As a Shona Project ambassador, I was asked to interview Maeve O’Flaherty about her career with the Arts Council and about the current ‘Blue’ exhibition in Garter Lane at the moment.
Daisy: Thank you so much for talking to me today!
Maeve: No problem at all
Daisy: What is your job with the arts council and what is your connection to the Blue collection?
Maeve: My name is Maeve O’Flaherty and I’ve been working at the Arts Council Collection for a couple of months now. The Arts Council Collection began in 1962 with the aim to purchase artwork from living artists who are at a critical point in their career. We liaise with an arts council collection acquisition committee and we purchase artworks a number of times a year for the arts council collection, so we currently have about 1100+ works within the collection. The collection is considered a museum without walls, we would be in contact with public buildings- hospitals schools etc to show the works and so that the public have access to these works.
Daisy: How would you find the artists/ what criteria are in place for the artists?
Maeve: We do have criteria, we look at artists at a critical point, who are in contact with the arts society in Ireland. So we would attend a lot of exhibitions and regular art events keeping up to date with artists and creators.
Daisy: The Blue collection is made up entirely of female artists, would you see a divide in the representation of female artists in the arts industry?
Maeve: I wouldn’t say that there is a lack of opportunities, the arts council recently launched a Equality, Human Rights and Diversity policy in 2019 to work towards reflecting all art in society at the moment, so we would be working to bridge any divide that was there previously.
Daisy: How important do you think an exhibition like Blue is to give female artists a platform and to showcase female artists together with common themes?
Maeve: Each of the artists work engages deeply important questions and topics from many aspects of Irish society. There are many different ways this particular collection can be linked through themes, medium and subject matters, which highlight the individual works and also brings attention to the selection as made by Sandra Kelly exhibition curator.
Daisy: Would you find from your work that male and female artists express similar themes and emotions within their artwork?
Maeve: I guess because the things people create art about are very broad I wouldn’t necessarily think either gender would make work about any particular area. There are a number of artworks in this exhibition that would be a response to the natural environment and our place within that, like works from Geraldine O’Neill or Daphne Wright, whereas Rachel Fallon or Kathy Prendergast might be looking at more domestic ideas or crafts.
Daisy: Would you often hear of female artists particularly using art as a tool of empowerment or expression, like with Rachel Fallons ‘aprons of power’?
Maeve: I think it was a great piece Fallon made in response to the Repeal the Eighth movement, which was a brilliant example of when a lot of people voiced societal issues and showed female empowerment through their art, and of female voices rising up.
Daisy: Do you think the arts has become more accessible to everyone in recent times, especially during today’s climate?
Maeve: I do think these unprecedented times are a challenge for everyone but they do really highlight how important culture is in our society, and provides time for people to reflect and return to the arts, especially to think beyond and reflect on the importance of the arts in our lives, and hopefully that’s something we can carry on in the future.
Daisy: Do you have any advice for young people- especially young women- trying to break into the arts industry or trying to make it as an artist in Ireland?
Maeve: I guess to stay true to your own voice and to make things that you’re passionate about and things that you would like other people to respond to and talk about. It’s important for you to find connection with the work that you’re making and be able then to connect with other people, it comes from staying true to your own voice and following your intuition in how you’d like to do things.
Due to current circumstances the exhibition can be viewed on the Garter Lane website through photos, videos and slideshows.