Sowing the seeds to reap rich reward

Jim Higgins, Heritage Officer for Galway City Council, viewing one of the exhibits at Sowing a Seed: Archives to Art exhibition at Tuam Library.
Jim Higgins, Heritage Officer for Galway City Council, viewing one of the exhibits at Sowing a Seed: Archives to Art exhibition at Tuam Library.

Six compelling artists have responded with vision and imagination to the brief of a lifetime – bringing the history of the city and county to life from the pages of Galway’s rich written archive. The six artists will unveil the fruits of their labour this Friday, as the Galway County Council Archives unveil Sowing a Seed: Archives to Art.

The eagerly-awaited exhibition, which will take place in the Tuam library, will feature the works of talented artists Joan Finnegan, Kathleen Furey, Lisa-Marie Manthey, Selma Makela, Gala Tomasso and Carmel Tynan. All six have been working with the Galway County Council archives to capture four unique pieces of local history through the voice of art.

And Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter has a clear vision of what the project can achieve.

“It’s a way of inviting a new audience to use the archives in a new way,” she says.

The four documents range from the years 1722 to 1866; the beginning of the Georgian Era right up to the Famine period and its scarring legacy.

They offer a real insight into the various issues of Irish life at the time – be it the business and economic affairs of the landed class, Galway’s institutional layout and design…and even a visceral, poignant look into the personal lives of Galway’s people.

Patria chose the four documents. “I wanted material that would be aesthetically pleasing for the artists,” she says.

The first document chosen was an ornate map dating all the way back to 1722, detailing the lands and property of the Kelly’s of Castlekelly Estate.

The map is significant as it was used as part of an indenture between John Kelly and a Robert Walter of Rookwood, Co. Galway, giving the modern viewer an interesting glance into the nature of landed economics from the period.

The Kelly clan of Castlekelly had a storied history, from their involvment in the Jacobite cause during the Williamite wars to becoming one of Galway’s largest land owners.

And Patria felt this map could not be omitted from the exhibition.

“Texturally it’s got the parchment, the paper, the seals, the beautiful handwriting and it’s got the history, it has everything in it,” she says.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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