‘It is important to show art that reflects different people’

New arts project promoting cultural diversity will hold exhibitions and workshops in Dublin, Cork and Galway over coming months

Irish Museum of Modern Arts Communal Project
Seven of the artists at the Irish Museum of Modern Arts Communal Project event. Photograph: The Museum of Everyone

A new arts project encouraging people intimidated by museums, and celebrating the contributions of ethnic minority artists in Ireland, is being extended after initial success.

Brendan Fox, curator of arts group Museum of Everyone, said the Communal project aimed to unite creatives from underrepresented communities and increase their visibility while attracting new audiences to the country’s museums and galleries.

Fox said people did not often venture outside the familiarity of communities to experience the culture, heritage and spirituality.

‘’It is important to show art that reflects different people. We want multiple communities that coexist within cities to develop a space for them to work collectively,” he said.


“Is there potential for us to build authentic connections through art, and how can art empowers communities and drive integration? These are what we are exploring with the project.’’

Irish Museum of Modern Arts Communal Project
Interaction and communal meal between artists and participants. Photograph: The Museum of Everyone

The arts group developed the project to bring artists, writers, curators and performers from ethnically diverse backgrounds together and showcase their cultural identities.

A recent workshop at the Irish Museum of Modern Arts (IMMA) featured the works of seven artists who had been part of a Museum of Everyone’s residency programme.

“They have different skills, unique perspectives and lived experiences. Through round-table talks around racism, homophobia, and other challenges in their day-to-day practice they can collaborate and forge partnerships. It’s important we do not let artists of colour be invisible in our industry,” Fox said.

Fox said following the success of the pilot programme that began at IMMA in March, Communal would be holding a series of workshops, talks, communal meals and interactive exhibitions in museums and galleries in Dublin, Galway and Cork over the next 15 months. Further activities set to take place at Galway Arts Centre for Culture Night in September, Fox said.

“Many museums want to work with us because we are increasing audiences. It’s refreshing because participants are not the typical white middle-class audience. So, we hope we can bring in more people who are intimidated by the notion of a museum or gallery, and those who don’t like institutions.”

Irish Museum of Modern Arts Communal Project
Visual artist Ella Bertilsson builds a realism set for her soon to be released movie. Photograph: The Museum of Everyone

Interdisciplinary artist Thaís Muniz was featured at the event last weekend. Muniz partnered with multi-instrumentalist and capoeira enthusiast Chico Feitosa to run a workshop, called Back in Bahia, to explore the historical contexts and symbolisms of Afro-Brazilian traditions.

It was a display of rhythm with sound produced from berimbau – a single-string bow instrument originally from Africa that became popular in Brazil.

‘’We are interested in observing how the sharing of ancestral knowledge is important for the preservation of both collective and individual identities,” the pair said.

‘’We are both from Bahia in Brazil and we like the idea of finding connections to home, which is the history behind berimbau. Sharing our identity, culture and learning history is important to us.

‘’We wanted to show participants how the preservation of cultures in the case of home displacement and transit can be used as emotional support for people and communities.’’

Pradeep Mahadeshwar, originally from India and moved to Ireland in 2012, also took part in the project and said he enjoys expressing himself through performances, illustrations and moving images.

Through art, the Dublin-based film-maker, writer and LGBTQ+ activist has been researching the effects of racism and sexism on the mental and sexual health of LGBTQ+ people of colour living in Ireland.

‘’When a queer person moves from country to country, there is always a difference in how they are perceived in their new environment. In my case, even within the queer community, I noticed a lot of stereotyping based on my ethnicity and skin tone,” he said.

“It sometimes felt like they didn’t expect an Indian person to be gay. My experiences informed the kind of art I create today.”

Mahadeshwar said he had found it a struggle to get visibility and collaborations in the Irish arts industry over the last decade.

“I haven’t seen many people doing my form of art and it can sometimes be challenging finding your feet. There are days you feel so isolated and don’t feel invited to the art space.”

A recent survey by the Arts Council showed a disproportionate number of applicants from marginalised communities benefited from art grants. The study found that disabled people, Irish Travellers and black men are more likely to be classified as ineligible for funding.

Joselle Ntumba, cultural producer at Éireann and I, a collaborative project that sources, contextualises and chronicles the experience of black migrants in Ireland, is keen for more support and opportunities for artists of colour.

“What’s going on in the industry right now is an anomaly,” Ntumba said. “There is no level playing field. You see people setting up their own spaces and relying on the community and their friends to thrive. This can make artists feel alienated.”

Irish Museum of Modern Arts Communal Project
Art work from Between Lines project. Photograph: The Museum of Everyone

Basil Al-Rawi is an Irish-Iraqi multidisciplinary artist working with photography, moving images, and digital simulation.

His latest work Between Lines is a participatory project with Iraqis living in Ireland, and it explores the use of photography, video, sound, and virtual reality to explore themes of home, displacement, memory and identity.

“The works represented were participants’ responses to previous workshops where they were asked to share food, memories, and the stories about their identity,” Al-Rawi explained.

He said the Communal project was exciting and created a lot of cross-community exchange.

Other artists involved in the project include writer Sandrine Ndahiro and visual artists Ella Bertilsson, Istvan Laszlo and Sarah Edmondson.