Session Three, The Ballot Box

Artist: Helen Barry

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With less than a week to go before the ballot boxes around the country are filled we were delighted to have the time and commitment of local Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor for our third session. The class are very aware of many of the social and cultural issues we face today and are quite up to speed with who their local politicians are. I had been in contact with the teacher Ms Walker since our last session structuring the questions in order to have clear focus to this session. The aim of the session was to support the girls and draw out their priorities that would inform their own election they would host in the school during the week that would coincide with the General Election. The outcome of their election would become the basis of their New Proclamation for 2016. Celebration 2016 has become a pivotal theme with many children throughout the different schools where I am based.
Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD is an experienced principal and teacher was an ideal candidate to talk with and listen to the class. She asked key questions that enabled the children to present their views, ambitions and vision for change. Some of the items that were discussed were, children’s right to vote, the student counsel, the standard of school toilets, mental health and mindfulness, languages, healthy eating campaigns, homelessness, school breakfast club, the design of the outdoor areas of the school and the mixing of the girls and boys schools. Looking through the list we covered quite a lot. We will need to identify and priorities three of four questions for our ballot paper. ‘New Generation’ the 5th class party will host their election this week and will invite 3rd class upwards to vote.The girls also used this as an opportunity to present their designs for their party names and logos. Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD supported them by wearing the ‘New Generation’ party badge on her lapel.
To date it does seem that we have spent quite a large portion of our time talking rather than making. For me as an artist I make work about what is relevant to me and this can take many forms and many hours of research. When I work collaboratively with children I ensure that what we do remains relevant to their lives. My approach may be quite diverse and experimental at times but when the focus remains relevant to the children it has the potential to offer a more worthwhile and meaningful experience whilst giving an in-depth appreciation of contemporary art.
Our guest stayed for the first half of the session and the second hour our aim was to make and prepare a plate for printmaking in the following session. The girls were asked to work in pairs and create a picture or design inspired by words or ideas from our discussions. The printmaking would use traditional calligraphic printmaking techniques and materials. We would use an old-style printing press not too dissimilar from one that would have been used to print the Proclamation in 1916.

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