NCAD Exhibition Highlights Role of Art in Documenting Ireland’s History and Cultural Heritage

Art plays a leading role in documenting Ireland’s history, folklore and cultural heritage.

That’s according to Professor Gary Granville, Head of Education at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), who was speaking at the official opening of the 1913 Tapestry exhibition at the NCAD Gallery last night (18.02.14). 

The 1913 Tapestry is the outcome of an ambitious collaborative arts project, led by NCAD and the trade union, SIPTU.  Over the past two years, artists Cathy Henderson and Robert Ballagh – along with staff and students from NCAD – worked with more than 200 volunteers from 30 different community organisations to create the tapestry panels, which tell the story of the 1913 Lockout in graphic images. 

The completed tapestry is comprised of multimedia textile pieces, laid out in comic-book style, with each panel measuring 60cm x 76cm (2ft x 2.5ft).  At the NCAD exhibition, a narrative explanation is displayed next to each panel, detailing who was involved in its creation and how. 

Speaking at the exhibition opening, Professor Gary Granville said: “When we think of the association between history and art, we tend to think of works of art that are decades or even hundreds of years old.  However, this project demonstrates that contemporary art also has a hugely significant role to play in documenting our history and cultural heritage. 

“Art can make complex historical events much more accessible to diverse audiences, and can help people to understand the implications and contemporary relevance of such events.  A project like the 1913 Tapestry makes history engaging to people who might only have a fleeting knowledge of events that happened in years past. 

“Almost all of those who contributed to the tapestry had limited expertise in relation to the Lockout and its historical impact before they became involved in this project.  They were ordinary people from all walks of life, who – through a long-term creative education project – became immersed in this period of Irish history, and created their own artistic interpretation of it.  The participatory nature of the project has been key to its success: the co-operative way in which the tapestry was developed honours the social solidarity displayed by the people of Dublin during the Lockout 100 years ago.”

The volunteers who worked on the 1913 Tapestry included teachers and pupils from five Dublin schools; prisoners from Mountjoy and Limerick prisons; members of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, the Irish Guild of Embroiderers, the Irish Patchwork Society and RADE (Rehabilitation through Art, Drama and Education); trade union activists; and community arts groups.  Many of the volunteers were in attendance at last night’s opening event.

The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn TD, was the guest of honour at the exhibition opening.  Speaking at the event, he said: “The professional artists and the volunteers who were involved in the 1913 Tapestry project have created a hugely important visual record of a key moment in Irish history.  Elements of the tapestry have already been showcased and exhibited in some of the most iconic buildings in Dublin, including Liberty Hall, Collins’ Barracks and the Abbey Theatre, and I’m delighted to officially open this NCAD exhibition.

“Institutions such as NCAD – that have the capacity to develop and deliver engaging creative education projects – have a key role to play throughout the Decade of Commemorations.  I look forward to seeing more collaborative projects like the 1913 Tapestry emerging from NCAD in the years to come to mark some of the other historical events from that important period of Irish history.”

The 1913 Tapestry exhibition is open to the public free of charge, and will run at the NCAD Gallery until Friday, 28th February.  Opening hours are Monday to Friday, 1pm to 5pm.

A number of ancillary events are also taking place at NCAD over the next week to complement the exhibition.  These will include a play by RADE in the Harry Clarke House Lecture Theatre and a public talk on cartoons from the 1913 Lockout. 

The play will take place at 5.30pm tomorrow, Thursday, 20th February, and is open to the public, free of charge.  It is based on original writings, songs and sketches produced by members of RADE in response to the 1913 Tapestry.  A cast of 12 non-professional actors from RADE will perform, accompanied by professional musicians. 

The public talk on cartoons, meanwhile, will take place Wednesday, 26th February at 5pm in NCAD.  It will be led by James Curry, Digital Humanities Doctoral Scholar in Modern Irish History at NUI Galway, and a specialist in historical Irish political cartoons.  A panel of special guests – with expertise in animation and the Lockout – will also participate, discussing cartoons published around the time of the Lockout, and the legacy of this historic event on Irish animation. 

Click here for more information about the 1913 Tapestry exhibition and the programme of ancillary events.