Conversations in Portrait has created an authentic cultural experience for older people and their families – without leaving home. Artist Andy Parsons began this virtual portrait project in Spring 2020 as a response to the Covid crisis with the support of the Arts Council’s Covid response Award and Bealtaine at Home. He wanted to explore themes around generosity, dialogue and to offer people access and engagement to culture at a time when it was most needed, while they were cocooning.
To date 12 portraits have been completed in County Roscommon and a further 18 portraits nationally thanks to funding from Creative Ireland and the Keep Well Campaign. Each painting has created a lasting record of a moment in time and is a defiantly optimistic gesture by both artist and sitter at this strange time. The process of making the paintings, which involves long chats about all sorts of different subjects, is as important as the finished paintings, and it adds a unique element to each of the artworks.
The range of different people in the project has been one of its core strengths. As well as connecting people at home, the project was able to connect to people living in care settings and the versatility of the format in reaching out to different places geographically was demonstrated when we were able to connect with an Irish person now living in the U.S.A. This socially engaged project has been representative of the nation-wide intuition to cherish the things we have and be present in our circumstances. It afforded the chance for the sitters to connect with society outside of their homes and care settings in a way that may not have otherwise been possible, seeking out the voices of our cocooning older people.
This online exhibition is presented by Roscommon County Council in partnership with Bealtaine Festival 2020 & 2021