Yvonne Cullivan is a visual artist and educator based in the West of Ireland. She has fifteen years experience in Fine Art practice, Arts Education, Public & Participatory Arts and Arts Management. She holds a B.A. in Fine Art from Crawford College of Art and Design, Cork, and an M.Sc. in Multimedia from Dublin City University. Yvonne is a Lecturer at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, on the First Year Fine Art & Design Programme and in the Fine Art Media Department. She is also currently engaged as a Creative Associate with the Creative Schools Programme.
Working across a broad range of documentary-style media, including sound, video, photography, interview/conversation, drawing and writing, Yvonne's practice is underpinned by a strong participatory and collaborative approach. She often works within communities of place, rooting the engagement in site-specific research and interdisciplinary knowledge generation. Sustained processes of observation, documentation, collaboration and experiential engagement with place, lead to the creation of new work that is reflective of, appropriate to and shaped by the process.
One of the aspects that I love most about working as an artist, particularly when engaging with a group or community, is the unknown. When I begin a project, nobody really knows what is going to happen, including me! This can be daunting. However, it is also a wonderful space to hold; one that allows for active listening and open response, intuitive exploration and discovery.
What I do know and trust entirely, is the creative process in which all my work is embedded. There will always be a thorough, considered and inclusive engagement. This will have a loose starting point; like a question, intention or broad theme. It will involve research, discussion, observation, documentation, and collection of information. As my sole agenda is usually to create an artwork of some description, I like to get a sense of the ‘bigger picture’ with all its nuances and particularities, whatever the situation. As the engagement unfolds, I constantly review and refine the information that comes to me, slowly shaping a response without feeling any obligation to make it fit a particular form. Eventually, as a result of this entire process, an outcome manifests. Usually it is one that is reflective and relevant, and will take a form that is both surprising and no surprise at all, because it was taking shape throughout the process. The pattern is always the same. Time and time again I doubt the process, usually when I am in the middle of it. Then, when I reach the end, I am reminded that it absolutely works. This is how I work as an artist and as an educator and this is how I am approaching my current role as Creative Associate on the Creative Schools Programme.
Schools are extremely active places. There are enormous pressures of time and workload on staff, pupils and management. The arts subjects are the easiest to squeeze out or the hardest to fit in. However, I am finding an overwhelming desire, from staff and from young people alike, to have more creativity, more freedom and experimentation and play within the curriculum and within school life. There are challenges around this of course, and there are some fears too. I have been engaging in active, visual and collaborative ways with my school coordinators and communities to unearth these challenges and fears and to also explore the opportunities and wishes around a ‘creative school’. Through workshops, surveys, activities, discussions and votes, I have been capturing all relevant voices; from those of the youngest pupils to that of the principle. We have been considering all aspects of the question of creativity in schools, from small practicalities to large visions.
The three schools that I am working with are thoroughly invested in this programme and are bringing great enthusiasm and honesty to the table and placing complete trust in the process that we are undertaking together. They are three very diverse schools, and three very different shapes are beginning to emerge…