Teenage art puts spotlight on challenge of accessing public and cultural spaces


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Teenage art puts spotlight on challenge of accessing public and cultural spaces Teenage art puts spotlight on challenge of accessing public and cultural spaces

A new exhibition, created by teenagers who have lifelong physical health conditions, aims to highlight the difficulties people can face in accessing cultural and public spaces in Galway.

Spearheaded by the national arts and health charity, Helium Arts, the youth showcase, Helium’s DIY Together, opened online on Monday and features work from young people in Galway and further afield, with bunting, badges and stamps among the items on display.

The Helium Arts Youth Showcase is presented in association with the 2023 TULCA Festival of Visual arts and it follows a year-long programme of art camps and meet-ups, organised by the national health charity.

Based in Westmeath, it has hubs throughout the country, including in the West.

Helium Arts facilitates specialised arts workshops to improve the lives of children and teenagers living with chronic physical health conditions.

The group’s artistic programmes aim to inspire creativity, provide social opportunities, offer new experiences, foster friendships and improve mental health and wellbeing. Young people and their families travel to Galway from across the western region to take part these.

For this show, participants worked with Niamh Gibbons, a professional artist and facilitator. They visited cultural spaces in Galway City and the difficulties they faced in getting to these venues helped to inform their own creative processes and led to discussions about the best way to present their work.

The group also had an opportunity to see the work of professional artists, with a visit to the city’s Galway Arts Centre in March for Set to Go, a show by Benjamin de Búrca and Bárbara Wagner.

In July, they visited the Printworks in Galway City to see Onomatopoeia by painter Diana Copperwhite and Unusual Gestures by photographer Lorraine Tuck, which were being shown as part of Galway International Arts Festival.

The teenagers also participated in creative workshops in the city’s Westside Library and Galway City Museum.

Their exhibition is being showcased on the TULCA and Helium Arts websites and on social media platforms until Friday, December 1.

And an in-person ‘Sharing Day’ for family and friends will be held in Galway City this Saturday, November 18.

It’s running in PorterShed a hAon, on Market Street from 2.30-4.30pm. The exhibition is supported by Galway City Arts Office.

CEO and Artistic Director of Helium Arts, Helene Hugel, explains that 136,000 children in Ireland live with some kind of a lifelong health condition. Around 18,000 of these young people are severely hampered in their daily lives as a result.

“Research shows that young people living with health conditions face loneliness, stress, anxiety, and can feel defined by their condition,” Helene says.

“They experience stigma associated with their condition, social isolation and loneliness, and fewer quality friendships.

“Our year-round work aims to address these challenges,” she adds.

“Our Youth Showcase’is a lovely occasion to applaud the accomplishments, creativity and brilliant ideas of the teenagers who participate in our art workshops and camps, in collaboration with our professional artists.”

The group’s Creative Health Hub West, which includes Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon, is run by Helium in partnership with Saolta Arts, University Hospital Galway and Community Healthcare West.

The Galway event is one of three shows taking place as part of this year’s Helium Arts Youth Showcase, with work from participants in Limerick and Cork also going on display.

People can see the work online at or at

Pictured: Helium participants Henrietta Longstaff, Galway; Tiernan Sheehan, Limerick; Ruth Cotter, Cork; and Sophie Neville, Cork, pictured with Helium Arts artisit Chelsea Canavan and the organisation’s CEO Helene Hugel with  their exhibition pieces for the Helium Arts Youth Showcase 2023. Photograph: Eamon Ward.

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