Drawing to an End: My Early Years Artist Residency at The Ark

As her year as The Ark's inaugral John Coolahan Early Years Artist in Residence comes to an end, artist Lucy Hill in her latest blog reflects on her recent Seedlings Early Years visual art workshops.

Sewing Someone to Love


Unique and special creatures emerged from remnant scraps of fabrics during our ‘Sewing Someone to Love’ workshops in January. We drew and designed, selected special scraps, added tails, ears and wings, everyone’s different, reminding that products matter as much as processes, particularly when they are made together with love and attention. This residency has for me also become a unique, one of a kind creature that has been stitched together by a lot of people taking care to create something that will last, a thing to remember.

The end of residency talk delivered by myself and Dr. Christina MacRae drew on the forthcoming book ‘Working with Young Children in Museums – Weaving Theory and Practice’ (Routledge 2019 forthcoming) edited by Dr.Abigail Hackett, Dr. Rachel Holmes and Dr. Christina Macrae (my spectacular residency mentor). In this book, Aisling O’Gorman (Creative Arts Manager at The Ark) and I have contributed a case study of my residency. We talked about space, time and materials in relation to young children’s engagement with artistic practices and how those elements were manifested in multiple ways during the residency.

The Mini-museum of Marvellous Stuff

My final workshops for 2 to 4 year olds ‘The Mini-museum of Marvellous Stuff’ also meant attending to small very everyday ordinary things, in ways that made them feel extraordinary. Being presented in a gallery space, some in glass cases, made the very random collection of mismatched (‘worthless’) objects very special indeed. We took them from the walls, played with them, drew pictures of them, photographed them, made models, sang them songs which we recorded and finally re-arranged them back in the displays.

The Ark staff were invited to contribute objects to the ‘museum’ which was a nice way to acknowledge in a very small but symbolic way for me, the part they all played in my residency. Christina MacRae’s ground-breaking academic work also thinks about children’s complex connections to objects and materials, so it was also a way for me to acknowledge her influence on my practice as my mentor. I am so enormously grateful to everyone at the Ark for the vital parts they all played in the residency throughout the year. I have never felt my work with children to be so supported before, on so many levels. The consistency and qualities of the supports have mattered. They have allowed me to take creative risks with what I designed and delivered, to test, try, extend, experiment and push my work with children beyond my own expectations, so that we were able to create work that extended and refreshed expectations of the children, their capabilities and curiosities.

I sincerely hope that this residency model the Ark have initiated to honour Dr John Coolahan, will be taken up by others so that artists and children can be given space to do more important joyful thinking and playing. Next month I am going to Seoul Museum of Modern Art to present the residency to an international audience at the South Korean Arts Education Conference, so hopefully The Ark’s model can have an influence and perhaps inspire Early Years Artists Residencies internationally.

Lucy Hill is a visual artist and was the inaugural recipient of the John Coolahan Early Years Artist Residency at The Ark from May 2018 to April 2019.

The second recipient of this residency is Joanna Parkes, drama facilitator, who will follow in Lucy’s footsteps from the start of May 2019 until April 2020.

Lucy Hill Blog Byline Pic

Lucy Hill is The Ark's Early Years Artist in Residence.

A visual artist, educator and researcher with particular interest and expertise in the area of early years visual arts education, Lucy has exhibited nationally and internationally and has won several public art commissions and awards. You can see some of Lucy's work at her website: https://www.lucyhill.ie/