Red Bird Youth Collective was fortunate to receive funding over two phases in 2015 for NYCI’s Artist in Youth Work Residency. NYCI had been on Galway Arts Centre’s radar for a number of years, and in 2015 we finally had project proposal that suited NYCI’s criteria. Red Bird Youth Collective is as youth led resource for young people aged 15 – 23 in Galway Arts Centre. Its members are from both Galway City and County. From its beginning in 2011, Red Bird has had over 50 members come and go, and completed 8 large scale and ambitious projects in Visual Art and Architecture.
The establishment and objectives for the group were borne out of a 3-year action research
project led by the Visual Art Department in Galway Arts Centre. It was felt that GAC had the capacity to support a youth-led Visual Art Collective. It would have been easier not to do this; we’ve found that it is very easy to ignore the needs and cultural rights of young people. The term ‘youth-led’ is also not a very common thing: we found through our initial research back in 2008 – 2011 that most youth arts programmes were very heavily directed by adults. However the other side of the research showed that young people have never had so much access to information, never had so much access to creativity, yet have never been under so much pressure both academically and socially. A space governed by young people, for young people was needed. This space needed to be resourced and facilitated, but it also needed to have autonomy.
For a young person interested in the arts, school does to always provide enough access and challenges. The Visual Art Curriculum is primarily drawing based and skills based. A vast History of Art programme accompanies the Leaving Certificate Art and Design course. Nowhere in the Junior or Senior Cycle, is a young person asked for their critical opinion on contemporary art. They do not develop their own creative ideas; instead they respond as best they can to a brief. There are no digital elements. Red Bird Youth Collective encourages creative and critical thinking. Problem-solving is a skill that the facilitators spend the most time developing. Red Bird is not a pre-art school course. Creativity and visual art is for everyone, not just professional artists. Red Bird has had members interested in engineering, science, architecture, writing and sport. Having a creative outlet is normal and expected in a young person’s life, as well it should be.
Red Bird Youth Collective supports young people but it has never claimed to be a developmental group or a service facilitated by qualified youth workers. It is an art collective that, by the fact that it is youth-led and interested in the lives of young people, has evolved into a place where young people are supported in their personal development as well as their creative development. Therefore it was a strong candidate for NYCI funding in 2015.
In the next blog post, Red Bird participants and artist Siobhan McGibbon will write about the project they did with NYCI.
Maeve Mulrennan is the Head of Visual Art and Education in Galway Arts Centre. GAC's Visual Art programme focuses on new work from Irish artists in all visual media. It also partners with some of the festival in the city including Galway International Arts Festival, Tulca Festival of Visual Art and Baboró International Arts Festival for Children. The Education programme includes the successful Burning Bright programme for older people and Red Bird Youth Arts Collective. Maeve Mulrennan has been based in GAC since 2006. She lectures in Education Policy and Visual Art as part of the MA in Arts Policy & Practice in NUI Galway and also teaches with the NODE Centre for Curatorial Studies in Berlin. She is on the Tulca Board of Directors and the Galway University Hospitals' Arts Trust working committee.