Clare Arts Office is delighted to announce the launch of Visual Voices, a new series of free online art tours specifically available to people of older age in Clare. This opportunity has come about thanks to funding from the Creative Ireland Programme.

Visual Voices links a number of projects and programmes by Clare County Council in the area of Arts and Health in Clare to deliver an in-depth programme of online visual arts experiences to older people who may have difficulty accessing galleries and exhibition spaces in Clare. It is based on Age and Opportunity’s ‘Azure’ Programme which was developed in collaboration with the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Dublin and inspired by the highly successful art tours ‘Meet me at MoMA’ running for many years for those living with dementia and their carers’, at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

The Arts Office of Clare County Council has over two decades of experience in running Arts in Health programmes in residential and day care settings in the County, and has invested in training and supporting talented artists working in this field. They have worked closely with Age and Opportunity and IMMA to upskill key practitioners in the delivery of arts and health programmes, most recently the Azure programme.

The aim of Visual Voices is to bring online gallery talks to older people county-wide generally and also specifically to dementia suffers in residential and non-residential settings in the County.  The project has been developed in line with the forthcoming Age and Opportunity Arts and Creative Charter, aspiring to best practice in working with older people.

A series of virtual visual art tours are planned over the summer and will be delivered by trained artist/ facilitators through a number of organisations in Clare. It is hoped that in person tours may take place when restrictions lift in galleries and cultural venues.

There are a number of strands to the programme.

Strand 1 – Cultural Companions:

Firstly, the programme will be offered to all members of ‘Cultural Companions, Clare’, a network of older people, facilitated by the Community Department of Clare County Council, interested in arts and cultural events and activities. Cultural Companions offers increased opportunities for older people to engage with the vibrant arts and cultural scene in Ireland and more locally in County Clare. The network enables members to meet new people and enjoy all that Irish arts and culture has to offer. Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions it has not been possible to access arts events, exhibitions and activities, so this new initiative offers members an accessible way of engaging with art online. The online tours will provide a chance to look at, and respond to, selected artworks from major public art collections, including Clare County Council’s Art Collection, enabling people to share views and ideas with others in the group. The virtual art tours are designed to be inclusive for everyone, whatever their background or previous interests. Even if they have not taken part in visual arts events before, this is a chance to try it, from the comfort of home.

Trained artist/facilitators, will guide participants through a selection of interesting artworks, encouraging conversation and responses to each work. The online sessions will offer an opportunity to socialise, build relationships and forge friendships with others, through a shared interest in art.

If you would like to participate in this new programme through Cultural Companions please contact Helen Moloney 065 6846240 or email Helen at hmoloney@clarecoco.ie

The virtual tours will use the video software programme Zoom, that allows you to meet participants virtually. To join you will need internet access and a laptop or tablet with a camera.

Strand 2 – Residential Settings:

The second strand of the programme offers the same opportunity to people living with dementia throughout the County. The aim is to make art more accessible by exploring how people with dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s, and the people who care for them, can participate in cultural activities.

There will be a series of dementia friendly art tours in three residential settings across the county; Raheen Community Hospital (where a successful pilot scheme has been running since January), St Joseph’s Hospital in Ennis and Carrigoran House Care Centre, Newmarket -on-Fergus.

The tours will be delivered by Azure trained visual artists Will O’Kane, Eleanor Feely (actress and artist in residence at St Joseph’s Hospital, Ennis, who has been delivering dementia gallery tours in glór, for a number of years, pre-COVID) and Nicola Henley, Arts Coordinator at Raheen Day Care Centre.

Strand 3 – Alzheimer’s Society Ireland (ASI)

The third strand is open to all to through The Alzheimer’s Society Ireland (ASI), Co Clare, many of whom have been adversely affected by forced closures of Day Centres. Sessions will be set up through the outreach network of ASI who are currently providing ‘Day Care at Home’ and ‘Home care’ help to people living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia and their carers. These will be one-hour long and are set up and led by a trained dementia inclusive facilitator, who will guide participants through a selection of artworks, actively encouraging conversation and responses to each work. Tours are for those living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia in Clare but people are welcome and encouraged to share and experience the tour with a family member, a friend or a carer. Visual Voices will offer a social strand to all participants and carers, building relationships and forging friendships with others in similar circumstances, through an shared interest in art.

Strand 4

In addition to the virtual art tours on line, Visual Voices is planning a collaborative project with a group of older people from the community and Ennis based visual artist Will O’Kane. Together they will curate an exhibition of selected artworks from Clare County Council’s Art Collection, creating a virtual exhibition which will be hosted on Clare County Council’s website arts section, which will be a tool to encourage people to take part in the Visual Voices programme along the way.

It is hoped that by enabling people through Visual Voices to meet in groups online over a shared interest, identifying those with an appetite (burgeoning or established) for the visual arts, that this will help to give participants greater confidence to consider doing other cultural activities, online themselves and will also encourage people to re-connect and to start planning for when social activity based around the arts and gallery visits in the post-COVID era can take place again.

For further information or to get involved please contact Nicola Henley, Visual Voices Coordinator, Co Clare nhenley6@gmail.com or call Clare Arts Office at 065 6899091

Participating Artists