Team of Mayo artists craft a living ‘outdoor room’ in museum woodland

Saw Tun and Henri Hedou, Mayo Art Squad with Realta Mcloughlin, at the unveiling of Teach Saileach/Willow House a large bee-hive shaped ‘outdoor room’, woven from living willow and other natural materials using traditional skills by Members of Mayo Arts Squad, a community arts initiative sponsored by Mayo County Council at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Photo : Keith Heneghan / Phocus

Saw Tun and Henri Hedou, Mayo Art Squad with Realta Mcloughlin, at the unveiling of Teach Saileach/Willow House a large bee-hive shaped ‘outdoor room’, woven from living willow and other natural materials using traditional skills by Members of Mayo Arts Squad, a community arts initiative sponsored by Mayo County Council at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Photo : Keith Heneghan / Phocus

A striking new willow structure made by a group of Mayo artists is wowing visitors at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, following its official unveiling last week. Teach Saileach/Willow House is a large bee-hive shaped ‘outdoor room’, woven from living willow and other natural materials using traditional skills. It forms an impressive new woodland structure for museum visitors to explore and will also be used as an outdoor classroom for education programmes.

Members of Mayo Arts Squad, a community arts initiative sponsored by Mayo County Council, partnered with the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life to create Teach-Saileach/Willow House as part of the On Sight annual arts trail in the award-winning grounds of Turlough Park House.

The artists and designers involved were: Mick Smyth (coordinator ); Brendan Timlin, Kevin MacNeely, David McInerney and Saw Tun. The artists worked on site for six weeks to complete the building project while Sanita Vecbrale, Paul O’Driscoll and Aidan Crotty also created three large willow sculptures dotted across the museum grounds as part of the arts trail.

Ms Jo Holmwood from the children’s arts organisation, Kids Own Publishing, was in Turlough Park last week to perform the official launch of Willow House.

She said “This project is all about encouraging children and families to engage with nature, making this a very special initiative. I would like to congratulate all involved in Willow House and hope it will serve to further the relationship between children and families and this museum.”

Praising the On Sight artists, curator at the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, Ms Rosa Meehan, said,“The National Museum of Ireland truly values this collaboration with Mayo Arts Squad and Mayo Arts Office. This annual, site specific arts trail in the Green Flag award-winning grounds of Turlough Park started from small beginnings nearly 10 years ago. There has been an organic evolution of the project since then, with each year bringing changes and growth, creating and deepening relationships between artists, visitors and the museum staff. The museum and visitors truly value what the artists open up for us, the on-going dialogues, the conversations, evoking of memory and sharing of skills.”

Explaining the inspiration for the artwork, Mick Smyth, coordinator of Mayo Arts Squad, said “This was an amazing project. The natural environment informed so much of this work. Willow is a beautiful material, natural and local and used over many centuries because it serves a very useful purpose. To be able to incorporate all of these elements into an arts project, drawing the visitor into this space and weaving together a story and a pattern; that is what this project is all about.”

Willow House is located in a secluded but accessible scenic wooded area to the rear of the exhibition galleries, close to one of Turlough Park’s oldest trees. Visitors are welcome to explore Willow House at any time during museum opening hours.

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