Limerick school project combine sculpture, science, and local apple trees

A remarkable art project at a Co Limerick school has combined bronze sculpture, Newton’s theories and local apple trees, writes Ellie O’Byrne

It’s one of the best-loved and most often-repeated tales of scientific discovery: the “Eureka” moment when 17th century physicist Isaac Newton discovered gravitational force while watching an apple fall from a tree in his mother’s garden in Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire. The self-same tree, a traditional cooking apple variety, is now over 400 years old and is still fruiting, despite having been threatened by storm damage in the 19th century.

Now, three trees grown from seeds from Newton’s tree stand in the grounds of Colaiste Íde agus Iosef in Abbeyfeale in Co Limerick; as a symbol of the legacy of scientific endeavour, it is hoped that they will help to plant seeds of inspiration in fertile young minds for generations to come.

The trees are part of an extensive multidisciplinary arts project entitled Planting a Seed, commissioned under the Per Cent for Art scheme, where 1% of the cost of any publicly funded building project can be allocated to the provision of a piece of public art.

Artists Carol Anne Connolly and Augustine O’Donoghue collaborated with students and the local community on a year-long, seasonal project. The resulting output includes a bronze sculpture, a light installation based on Newton’s theory of light, an orchard of local heritage apple trees and a book documenting the project.

“Working in a context like a school, for us it wasn’t about going in and presenting our own work but about bringing people on that journey with us,” O’Donoghue says. Educational elements of the project included Transition Year students learning tree-grafting and seed saving techniques alongside the artists, and attending a workshop on light in the O’Brien Institute in Dublin, home to UCD’s art and science programme.

Working with the accessible symbolism of the apple tree and Newton’s moment also provided the key to paying homage to local heritage and tradition. One of the lasting artefacts, a delicate bronze sculpture of an apple tree branch complete with an apple battling the forces of gravity, which now graces the entrance hall to the newly built school, saw the artists ask locals for donations of apple tree branches for the casting process.

“We literally went around the town knocking on doors,” O’Donoghue says. “People told us their stories and gave us parts of their trees. It’s so exciting to think that their stories and legacies are there in the sculpture, and will be there forever.”

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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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