A COLOURFUL Guerilla Art project, which has seen pieces of ‘urban art’ pop up left right and centre in a bustling West Cork town, has left locals hugely entertained.
Hanging from a tree in the town square, squirrelled away in the seating area by the local lake or simply waiting on street corners to be spotted by the sharp-eyed, the pieces of street art are an initiative by the local Men’s Shed programme which is supported by the Dunmanway Family Resource Centre.
Although the idea for Dunmanway’s Guerilla Art project originated with Community Development Worker Kirsty Smith at the Resource Centre, it’s Charlie Horgan, a member of Dunmanway Men’s Shed and a resident of Dunmanway for some 20 years – his daughter Veronica has featured in these pages as a leader in the Operation Transformation programme – who has really driven the scheme.
The 54-year-old, who lost his job as a scaffolder in the construction industry during the recession, had become deeply involved with the Centre, its Community Garden, and the Men’s Shed project and was fascinated by Kirsty’s idea for a Guerilla Art project in the town.
He and Kirstie were discussing the idea of bringing urban art to Dunmanway – Kirstie had talked about the renowned street art of the English city of Bristol and the impact of the hugely popular fairy doors in Reen Wood outside Leap – he recalls. ‘She asked me if I could picture was she was saying, and I agreed to make a few pieces.
‘I never thought I was creative, but when I showed her the pieces, she said I hit the nail on the head – one of them is a big carved wooden ‘SMILE’! I call it “The Smile” and I think it’d make you smile when you look at it!’
Charlie also carved, painted and engraved pieces of wood, stone and slate with decorated words such as ‘Happiness’ and affirmations such as ‘Everything Happens for a Reason,’ as well as creating a very eye-catching little stone bumblebee, which is now on display in the town library.
He loved creating his pieces, and hopes residents of the town will enjoy them as much as he does: ‘People can take the pieces away if they like, or simply just enjoy them. It’s basically a series of art pieces which promote positivity through words and pictures.’
In all, Charlie recalls the project was completed after about six weekly 90-minute sessions. However he says, it wasn’t all about making art: ‘Some of the men came up with good ideas and we worked together, but it wasn’t just about making art – these sessions were also based around positive mental health.
‘Men don’t find it as easy to talk about their feelings as women and the sessions provided a sort of drop-in where the men could come and have a look at what we were doing, and enjoy a chat.
‘I told them that they didn’t actually have to make something – and that it would be a bonus and if they did – but people came in and were able to open up about things in their lives. That alone made the six week sessions worth it,’ he recalls.
About 20 pieces of art are now on display around the town: ‘They’re in places such as the town square, in the seating area near the lake and in the window of the local library. The idea, at the end of the day, is to help people feel a bit better in themselves.’
Reading an affirmation which says ‘Everything Happens for a Reason’ can sometimes help, Charlie says: ‘What we wanted to do was to help cheer people up. I really enjoyed the project. There was a purpose in doing something positive. It’s nice to do something that gets a smile from someone – there’s enough negativity around.’
After losing his job during the recession, says Charlie, he experienced a few difficult years:
‘I know what it’s like to feel down.
I have been there myself and I can relate to these pieces of art myself, so I hope that other people will be able to relate to them as well.’
Fellow Men’s Shed member Sean McCarthy, a former moulding technician, helped out, providing tools and sourcing and machining wood for the project: ‘I think it was a very good idea,’ says the 42-year-old.
‘It adds a little colour to the place,’ says the father of three, who quips: ‘My artistic abilities are zilch but my equipment came in handy! I was glad to be able to help with the practical side of things in terms of how to get the raw material prepared – and I was also on hand to make the coffee!’
All going well, says Charlie, this won’t be the last time the Dunmanway Men’s Shed injects a little extra colour and fun into the town’s street-life: ‘Hopefully we’ll get the go-ahead and the encouragement to do something similar in the near future – maybe later this month!’