NEWRY, Mourne and Down District Council has appointed its first artist in residence. Ceramic designer Áine McKenna recently took up the post at Down Arts Centre, where she works in her own studio and runs classes for local residents. The council agreed in September 2022 to develop an Artist in Residence Programme in Down Arts Centre.
A similar scheme had run in the legacy Down Council and its revival for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council links in with its Arts, Culture and Heritage Strategy for 2022-27, which aims to strengthen the sector following the impact of Covid-19. The residency scheme is designed to allow designer/makers the opportunity to develop their practice, curate exhibitions and work with the local community. Since her autumn appointment, Áine has held workshops with several local schools, ranging from A-Level support to supporting students with special needs. She has also worked with charities such as Mainstay DRP, which provides a range of services for people with learning disabilities and autism, and their families. Speaking of her experience working with the charity, Áine said: “I really enjoyed working with Mainstay DRP.
“There was a sense of joy among those taking part. This type of work offers a real sense of achievement, especially for those with learning difficulties. “The group made a collection of Christmas decorations, pinch pots, which don’t require any equipment, and tiles, all the while engaging with the materials and learning something new. It was wonderful to see them adore pottery, which in itself is a therapeutic process.”
Holly Shields, Mainstay DRP, said: “Mainstay are delighted to have the opportunity to use the amazing pottery space at the Down Arts Centre. “Artist in residence Áine has been amazing with our clients. They have thoroughly enjoyed their time creating beautiful pottery pieces. They all leave with a great sense of achievement, watching their piece take shape. “Kevin Kerr, one of the clients, wishes that every day could be pottery day!” As part of her training, Áine undertook a degree in Fine and Applied Art from the University of Ulster before going on to do a Masters in Ceramic Design at Staffordshire University, in the pottery heartland of Stoke on Trent. She now has over 10 years of experience specialising in creating unique ceramics. Creating translucent pieces from porcelain paper clay, her innovative designs are made with the intention that they look like paper, always warranting a second look from the viewer.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council chairperson Michael Savage said: “It is fantastic to see Down Arts Centre full of life, with visitors able to see our new Artist in Residence in action in the studio. “Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is committed to providing access to arts opportunities, which can dramatically improve health and well-being, counter inequalities and increase social engagement. I wish Áine continued success with her residency and hope that the Council can continue to provide future similar opportunities.” Visitors to Down Arts Centre can see Áine at work in her studio and her work is also on display and for sale in the centre’s craft shop. For further information, contact Down Arts Centre on 0330 137 4014 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org