Stewarts Arts Group was formed in 1998. We are a very dynamic gathering of Day Service staff and clients. Our aim is to promote, support and develop self-expression through artistic means.
2003 saw us embark on a unique and innovative project. We wanted to explore the suitability of photography for our clients—could it provide meaningful activity, pleasure and satisfaction for them? With this in mind we decided to organise a photographic exhibition. All Stewart’s clients and staff were invited to take a photograph on the theme of ‘nature and the environment’. Only one photograph from one person could be submitted.
Stewart’s management were very supportive and proactive about the project. They provided us with disposable cameras, the use of digital cameras and film. Technical aids, literature and advice were supplied by the group. Everyone was encouraged to have a go.
Photography is an alien activity for many people. Poor-quality holiday photographs are a testament to that. Many of our clients had never held a camera, let alone taken a photograph—it was a totally new experience. Our clients were allowed a few practice shots. Some got the hang of it easily—for others, ‘point and shoot’ was the best advice on offer.
Photographs could be taken anywhere in Ireland, anytime during the month of September. This meant lots of bus trips to the sea, zoo and woodlands. Many people traversed around the Stewart’s campus in search of the elusive photograph.
The Arts Group were surprised by the number of entries. In excess of 700 photographs were developed (thanks to Stewarts). Some 350 of them were entered for an in-house exhibition. A panel of internal and external judges had a very tough job selecting the best 36. These were further whittled down to 12 photos to be used in Stewarts inaugural calendar. There was great anticipation leading up to the exhibition. Both clients and staff were so excited to see the photos on show (and of course, others had to face disappointment). There was a great buzz around the hall. Everyone was very eager to see their own and their friends’ photos. It was great to watch people linger to study the photos in detail—identifying names and places, or laughing at witty titles.
Following the in-house exhibition, the best 36 photographs were enlarged and mounted on board, and they were exhibited in Ballyfermot Community Civic Centre. We had an official opening to which all the photographers; their families and friends were invited. Wine, minerals and tasty morsels were provided. Many people were so excited just to be there. The exhibition itself received great acclaim.
For most people, showing their artistic work in public is only a dream. The Arts Group has helped make this dream come true for many of our clients. It is hoped that more exhibitions will be mounted in the future, in order to feature as many of the original photographs as possible.
The project Expose has been much more successful than any of us in the Arts Group could have imagined. It created new opportunities and experiences for clients and staff alike. We were all amazed at the quality of the photographs submitted. Including staff in the project was a great idea as it facilitated both clients and staff to participate in a project successfully. Thus adding a great sense of pride and achievement. Stewarts Arts Group believes that photography is a very suitable client activity. We also believe that inclusive projects are beneficial to all.