Student Kotryna Knystautaite from St Oliver’s Community College, Drogheda along with 10 other students have been working in partnership with the Highlanes Gallery in Drogheda and with the British Council as part of Student Select. The students involved have selected and curated an exhibition, which opened on 25th of November.
The countdown had stopped. The day had finally arrived. It was the day of the opening.
Many months of decision making, days spent in the gallery and countless meetings have all culminated in our exhibition and we were finally opening it up to the public. We invited everyone we knew- family, friends and teachers, but we also had other important guests coming to see the exhibition- the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, TD; Heather Humphreys, Sir Ciaran Devane; CE of the British Arts Council and two of the exhibiting artists; Mariele Neudecker and Graham Crowley, the pressure was on!
On the afternoon of the opening day, we had the opportunity to meet Marielle Neudecker and Graham Crowley. They told us about their lives and inspirations. It was really fascinating to hear the artist themselves reveal their thoughts, the ideas behind their creations and to hear their opinions on how their art complemented the other artworks surrounding them. It was an amazing experience, as soon we would have to be the ones giving tours of all the art that was now in the gallery.
As the opening night grew closer there was a hint of nervousness in the air between us. In a few moments we will have to give one of, if not the most, important tour of the exhibition to our special guests. In our heads we recited all of the facts, dates and names we learnt over the past few months about the art surrounding us, remembering the connections that we mapped out and why we hung certain works in certain places. Our family, friends and teachers started to filter in through the doors. The time had come!
We greeted and shook hands with Heather Humphreys and Sir Ciaran Devane as they walked into the gallery. In pairs we led them and the other guests through the gallery telling them about the art along the way. After the tour everybody who came gathered downstairs at the altar. Niamh McDonnell (St. Oliver’s) and Cáit McArdle (Our Lady’s College Greenhills) gave amazing speeches about the Student Select, how we came about to do this and the work we did up to the opening. They were followed with speeches from some of the distinguished guests and Aoife Ruane, the director of the gallery.
We were excited and proud to finally be able to fully share the exhibition with the public. We were building up to this point all the time and hearing the thoughts, praise and observations of our families, our teachers, general visitors and special guests on ‘In Sense Of Place’ definitely gave us feelings of affirmation and accomplishment. After the opening we celebrated with dinner and it was nice to socialise with all the people we worked with for so long.
During the weeks the exhibition was open we gave tours to secondary and primary school students. On most of these tours we spent time listening to the opinions of the students and discussing them, rather than just telling them the exact information. Art should always be based on your own interpretation. At the end of the tours the primary school students drew out their favourite art piece. It was great to see their enthusiasm, they were less inhibited than the older students.
We also held a workshop based on the works in our exhibition. It was set up for kids between the ages of 4 and 12. We were thrilled that 45 kids came and they brought recycled materials in primary and secondary colours. Together we assembled shapes out of the materials they brought, inspired by Tony Cragg’s ‘Canoe’. We also discussed the colour wheel and complementary colours, we put the theory to practice with pastels. Another work we took inspiration from is ‘Mean-mean’ and we made collages.
This was a once in a lifetime experience, we learnt so much about contemporary art and how a gallery works and we so happy to be involved in such a great project.