Staircase Poems

Artist Name(s) Alice Lyons
Artwork title Staircase Poems

Staircase Poems was a year-long public art project by poet and visual artist Alice Lyons for The Dock arts centre, commissioned by Leitrim County Council under the Per Cent for Art Scheme. The site for the commission was the central staircase in The Dock. A new poem was written every month for 12 months by Lyons from August 2005 to September 2006. The poems were then installed on the main staircase and in some cases on the surrounding walls of the main hall.

The context for the commission was the Dock's audience: the "public" of the greater Carrick-on-Shannon region, which includes County Leitrim and reaches into Roscommon, Longford and Sligo. How, once they came in to the building - and at that, a building with some grim and painful associations as it was for many years the fulcrum of colonial rule when it served as the Courthouse–might they be encouraged to return? Thus emerged the idea of a project on the staircase that changed monthly for a year. If people came through the doors in September and encountered a poem on the stairs, they might want to come back to see a new poem in November, and so on.

A book, Staircase Poems, was published in 2006 and a blog was created by Lyons to document and archive the project. 


book, Staircase Poems, was produced alongside the project.

blog was created by the artist to document the project.


Alice Lyons was born in Paterson, New Jersey and grew up in the United States. In 1998, she came to live in Cootehall, County Roscommon, where she still lives with her family. Her work embraces poetry and visual art. Her first collection of poems, speck, won the 2002 Patrick Kavanagh Award for Poetry (speck, Netherlea, Belfast, 2009). In 2004 she was awarded the inaugural Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. She has been supported by bursaries in literature from the Arts Council in 2003 and 2007. Earlier work received an award from the Academy of American Poets in 1981.

Lyons's poems have appeared in The Irish Review, Stand, Tygodnik Powszecheny, Poetry Ireland Review, mermaid turbulence's element, The Shop, Barrow Street, Tears in the Fence, and Dancing With Kitty Stobling (Lilliput Press, 2005). She was directly commissioned for a year-long public art project, Staircase Poems, at The Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim in 2005-06, Her poem/intervention at The Barracks on Cootehall, Viewfinder (2008), was part of AFTER, an artist-led public art response to the changed landscape as a result of Ireland's economic boom.

Her paintings and drawings have been widely exhibited and are in the collections of the Office of Public Works and NUI Galway. Her film-poem, Erasures, won the award for best first film at the Sligo Short Film Festival, 2005. The Polish Language, a film-poem made in collaboration with Orla Mc Hardy, was funded by a 2008 Frameworks Animation award from The Irish Film Board, RTÉ and The Arts Council.

She studied European History at Connecticut College (B.A. 1982), Sociolinguistics at the University of Pennsylvania (M.S. 1988) and Painting at Boston University (M.F.A. 1994). She has lectured in Art & Design at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and at Maine College of Art in Portland. In 2009, she was Assistant Commissioner for Ireland at the Venice Biennale.

Commission Type Local Authority
Commissioner Name Leitrim County Council
Commissioning process Direct Commission
Public Presentation dates August 1, 2005 - September 1, 2006
Artform Literature,Visual Arts
Percent for art Yes
Location The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon
County Leitrim
Content contributor(s) Alice Lyons
Relationship to project Artist
Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Alice worked closely with Silverstone, a sign and graphics company in Kimmage, Dublin in the design and execution of the poems.



Commission Call Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

16 August 2017

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and dlr Mill Theatre, Dundrum, invite proposals for a commission focusing on the creation of new work through...More..

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Greystones Educate Together National School appointed a voluntary committee with relevant expertise to oversee the per cent for art commissioning process. An external curator, Máire Davey, was appointed specifically for her expertise in working in a highly collaborative way as meaningful involvement from the students and school was viewed as central to the process. The procurement route chosen was limited invited competition.

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