Rachel Followed her Dream to Art College

Local artist, Rachel Gallagher realised a long-held ambition recently when she graduated from art college Limerick School of Art and Design and she’s about to stage her first exhibition. Here, Rachel shares her thoughts on the realisation of that ambition and shows us a sample of her work.

“For as long as can remember, I had wanted to go to Art College, but soon after I sat my Leaving Cert, the parents emigrated from Dublin to Castle Island – well, I followed them and childhood ambitions were put on hold.

The dream of Art College was always in the back of my head though, and with it a vague regret I hadn’t gone there straight out of secondary school; I had taken a year off to sample life in the Kingdom and it had turned into 20 years in the blink of an eye.  I kept up a little bit of drawing over the years and did quite a bit of glass painting for family and friends; it was always in the background.

As my two boys got older and more independent I felt I could apply for FETAC Level 5 art, craft and design classes in Tralee Community College and was thrilled to be accepted.

There followed a year of intensive drawing and painting – as well as eight other modules – under the excellent mentoring of Mary Kirby. New friends were made, and despite – or maybe because of – the serious demands of the course, much fun was had.

Mary also encouraged me to take my dream of going to Art College and run with it. I did and was got accepted to both the Limerick School of Art and Design and Crawford in Cork. I chose Limerick because the road trip seemed shorter and easier.  For good measure, I was now working part-time in Kearney’s, and the best employer on Main Street was quick to help by tweaking the roster whenever college had to take precedence.

The first year of Art College is similar to other university courses in that you do a bit of everything before deciding which discipline, or ‘elective’, you want to major in.

The Fine Art electives were sculpture, print and painting. The Design electives were fashion, ceramics and graphic design (Limerick have just recently added photography, animation, and knitwear and textiles to the curriculum.) I was very tempted by ceramics but ultimately chose painting to study.

Art College is tough; there’s a great deal of theory involved and quite a bit of essay-writing on top of your studio work. I suppose the thinking is that spelling out in words your ideas, motives and inspirations helps clarify or crystallise your artistic vision.

I find inspiration in the home, in the artefacts and furniture and furnishings of everyday life – the things I am most familiar with. The personal objects people hold onto or use every day. I graduated in June of this year, and all my paintings for the final degree show were oil on canvas, but in college I also liked to work with ink or watered-down paint.

My experiences in college and FETAC were some of the best of my life. As a mature student you need to be extremely organised to balance college work and home life; it’s like a military operation!  And sometimes you need to know that you just can’t do everything, so you take a day off.

The drive to Limerick every day was a challenge in itself but I was doing something that I love. Also you’re meeting other like-minded people and other mature students that understand how busy it can be, everyone is in the same boat in other words. As a result I have made about a hundred new friends of all ages, had some of the best laughs, (and some tears) have fulfilled a lifelong dream and am coming out with an honours degree.

I would recommend it to anyone.”

Rachel has participated in group exhibitions in: The Hunt Museum in Limerick in 2012; in the Faber Studios, Limerick and as part of ‘The Gathering Project’ at Shannon Airport in 2013 and in the ‘Hospital Shop Window Festival’ earlier this year. The Castleisland showing entitled ‘ Home Comforts’ is her first solo exhibition. It opens at the Ivy Leaf Art Centre in conjunction with the Island Players staging of the Ray Cooney play Run for Your Wife from this evening Wednesday, November 19th to Sunday 23rd. Rachel can be contacted on: rachelgallagher88@yahoo.co.uk  or on 085 149 1870