Art helps us slow down and look deeply. Art has magic too that makes things special. Eco-social art activities help us celebrate our unique and important places, such as our bogs and wetlands. Developing diverse creative expressions, whether we are young or old, translates our encounters with wildlife and plants to our particular place on Earth. Then suddenly, when we bring our art together, we can see the bigger picture, the myriad beauty of how our lives co-exist and depend on many other life-forms thrivings. A communities’ eco-social art can teach and delight us. And most importantly, art has social power. Art can activate us to treasure the lands, water, flora and fauna that promotes wellbeing for us and future generations.
Drummin Bog, Carlow’s only raised bog (and the last remaining in the South East of Ireland) was truly celebrated last Thursday 6th June.
At the opening of the An Fraughan school art exhibition on a lovely sunny day, 128 children, parents, siblings, just about managed to fit into the small local Drummin Hall.
They all came to view the children’s artworks created over the last few months from three primary schools that neighbour Drummin bog: St. Brendan’s, Drummond, Scoil Moling, Glynn and St. Michael’s, Newtown.
The An Fraughan exhibition was inspired by visits and eco-social art activities led by artist Jules Michael, and other Carlow-based artists, Annabel Konig, Cathy Fitzgerald and Emma McGrath, for the Drummin Bog Project over the last couple of months. The exhibition was good fun, and quite the buzz for Carlow’s little Drummin Bog!
Developing artworks for the An Fraughan Exhibition
The artists assisted the children in making science notebooks, learning
about raised bogs, their unique habitat and wildlife (biodiversity), their function as highly efficient carbon sinks, and the urgent need to look after and conserve Drummin Bog.
The artists, children and their teachers then visited the bog to see and experience it; identifying its different plants and insects, and gathering leaves and dried material. These became the source for the their artworks, each school having its own particular art idea.
Drummond National School made foil prints on a small printing press, and clay and plaster-casts with “Biodiversity” and the beauty of nature as the theme.
Newtown National School created a giant “Habitat” jigsaw which when joined together made a map of the area, the three schools and Drummin Bog itself, surrounded by miniature bog bowls each child had made in clay.
And Glynn National School, with the theme of “Ecosystem,” had self-portraits each child had drawn and clay models of nature they had made all joined by one long continuous line of green coloured thread, to illustrate the idea of ourselves and nature all linked together.
Giant Biodiversity Jenga
Lastly, the 128 children from all three schools were each given a block of wood to illustrate with species from the bog. When joined together the blocks made a giant “Biodiversity Jenga” (an original eco-learning game created by Jules Michael), symbolising the richness, fragility and balance of Drummin Bog’s biodiversity.
For the duration of the project, each child ‘became’ a creature, or plant, or insect linked to Drummin Bog i.e. “I am sphagnum moss, I am an emperor moth, I am a sundew etc.”
This enabled the children to identify more specifically with the bog, and fed into their field-notebooks, Habitat games and the Bio-diversity Jenga. Here, every pupil from the three schools was given a wooden block to illustrate with their name and what they had
‘become’ – a physical manifestation of their own individuality and that of their creature or plant (but also, with all the blocks combined, a fun game!).
The Jenga is of the children and their art making, while also symbolic of the richness of Drummin Bog’s bio-diversity. Ultimately, it indicates the inherent fragility, complexity and balance this beautiful place embodies, and our part we play within it to safeguard its future.
The artworks from the three schools was all interwoven together in Drummond Hall in an installation that filled the hall. A huge turnout of pupils, teachers, family and friends gathered to view the children’s creative, fun and engaged responses to Drummin Bog, making for a very special and celebratory afternoon.
An Fraughan poster
At the exhibition, a special publication A3 poster was given to every child who participated. The poster can be framed and will be presented to libraries and other places in Carlow too. Please see our contact page to request a copy.
An Fraughan is kindly supported by Creative Ireland, Carlow Arts Office and The Drummin Bog Project. With thanks to the Carlow Arts Officer, Sinead Dowling, and her team. Thanks also to Mairead Holohan, Annabel Konig and Emma McGrath; and also to the voluntary committee members of The Drummin Bog Project for their help and commitment. Particular thanks to Cathy Fitzgerald for her theoretical overview to the project and her overall background support and her photographs of the bog visit and exhibition opening.
The principals of the three primary schools – Anne, Sinead and Laura – along with their staff welcomed us with such warmth and generosity into their classrooms, and made so much possible.
Finally, this project could not have been created without the engagement, fun and creativity of all the wonderful children from the three schools.
* an fraughan – Wild Bilberry (Vaccinum myrtillus); in reference to the Wild Bilberry that grows on Drummin Bog.
† The innovative artistic framework for art projects evolving from the Drummin Bog Project uses the research of South Carlow eco-social artist, Dr. Cathy Fitzgerald. Her term ‘Eco-social Art Practice’ was presented in her PhD by creative practice The Ecological Turn:Living Well with forests to explain eco-social art practices (Fitzgerald, 2018), see www.Hollywoodforest.com
Action Research was used as a guiding framework for the eco-social art project (Reason et al, 2009)
Peter Reason et al., 2009, In: Insider Voices: Human dimensions of low carbon technology. Note: Prof. Peter Reason was co-editor of key SAGE Handbooks on action research (Reason and Bradbury, 2001, 2006, 2008), former director of the UK Centre for Action Research in Professional Practice (CARPP) and co-founder of the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice. Cathhy Fitzgerald was particularly fortunate that his colleague,the late Dr Chris Seeley saw her present her developing transversal practice and research at the 2012 ‘The Home and the World’art & ecology creative summit in Devon, see http://artdotearth.org/the-home-theworld/. Much of Chris Seeley’s research is available at http://www.wildmargins.com/Home.html