Sunday 31 December 2023

Annual Report 2023: Arts for Health

Annual Report 2023 - Overview of the Year

Arts for Health Partnership Programme has had an exciting and successful year in 2023. Since January, we’ve launched our Strategic Plan 2023 - 2028, developed our Creative Carers programme, took part in training and celebrations with the wider arts and health community, and of course, continued supporting our Artist Team to facilitate collaborative, creative projects within eleven healthcare settings in West Cork.

The year began in DeBarra’s Folk Club, Clonakilty,  with a celebration of the family carers who took part in the first iteration of our Creative Carers programme in 2022. Organised by Sarah Ruttle and Justin Grounds, the evening was attended by Creative Carers participants, members of the Arts for Health artists and administrative teams, and West Cork health care professionals from Community Hospitals and Day Care Centres. Featuring performances from musicians Lewis Barfoot, Eva Coyle, and Liz Clark, as well as fun creative activities and nibbles, it was an evening of conversation and connection enjoyed by all.

The new term of Creative Carers at Uillinn, a six week creative workshop series delivered by Sarah Ruttle, began in late February, with participants exploring West Cork land and coast through delicate wire sculptures and ink/watercolour paintings.

February also saw projects such as Dream Destinations, Armchair Travel with Sharon Dipity in Skibbereen Community Hospital, self-portrait collage with Annalene Rowland at Castletownbere Day Care Centre, and an exploration of West Cork Islands with Sarah Ruttle in St. Joseph’s Unit, Bantry General Hospital.

March proved to be a busy month for the arts and health sector. Arts and Health Coordinators Ireland celebrated their 20th anniversary, while Creative Brain Week returned to Trinity College Dublin for the second year. Uillinn Programme Manager, Justine Foster, delivered a case study on the Arts for Health Partnership Programme around the theme Imagination is Awesome: Caring Connect.

We were also delighted to be a finalist in the Health and Wellbeing (Large) category of the  AONTAS Star Awards for making an outstanding contribution to adult learning. Attending the awards ceremony at Croke Park, Justine Foster stated, ‘The achievement goes to all the learners who were not able to make the event today and to the amazing artists, healthcare workers and partners  who have realised the programme for the last 20 years.’

With Spring in full swing, we launched the new series of Creative Carers Musical Mornings with Justin Grounds. Held in the Green Dot café in Clonakilty, the mornings offered carers an informal and relaxed opportunity to connect with other carers in the community and explore ways of bringing music and creativity into their daily lives with those they care for. Discussing favourite songs, creating playlists, and exploring new rhythms and melodies, the sessions led us up to one of the busiest months of the year.

Age and Opportunity’s annual nationwide Bealtaine Festival returned this year with a full line-up at Uillinn and in the wider community. Arts for Health artist Sharon Dipity was awarded the Bealtaine/Cork County Council/Uillinn Artist Residency, which supports artists seeking opportunities to research and develop their practice and to engage with Uillinn, local communities, and the general public.

Sharon Dipity, 2023.

Of her project The Line Has Two Sides, Sharon said,I am particularly interested in translating my body’s movement to the page, the movement of the tracings made with my body, and working with other elements that have come into play during my research, including the wind and the tide. I have been working a lot with constraints and in The Line Has Two Sides, I will be looking at my body’s limitations as a constraint and developing movement and drawing from this. I particularly want to look at creating movement with an older body, to embrace and transcend its limitations and old injuries, to create my own fluid vocabulary of movement and gesture.’

Over the course of the residency, Sharon shared her work through an interactive workshop where participants were invited to explore mark-making, movement, and writing using a variety of drawing tools, as well as through her open studio every Friday. 


Bealtaine poster, May 2023.

The Bealtaine programme opened with a screening of The Last Train to Nowhere, a short multimedia film exploring memory and imagination within the theme of the West Cork Railways. Coordinated by composer and filmmaker Justin Grounds, the film was a collaborative piece made by participants on the Arts for Health programme in Skibbereen, Schull, and Bantry Community Hospitals, with visual artists Sarah Ruttle and Sharon Dipity, and writer Elizabeth Murray. The screening took place at Uillinn and in the hospitals on the 1st of May.

On the same day, an exhibition of artwork created on Uillinn’s programmes for older people opened in the Stairwell Gallery. The exhibition featured original artwork from The Last Train to Nowhere, Graffiti (From Cave Paintings to Graffiti Part 2), a project facilitated by Sharon Dipity at Skibbereen community hospital exploring graffiti around the world, and a new series of paintings by Arts for an Active Mind, a weekly art session facilitated by Paul Cialis, that has taken place at Uillinn on Monday mornings since 2002.

Toma McCullim’s project Salt and Pepper returned to Uillinn for a second year, inviting older members of the LGBTQIA+ community to create together, document, reflect on past and present challenges, and celebrate older rainbow generation commonality and achievements.

In the Picture, held on the 5th May, invited people living with dementia, and their friends, family or professional carers, to visit the gallery and look at and discuss the artwork in a safe and welcoming environment.

Blanket Stitch, 2023

In the community, Bénédicte Coleman organised a series of Blanket Stitch exhibitions at Castletownbere, Dunmanway and Bantry libraries. The freehand embroidery pieces, created by participants on the Arts for Health programme, subvert the idea of sewing, darning and embroidery as a necessary household chore, or a way to gain much needed extra income, into a colourful act of unrestricted imagination.

Sarah Ruttle showcased our Creative Carers programme during Wellness Day in Schull Harbour Hotel. Organised by Carer and Older Persons Initiative and HSE Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, carers from across West Cork were invited to a drop-in workshop to experience what the programme has to offer.

Bringing music to the month, the HSE Campus Choir with choral director Liz Clark, performed at Perrot House in Skibbereen. Finally, as a finishing flourish to a wonderful festival, participants on the Arts for Health programme with musician Lewis Barfoot released a special, a cappella, bilingual song from their project The Dunmanway Sessions.

Bealtaine Festival at Arts for Health was a celebration of the arts as we age, and offered opportunities to older people across West Cork to creatively participate in their community.

As the longer evenings of summer were quickly approaching, participants at St. Joseph’s Unit in Bantry General Hospital completed an art installation with Sarah Ruttle. Through the media of collage, watercolour, sculpture, and shadow drawing, and taking inspiration from nature, evolving seasons, and the circle of life, Behind the Closed Door is a practical and creative artwork for a glass door that divides the residents’ day room and the palliative care room balcony, allowing some extra privacy. One resident noted, ‘I always look at it. It’s lovely and clever!’

Arts for Health musicians Eva Coyle, Ecki Krupp, and Liz Clark, 2023.

At the end of June we launched our Arts for Health Strategic Plan 2023 - 2028 and celebrated with a lovely event at Schull community hospital. Programme participants, artists, administration, and healthcare staff all working side-by-side came together to celebrate the occasion. We heard speeches from Róisín Walsh, Director of Nursing at Schull Community Hospital, as well as Deputy Mayor Cllr. John Healy, and Head of Primary Care, Priscilla Lynch.

The event was attended by many prominent figures including Head of Older People, Jackie Daly, local TDs Holly Cairns, Michael Collins, Christopher O’Sullivan, representatives from the programme’s partners (Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, Cork ETB, Cork County Council), and members of the Artist’s team. The Strategic Plan will provide an outline for our programme for the next 5 years, and we look forward to putting it into action.


Arts for Health was heavily involved in the wider community over the summer,  holding events as part of West Cork Literary Festival, Skibbereen Arts Festival, and Clonakilty International Guitar Festival.

Museum of Birds and Beasts, a co-creation by residents of five community hospitals with Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley, returned to West Cork this July. The exhibition and book launch was held at Ballydehob’s Working Artist Studio. Originally exhibited at Cork County Hall in January, the artists collaborated with the Museum of Country Life, the National Folklore Collection, and master basket maker Joe Hogan.

Following on from this, Tess Leak embarked on an highly-praised cello concert tour to Schull, Dunmanway, and Skibbereen Community Hospitals, as well as St. Joseph’s Unit in Bantry General Hospital. Accompanied by guest musician Diana Llewellyn, the duo were warmly welcomed by residents and staff alike.

Projects such as Where would you be going with a hat like that? with Sharon Dipity, Bog Walk with Annalene Rowland, and Seasons with Liz Clark continued at Skibbereen, Castletownbere, and Dunmanway Community Hospitals, Bantry General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Unit, and Castletownbere Day Care Centre.

Taking Flight, 2023.

Dance artist Philippa Donnellan returned to the studio to continue working with Justin Grounds, Justine Cooper, and Tomasz Madajczak on Taking Flight, a developing theatre dance piece. The team of artists creatively engaged with health professionals, artists working in healthcare, and older people attending day care and long-term healthcare settings, along with the wider West Cork community. Participants on the Arts for Health programme at Skibbereen Community Hospital were invited to a special performance at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre at the end of the week-long residency.

In the middle of a busy summer, we welcomed Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing, and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton, to Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre.

Minister Naughton and her team visited the beautiful Blanket Stitch exhibition, and met with Creative Carers participants Robin and Sally. Members of the Arts for Health Partnership Programme steering committee met with Ms. Naughton to discuss the importance of the programme and highlight the need for continued government support.

Minister Naughton welcomed the launch of the Arts for Health Strategic Plan and commented: “Communities shape many aspects of our lives, and engagement through creativity, physical activity and education can greatly enhance the health and wellbeing of the population.”

“I’m particularly keen to see the variety of programmes on offer for all interests and to see how wellbeing programmes are woven into daily lives for participants.”

The end of summer saw the launch of our Creative Carers Report 2022. The report provides an outline of the first year of the project, and strives to understand the successes, areas for improvement, and future goals of the programme. 

Moving towards shorter days didn't slow our artists down, and a flurry of fantastic projects came to fruition during the colder months. 

As part of Creative Carers, Sarah Ruttle brought In the Picture on the road to Bantry Memory Café. Artist Pascal Ungerer kindly gave permission for four of his paintings to be brought outside the gallery and into the community, where attendees of the memory café discussed and creatively responded to his work. Sarah also started a new iteration of Creative Carers at Uillinn, a six-week art workshop series open to family carers. The Creative Carers programme developed further with the addition of taster workshops delivered by Sharon Dipity in Mizen and Sheep’s Head. 

Michael Greenlaw, Beara Map Mural, 2023.

Places and Traces, an exceptional Beara Peninsula map mural was completed by residents and staff at Castletownbere Community Hospital alongside visual artist Michael Greenlaw. The artwork is now being used as inspiration for a music and film project facilitated by musician Ecki Krupp. 

Michael Greenlaw also completed two more ambitious projects; an outdoor mosaic with participants at Dunmanway Day Care Centre, and a glass sculpture with Dunmanway Community Hospital participants. 

Dunmanway Day Care Centre’s outdoor mosaic project, which began in summer 2022, took inspiration from mosaics around the world in Ukraine, ancient Greece and Rome, as well as closer to home inside the churches of Drinagh and Leap. The group incorporated images of local significance into their art, with each participant working on a panel which would come together to form the larger work. 

Dunmanway Community Hospital’s glass sculpture, Through the Window, based around the theme of birds in the garden stands proudly amongst the hospital’s greenery, and is often admired by residents, staff, family and friends. In a similar fashion to the mosaic, each participant created their own panel, or multiple panels, which when put together formed the final piece. 

Participants at Dunmanway Day Care Centre continued their exploration of mosaic creation with guest fibre artist Anne Harrington Rees. Their project, Tea Time Mosaics, centred around discussions of traditional Irish food, and resulted in individual and personalised coasters and tea pot stands. 

October saw the return of Leap Scarecrow Festival, and Arts for Health participants at Skibbereen Community Hospital alongside Sharon Dipity worked hard to place their creepy creations amongst the town’s goblins and ghouls. Their project, Scare of Crows, won second place in the recycled materials category at the festival.

We also welcomed two new musicians to the Arts for Health team in October. Marybeth O’Mahony is a singer, musician, and lyricist from West Cork, and Kate Liddell is a multi-instrumentalist and composer studying for a masters in Music Therapy. We are delighted to have them on the programme and look forward to working with them in the year ahead.

Love Letters, a unique song-writing project facilitated by musician Liz Clark, came to life in the final few months of the year. Working with the queer HSE staff community, the project explored topics such as lives lived authentically, with recognition that sometimes it’s without a roadmap, and communities as a safety net from an often-unfair world, catching you when needed and ready to catch others when you can.

Love Letters is one of a number of once-off projects that took place this year. Sarah Ruttle completed Beyond the Darkness, a project researching ways of working with people with visual impairments, and Áine Rose Connell is currently completing her study of Parkinson’s disease and art. Liz Clark also developed a three-part Arts for Health podcast series, recorded in Skibbereen Day Care Centre, and released in November.

As the year drew to a close, Sarah Ruttle and Justin Grounds returned to Creative Carers at Home. These one-to-one sessions offer carers and the person they care for the opportunity to safely develop shared activities and explore their creativity with a professional artist in their own home.

Members of the Arts for Health Artist Team with Programme Manager Justine Foster, 2023.

What a year! We are grateful for the hard work of the Arts for Health artist team, healthcare staff, participants, steering committee members, and administration staff, and we’re looking forward to doing it all again in 2024!

Arts For Health West Cork

Thursday 21 December 2023

Interview with Catherine Reinhart on The Collective Mending Sessions

When the chance came for a sit-down chat came about with one of our artists-in-residence, Catherine Reinhart, I was delighted to get to discuss The Collective Mending Sessions and her time at Uillinn. The Collective Mending Sessions is a series of socially engaged workshops centered on collaboratively mending a quilt. She has conducted workshops in various locations around the Midwest of the United States and further afield before taking it international with her Uillinn residency.

Collective Mending Sessions at the West Cork Arts Centre, Catherine Reinhart

An interdisciplinary artist who creates fiber work and conducts socially engaged projects with abandoned textiles, Iowa-based, Catherine first arrived in West Cork last Summer,  and was visiting her sister in Schull when she found out about the residency open call at Uillinn. She submitted her proposal upon discovering that many of the people she had been meeting in West Cork had an ongoing interest in working with fibre. “Every other conversation was like, ‘I have a textile degree,’ or, ‘I worked with textiles in this felting workshop in Kazakhstan,’ so when I made my proposal I just thought what a great way to welcome people into the studio and continue doing this project in an international way,” she says on making her decision to come back to West Cork.

Catherine also felt that a shared concern for the environment was something that situated the themes and principles of her arts practice in West Cork, namely through an interest in sustainability and environmental preservation. She explains, “The mending sessions is also about slowing down and an antidote to fast fashion and the culture of reuse and sustainable textile processes connected to the environment. I saw a lot of artists in West Cork and at the Uillinn who were concerned about the place and the landscape and protecting that and preserving that and so I thought that there’s some connections there.”

She tells me that some of the principles behind her arts practice are cultivating care for both cloth and the community and then relating the lessons learned from hand repair or mending to larger broken systems. “So what lessons can we learn from fixing our clothes that we can apply to fixing our relationships?” she summarises, “Or fixing the fractures that happen within our societies or in our communities?”

Catherine hopes that the Collective Mending Sessions encourage discussion, reflection and inquiry and that they can serve as a practical avenue into conducting these forms of questioning. “One of the driving questions of the project that we discuss around the quilt is, how do we mend our communities.” She asks, “What does that look like? Can it be done through art?” As an aside, she tells me that she thinks the answer to that is a definite ‘yes’. 

Catherine hopes that participants can ask themselves what repair and mending within the community looks like on a personal level- that it leads them to evaluate and appreciate what skills, gifts, talents and time they have to be a restorative catalyst rather than a destructive one. 

Collective Mending Sessions at the West Cork Arts Centre, Catherine Reinhart

“Accumulation of small amounts of labour can add up to something quite impressive,” she explains, “We’re on our eighth quilt now in our fifth year of the project and when people come to the workshops they may only get 5 inches of stitching done but you’re joining hundreds of other people doing the same thing and it’s a really egalitarian, humbling experience.”

At the time of the interview Catherine was planning to hold a workshop on Sherkin Island, which hadn’t initially been part of the plan for her residency but came about organically through a combination of word-of-mouth and building connections at Uillinn. I ask if the workshop on Sherkin Island will follow the same format as more regular Collective Mending sessions.“I think they’re always kind of different,” Catherine says, “The format I’m planning for Sherkin is kind of drop-in and drop-out. Like I did the first Saturday here at Uillinn and that’s just to allow more people to be involved in the quilt. I’m hoping that the BA students are going to come and participate.”

“It’s really quite open to everyone,” she clarifies, noting that there is a Ukrainian community on the island too, ”We’re having it at the North Shore which is a very cozy spot, I hear.” Catherine is not holding any hard expectations and is happy to let the sessions’ participants guide the discussions. “I’ve read a bit about places that are remote having really robust repair cultures just because it’s a little more expensive or hard to get things onto an island but the conversations that we have during the project really depend on who’s there,” she notes, “and since it’s the residents of Sherkin I’m interested to know about their perspectives on repair and mending.”

Catherine Reinhart Artist Website

Collective Mending Sessions

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Uillinn Dance Season: Elaine McCague

Detached, film still. Credit: Elaine McCague

What are your impressions of West Cork as a creative place for dance?
West Cork has surpassed my expectations as a creative place for dance, from the support available to dance artists and the range and quality of work being created here by inspiring artists based locally. It has been lovely to connect with the artistic community in West Cork who are so supportive and welcoming.

What was the Inspiration for your work?
In 2020 I moved to rural West Cork and found myself surrounded by detached derelict cottages. The layers of homestead Irishness and left rooms filled with sentimentalities and objects and memories alongside many pairs of eyes uncovered under the dust of time intrigued me to think about these places once called home. As an aerialist, I'm always looking to create new circus apparatus, and look at transferring the circus body, movement and skills from traditional apparatus such as the trapeze and rope onto both the structure and objects found in the domestic space. Through the process of making the short film, and a residency in Uillinn earlier this year to research a range of textiles under tension for new apparatus, the idea to consider specifically the textiles found within the derelict houses became the basis to explore a concept for this new work.

What point did the work go from concept and development to becoming a full work?
The film aspect was completed this time last year and the performance piece is in the final stages of development and rehearsal. This piece will premiere to an audience for the first time at Uillinn Dance Season. The pieces shown in Uillinn are the beginnings of a body of work with the ambition to create a series of ten films, installation and performance pieces responding to these detached rural dwellings.

How has your work evolved by bringing it to West Cork Arts Centre?
Detached the film was chosen to be programmed as part of the Uillinn Dance Season programme and in following a research residency at Uillinn and talking with the programming team the opportunity to present a live performance and installation aspect arose. The team at Uillinn have been hugely supportive and the gallery is a really unique space to present aerial dance.

Has the way you approach the work you are presenting changed from the time of its creation given that the Uillinn is a gallery space?
My interests are to create and work site-specifically and often the space presents itself before I approach the design of the performance. This is exactly what happened with this project and so it has allowed me to develop the piece working with the gallery space in mind.

Book your tickets for Uillinn Dance Season, 2023

Uillinn Dance Season: Alexandre Iseli from Tipperary Dance

Tempo Rubato, Tipperary Dance. Photo: Robert Stuckenberg

 What are your impressions of West Cork as a creative place for dance?

Unfortunately I haven’t had the time yet to travel to West Cork. What I really value is the

initiative to support dance, and to involve a seasoned professional to develop the curation of

the programme. I also value the fact that the architecture of the building was not initially

designed for dance. This means that the curation of the venue cannot be limited to old

fashion values, such as for example a vast stage or an impressive lighting rig. This opens

our eyes on the fact that production values are not the key element to making great art. It

steers the art form into new directions that are for me closer to its true nature. When we

present Tempo Rubato, we will have to give up on our lighting plan, but I have no second

thoughts about this, because it doesn’t define my work.

What was the Inspiration for your work? 

I am always hoping to create this team environment in which people flourish and start to

deploy their own language. So the starting point of the work was the idea to develop

something in which the dancers would have to contribute to and be very strict with the score,

while feeling very free. A combination of rule and individual freedom in which the group can

create something exciting while the individual could continue to shine and not feel restricted.

The title Tempo Rubato make reference to a note that is found on certain music scores: it

gives license to the interpreter to play with tempo, while respecting the score.

What point did the work go from concept and development to becoming a full work?

We had no time for development and concept. I just had 4-5 weeks to create the work, in the

middle of managing our Tipperary Dance programme and festival. That said, I have been a

performer and choreographer for over 25 years now, so I have been developing my own

concepts about the type of work I want to do. For me this has more weight than the specific

topic of the piece. The nature of interactions, the place of the dancers in the process, the

source of movement, where and how movement finds its relevance, how interaction between

dancers creates meaning, these are some of my topics, and they appear in every piece. It is

about the absolute value of the human body, its depth, its sensitivity. We live in a world that

confines the body to be economically efficient, or trained, or aesthetically pleasing.

Instrumentalising the body that way is very limiting. This is not who we really are and it tends

to generate exclusion.

How has your work evolved by bringing it to West Cork Arts Centre?

Like I said we have to adapt for space and lighting. I have no worry about this. It will densify

the piece that already exists. We have to trust dancers. I actually like to put a piece in a

different environment and let the dancers find the ways. They have instinct, their body has

the knowledge and skills to respond if they trust themselves. Instead of being too formal

about this, what we have to do is open our senses, open our eyes, and the body adjusts. It’s

a challenge, it is exciting. I am aware it is not necessarily possible with every piece, but for

Tempo Rubato it is.