Our Nation’s Sons

sons of our nation1

If you take a walk around Grand Canal Dock you may notice a giant portrait of a young lad in a hoody looking as if he’s just been told off.

The mural, situated on the wall of a house just on the edge of the basin, is more than just some random painting, instead it’s part of a nationwide art project, called Our Nation’s Sons, run by Joe Caslin, an art teacher from Co. Offaly.

“The project is about how young men are reacting to society and looking at all the negative stereotypes that are out there and just wanting to change it,” Joe says.

sons of our nation3Beginning at the start of 2014, Our Nation’s Sons is one of the nation’s largest art projects, with murals of hooded young men dotted all across the country, including at Achill-Henge in Co.Mayo, outside a shelter for homeless young men in the City, on the side of an old church, in Grand Canal Basin, and on the side of the Nassau Street entrance to Trinity College. The project is speaking for young men, aged between 18 and 25, a group it sees as marginalised by current economic and social problems.

The paintings, Joe tells NewsFour, really touch some people and leave them pondering. More importantly, the project is about leaving a lasting social impact and creating awareness of a problem that was here even before the economic crash.

“The majority of kids are so good, the potential that’s inside them is so powerful, but it’s not being used, it’s not being showcased, it’s not even being respected,” says Joe. “They’re not even given the time to discuss what their possibilities are, and if you look at any press coverage, 99% is negative.”

The statistics for young men aren’t all that promising. A 2013 report by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, regarding mental health and young people in Ireland, found that young Irish people may have higher levels of mental disorder than in other countries. The report also found one in five young Irish people aged 19-24 experience a mental disorder, with mood and anxiety disorders the most common.

A 2013 report by the National Youth Council of Ireland on the topic of emigration found that the majority of those who emigrated in the past four years were aged 18-24 and cited limited employment options as one of the reasons for leaving. It’s no secret that these limited options are impacting on young men, with a 2013 report by the Men and Suicide Project concluding that suicide is five times higher in Irish males than females.

Those startling rates are the reason why Joe’s project is trying to be as inclusive as possible, recruiting young people from bars, clubs and local schools to be a part of the project. Young men get a chance to travel around the country and learn from Joe and his colleagues, many of whom are video editors and sound production people, who provide a positive role model for young men feeling excluded.

“They learn so much, it’s not like they just come along and stick up any image on the side of the wall,” says Joe. “They get to work with all these different professions and pick up different skills.”

The project recently won the Arthur Guinness Fund Award, which will allow Joe to expand to include murals on a number of “iconic buildings” in the coming months. Our Nation’s Sons will also feature as a documentary at the upcoming Galway Film Fleadh later this year.

For more information, visit www.joecaslin.com. If you require more information on the Guinness Fund visit Guinness.com