The Shire Reeve's Tale: 18

Tonight, as High Sheriff of Belfast, I open the “Art in Progress” exhibition at Ormeau Baths Gallery in Belfast, whiich runs from 29th March-2nd April. I will be welcomed to the Gallery by its Chaiman Martin Bradley MBE and Community and Education Officer Ciara Hickey.

It is not every day that children get to see artwork they have produced exhibited in a major public gallery. For over 200 children from Belfast involved in children’s projects at OBG, this exciting prospect became a reality as the work they have created was shown at a major Public Gallery.

‘Art in Progress’ is the result of three projects which took place within the last year. In what could be a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’, children from seven of Primary Schools, six in Belfast and one in Hillsborough, showcased their work at OBG, the leading contemporary visual art space in Northern Ireland, which I opened as Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1996.

The three projects were:

The Great Art Quest (sponsored by Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts). This year, ‘The Great Art Quest’ which launched in September, sees OBG featuring alongside Tate Liverpool; The Saatchi Gallery (London); and Oriel Davies Gallery (Powys). The purpose of the project is to provide opportunity for school children to be involved in the world of art by introducing Key Stage 2 children to visual art venues in their city. The project selects renowned galleries throughout the UK each working with four primary schools.

Each school made a separate trip to OBG and the pupils enjoyed an interactive tour of the exhibition followed by a session with a story teller and visual artist, who then paid a visit to each school. Schools involved in the Great Art Quest at OBG are: Carr’s Glen Primary School; Holy Family Primary School; St Clare’s Primary School – All in Belfast and Meadow Bridge Primary School, Hillsborough. The Story Teller for the project is Steve Lally and the Artist is Anushiya Sundaralingam

Now in its third consecutive year the ‘Great Art Quest’ has seen over 700 children being introduced to the inspirational world of the arts. This is the first year that OBG has taken part in the Great Art Quest. Previous galleries have included Graves Gallery (Sheffield), The Harris Museum & Art Gallery (Preston), The Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge) and The Courtauld Institute of Art (London).

‘Artist in Residency Scheme’This OBG designed initiative is now in its third year. The project places a professional artist in primary schools which have little access to artists or art facilities. The artist in residence will work closely with a teacher and pupils over the course of one term. A wide range of art techniques and mediums are employed and art is used as a vehicle for exploring and bringing to life areas of the curriculum as well as addressing talking and listening and critical analysis skills.

Artists delivering the project are Anushiya Sundaralingam and Jim Russell. Schools participating in this year’s Artist in Residency are Mercy Primary School; Bunscoil ant Sleibhe Dhuibh and Victoria Park Primary School – all located in Belfast. Each year this project is very much over subscribed and we are currently seeking funding to expand the project to include more schools for a longer period.

OBG Saturday Art ClubThis OBG designed initiative runs throughout the year. Education Officer Ciara Hickey works with professional artists to design and deliver art workshops in a wide range of media built around the themes of OBG exhibitions. Workshops aim to encourage young people’s awareness and engagement of the arts outside of the classroom.

My own interest in Art was engendered when I delivered the Belfast Telegraph as a boy to the home of Danny (Daniel) O'Neill (1920-74) at 4 Hall Street, Conlig. My father owned the local shop and Danny, his family and George Campbell (1917-79) used to come there. George visited Danny often, as did Gerard Dillon (1916-71) and they had a sort of Artist's colony in our village.

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