The sound of hammering echoes from a Georgian house in the village of Killeagh, County Cork. Passers-by stop to pull a book from the free library. In the evening, a glowing circle appears above the river. Inside the house, artists from Ireland and abroad meet for dinner.
This is Greywood Arts. Nestled at the foot of Glenbower Wood, just beside the Dissour River, we aim to position creativity at the heart of East Cork. We are passionate about creating a warm and welcoming space where artists and the community can come together to explore creative processes, to learn and to grow. We do this by hosting artists-in-residence from all over the world, organising community art projects, programming cultural events and offering educational workshops. Our hope is that participants discover a sense of belonging, broaden their perspectives, and deepen their sense of empathy.
Five years ago, Greywood Arts opened its doors as a multi-disciplinary residency space. Located in the main house, it is an artist-run space that attracts those working in the visual, literary and performing arts. We welcome as many residents from Ireland as we do from abroad. We accept applications for our self-funded Creative Process residency on a rolling basis. We frequently support individual artists’ grant applications that include a residency with us, and we are working to broaden our own funded opportunities. We anticipate an open call for a funded residency co-hosted with the National Space Centre this summer. The visual art studio has drafting table and sink, with high ceilings and wooden floors. The Big Studio suits many visual artists, as well as performers, and our cosy writers’ room overlooks the river and is perfect for desk-based creatives. Residencies range from three nights to three months, and we love to support engagement between visiting artists and the local community. Once a week, we have dinner with all of the residents. Outside, two goats and a flock of hens preside over half the old walled garden, alongside newly planted fruit trees and raised beds.
In November 2022, we launched a spectacular light installation at our annual Samhain parade. Villagers carried willow lanterns made during workshops facilitated by Caoimhe Dunn, a member of ISACS (Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network). Then, with everyone gathered on the bridge, Circle of Light (2022) was illuminated. Created by VAI member artist Aoife Banville, it brightens the darker winter months; it is a small yet powerful way to lift our spirits and remind us that our community is strong and united in difficult times.
Last November we partnered with the nearby National Space Centre (NSC) to deliver the first Space Fest – a celebration of art and science for Science Week. We hosted accomplished filmmakers Valerie Van Zuijlen (NE) and Emilia Tapprest (FI) who further developed their docu-fiction work, Our Side of the Moon (2022). This story of ‘moonbouncers’, who communicate by bouncing satellite signals off the moon, explores the complexities of modern technology, connection, synesthesia and embodiment. Emilia filmed a stunning movement scene beneath the NSC’s 32-metre satellite dish with Japanese Cork-based dancer, Haru. The exhibition also showcased photographic works made by nearly 100 young people, who learned about morse code and how light travels, during workshops with artist and educator, Róisín White.
We have a busy spring ahead as we grow by leaps and bounds. In April we plan to launch a new multi-disciplinary network for artists in East Cork and West Waterford. We understood how many artists live in the region, often isolated and unaware of each other. We piloted the project last autumn with the support of both Cork County and Waterford City and County Council arts offices. Members will have access to monthly meetings, half of which will be salon-style sharing events. These will be complemented by talks, workshops and skill sharing. The artists involved in the pilot connected immediately, sharing support and building collaborations. In May, they will have an exhibition and event at Greywood Arts during the May Sunday Festival, which will travel to the Old Market House Arts Centre in Dungarvan later in the year.
May Sunday has been Killeagh village’s festival day for nearly 200 years. Music and dancing on the local landlord’s estate became an annual tradition that shifted to the village centre in the 1920s. The festival had lapsed since 2001, but many locals told us how much they missed the celebration. In 2018, we invited a small team of artists to research the festival and capture local memories, to create a new offering. We moved the festival back to its point of origin, which is now the community owned Glenbower Wood. In 2021 we created a pandemic-safe art trail throughout the wood with the support of Cork County Council. This year, we are once again incorporating an art trail into the festival, thanks to support from the Arts Council’s Festival Investment Scheme. It will run for two weeks, from 29 April to 14 May, featuring both local artists and four more selected by national open call.
Our most thrilling endeavour this spring is the opening of a new venue, The Coach House at Greywood Arts. For the past year we have been overseeing the renovation of a derelict outbuilding into studios for local artists, an arts education space and a flexible 50-seat event and exhibition space. Supported by LEADER, Cork County Council, and a Fund It campaign, it will be a perfect community resource for the small village.
Jessica Bonenfant is Artistic Director of Greywood Arts.