One of the first faces I was greeted with when I initially began working at West Cork Arts Centre was that of Tomasz Madajczak. On that day and to this day, Tomasz always makes time to greet you by name and ask you how you are doing. A friendly, welcoming, and near-constant presence in the Centre, when Tomasz isn't working on his studio practice, he's heading one of a number of one-off workshops or durational projects with people of all ages in the community. One of the programmes he is long associated with is Art Club. Art Club is a place for both children and young teenagers from all over West Cork to gather together and investigate visual arts, collaborating in creating all kinds of creative projects.
Recently I have been back in the centre after the lockdown to prepare for reopening. Naturally, Tomasz was in the building with a new batch of young people working experimentally on something new. This initiative I was to learn, was a recently made art collective exploring a project titled 'Inside Out'. When I asked Tomasz about it he said that his daughter had been mentioning a lack of activities for teenagers to do in Skibbereen, made worse by recent restrictions. Tomasz then asked her if she and her friends would be interested in meeting up to do a once-off art workshop of sorts. They all agreed, and indeed it soon developed to include more and so 'Inside Out' was formed. Tomasz said it was great that the young people were already close friends because it makes for a more productive, exciting, and open environment for creating.
I asked Tomasz about what they typically get up to. He explained that last week they began by sitting in silence. The aim of this was to take a moment to gather their thoughts and understand what feelings they are bringing into the day. This allowed Tomasz to get a feel for the group and see what might be appropriate to do on that day. They then had a discussion with everyone sitting in a circle. They discussed a variety of topics ranging from emotions, dreams, politics, self-awareness, or anything else that organically came to mind. Tomasz hopes this will create an environment in which the young people can have a ''deep, psychological look inside themselves and from there see how they truly perceive themselves and the world around them''. It was brilliant to see Tomasz strive to communicate with them with such equal respect. I remember when I was in school, I had a huge appreciation for teachers who would listen, respect and take the time to understand you as a person.
Tomasz has a careful and considered approach to facilitating groups, he avoids telling them what they should do or how they should do it. This he says ''allows more freedom to create how they want. Sometimes too much structure can take away from the excitement of creating''. I could also appreciate this approach and it reminded me of when I got my first guitar. When I first had it, you couldn't get it out of my hands. I was always playing it and experimenting with it. I soon got proper lessons but that ended up killing my enjoyment because to me it became a chore where I had to practice this specific song and have it ready at a certain time of the week. Killing the excitement of creating is something Tomasz seems acutely aware of.
So the group gather their thoughts, discuss those thoughts, and then express them using whatever materials they wish. As you can imagine, what gets created is rich in expression and comes from a deeply personal place. You can see some of the pictures attached to this blog for examples.
Afterwards, the group discuss what they have made and get into detail about the process of how they made it. Tomasz then lends his experienced opinion to their work, encouraging even further development. They then return to their home lives after what one teenager described as an ''insightful, creative, and fun experience''.
Tomasz has described the group as ''open, responsive, and respectful'' and you can tell he finds the experience rewarding and inspiring to his own studio practice.
My take on it (and I'm not just saying this as an employee) is that it’s great to see that the Art Centre and artists like Tomasz providing opportunities like this for the community. I've been living in Skibbereen for many years now and anything that can brighten peoples days like this is well appreciated, especially during present circumstances.
To learn more about Tomasz Madajzcak, Uillinn West Cork Art Centre, and the activities they both provide, please visit: https://www.