St. Mary’s N.S, Per Cent for Art Commission, 2015 / 2016

Funded by The Department of Education and Skills. 

Artists: Clodagh Emoe – Participatory element 

Daniela Backhaus – Participatory dance element

The Per Cent for Art commission was advertised in April, 2015 for St. Mary’s National School, a Primary School situated in the historic village of Saggart on the outskirts of South Dublin. The school has almost 600 students, 70% of which are of international origin. They also have a cohort of 24 children with special needs. 

The Public Art Working Group, chaired by Rina Whyte, Public Art Curator concurred that the best use of their commissioning monies was to ensure that projects commissioned would engage all children, staff and local community. With that being the root of the brief, it was decided to split the budget and commission between two artists in different disciplines but with artistic practices that would also develop from working with this school. 

A two stage selection process was undertaken and professional artists Clodagh Emoe and Daniela Backhaus were selected to work on a participatory art project and a participatory dance project due to their exceeding the brief requirements in proposals at Stage 2. 

Clodagh’s proposal for ‘Gather Together – A process led, participatory art project’ incorporated the exploration of the various cultural backgrounds of children in the school in a series of process led workshops, storytelling and the gathering of fabrics of meaning to the children and their families to be used to make storytelling mats. Clodagh also arranged the filming of the project by means of documentation and for a screening event for parents in June 2016. 

Daniela Backhaus’s proposal sought to work with every child through dance, and creative workshops took place in the school in a two week intensive period in April, 2016. The workshops involved the children at every level, prop making, costume construction, dance and participation to suit their own level of engagement. The whole school became a canvas as both indoor and outdoor areas were explored through dance. ‘Vivaldi’s Four Seasons’ and ‘Hand in Hand’ were the two dance artworks developed during Daniela’s time in the school and culminated in a performance on Tuesday 26th April, 2016. The project was documented by a film maker who travelled from Germany with her, Manuel Schuler. 

‘The school and children’s response to the two projects has been incredible. They took a risk to do something a little different with their Per Cent for Art grant, not focusing on an ‘end product’ but with a vision for process, inclusion, engagement and legacy. I truly believe both the school and the artists achieved their goals and extended their creative practices by undertaking this commission’. 

Rina Whyte, Independent Public Art Curator. 



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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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