DUNMANWAY’S ‘Garden of Expression’ featuring the work of six highly acclaimed artists is due to open at the end of September.
The sculpture garden is just one aspect of a project that has – with the backing of Cork County Council, Dunmanway Community Council, and the local Chamber of Commerce – seen the transformation of a former vocational school site.
The neglected one-and-a-half-acre site had been idle for the last 18 years before Cllr Deirdre Kelly (FF), Sarah Cahalane and Tommy Collins – all members of the Community Council – saw the potential to create a new public amenity, meditation space, and landmark art park.
Cllr Kelly pointed out that with new local authority housing being developed close to the Lakelands site, the time was right to plan, clear, prep, and plant the garden for locals to enjoy.
The Garden of Expression will feature a life-size dog made from scrap metal by artist Nigel Connell-Bass. A piece by a man, who can only be described as an artists’ artist, the late James McCarthy, has also been donated by his family. Maura O’Connell from The Casting Studio is providing a life-size torso. Veronica Twomey’s contribution is an abstract work of art, and Finn Kearney is sharing a Medusa-style head with the people of Dunmanway.
As word went out, interest grew, and now the town’s twin – Quéven in France – is happily providing a life-size work for the park.
Cllr Kelly told The Southern Star: ‘It’s great that a site that has been neglected for such a long time is generating such interest and goodwill.
‘It will not only give the people of Dunmanway an additional outdoor recreational area, it’s also likely to interest West Cork people who are looking for new places to visit.’
As owners of the site, Cork County Council green lit the project and allowed the volunteers access to clean it up, but they provided practical support and ground work too through the offices of the local area engineer, Cait Lehane, and the town foreman, Jeremiah O’Mahony.
Sarah Cahalane even prevailed upon her builder husband, Donal, to lend a hand, and on any given day there could be six or more locals working on site.
When Future Forests Garden Centre in Kealkil heard about it, they kindly donated 60 plants to help add interest and texture to the park, but with things like a big biodiverse bug hotel built by local man, Charlie Horgan, and an outsized Alice in Wonderland chair, there should be plenty to retain the interest of children too.
Cllr Kelly said the patch of ground, which was once waist deep in weeds, is already looking fabulous. But not content to rest on their laurels, Sarah and Deirdre told The Southern Star they are already looking ahead to phase two and the possible redevelopment of an old building on site in the weeks and months ahead.
‘It will need some money to renovate the building, but if we are successful in completing that it would give us space to hold community workshops,’ said Deirdre.