The Ringsend Roses

rose 2

A local seniors group, The Ringsend Roses, had their artwork recognised at an exhibition at the National Gallery of Ireland, Clare Street on June 26th, the culmination of a 10 week art course that took place in Ringsend Community Centre.

The project was a result of a working relationship between The Docklands Seniors Forum and the National Gallery of Ireland, with the objective of getting seniors more personally engaged and socially active.

Joan Taafe, member of the Docklands Seniors Forum and a participant in the course, was the one who got the project rolling after discovering that a similar initiative in East Wall had recently seen great success among seniors on the opposite side of the Liffey.

After teaming up with Elaine Leader, who works on the National Gallery’s outreach campaign, they set up base camp in the Blue Room in Ringsend Community Centre. It was here they met once a week over a 10 week period to engage their inner artist and learn stenciling, etching, painting and working with art-based technologies that have been used for hundreds of years.

Taafe spoke to NewsFour about the apprehension that members initially felt when the project was proposed, given the participants’ lack of artistic experience.
“Beforehand, all I could ever draw was matchstick men,” she said. “The other people, one or two of them, have a little bit of art culture, but the rest of us were all just matchstick men. It’s something for seniors in the area to do instead of sitting in front of the telly all day.”

Over the course of the 10 week period, between eight and 11 seniors participated in the course, all of them from the Ringsend-Irishtown area. The group were also given free access to the facilities in the community centre.
“Most of us have L-Plates on our backs!” Taafe told NewsFour. “We have really progressed in 10 weeks. It just shows the community that you don’t have to be full of art to begin with.”

The National Gallery sponsored the course and the programme was financed through The Ireland Funds, part of the outreach objective from the Gallery specifically aligned to work with elderly people. Brina Casey served as the liaison between the gallery and the Roses.

Leader had previously taken the group to the Gallery, where they enjoyed privileged access not normally afforded to the general public. She was full of praise for the senior students, who overcame early apprehension to end up with an exhibition dedicated to them.

“I think they underestimated themselves when they first started; there was such a gap there since they would have last been engaged in art practice at all,” said Leader. “There were a number of them that were very reluctant at the start, and now they have embraced it.”

Taafe hopes this course is only the beginning of similar programmes being launched in the community and believes that local support is essential in maintaining momentum.

“Anyone who would like to come forward and support us in doing another course, we would love to continue on,” she stated. “Can we get a class going, even if we have to pay three euro a week, just to keep it ongoing, because the interest is so good in it.”

Taafe was also keen to extend thanks to Lorraine and Barbara of the Ringsend-Irishtown Centre for granting the group full access to its amenities, which made the programme possible.

Photo: Joan Taafe.

By Craig Kinsella