN catches up with her ahead of her new post
An exciting and special year for new head of Cork's art and design college

MTU governing body has appointed Rose McGrath as the new head of Crawford College of Art and Design.

ROSE McGrath, who takes up her position as the new head of the MTU Crawford College of Art and Design (CCAD) in September, says it is a “really exciting time” for the worlds of art, design and media.

She has been acting head and head of media communications at the college for the last 13 years.

One of life’s enthusiasts, Rose feels that she got “a lucky break to work with the creative community in the Munster region. I want to see what more challenges are out there.”

She will be taking over from Catherine Fehily, whom she describes as “a great mentor”. Rose has been working closely with Trish Brennan, head of fine art and applied art, as well as Louise Foott, head of arts in health and education.

“I’ve given my heart and soul to everything we’ve done. There have been many developments and new programmes. A new one coming in next year is the Masters in User Experience Design.”

A Limerick woman, Rose says she is “very proud to say that art was the big thing in our house growing up. My sister also went to art college. I have three brothers who are engineers.

“I went to the Limerick School of Art and Design where I did my degree in visual communications. I became interested in education and how you can deliver on different areas. I did the higher diploma in education in art and design. That allowed me to teach and work in design.

“I taught art at second level for four years and did a lot of freelance work in design.”

Rose became interested in technology and digital design. She decided to take a career break and did a Masters degree at the University of Limerick (UL). Her MA was in interactive media.

THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION

“My family has a lot of interest in education and management. I think that rubbed off on me in terms of what I do.

“I come from a very progressive family, all of whom work in high levels of industry. 

"My dad was a civil engineer whose last job was as fire chief with Limerick County Council. He was a huge influence on us. He believed in education so much. Once you were in education, he said the world was your oyster. I still believe that.

“And I am also quite practical. I like to see a process and a conclusion and to see where it can be taken further.

“I’m also interested in business and entrepreneurship.”

What Rose particularly enjoyed about working in the media communications department is that a lot of the programmes are interdisciplinary.

“That has allowed me to work with different groups of people. I think that suits me best. 

"I want to be in the creative area but I also want to make sure that it’s all linked up to science, engineering, business and humanities. It excites me to see all these collaborations coming together.”

Rose thinks the teaching of art at school is “a really important part of education,” adding: “It’s difficult for art teachers because sometimes, the priority leads towards the STEM areas. I think parents need to realise the opportunities that are there in art, design and media.

“A lot of good work is being done by the institutes of designers in Ireland. The Design and Craft Council of Ireland is doing a lot of marketing to show transition year students and their parents what the careers are and how broad the area is. There has been a misunderstanding with parents worrying about jobs.”

CAREERS IN THE ARTS

Last year, Rose was involved in a campaign called ‘Love what you do’.

“We listed a string of careers that you can go into as a graduate that may not be known. There is a need to demystify what you can do after art college.

“Some of our design students, who would have been graphic designers, were unaware that they could be working in multi- nationals. It’s all about lifelong learning and how people can blend and merge their skills.

“We’re all more savvy online and now, you can work from anywhere. That’s what makes it exciting. And the government has focused on design. You have Creative Ireland which is giving more incentives to the film, TV and animation industry. It’s a good time for Ireland. There’s an awakening.”

Rose hopes that media communications will continue to expand at the college.

“There are so many areas involved. Our undergraduate programmes are visual communications, photography and new media. What has had most promotion is creative digital media. It gives our students a lot of opportunities such as certificates in TV production. Our work placements are with RTÉ in Cork and TV AM.

“Another certificate is for digital media design. It’s a fully online course and there is huge interest in it. We also offer a Masters in public relations and new media and journalism.”

Incoming head of MTU Crawford College of Art and Design, Rose McGrath with outgoing head of the art college, Catherine Fehily, and President of GMIT, Orla Flynn.
Incoming head of MTU Crawford College of Art and Design, Rose McGrath with outgoing head of the art college, Catherine Fehily, and President of GMIT, Orla Flynn.

Rose cites the work of former head of CCAD, Orla Flynn, who established the media communications department. (She is now president of GMIT — (Galway Mayo Institute of Technology).

SEEKING A NEW HOME

While CCAD is strongly associated with fine art, it has been growing in media and design. Rose said the college’s journey “needs to be made clear to us all. The problematic thing is that we’re all in different buildings and we don’t have an end of year show that shows all the work at the college.”

Rose, who did a two-and-a-half year stint at Trinity College as a research assistant and part-time lecturer, says it was a good stepping stone for her before she started at the then CIT.

The expanding MTU CCAD has been looking for a new home for some time. The college is based at the old school of art at Sharman Crawford Street for the last 40 years. Then there’s 64, Grand Parade.

“It’s a beautiful building but the space isn’t very big. It houses arts and health and education and there’s gallery space in the building. Bishopstown is where media communications resides. And we have a new building in Sober Lane which is part of the Flying Enterprise. It’s very techie with photography and video being taught there. We’ll be launching it this year.”

Rose recently turned 50. This year, with her “big roundy birthday and new position” is a special one for her, she says.

She and her IT consultant partner, John Brett, plan to marry next year. They have a six year old son called Conor.

HANDING OVER THE REINS

In the meantime, Catherine Fehily, is finishing up as head of MTU CCAD.

“It’s bitter-sweet to be leaving the Crawford,” she says. “It has been a real joy and privilege to be in that position for six years.

Catherine Fehily, outgoing head of MTU Crawford college of Art and Design. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Catherine Fehily, outgoing head of MTU Crawford college of Art and Design. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“It seems like a really good time to be handing over and I’m delighted that Rose McGrath has been appointed as my successor.”

The Crawford college “is poised at a really particular moment,” said Catherine.

“We’ve managed to grow a fair bit in the last six years with a number of new courses. The only thing standing in the way of the Crawford really expanding and developing is the space.

“What I really wish for the college is that ADAM (arts, design and media) the CIT master plan, will be adopted by MTU. It’s a project to find a site and create a building that will bring the whole college together in one place, preferably in the city centre. This has been talked about for an awfully long time.

“I think its time has come because being a technological university is a whole different prospective. The MTU vision will be served by giving the Crawford the space it needs to grow.”

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