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Ground Up - rural art project 2003 - 2007

Background to the Project:

Ground Up was established by the Arts Office as an experimental programme of contemporary art in rural contexts in Co. Clare. In the main the Arts Office was concerned with the following questions:

• How can contemporary art be brought to a rural audience, in a way that is accessible, but without compromising the art?
• How can visual and contemporary art be viewed by a rural community within their own setting?
• How can contemporary artists overcome their professional isolation and address the need to acquire new skills in their own areas?

Curated by Fiona Woods, the Regional Arts Coordinator for North Clare at the time, Ground Up involved 22 artists over three strands between 2003- 2007, staged a series of public events, generated two publications and 11 temporary public artworks. It had a strong artist-led ethos and laid emphasis on research.

The aims of the project were:

• To facilitate a new type of engagement between public art practice and rural contexts, generating debate and discussion amongst practitioners and the rural constituency that will inform the engagement and the resulting artworks.

To create opportunities for artists to make interesting, challenging artworks where they live, independent of the gallery system.

To create opportunities for contemporary artists in rural areas to overcome their professional isolation, inspire and inform one another, interact with national/ international practitioners and address the need to acquire new skills.

To research ways in which contemporary art can be relevant and accessible to rural audiences without compromising the art.

The desired outcomes of the project were:

• The commencement of a dialogue between artists and rural communities that would generate interest and debate locally about the relationship between art & the rural context.
• To stimulate debate and discussion amongst artists, critics, theorists and the rural population about issues of culture and sustainability.

In the first two strands (2003 – 2005) invited artists were paid to engage in a relatively short, collective research process, which had an inbuilt training and/or mentoring budget that the artists could spend as they chose. Some artists were subsequently commissioned to carry out temporary public works, which themselves involved research stages of various lengths.

The third strand (2006) brought an international dimension with 5 Irish and international artists participating in the programme, assisted by a number of local artists, promoting an exchange of knowledge and information between the two. This strand, titled Rural Vernacular drew an international audience through the conference and on-site symposium Shifting Ground; New Perspectives on Art and Rural Culture 2006. Shifting Ground is a partnership project established between Clare County Council and GMIT.

The County Arts Office produced a publication that documented and extended the researches of Ground Up in 2008, titled Ground Up; Reconsidering Contemporary Art Practice in the Rural Context, ed. Fiona Woods.

The Arts Office also facilitated the establishment of the Ground Up Artists’ Collective (GUAC) in 2008 – an independent artists collective.

The County Arts Office also initiated the Shifting Ground Project in association with Galway Mayo-Institute of Technology in 2006.

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