About a year ago, Sukanya and I began the long process to reach out to artists in Ireland in hopes of collaboration. We knew we were taking a risk, and we knew that funding organizations would not understand our mission. We wanted to talk to artists and writers and storytellers. We wanted to build relationships that might lead to collaboration and exhibits around a theme of strong women, mythical women, modern women, ancient women, women whose stories are not written in books, but told from grandmother to granddaughter, aunt to niece.
Four women and one man made the commitment to organize meetings with people they knew. They didn’t know us. We didn’t know them. We trusted that it would work. If it didn’t? We’ll learn about that, too.
It did work. Each of the five brought along another 30 along. Thirty new collaborators. Thirty artists and writers and storytellers and musicians who want to connect to other artists to create and learn and share.
We listened. And the end of one week of meetings, hikes, stories, art sharing, we are overwhelmed with the communion of artists and generosity of their time and spirit. We have more than an overwhelming amount of source material, we have relationships upon which we will make art.
We can never repay the generosity and kindness of our hosts. I can’t mention everyone, each who chose to meet with us or collaborate added immeasurably to our remarkable experience.
Miriam arranged for a group to meet us in Mullingar, in Jancita’s studio near her home. Seven women brought art to share, fiber to contribute to the group weaving, and stories aplenty.
On to Athlone, where Rosemarie organized a night in a yurt on the Hill of Uisneach, and a private tour with Ruth, a university lecturer and historian. Ruth led us on a three hour hike, up and down the hills of the royal land of kings that once lit the Beltane fires, signaling to all other communities that the festival could begin. She led us to Goddess Eiru’s burial site under the massive Cat Stone, and thousands of other details we could never remember, but will be familiar when we next come across them. It was windy and cold and damp. We didn’t care.
Patsy, the artistic director of the Fire Festival at the Hill of Uisneach, fed us and pampered us as she shared traditions of the land, helped us understand the role of the faeries. She shared her remarkable sculptures, and the inspiration behind them.
Rosemarie wasn’t done. She introduced us to adults with disabilities, who added their art to our projects, treated us to art exhibits, a night out at Sean’s pub (est. 900CE), and introduced us to music (thank you Aine), and wise women aplenty.
Sheila, at ArtFarm near Galway, sustained several personal losses and was forced to cancel. We hold her in our hearts and look forward to the time we can meet.
John led us to Susan’s pottery studio in Midleton near Cork, we we met with nine women and two men who had writings, poems, stories, and art to share. The state of the world interfered a bit and world politics crept into our conversations with reminders that artists and writers have the distinct privilege to address injustice and inequities on our work.
We know this is just the beginning. Individually we will make work that reflects our new relationships and new understandings. Together, we hope to create and exhibit work that brings our discoveries to new venues and new audiences, who are then inspired to join the collaboration with their work.
Our first task is to absorb what we have learned.
Then we make the work.