The Ark creates original cultural programmes for children in a purpose built venue in the heart of Dublin.
We seek to achieve the highest standards of arts practice for children aged 2-12 through performances, exhibitions and workshops with leading Irish and international artists. Our work evolves through partnerships, touring and research as well as professional development workshops for teachers and artists. The Ark aims to facilitate access to its work for all children.
Sheila DeCourcy (Chair)
Donnchadh Ó Madagáin
|Theatre Programmer||Maria Fleming||(01) 899 email@example.com|
|Aideen Lynch||(01) firstname.lastname@example.org|
Box Office & Audience Development Manager
Visitor Services Assistant
|Aisling O'Brien||(01) 670 email@example.com|
Assistant Production Manager
For all press and media enquiries please contact:
Sinead O’Doherty / Gerry Lundberg
Gerry Lundberg Public Relations
Tel: 01 679 8476 / 086 259 1070
Over the years, lots of people have been kind enough to say some lovely things about the The Ark. We thought we’d share just a few of them here, to help give a flavour of The Ark experience to anyone who hasn’t visited us before.
“A sterling put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is salute to children’
The Irish Times
“It’s fantastic to have a place like this”
“Brilliantly designed – a remarkable building”
Times Education Supplement
“Put simply, The Ark means opportunity. A former Presbyterian Church, but now almost a fairy-tale world in the cultural centre of Dublin city where any given day is filled with magic and imagination.”
The Event Guide
“Crucially, the Ark…understands the chemistry that happens when children meet other children.”
“It was enormously exciting to be part of The Ark – even for a little while – and to feel the energy and creativity that fills the whole building.”
Cecily O’Neill, adaptor of The Golden Apple, 2008
A Staged Reading of ‘The Golden Apple’, Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival Family Season 2008
“I had a fantastic experience working with all the people at The Ark on The Giant Blue Hand. I found them hugely enthusiastic, extremely committed and with the highest production values, as high, if not higher than in any other professional theatre company. I honestly feel this production at The Ark has raised the bar for children's theatre in this country.”
Marina Carr, Playwright, ‘The Giant Blue Hand’
"The Ark was one of the great and certainly one of the most enduring initiatives to come out of the reinvention of Temple Bar. My children loved the place, so warm and welcoming and fairly fizzing with creativity, and now that they are too old for it - but then, is one ever too old for The Ark? - they recall it with vivid fondness. Long may this wonderful children's centre thrive."
John Banville, novelist and screenwriter
“Just a note to say how much I loved the show. It was amazing, everyone should see it from 4 to 400 years...Great production and performance, you are doing a wonderful service by bringing raw and imaginative theatre to a young audience…Ooooh aaah aaah..”
Robbie Harris, Musician
‘The Girl Who Forgot To Sing Badly’ (The Ark in association with Theatre Lovett)
“..I hugely enjoyed it, it was really charming and Louis Lovett was just marvellous. I liked seeing the theatre too, it reminded me a bit of the Globe in London, a pint-sized Globe, very intimate, a perfect scale for theatre for children.”
Deirdre Madden, Writer
‘The Girl Who Forgot To Sing Badly’ (The Ark in association with Theatre Lovett)
“The Ark […] is a truly amazing organisation”
Leas Giles-Peters, State Library of Queensland
"The work you're doing at The Ark is very inspirational."
Eleanor Albanese, Canadian children's playwright, March
“One 10ish boy sitting near us said “How do they do that – this is brilliant –10 out of 10”. Now it is seriously difficult to grab that age cohort – a real testament to the work I think!”
Enid Reid-Whyte, Theatre Specialist, The Arts Council [Funder]
The Ark and Dublin Theatre Festival – ‘Short Stories’
“Last September when we visited Dublin and the Ark to meet with you and your staff, we were so impressed by the wonderful work you are accomplishing with the youth of Ireland. Your team has done an amazing job with your methodology around programming. “
Jill Medvedow, Director, The Institute of Contemporaty Art, Boston
“We were very impressed by the transformation of the space and its shared useage with the community of Temple Bar, there is much that we can learn from this in terms of our own redevelopment. Equally impressive is the respect inherent in every aspect of the organisation for the voice of the child and their cultural entitlement. “
Lynda Winstanley, Performing Arts Officer, Darlington Arts Centre & Civic Theatre
“This time last year Heather and her pals had the art workshop in The Ark, it was total magic, doing a little script and filming it etc. and then coming back later to see the results. You have no idea how much stimulation it gave them and how many scripts and lyrics have been written since. It is frightening to think how much we DON'T stimulate children to develop their creativity. “
Martin Croghan, Senior Lecturer in the School of Communications & Journalism in DCU
About the building
The Ark was designed by Michael Kelly and Shane O'Toole of Group 91 Architects and has received awards and praise for its innovative and contemporary design. Housed on the site of a former Presbyterian Meeting House (1728), it incorporates the carefully restored front facade of the church. It extends to 1,500 square meters (16,000 square feet) and house a theatre, a gallery and a workshop.
The Ark’s original façade is the only remaining feature of the Presbyterian Meeting House. The wood used in the reception area is made from American White Oak and floors are Portuguese Sandstone. Many of the walls in The Ark are made from exposed concrete – a controversial choice for a building designed for children. However, the choice of material shows how the space has been created to take children seriously.
The Ark’s core space, the Theatre, has been built to intimate proportions so as not to intimidate children. The amphitheatre-shaped space also adds to the feeling of warmth, and ensures that the audience feel closely connected to the performances. Award-winning architect Santiago Callatravas designed the outer doors that open up the Theatre’s stage onto Temple Bar Square.
360 degree tour of The Ark's Theatre & Gallery
The ceiling in the Basement was designed by James Scahnlon, one of Ireland's leading stained glass artists, and is intended to represent the underbelly of the ark. The long wooden tabless in this space open up to benches to mimic Church pews, a homage to the building’s Presbyterian roots. The tubes visible in the wall are the air conditioning ducts, and the space also incorporates a "back cabin", which is an intimate space with a skylight meant to mimic a port hole in the ark. The bathroom cubile doors replicate the shape of the Workshop windows.
Long Room (1st floor)
Light streams through from the large windows in this space. The glass sections in the window frames are not uniform because they are handmade. The Presbyterians did not have the technology to role out large glass sheets so they hand-blew smaller panes of glass before pressing these between wooden boards. The decorative surface under the balcony was created in 1998 by Martina Galvin and as part of the “Of Land and Sky” programme, where the artist and 1,500 children used natural materials (woods, dyes, etc) to create patterns. The Eagle Bench was originally commissioned from Owen Crawford for Temple Street Children’s Hospital. It was placed in the waiting room but people kept tripping over it (!) so it found a happy and safe home in The Ark.
Gallery (2nd floor)
The lower height of gallery’s ceiling is to accommodate the size of the theatre space. This is a multi-functional, practical space, with movable walls to change the shape of the room.
Workshop (3rd floor)
The Workshop is situated on the only floor of the building that would not have existed in the original Presbyterian Meeting House. The best light for working artists is from the north, so the four bays in the roof with northern light panels are a very important part of the design. The curved glass wall to the roof garden also helps optimize the light in the building. The mosaics in the roof garden were created as part of the Plant an Idea programme, during wich the artist Laurie O’Hagan worked with children to create mosaics inspired by a trip to the Botanical Gardens.
Fire and Safety in the building
The stairs are built from perforated metal so that the staircase can be ventilated in an emergency. The perforated metal also allows natural sunlight to illuminate the stairwell. The skylight in the roof pops open when the alarm sounds, and in the case of a fire would act as a chimney, allowing smoke to rise through the stairs and out of the roof. Throughout the building, metal and non flammable materials have been used with the intention of isolating any potential accidents. Battery packs in the light fixtures provide emergency lighting in case of a power failure, and windows have been place in the doors as best practice
Founding years: 1991-1994
In 1991 the Irish Government decided to renew the Temple Bar area of Dublin as the city’s Cultural Quarter. Martin Drury, who later became Director of The Ark from 1995 to 2001, was engaged by Laura Magahy, Chief Executive of Temple Bar Properties (now Temple Bar Cultural Trust) to look at the feasibility of providing dedicated cultural services for children. This landmark study recommended a unique cultural centre which would be custom-designed to present and facilitate a wide range of arts experiences for children from all backgrounds. This ambitious proposal fired the imagination of many decision-makers. It won financial support and The Ark was launched.
With support from the Irish Government and the European Regional Development Funds, the construction programme for the 1,500 square metre centre began in the spring of 1994. The inspiration behind the project attracted many visionary corporate partners and with their support, and through the support of grants from the Arts Council, Dublin Corporation, the Department of Education and Skills and the Ireland Funds, The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children, opened its doors in September 1995.
Background to the name
The centre was named The Ark for several reasons. Firstly, it was considered important to have a name that children would be able to say, read and write easily. It was also important that the name had some meaning for children, and the story of the ark is familiar to most children. Finally, The Ark was chosen as a descriptive title which neatly encapsulated the spirit of the mission of the building: safe, adventurous voyaging.
In September 1995, after three and a half years of planning and preparation, The Ark opened its doors as Europe’s first custom-designed arts centre for children. During its first full year of activity The Ark’s characteristic and innovative programming began to take root through a wide variety of original work, commissioned especially to strike a balance between the ‘child as looker’ and ‘child as maker’. By the late nineties The Ark was producing an increasing amount of commissioned work, and won the Judges’ Special Award in the inaugural Irish Times/ESB Theatre Awards.
After four years of operation, the challenge of demand exceeding supply is manifest and The Ark began to develop work outside the centre to meet this demand. The Ark’s mission to reach more children was also underpinned by the introduction of the 20% Scheme, which offered a ticket discount for schools serving disadvantaged areas, and by the ArkAngels friends scheme which has helped secure The Ark's commitment to keeping admission charges low for all children.
In 2000 The Ark Cultural Trust for Children, a sister organisation of The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children was established. The Trust was dedicated to raising funds to develop the work of The Ark outside the centre and, in particular, to reaching children who for whatever reason, could not access The Ark. With funds raised through the Trust, The Ark initiated a four-strand outreach programme in 2000: in hospitals (The Healing Ark), in the community of Fatima Mansions (ArkLink), through new media and technology (ark.ie and Arkimedia) and a touring initiative (The Mobile Ark).
Other highlights of the first years of the new millennium included The Ark’s participation in the Special Olympics World Games in 2003, a ground-breaking percussion show called Elements, which toured internationally in early 2005, and the Ark’s first in-school visual arts exhibition: Leonardo Da Vinci; The Art of Invention. In 2005 Arkimedia brought record numbers of children and families through The Ark’s doors during Save the Robots, The Ark's first extensive public summer programme, attracting 9,000 people to the exhibition and workshops and 5,000 to accompanying free outdoor events. In its first ten years The Ark presented 110 different programmes and welcomed 228,916 children and 30,900 adults cross its threshold.
In the years following its tenth birthday, The Ark has continued to develop the multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary quality of its programming, reflecting new paradigms in children’s lives. The focus on programming partnerships with festivals like the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival, Dublin Dance Festival and Temple Bar Tradfest has been strengthened and The Ark has continued to provide a national leadership and advocacy role, championing the pursuit of cultural excellence for children.
In 2006 The Butterfly Effect: An ArkLink Retrospective, celebrated the captivating artwork of the participating children of ArkLink, the culmination of the six-year programme in partnership with Fatima Mansions. In 2007 The Ark celebrated its 12th birthday (the organisation’s last year as a “child”) with a year-long programme of collaborative artistic projects which expressed the varied nature of contemporary children’s lives through visual art, theatre, music, dance, science and design. That year's summer project, TOYS! broke all previous box office records attracting nearly 11,000 visitors in 39 days.
The Ark was the first venue in the world to secure the rights for the world premier theatre production of the best-selling book Beware of the Storybook Wolves in 2008. And Mandscape, a project funded by the Arts Council Touring experiment allowed children across Ireland to access and engage with contemporary visual art. The world premier of The Giant Blue Hand by Marina Carr received a nomination for an Irish Times Theatre Award in 2009, and renowned traditional singers Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Moya Brennan, performing together for the first time, appeared at The Ark during Temple Bar Tradfest.
In 2010 Louis Lovett was appointed The Ark’s first Theatre Maker in Residence, and The Girl who Forgot to Sing Badly, presented by The Ark in association with Theatre Lovett enjoyed critically acclaimed runs in spring and as part of the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival ReViewed, followed by a national tour. StorySpark, a literature event presented in partnership with Children’s Books Ireland and Poetry Ireland was the first major literature event in Dublin as part of the UNESCO City of Literature designation.
In 2011 The Ark's focus on partnership continues, and Crafted Creatures, presented in partnership with the Crafts Council of Ireland in celebration of Year of Craft 2011 saw more than 7,000 people attend the free exhibition of animal-themed craft (curated by Brian Kennedy) and related workshops and events. Crafted Creatures also incorporated a family treasure-hunt trail between The Ark and the National Museum of Ireland, Decorative Arts and History.
The Girl who Forgot to Sing Badly enjoyed a successful run on The Abbey Theatre's Peacock Stage, and will tour to the prestigious Imaginate Festival in Edinburgh in May 2011.
In June 2011 The Ark will launch the start of its three-year focus on music with an ambitious summer-long programme for schools and families.