Age & Opportunity’s Arts programme is delighted to announce the recipients of its three Artists awards – the Creative Ageing Writing Bursary goes to Laurence McKeown, the Professional Development Artist Award to Maree Hensey and the Emerging Artist Award to Katie Nolan.
“We hope the awards honour the contribution that these artists are making to the arts in Ireland. We are delighted to be able to support them in developing their work,” said Tara Byrne, Arts Programme Manager. “Like the Bealtaine Festival, the awards serve to remind us of the potential in all of us to sustain and realise our creativity no matter what age we are.”
Creative Ageing Writing Bursary
Launched in 2021, the Age & Opportunity Creative Ageing Writing Bursary aims to generate discussion, debate and knowledge about creative ageing in Ireland. The recipient is charged with writing an essay or reflection that will be useful for people who work with or are thinking of working with older people, including older artists.
This year’s recipient, Laurence McKeown, is a writer and former republican prisoner in the North of Ireland from 1976-1992. During that time, he took part in the protests for the return of political status and spent 70 days on hunger strike in 1981.
On receiving the award Laurence said it would allow him time to reflect upon his practice over the past 30+ years and the changes that have occurred in him and in and what it is he now wants to say. He would “write what I’ve discovered about about myself and other people; about humanity, about the power of words and the opportunity to speak, write, and record words.”
In the later years of his imprisonment Laurence was heavily involved in the development and delivery of the prisoners’ own educational programme.
Since his release Laurence has written extensively about the prison experience – in a doctoral thesis (published in 2002 titled Out of Time), a feature film (H3), a play (The Laughter of our Children), and numerous articles and book chapters. His recent prison memoir, Time Shadows (2021), covers the first five years of his imprisonment detailing his experiences on the blanket protest and hunger strike.
In December 2018 Salmon Poetry published Laurence’s debut collection of poetry titled Threads.
Over the past 15 years Laurence has collaborated with Kabosh Theatre, Belfast who have produced several of his plays including Green And Blue, which is based on an oral archive of serving RUC and An Garda Síochána officers.
Professional Development Artist Award
First awarded in 2022, the Professional Development Artist Award aims to celebrate lifelong learning by encouraging and supporting professional older artists who wish to further develop their career and practice.
This year’s awardee, Maree Hensey, is a visual artist whose practice encompasses drawing, print sculpture, installation and collaboration. She appreciates the value and intrinsic importance of her practice, its authenticity and genuine benefits, as she gets older.
“I believe I have a something to say and am always seeking new visual languages to express this. The Professional Development Artist Award will support the development of my art practice. It will validate the point to where I have got to and where to go next.”
Her practice increases her visibility. It ignites her interest and passion to broaden her skills. Material is an integral component in her practice. She uses materials that are rich in associations and investigates ways to transform them, often projecting new identities and layers of meaning onto the work in doing so.
Maree has completed several Public Art Commissions, Site Specific Installations, Artist in Residence programmes and Community Based Participatory Art projects. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including group shows in Roscommon Arts Centre; the Hamilton Gallery, Co. Sligo; Drawing Box International, Athens School of Fine Arts, Greece; Script III, Envision Art Show, USA; and Drawing Box International, Galerie Abstract Project, Paris, France.
Emerging Artist Bursary
The Age & Opportunity Emerging Artist Bursary, also inaugurated in 2022, aims to encourage and support older artists who are at an early stage in their career. It celebrates the determination and achievements of someone in the second half of their life who has embarked on a full-time artistic path with a view to becoming a professional artist.
This year’s recipient, Katie Nolan, returned to education aged 50. As someone in the early stages of her professional career, she says the award will be “pivotal in giving me the time, confidence and funds to delve deeper into my current explorations into historical practices of wool production in Ireland, the associated impacts on social, cultural and economic development”.
Katie completed her BA in Visual Art on Sherkin Island and in 2022 graduated with first class honours from TU Dublin’s MA Art & Environment. She aims to create opportunities for the development of reflective expression that can bring humanity’s desensitised relationship to the planet to a broader aesthetic awareness.
Katie’s practice is research based and she has an ardent interest in the relationship between humanity and technology. Her work has explored the entropic nature of our digital culture and the resulting impacts on the wider environment. Using performative processes of creative engagement, her current practice also engages with video, sound, sculptural form and site-specific installation.