Announcing our new Early Years Artist in Residence!

We are delighted to announce that Joanna Parkes will be the recipient of the John Coolahan Early Years Artist Residency 2019.

Last year we established a new 12 month Early Years Artist Residency, which provided the selected artist with a yearlong opportunity to develop their early years artistic practice in association with The Ark. Established in honour of Professor John Coolahan, a long-standing member of The Ark's board, the residency celebrates his outstanding contribution to education in Ireland during his long and rich career. It was established as an annual opportunity for three years with a different artist being selected to take up the residency each year, the inaugural recipient in 2018 being Lucy Hill. Today the recipient for the 2019 residency was announced as Joanna Parkes.

This residency recognises the importance of the arts in early childhood and aims to nurture and support the development of professional artists working in this emerging sector of arts practice. Applications were invited for a lead artist who would become The Ark’s Early Years Artist in Residence for one year. Professional artists of all disciplines who already work with children aged 2-4 were invited to apply.

Today Director of The Ark Aideen Howard, announced the recipient as Joanna Parkes saying, “We are delighted to announce Joanna Parkes as the new John Coolahan Early Years Artist in Residence at The Ark. This residency is at the heart of The Ark’s commitment to the important audience of children in the early years of their lives supported by The Arts Council. Joanna has a unique record of making outstanding theatre work for children and we look forward to working with her for a full year. The year-long residency allows an artist time to explore ideas and develop practice in-depth. Joanna will be the second Early Years Artist in Residence following visual artist Lucy Hill who will complete her year in April 2019.”

Joanna Parkes said, “I am honoured that The Ark has offered me the second John Coolahan Early Years Artists Residency and I relish this opportunity to invent, investigate and imagine with young children. It is always a privilege to work with the passionate team of people in The Ark and within the creative spaces the building of The Ark provides. I am looking forward to becoming an ‘honorary child’ and to providing opportunities for children and grown-ups to play together using drama and story, where the everyday and ordinary can exist alongside the unexpected and extraordinary, and where we can celebrate the fascinating thoughts and ideas that emerge from the rich and fertile imaginations of young children.”

Joanna has been working in the field of Creative Arts Education as a Drama Facilitator for many years, in many diverse contexts. Her practice uses participative process drama methods, underpinned by her belief that Drama provides people of all ages - from toddlers to 90 year olds - with wonderful opportunities to investigate the world, and their role within it, through play and imagination. Primary School education has been the focus of much of her work: designing and implementing educational drama projects, delivering teacher training and producing teacher resources. She was one of 6 lead Artists chosen for a National research initiative in 2014: Exploring Teacher/ Artist Partnerships. In 2018, she was appointed as a Creative Associate in the Creative Schools initiative led by the Arts Council, in partnership with the Department of Education. Since 2013, her work has had an increased focus on Early Years contexts. This work has included a series of interactive drama and story workshops at the Ark, a commission by glór in Ennis to develop a 6 week Early Years residency and an ongoing collaboration with Joanna Williams (Little Bigtop) to produce performances for Early Years audiences, which blend the engagement and interaction of a drama process with the immersive magic of theatre and puppetry. She recently completed a Masters in Early Childhood Education which specifically examined the role drama can play in supporting children’s holistic personal development, reinforcing Joanna’s belief in the profound, transformative power of drama and early engagement with the arts.

As producing venue, The Ark is committed to providing a vibrant regular engagement in a year round programme for early years audiences. We are also strongly committed to supporting the development of artists who work with children as part of their practice. In line with our current strategy, this residency aims to weave together both of these key aspects of our work.