School project that's a Model for others

May 25th, 2016 7:10 AM

By Southern Star Team

Proud students of the Model School in Dunmanway with the sculpture they created to mark the 400th anniversary of Ballabuidhe Horse Fair.

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THERE’S nothing quite like getting stuck into a project and the pupils of the progressive school weren’t shy in getting their hands dirty in creating a visually stunning sculpture, which now takes pride of place outside the front of their school. 

Their Ballybuidhe 400 Commemoration Community Art Project saw the pupils’ work with Kilcoe-based artist and arts facilitator, Sonia Caldwell under the remit of the Cork County Council School Arts Scheme, which co-funded the project.

‘It was a great little project. The pupils made the little horses and it was all about designing and creating something and appreciating art. The actual process was more important than the end product,’ Principal Sharon Hosford told The Southern Star.

‘We give ourselves a project to do each school year and this time we decided to apply for the council grant which we were successful in getting. We applied on the basis that Ballybuidhe Races – the oldest continuous horse fair and races in Ireland – was 400 years old last year and we thought it would be a great idea to create something to commemorate this milestone.’

As part of their research into the project the pupils went to Fitzgerald Museum in Cork to learn more about the travelling community and looked up information about Dunmanway in times gone by.

‘We then looked at what we might like to do and we looked at materials that would or would not survive and it made sense to have this sculptural piece outside. The children also wanted to have seating as part of the project, so their parents could sit while waiting to collect them from school,’ added Sharon.

‘The children got to make clay horses and wound wire around them. They washed the clay out so that just the wire horses remained. Other materials that they worked with included concrete, stones, copper wire and beads.’

For artist Sonia Caldwell, working on this community art project was different for her as she described it as more of a long-term project where they all had an end to aim for.

‘Once the school got the grant from Cork County Council I took up the project and had to come up with a plan and costings and to see how many workshops would be needed to complete the project,’ said Sonia.

‘My main challenge was that the final piece was going to be situated outside the school for a long period of time and therefore it would have to be made from weatherproof material. Also I was dealing with a listed heritage building so we were limited as to what we could put on the walls of the building.’

The children were of course very focused on the project and they came up with ideas and drawings of what they would like to design.

‘The focus was really making sure the children got as much benefit out of the process and with me trying to do as little as possible and letting them drive the work. I may have come up with the ideas but they did the actual work, which I might add was quite messy,’ said Sonia.

As she has a particular interest in using materials connected with the immediate environment, Sonia chose to work with copper which has a strong mining history in West Cork, and they also used glass beads to add colour. For the stone mosaic, they were able to use stone chippings from a quarry in Ovens courtesy of Finbarr O’Neill.

‘The junior class did some beading for me and they were delighted to be part of it, while the middle class also did some bead and wirework as well. The older classes got more involved with the messier side of the work through the use of materials like clay.’

Sonia, who has also undertaken projects with other schools under the Heritage For Schools Scheme thoroughly enjoyed working on this project.

‘The hard part was putting it all together at the end on a cold winter day but working with the children was the most satisfying part of the project. I could see them really getting into it. Also it was nice to see them try something that they’ve never tried before,’ said Sonia.

At the official launch of the sculpture which was held recently, it was only fitting that James Connolly, head of Ballybuidhe Racing Committee was there to officiate along with Joe Higgins from Dunmanway Community Council. They both spoke about the old days and both cut the ribbon to officially unveil a sculpture that really makes it mark in front of Dunmanway Model School.

‘There is a stone mosaic and timber seating and a Perspex “road” along which the horses and caravans are “travelling”. The children did a brilliant job aided by Sonia and they now appreciate art out in the community more because they have been there and have been involved in the creative process.’ Concluded Sharon Hosford.

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