Arts in the Community: Discussion

I welcome the witnesses. Our discussion today will focus on utilising the arts to combat disadvantage among the young, the old and the socially disadvantaged and to encourage the greater integration of social inclusion with local communities. I welcome the following: Ms Julie Spollen, chairperson, liaison and facilitating artist, Anam Beo; Ms Rowena Keaveny, secretary, and Mr. Beesley, participant representative; Mr. Johnny Groden, development officer, Western Care; Ms Mary Jackson, co-ordinator, Tacú Family Resource Centre, Ballinrobe representing the Luisne Art Project, Ms Michelle Walsh, administrator; and Ms Maureen Harrington, centre manager; Mr. Peter Hynes, county manager, Mayo County Council; Ms Ann McCarthy, arts officer; and Mr. Pat Gallagher, county manager, Offaly County Council; and Ms Sinéad O'Reilly, arts officer. I thank the witnesses for their attendance.

I draw the attention of the witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they are to give this committee. If a witness is directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and the witness continues to so do, the witness is entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of his or her evidence. Witnesses are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and witnesses are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

I advise the witnesses that the opening statements they submitted to the committee will be published on the committee website after this meeting.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official by name in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

There are four organisations appearing before the committee and I propose that we take them in the following order: Anam Beo, the Luisne Art Project, Mayo County Council and Offaly County Council. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Before I invite the first witness to commence, I would like to make the following comments. Today we are beginning our consideration of a new topic. This meeting will be one of a series of sessions the committee will hold in the coming weeks. This topic is one of great interest to a large number of members of the committee. We are seeking in the next few weeks to ascertain how best local government and the arts community can interact with each other to provide services and facilities that will benefit local communities and act as an inclusivity factor for the marginalised in our society.

A number of groups representing diverse arts groups across the country will present before the committee in the coming weeks. Being mindful of the resources available, what we are seeking to do here is not so much to try to increase or maximise resources but to provide the witnesses with an opportunity to tell us what is happening in the arts in community, what is being done well in that context and how local authorities, as one of the major proponents of arts in the community, are operating in that respect. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is one of the most significant funders of arts in the community, particularly through local authority programmes, yet there does not seem to be a co-ordinated approach to this within the Department other than by way of the allocation of funds to the local authorities. We would like to examine how local authorities along with the different art groups spend that money and what benefit they get for it. In other words, are we doing what we can and are we doing it in the most cost effective manner? Are we reaching out to the people to whom we need to reach out and are we adding value to local community involvement in terms of its participation?

If we can examine these questions and come up with answers and realistic proposals, we will all have a sense of a job well done. Accordingly, I ask the speakers to address these issues and to provide proposals where change and innovation is required. To commence our consideration of this topic, I invite Ms Julie Spollen to make her opening statement.

Ms Julie Spollen

I would like to thank everyone in this room for recognising that the arts are integral to quality of life and for inviting us here today to share with them what our organisation, Anam Beo, brings to the older and physically disabled members of our community. Anam Beo is an independent arts and health organisation originating from an arts in health programme initiated by Offaly County Council's arts officer, Sinéad O'Reilly, and the Dublin mid-Leinster HSE to support and promote the benefits of the arts within a health care environment. Anam Beo has five professional facilitating artists and its first and foremost concerns are providing participants from health care centres with art workshops and an annual exhibition to enable a creative outlet, ensuring social inclusion in various forms. It is never about the facilitating artists or their artistic needs. It is about sharing our creative skills. Our catch phrase in Anam Beo is, ‘participant, participant, participant'. Anam Beo, Offaly County Council and the Dublin mid-Leinster HSE recognised a need for sustained and consistent arts in health programme and acknowledge the benefits that it provides to our community. It takes particular skills and knowledge from the facilitating artists to bring out the creative individual from within each participant. Each facilitating artist must possess a warmth, empathy and respect for the individual participants and a skill of empowerment, a faith in the individuals and a trust in the creative process. All Anam Beo members contribute many voluntary hours and endeavour to enable continued growth in arts in health within our community and to ensure social inclusion, to fill a recognised gap in services.

Anam Beo facilitated 200 arts in health workshops with more than 1,000 attendances in 2011. This was done on a shoestring and we all understand our financial climate today and the effects it is having on our care centres. The best of them are struggling with basic workload. I have walked into day rooms where 15 people have been sitting silently and within 15 minutes, ten of those people will be Anam Beo participants, chattering and enjoying the atmosphere as an audience. Let us have this atmosphere as a standard and good health will follow.

Our recommendation would be to remember that being alive is not just about breathing, to never forget that all of us today could be isolated in a crowded care centre or undergoing a lonely treatment where practically all our cherished independence and lifestyle has slipped away for whatever reason. Creating access to our process and, most important, participant-led art workshops is one way of combating this grave and distressing disadvantage. We have our skills and knowledge so use us; we are cost effective but we need a budget.

The process-led workshops are non-judgmental and their positive effects are immeasurable and contribute to a quality of life all of us should strive to have and be human enough to allow others to have. Anam Beo has a tried and tested method of best practice in arts in health. Our only restrictions are the size of the room provided and the continued search for sustainable resources. There are rooms full of potential participants so let us not ignore them; please let us not ignore our loved ones or our future selves. I ask the committee to support and endorse what we do.

I would like to read some comments from our participants as one of our participants was unable to attend today. The following were their comments: "It has given me something to believe in"; "It was good to be in a room with a person who believes in you, doing something that keeps your brain alive"; "The painting passes a couple of hours otherwise you just sit there getting browned off, it's boring and lonely doing nothing"; "I am making a dog's dinner of it with my dirty daubing but it is good that it is good to be doing it"; "Did I really do that?"; "I am going to send it to my son in Australia so he can put it on the wall in his office"; "You will not believe that I did it"; and "I would be dead if I did not have this".

Mr. Peter Hynes

With the agreement of Chairman, we want to provide some context in Mayo and will describe the project in more detail, if that is acceptable. We have a PowerPoint presentation and will avoid making jokes about technology not working.

It is a great honour to be here today and have the opportunity to make this presentation. I thank the committee for the invitation, which we value. I am the county manager and will set the context for this project. I am joined by Ms Ann McCarthy, arts officer, Ms Maureen Harrington, centre manager with Western Care, one of our partners in the project, and Ms Mary Jackson and Ms Michelle Walsh, members of Tacú family resource centre in Ballinrobe, the other partners in the project. Ms McCarthy will discuss the project.

Our understanding of Mayo as a place, in terms of a sense of place, pride of place and pride in people, is extremely important to us. It is a combination of art, architecture, landscape and people. When we talk about the vision we as a local authority have for Mayo in the years ahead to 2020, although the Taoiseach has pushed for 2016, we use four words, namely "sustainable", "inclusive", "prosperous" and "proud".

Our arts programme has been running since 1989. We were one of the early counties to appoint an arts officer and have had two exceptional ones. The original was Mr. John Coll, who may be known to some people, in 1989 and Ms McCarthy has taken up the cudgels since 2000. We are very fortunate to have had people of that quality working in the county since 1989.

We would argue the arts programme is not a luxury or something which should be treated lightly when cutbacks are being contemplated. Rather, it is fundamental and a foundation stone of the vision we have for the county. It contributes towards sustainability, inclusiveness, prosperity and pride in the community and county.

I want to issue a subliminal invitation for those who may not have visited Mayo for a while to come and visit. For those who may not know it well, it is a very rugged landscape and county, full of very beautiful places some of which are isolated and hard to get, such as Rossport which some people may know. It is full of unique and spectacular sporting occasions and heritage.

The beach at Doolough may be better known to some people as the setting for one of the scenes in John Millington Synge's "The Playboy of the Western World". The Céide fields have a long history and heritage of Christianity and civilisation going back 5,000 years. One statistic worth remembering is that between 1841 and 2001 we lost 70% of the population. The Famine and places which are underpopulated are at the core of the sense of place in the county. They inform our view on the role of local government, which is about leadership. We were established on a regional basis and three regions are involved.

A lot of what we do about trying to put A and B together in programmes to repair and remake physical and emotional places and communities. In our housing programme, instead of just taking five housing units into account we look at repairing a street, town or village. It is into that context that our arts programme has fitted over the years. We have had a public art programme since 1989.

The contribution the 1% scheme has made to the county has been enormous. There are examples of public art installations, ranging from the very public to much more private, intimate housing schemes, to ephemeral pieces which lasted a couple of days, such as a symposium in Achill in 1996, to celebrations of a community nature such as a project which was part funded from the 1% scheme and a donor from the village, Mr. Bill Durkan, who may be known to some people, celebrating the spirit of the diaspora from the village of Bohola. It is a well-known piece because it featured in a leaving certificate question a number of years ago.

The programme reaches places many other local authority programmes do not. There are places everyone should get to and Inishturk is one of them. On the larger end of the scale, we have had projects like the North Mayo Sculpture Trail in 1993, which is about art in the landscape and community art, as well as people in the community getting a chance to express their view of what makes their place special. It was inspired by projects like Christo's Running Fence and the scale of the installation produced in the project reflected that. A current project is the The Spirit of Place which has been running since 2000 and, it is to be hoped, will run again in 2013.

That sets the context and it is in that context that Ms McCarthy will outline the Luisne project.

Ms Ann McCarthy

I thank the committee for this opportunity. Mr. Patrick Lydon, who initiated the KCAT (Kilkenny Collective for Arts Talent) Project in Kilkenny in the Camphill community which was set up in 1998 as part of the Horizon project, wrote, "The first principle of inclusion is the acknowledgement of the unfathomable mystery and wonder of every individual life" as part of one of our publications. I have provided copies for the committee and ask members to look at them in their own time.

I will put Luisne in the context of Mayo County Council's arts and disability programme. Since 1989, there has been an arts and disability budget and an arts and disability programme in the Mayo. A lot of projects are funded under Western Care. In 1999 the first step in the current partnership was an arts ability project which was run with Cranmore in Ballinrobe. It was an eight month residency where an artist worked with a group, and was very successful. It created 28 pieces of work which were exhibited in the Ballinrobe library. It was a catalyst for further development.

A disability arts co-ordinator, Mr. Damien O'Connor, works part time. He is registered as blind and has been a wonderful catalyst for working on arts and disability because it is only one part of our spectrum of work. We have also been involved in partnerships with bodies such as the Arts Council, IMMA and South Tipperary County Council. We work in partnership throughout the country as well throughout the county. The International Day for People with Disabilities is one of the projects to which I will draw the attention of the committee later on because it might be a recommended mechanism for funding ongoing projects.

We have an arts and disability programme and also integrate, in an inclusive way, all kinds of communities, including people with disabilities, in our main programme. Where possible, we include people with disabilities. Some 40% of the participants in the Mayo Arts Squad, which is funded by the county council and has been in place since 1997, are people with disabilities. Through our Bealtaine and other residencies we include people with disabilities. We have an ongoing programme with Féile na Tuaithe in the National Museum of Ireland and Country Life. Again, we include people with disabilities in those programmes. Through our dance residencies and our writers in residence we ensure that all the groups and the people we work with in the county are included so that we are not leaving anybody out on a regular basis. We also include people with disabilities in our mailing lists. We have an extensive data base and we ensure that all they are aware of all events and that they are in constant contact with the venues in the county so that it is an integrated approach. I am sure members will have heard of the word "meitheal", which is a very strong word in Mayo and this is how we tend to work. We find that this integrated approach works very well in a rural context.

The arts and ability, Rekindling the Spark project was the first part of this delivery and in 2005, Mr. Mick Smith, who was the leader of our Mayo Arts Squad initiated a project with Mr. Seamus Burke, the development officer in Crann Mór in Ballinrobe. They came up with a project with four artists who had extensive experience in the area of working in the health care context and with people from marginalised communities. This echoes the project that the delegation from Offaly County Council will talk about. The Luisne Art Project wanted to put in place a long-term programme that would be meaningful and would give people a real chance to engage with their creativity, not just a programme of six or eight weeks duration. The partners in the project are Western Care, who bring knowledge, funding and support, Tacú, the Family Resource Centre, which has a community development ethos and an automatic mechanism for integration because it is at the centre of the whole community in Ballinrobe and its administrator, Ms Michelle Walsh does all the administration on the projects and all the financial administration. Crann Mór, which is part of Western Care is an advocate for people with disabilities and has long-term and practical supports for engaging people with disabilities in employment. The Mayo County Council Arts Squad brought all its experience with community arts and Mayo County Council brought funding and our own expertise as well. This is one of the first pictures that came out of the arts ability project. Unfortunately Mr. Dermot Mellett passed away a number of years ago and is fondly remembered by all of us.

The core artistic elements of the projects - and this will be echoed in the contribution by Offaly County Council - is that we wanted to explore the possibility of creating an environment where the sole purpose was to create art. We did not have a social or any other agenda, but just to do a quality arts project and to see what happened. It was open ended. The expertise and experience of the artists was essential, without that there would have been no project. Using quality materials and having a space to work was essential. The artists and participants have an equal relationship, there is no differentiation, there is no leader and follower, they all work together. That seems to work very well. There is no set agenda, no timetable and it is all open-ended. We were not looking to have an exhibition in six months or a year. We were just going to see how it went. We gave people the time and space to engage with their own creativity.

Our project was shaped by a long-term view of what could be achieved artistically and socially over an extended period. We wanted people to have choice, ownership and independence and we wanted to encourage them. We wanted to aim for artistic quality but we knew that would take a long time to achieve. The long-term nature of the project is essential because one cannot expect any group to learn a new language in three to six months. It will not happen, particularly if they have been marginalised and isolated. As part of our core operational elements, we have a part-time project co-ordinator who came on the team in 2007 and an off-site studio space, which has been a really essential part of the project. The participants can leave the centre, where they are not ghettoised, but it is outside of the community and now they are brought right into the centre of the community and they are integrated with everything that is happening in the town, which is really important. There is also an element of choice, so participants become involved because they want to, not because they have to, it is their choice to do that every week. The funding is important and to date, the funding partners, ourselves and Western Care fund €10,000 per annum, which is getting trickier as time goes by, but that is what is costs. The steering group is very solution-oriented. We approach everything in a problem solving way and when something comes up we try to address it together with all the voices at the table.

We have been blessed with the fantastic Bredas on the project; we had Breda Burns, the original artist, we have a Breda Murphy, our current artist and Breda Mayock, who is the co-ordinator. I will focus on the highlights of the projects. I was going to use the word "achievements", but this is a difficult word when talking about people with disabilities and one is judging people on a different scale. The group has had exhibitions in the Linenhall Arts Centre, which is the mainstream arts centre in Castlebar. The group has exhibited twice in the National Museum of Ireland and Country Life, which has brought them in to the public sphere, in Ballinrobe Library, in Ballinrobe Community School, in University Hospital Galway, which was a significant opening for them. The group exhibited in the Tacú Family Resource Centre at Christmas and for International Day of Disabled Persons, the exhibition was launched by the Taoiseach. There is a clip of this opening ceremony on YouTube, if anybody wants to check it out.

The positive feedback from people attending the exhibitions is really important to the group and I will quote from the evaluation that was carried out in 2007 where one Luisne group member spoke about the public reaction to the group's work. "They say it is good, you feel better when people say this.". The group has also got a number of awards, it won an Aontas Star Award in 2010 and Ms Mairead Coyne was chosen for inclusion in the Ireland Fiftieth anniversary competition. There have been two publications, Flame and Luisne, and I have a copy for each member of the joint committee. It is worthwhile to view the website.

The participants in the project come on a voluntary basis. Participation in other events around the country is also important and where possible we find opportunities for this group to integrate with other major arts events. The Roola Boola festival is run by the Linenhall Arts Centre every year as well as the Lough Lannagh Lights and the group participated in both. There was a Bread and Puppet theatre company residency in 2007, in which they also participated. There was a major project in 2008, Newground Good Guides, and the project came in contact with that as well. It is an opportunity for them to be involved in a bigger experience of the arts.

Now we come to the slide on International Day of Persons with Disabilities. We have been funding projects under this heading for two years now. We felt that the Luisne project was so successful and gave such an important opportunity that we wanted to make it available for other people, through Western Care and other organisations. We funded six projects this year and five projects last year and it is a way of mainstreaming and ensuring that people with disabilities can work with arts venues. We cannot do all the work ourselves but we can ensure it happens with other partners.

We have some slides of the work which are worth seeing. The group has worked across a range of disciplines, and have achieved significant artistic skills and competence in a variety of processes. They have improved concentration and they are more able to set goals and achieve things that they set out to do. Their skills in conversation have expanded, their persistence and discipline are better. They have increased self-confidence in expressing opinions, their communication skills are better and they are able to do more independent judgment and make their own decisions. If one saw the group at the launch of their first exhibition and how shy and timid they were and contrast that with how proud they were to have the Taoiseach launch their exhibition at Christmas, they ‘own' the work now and they want people to see it and buy it. There has been a major transformation.

One of the Luisne group members wrote "art is power" in an evaluation. Empowerment is a major part of the project. We want to strengthen people's decision making capabilities and to promote ownership of the work of the project. That has happened also. Ms Mary Melia is one of the stars of the group. She heckles quite publicly and she really loves painting and using colours and she is also in the Special Olympics; she is achieving a great deal these days. Mr. John McGovern was one of the original members of the group of the Arts Ability Project back in 1999 and his work is going from strength to strength. The group has worked in a variety of disciplines, drawing, painting, print, sculpture and construction, stained glass, clay, textiles, creative writing and photography. It is like a home industry at this stage. The next slide shows one of the glass pieces they produced, which was exhibited in Galway. The final slide is another stained glass project the group worked on together.

This project has informed our work for disabled people around the county. We are now funding artists and venues and centres to come together more completely. That work culminates on 3 December every year, which is the UN International Day for people with disability. There is a possibility for us to upload our events on to their website as well so they will go out worldwide. It brings together the expertise on art disabilities and all our strengths. I hope that covers most of our projects and I am open to questions.

Mr. Pat Gallagher

I want to share my opening statement with Ms Sinéad O'Reilly, arts officer and I thank the committee for the opportunity to be here.

In contrast with Mayo County Council our arts service is not as long-lived. It began in 1996. We were one of the local authorities to develop an arts service later but arts has been integrated into the overall policy and mandate of Offaly local authorities. It is reflected at policy level in the strategy of the county development board, the corporate plan adopted by the elected members for the council's current term and in the draft arts plan that is available for public consultation. All of those bodies recognise the role that the arts can play in combatting disadvantage and promoting social inclusion, especially among the young, the old and the socially marginalised.

We recognise that the benefit of participation in creative activities have an individual and community impact such as the acquisition of skills, the development of self-confidence and better social networks. These can lead to improved community engagement, better job prospects and a willingness to pursue other opportunities and develop life chances.

Ms Sinéad O’Reilly

Offaly County Council recognises the importance of the artist in the community, sees quality and integrity in arts production and recognises that a formulaic approach or safe bet is of no benefit to the artist or the community group that they work with. A high standard in arts practice and production are essential for participation rates and activity patterns to achieve the critical mass required to sustain a thriving arts scene.

The arts are not a panacea for social exclusion but they are a unique experience. They orientate individuals and groups towards greater participation in community life, increase self-esteem that is often lacking in citizens that find themselves on the margins of society and experience and promotes a greater sense of place and civic pride. The space occupied by the arts in our society is timeless and ignores all boundaries, real or imagined. For the individual there are no requirements, no intellectual or physical limitations, monetary investment or special equipment needed just a willingness to learn and grow as a person and a member of a wider community.

Our ambitious objective to utilise the arts as a functional tool to assist the disadvantaged and marginalised is only limited by a lack of resources. The following slides will show examples of some of the projects that we took part in and we hope from which emerges a sense of the unique impact that the arts can and are making on the lives of our citizens.

A key to understanding the success of these projects is to realise that the standard of arts practice in these settings must be high in order to get the desired developmental outcome. In some cases the target group may be small but numbers are not, and should not be, the only determining factor in the value of a project. In communities characterised by serious disadvantage, arts initiatives may only achieve limited leverage but the reward can often be greater than the initial investment in time and resources.

Mr. Pat Gallagher

Ms O'Reilly alluded to the importance of resources in maintaining momentum in the sector, a subject that we are all concerned about and one that we must examine creatively. We are a small rural authority with one arts officer supported by a clerical officer and our arts budget has been reduced since 2008. The total amount was reduced by 8.5% and that covers current and capital expenditure. It is part of the overall significant reduction in our local authority expenditure. As I said, we can address some of the problem with creative flair.

The Chairman mentioned he wished to engage with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on this subject. As he knows local authorities deliver programmes on behalf of a range of Departments ranging from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Department of the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. We also engage with the Arts Council and the Department of the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs on this issue. I suggest that arts in the community should be examined in the context of wider Government policy to promote social inclusion involving a range of Departments, led by the Department of Social Protection. A similar model to the one used for the engaging with architecture scheme deserves examination. It is funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs and administered by the Arts Council to develop an awareness of architecture at local level. My local authority successfully engaged with the project and it is a model that could be applied to other policy areas.

In terms of a current issue on the Government's agenda, significant additional local impact could be achieved through better alignment of local authority plans and expenditure programmes on arts and culture. It could be done in conjunction with those of the integrated local development companies that are now funded through the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to deliver the local and community development programme and Leader programme. Local authorities can provide the policy context and some programming content but that could be added to significantly through better alignment with the activity of the local development companies.

With the Chairman's permission, I ask Ms O'Reilly to summarise a couple of projects, including Anam Beo, which exemplify the way we use the arts service to promote social inclusion in our county.

Ms Sinéad O’Reilly

As members will have heard from Ms Spollen, Anam Beo is Offaly's arts and health programme. I will not go into too much detail because Ms Spollen did that very well earlier.

In 2009 the project became sufficiently established to gain independence from the council. It is now an independent company with charitable status and a voluntary board of directors. It is one of our many success stories and we greatly appreciate the work of the artists involved, without whom it could not be sustained.

I will briefly summarise a project called Grove Street TV. In 2011, through the per cent for arts scheme we initiated a community arts project in a local authority housing estate called Grove Street, located outside of Birr. It is an estate with complex social issues, a high unemployment rate of 77% and a large number of children under the age of 12 years. In consultation with a parents group, we asked for suggestions from artists on creative innovative approaches to engage with children. We selected an artist called Michael Fortune to work on the Grove Street TV project. He worked with groups of young people every week for a year to show them how to make animations, short films and documentaries that they uploaded onto their online community television station. It became Ireland's only online community television station and it can be viewed on grovestreet.tv.

In addition, both children and adults learned to use cameras, edit film footage, manage a website and upload their content. The project attracted many eight to 12-year olds and their parents and approximately 12 families were involved in the year long project. Since then some of the films that the young people made have been entered into the Fresh Film Festival in Limerick and the project will provide an ongoing legacy.

We made observations on the project. Some of them were that the per cent for arts scheme allowed us significant time to invest in a community arts project that we would not normally have had the resources to do. Time is needed to develop a meaningful project with outcomes that can have a long term positive impact. The scheme is for one-off projects and the challenge for us is to secure the resources to sustain any momentum that derived from them. Evaluation is also key to such projects. We must know how it contributes to social inclusion and community renewal and we will evaluate Grove Street TV this year. It takes an exceptional artist to create a quality arts experience in a community. They must be an artist but also a broker, mentor, communicator, motivator and instigator.

The national festival of Bealtaine is strong in Offaly as a result of our lead role in promoting and co-ordinating it among active retirement groups in the county. The annual programme consists of approximately 30 events involving 1,800 participants for the month of May and organised by active retirement groups, my arts office, the library service and cultural venues around the county.

Offaly County Council recognises the importance and invaluable contribution made by older people to the arts as artists, audience members, critics, art workers and board members. We also recognise that many older people probably did not have access to the arts in their younger years and perhaps face additional barriers to participation as a result.

Key to the success of Bealtaine in Offaly is the ownership of the project by active retirement groups. We encourage them to devise and host their arts events and invite neighbouring groups to attend. We have observed that many of the events attract females who already are part of a social network in the community and targeting the non-participant or socially excluded continues to be a challenge for us. We are constantly examining the issue.

Projects that challenge stereotypes have received positive outcomes by raising awareness of the arts and older people and generated long term benefits. These projects have been a catalyst for other projects and placed older people at the centre of developing the work. They become arts ambassadors and are excellent role models. It is important for us that individuals' self-worth is raised so that older people are seen as a valuable resource rather than a problem or a drain on health and social welfare resources.

The next picture shows another Per Cent for Art scheme in which we engaged in 2010. We commissioned an artist, Ms Ceara Conway from County Galway, to work with the residents of Killane Drive in Edenderry to create a unique and social focal point for the estate. Killane Drive is a new estate of 39 houses and 135 residents, all of whom moved in on the same day, effectively creating a new community overnight. In the absence of a community identity, social exclusion could have arisen. We got in ahead of the game and brought the residents together to discuss ideas for this project as well as their shared concerns. In particular, the children got to know one another through workshops facilitated by the artist. The outcome was a series of bird house sculptures nestled among new saplings, one planted for every household. The sculptures reflected the nesting period that the residents were experiencing and addressed their concern about the lack of wildlife on their estate and other new estates like it. The feature also became a playful focal point for the many children and will mature and develop as the community does. Resulting from this work, a new residents committee was formed and the area has become a focal point for communal gatherings on the estate.

Creating an artistic intervention with a new community at an early stage is a strengthening measure rather than a restorative one. The residents have a strong sense of ownership of the work, as their ideas were incorporated into the project and reflected their concerns and needs as a new community.

Hullabaloo is Offaly's children's arts festival, a county council initiative that was established in 2008 in partnership with the Birr Theatre and Arts Centre and the Offaly library service. The festival's aim is to provide accessible and high quality arts experiences for primary school children and their parents. The festival is located in two towns, Birr and Clara, and happens simultaneously during a one-week period. Of the number of venues it uses in each town, key to the festival are the libraries and family resource centres. Their use allows the festival to integrate into the town's many social contexts and lowers any perceived barrier to participation.

Children's participation in both libraries has increased since the festival's advent and has resulted in the libraries increasing their programming for children's events and projects throughout the year. The festival has an attendance rate of approximately 85%, equating to nearly 1,200 children last year. Offaly County Council's contribution goes towards programme costs and artists' fees.

Encouraging children to be active participators in and creators of the arts is an investment in the young adults of the future and lays the foundation for independent and creative thinking and for the promotion of active citizenship.

I thank Ms O'Reilly. Before I call members to begin their questions, I thank our guests for their presentations. Our overall purpose is to learn what is occurring across the country and to examine models of good practice, such as those presented this evening. Our report is intended to give some direction to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government as to what further assistance it can provide to councils.

My first question is on Anam Beo. A number of years ago, my daughter was taking guitar classes with a German guy. He went to Germany for the summer to give recitals in theatres for hospital patients. People in hospital might be sick, but they would rather be doing something than sitting in their hospital beds watching "Coronation Street". It is a fantastic idea to take a theatre, a venue associated with the arts, and give it over to recitals for patients while it is empty at lunchtime. In light of our guests' involvement with the health agencies and having considered venues of this type, what have been their innovations in this regard?

Regarding Mr. Hynes's remarks, the Per Cent for Art scheme has had its critics and supporters. Of late, much of the work that has been done on the scheme is disappearing from the landscape, as our guests have witnessed, and is going down other avenues. The representatives from Mayo County Council mentioned that it had done something unique under the scheme. Perhaps they could elaborate. Every member would agree with Ms McCarthy's point about the empowerment factors that arise from the programmes.

In terms of the synergy between organisations, Mr. Gallagher of Offaly County Council stated that there were different opinions regarding the architectural programme. Will he expand on that point? In my experience, an arts group might not only be in receipt of funding from a local authority, but also from the HSE and a vocational education committee, VEC, through part-time teaching hours. Should funding be better co-ordinated?

Will Ms Spollen of Anam Beo respond to my question about using venues for hospital patients, please?

Ms Julie Spollen

Getting into Tullamore regional hospital and other hospitals has been close to my heart.

Not as a patient, but as an artist.

Ms Julie Spollen

Been there, done that. We have been trying to get into Tullamore hospital for the past four years, but we were prevented. As a small organisation, there was no process for us to receive Garda vetting until recently. Last year, we were able to get vetting through Create, the national development agency for collaborative arts in social and community contexts, and enter the hospital. We sought separate funding to enter the renal unit, which is the first area into which we were invited. Patients can be sitting there for up to three hours, attached to machines and unable to move left or right. We recently completed a simple printing project in the renal unit. The patients were delighted. We will put on a show because the patients love to have something that they can show off.

We are striving to be in the hospital all of the time. It is a question of protocol. Our next step will be to try to continue what we have started with its renal unit. We will visit the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, which has an arts officer. Across the country, there are three or four arts officers in hospitals and it is at times like this that we try to tell hospitals that they need arts officers and arts programmes. The beauty of Tullamore hospital is that it has a large, open space that serves as a forum for, for example, a cellist or artist. People shuffling by can join in or just chat. I spent every day last year at that hospital. It has many open spaces. Even a single person doing a project in a corridor would make a difference to people's lives. We know the benefits of this type of initiative. Anyone who has been in hospital for any period knows that, to be happy, who one talks to makes all the difference.

I thank Ms Spollen. I call Ms McCarthy.

Mr. Peter Hynes

If I may, I will kick off on that one. The Chairman's remarks about the chequered history of the Per Cent for Art scheme were true. There is a range of opinion on how successful various pieces have been. Places have reacted positively to the scheme. In some instances, pieces were deposited in their midst. Other places have reacted negatively. We have encountered a range of experiences.

The role of the arts is fundamental to the development of the concept of community. We use three words, namely, enable, empower and encourage, albeit not in that order. One encourages people to express themselves, tries to enable them and, in some instances, empowers them to do it themselves.

In terms of the more successful projects, for example, traditional, sculptured public art pieces, we showed the committee an example in the form of the Flyer in Bohola. It is a challenging piece, but it was well received, partly because the artist made a concerted effort to explain what it was about, spent weeks engaging with the area's national school and included poetry composed by the kids into the piece. This matter is as much about engagement as it is about the medium or the piece that results from it. Over the years, the Per Cent for Art scheme has evolved and we have certainly used it to move away from the more traditional sculpture on a roundabout, some of which are disappearing. I have some friends in the foundry business who would describe it as recycling and it will go around again. To move away from that traditional concept with which many of us started 20 years ago, we have developed projects, one or two of which I will ask Ms McCarthy to describe. They include music, photography and performance. It is a much different scheme now than it was when introduced 20 or 25 years ago. Its culmination will be with a project in Lough Lannagh to be launched in April, which concerns marking a place with a combination of installation, performance and community activation.

Ms Ann McCarthy

Our public art co-ordinator, Gaynor Seville, has been working on the landmark programme for the past two years. It is a series of seven different commissions. There are fixed pieces of work that will be there for the long term. The artists, Cleary and Connolly, have made amazing viewfinders with double films going on at the same time. It is playing with the landscape and is in a beautiful part of Mayo. We also have a commission with Ian Wilson, a composer, who has worked with schools and older people in the county. He has given three free concerts which people have attended. We will also have a piece involving choreographed lights in which local children will be included. It will be displayed on the night of 22 April. It is a very integrated programme and we hope to include all the communities around the area. Jim Vaughan on Clare Island has done photography projects with children in schools. When we went to Clare Island we found the people there did not want a sculpture but wanted the children to be engaged and so that is what they requested. Aileen Lambert has worked with communities in the south of Mayo. Michael Fortune has worked on a film called "Following the Whitethorn" involving older people relating their piseogs and sayings. Public art is much more vibrant than it was.

We spend approximately 33% of our annual funding in the arts office on inclusion and integration. I was asked to talk about the Luisne project. Through our Bealtaine programme we have concerts in care settings. We have had poetry and live theatre with one-man and two-man shows. It is a great context for people to experience the arts in a place where people do not normally get out. Even to get them to come to a launch can be very difficult because of transport.

Mr. Pat Gallagher

We need to be creative and inventive in finding sources of funding. The examples given today show that the local authority arts service is capable of being that broker and can do it very well. It can bring them to the stage whereby, as with Anam Beo, they move ahead themselves. From a developmental point of view that is a good model to pursue. The Engage with Architecture scheme is one with which Offaly County Council has been engaged for the past two years. The lead Department, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, was concerned to engage the public more fully in the design of living spaces in towns and villages and it initiated the scheme through the Arts Council. Our arts officer, Ms Sinéad O'Reilly, our heritage officer and our architect made a proposal and for the second year we are engaging with communities throughout the county in very creative ways in the design, feel, look and texture of their living environment. We believe that is a model that could be considered in promoting social inclusion through the arts. While I know it concerns all Departments, I understand the Department of Social Protection is the lead policy Department. The Engage with Architecture model which moves from national policy through national agency to local engagement is a good model to follow and deserves examination.

I understand that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, is considering how the work of the local authorities and the local development agencies can be better aligned. We both have plans and programmes in this sphere at local level, in the cultural development space and the social inclusion space. As part of that ministerial review there is scope for better engagement to get a more streamlined and integrated engagement at ground level and bring together the various sources of funding available.

It is wonderful to see the representatives from Offaly and Mayo here today. It is a great opportunity for the committee to learn further about the type of work being conducted at local government level. When people think about the arts they are more inclined to think of the production of an artistic piece rather than the participation of the general public regardless of their stage of life. I have a particular interest in this field and am very familiar with everything that is being done so well in Offaly. I am delighted to hear about the Luisne project and other things happening in Mayo.

I am delighted to hear Mr. Gallagher's suggestion and I would love to see more engagement in looking at the wider policy context. The ministerial review represents an opportunity to do this now. If he has any further thoughts on the matter, I would like to hear them.

The Anam Beo project is a wonderful model whereby the local authority's arts office supports and drives something, and then lets it be its own thing in the end. Given the funding constraints, how is it likely to evolve in future? Where do other opportunities lie? I have known of the projects for some time and see the benefit to all the people both in the Irish Wheelchair Association and in the care facilities. There has been fantastic transformation in their lives. I know some of them very well and they enjoy being engaged with film-making, poetry or books. It is wonderful.

The Hullabaloo Children's Arts Festival represents a fantastic opportunity. However, we need to consider what we can do for our teams. Many teams can only participate in projects if their parents can afford to pay for that involvement through music lessons etc. We need to engage more fully with that age group across the country because there is potential to combat anti-social behaviour. Ms O'Reilly referred to self-esteem and some of the emotional issues young people have. They find participation in the arts a transformative process which enhances them as human beings and makes them more engaged in society. I would like to hear the witnesses' thoughts on that and how it might be developed.

The Luisne disability project is fantastic. Are there plans for further engagement with other levels in society and target them to enhance their quality of life, which is what it is all about? We did not get to see the slide in the PowerPoint presentation on the Anam Beo project that contains some wonderful quotes that are very relevant to what we are discussing.

Ms Julie Spollen

The Deputy asked about funding. We run on a very small annual budget of less than €30,000 for five facilitating artists. Everything, including our general meetings, happens in a professional studio to keep costs down. There are no extras for anything. Our money is spent on workshops and necessary administration, including such matters as the internal audit. No money is wasted anywhere. Last year we decided we would need to devote some time to seeking money from philanthropic sources and we have received some small grants from different funds such as the American Ireland Fund and the Community Ireland Fund. We would all strive to have a sustainable resource and backing from bodies such as Offaly County Council and the HSE midlands area because this is about all of us and not only our group. We are a community. The medical and local authority aspects can come together and be a driving force. I am keen to see funds made available and for a sustainable fund to be set aside for arts and health whether it engages us, some other group or some other arts and health project. The idea is not that it would engage us all the time but that arts and health projects are run in some format to engage the community so that we utilise the arts for the disadvantaged. One way to do this is through the use of hospitals. Hospitals can help in terms of resources whether through help in kind or by putting us up in a room and allowing us to hold meetings there. There are certain ways in which we can access help in kind such that we need not spend money on telephone calls, insurance and day-to-day expenditure. Since this involves health and the arts, I envisage the Arts Council, local authorities and the HSE as the relevant bodies. I am keen to see sustainable and defined resources which do not peter out until eventually there is nothing left. We are set up and we should keep going. There is no need to stop the wheel.

Ms Sinéad O’Reilly

Deputy Corcoran Kennedy commented on engaging teenagers and social inclusion. Our intention from the beginning of our project was to use film since it is a medium teenagers are interested in. Once the older teenagers on the estate saw younger teenagers take an interest and begin to participate, they backed off. It is tricky to hook them in on a project. We have co-funded a project called the rock school project in recent years and this has been very successful. To engage teenagers one must get in on their currency, which is constantly changing. We are playing catch up with teenagers all the time.

We work with eight to 12 year old children as well. They are preteens and will be teenagers soon. It is important to work with this age group as well. We provide them with key moments in their young lives that can show them a door to another way of doing things so that they are not part of a socially excluded group with issues. Dealing with teenagers is tricky and this is something we are always considering and an area in which we are looking for new directions.

Mr. Peter Hynes

I will offer some thoughts on the Mayo constituency. I agree that the teenage and younger generations require particular and special attention. One topic unrelated to the arts but indicative of the crises that exist and which we do not recognise is the issue of youth suicide. We have put some thought into this area to determine what the local authority can do to engage with the issue in some way. Clearly, this is a tricky area.

We have a not altogether revolutionary view in terms of supports for the youth the essence of which is that if one can keep children involved in either outdoor pursuits, sports, music or the arts in a general sense during a critical four or five year period then one is likely to have a great deal less in the way of social problems further down the line. Our targeted engagement with the youth includes the EXCEL programme of the Mayo Youth Orchestra. We were successful recently in winning one of the first awards in the Music Generation programme which will see us engage with contemporary music. This is the U2-funded scheme worth €600,000 over three years. We are looking forward to seeing how it pans out. Also, we have a base of active engagement in theatre through the Mayo Youth Theatre. Ms McCarthy will discuss how successful that has been and the plans under way. This relate to Mr. Gallagher's comments on engagement with communities. One of the strengths local authorities bring to the conversation and the debate is our fine-grained access to communities and a sensitive reach into communities through our elected representatives. We will not be allowed to stray too far from the critical issues in our communities because we hear about it week by week and month by month. This is a great strength that must be included in the estimation of what local authorities can bring to this area.

Ms Ann McCarthy

I will refer to engagement with youth first and then I will address the question about other target groups. We engage with groups already engaged in the arts through the EXCEL youth arts programme but we also give teenagers an opportunity to try out something new which they have not had the opportunity to try out before.

We work in educational and non-educational contexts. We work with youth cafés or groups in the town, with neighbourhood youth projects wherever they are and especially with young people at risk. We also carry out work through the Mayo Youth Theatre which is especially active in Ballina and for which there is a nominal charge. The charge is waived in the case of anyone who cannot pay it. The money goes into a pot for those involved to see other plays, to travel and to do things that they would be unable to do otherwise. It has been most successful.

Our recent arts plan was approved in November and we undertook considerable consultation with the youth sector as part of this. This meant sending out one of our younger members of staff to find the best way to talk to and communicate with them and to find out what they are interested in. We found this quite revealing and we hope to use this as a map in future.

We are setting up a youth music project in Ballina, a RAPID designated area. It has one of the largest youth populations in Mayo and it is one of our largest urban areas. We hope it will be successful. The question of how to target other groups was raised. In the submission sent prior to this meeting I outlined the extent of our engagement with older people through our Bealtaine programme and other ongoing programmes. We have an arts and health programme in five care settings in the county. This has been mainstreamed in three settings recently, a wonderful development.

As part of our work with young people we are involved with Mayo Education Centre. We work with the centre through arts in schools and we have had a music instrument loan scheme in place since 2003. We do intergenerational arts as well. We have funded a community music project for five years with the VEC whereby an artist works in a community. People take old instruments out of the attic and everyone plays together. We have had up to 80 people together in places as far flung as Kilmeena on a Saturday night. This is a nice way to use music and to get people together. We run culture night every year. I imagine they do this in Offaly as well. This is a way of providing free arts to everyone in the county. We support the WhistleBlast Quartet which plays with various communities and provide free concerts. We do our best to target as many groups as we can and to work through the communities with as many groups as we can.

I wish to reflect on the Per Cent for Art scheme. It was referred to in some detail earlier. I am almost prepared to forgive Joe Duffy for "Liveline" based on the programme he did for RTE last year, an excellent piece of public service broadcasting that generated considerable debate about the purpose of the Per Cent for Art scheme and a general discussion about public art and its value to the country. I may stand corrected but I understand it was the first time RTE has engaged at that level during prime time on television on that basis and on that subject matter. It was a useful exercise and the responses were excellent.

It is incumbent on local authority members and managers to defend and promote the Per Cent for Art scheme. There is no doubt that it comes in for abuse. I have followed a debate on my local radio station about the quality of a particular piece of public art in Ashbourne. It has generated some headlines in the national media. It is easy to generate cheap headlines when one identifies the Per Cent for Art scheme with a representation of a rabbit on a roundabout and one contrasts this to the plight of a constituent who struggles to access a disability support. In a real republic we would have access to both but that is an argument for another day. It is incumbent on local authorities to take ownership of the Per Cent for Art scheme, but I have detected a tendency for them not to do so. They tend to steer away from that argument and not defend it in the way they might.

I would be interested to hear the witnesses' views on how the Per Cent for Art scheme might become more organic. It was particularly constrained in recent years, but we are now moving beyond those parameters. We are responding in a more positive way to the demands, in addition to being much more imaginative about how we perceive the scheme. That is to be welcomed.

Ownership is the common thread that appears to be running through the contributions, particularly from Ms O'Reilly, Ms Spollen and Ms McCarthy. There is little point in imposing a project on a community, particularly an isolated and marginalised one that might in the first instance appear to be somewhat hostile to a project they may never have considered before.

I would like to hear about the sort of consultation the witnesses engage in concerning a proposed public art project or initiative from the local authority arts office. It is often the case that the arts administrator or the local authority arts officer develops an idea based on the fact that funding is available, rather than going through a pre-project consultation phase to identify the community's needs and preferences.

I notice that Anam Beo's representatives referred to the project as being participant-centred, which is crucial to its success. The testimony they read into the record earlier is evidence of that success. I am impressed that it is a stand-alone project, although dependent on funding from a range of different streams. How do they identify the need for that? The Minister of State with responsibility for the elderly says that many people who end up in community nursing units are not asked in the first instance whether or not they want to be there, and whether or not that is where they see their future. I am interested therefore to see how that need was identified. Was it identified by Anam Beo's representatives, the local authority or the HSE who then decided to create a project around that? Or were people asked if they wanted to engage at this level?

I am pleased to see that Offaly County Council - and I am sure it is the same with Mayo County Council - has only reduced its arts budget by 8.5%. That clearly demonstrates the cumulative value over the years that Mr. Gallagher sees the arts as having in terms of being an integral part of the local authority structure. It has taken a while to convince officials across the country that the arts sector is as important as roads, transportation, housing and water services in the local authority system. It is often seen as the Cinderella service, but I am glad to see that is not the case in Offaly or Mayo. I am proud to say it is not the case in County Louth either.

Mr. Pat Gallagher

I would have no hesitation in defending the Per Cent for Art scheme in any form. In recent years, the scheme has evolved and is flexible in terms of the type of project that can be done and how one does it. Communities are involved both in generating and implementing proposals under that scheme. The figures we gave to the committee for Offaly relate to our total budget. Over 20% of this year's expenditure comes from the Per Cent for Art scheme. Ms O'Reilly spoke about the Grove Street TV project. Last year, we had an excellent community music project in Kilcormac, which involved a wide and diverse cross-section of the local community. One had to be there to appreciate it but these are examples of what the Per Cent for Arts scheme can do by involving communities. If we did not have it in the current circumstances we would be much the poorer.

I take the point about the need for art to be for the public as well as involving the public. Some people have noticed our sculptures on the N52 bypass near Tullamore. The selection panel for that involved technical, artistic and elected members' inputs. That project came out first but we also put the options on display and invited the public to comment. In the public vote it came out as number 1 also. Where artistic selection and public appreciation merge, we are on a winner straight away.

I would not like to take too many compliments in respect of expenditure. In the last three years, our revenue budget's contribution to the arts has been reduced by 25%. It has given no great pleasure either to myself or the elected members to have to do that. If we did not have the Per Cent for Arts scheme to apply in such a flexible way we would be in greater bother.

Mr. Peter Hynes

I will pick up on that, Chairman, if I may. As well as the Per Cent for Art scheme, which is roughly 15% of our expenditure this year, we have levies that are applied to every permission that goes through. Any significant commercial permission has a levy applied which feeds into the same fund. As in the case of Offaly, that is a lifeline without which we certainly would not have as active a programme as we have in the county.

We tell a short story about the way in which perception and valuing of the arts has evolved. When John Coll first came to Mayo as arts officer, there was a heated debate after work one Friday evening with a senior engineering colleague about the role and importance of the arts. It ended with a quote that has been used many times, with the arts being described as "simply a luxury". Last Sunday, the person who was responsible for that quote was involved in a group writing project and had his first collection of poems, in a group context, published. So the perception, valuation of and engagement with the arts in local authorities has changed fundamentally over the last 25 years. While 25 years ago there were debates about the value of the Per Cent for Arts scheme as against the fundamentals of potholes and hedges - which are still problems for us, and must be attended to - there is no longer any issue that the arts pay their way, deliver good value and are strongly supported by all elected members, without exception in our case. I am sure the same is true in Offaly.

It is all about ownership and engagement at local level, which goes down to the quality of consultation. It is something in which we have evolved not just as a county but also as a sector over the years. Mr. Gallagher and I are quite happy to defend the Per Cent for Art scheme, including the value it brings to communities and counties. It brings a sense of identity and the chance to stamp a sense of place for each county. We would defend that in any forum. We would also strongly oppose any suggestion that it should be diminished.

When the Per Cent for Art scheme was first rolled out in Mayo, we had a waterworks scheme. At the time, the Department's view was that it had to be a physical piece of art associated not just with the pipework but also on the plant. We ended up putting mosaic panels into a plant which are a great addition to the quality of life of the waterworks caretaker and have been for the last 20 years. That perception and the way of using the scheme has changed radically and utterly for the better over the past 20 years. We commend the Department for the creativity it now applies to the scheme, and we would ask that it be even further expanded and made more flexible.

Mr. Pat Gallagher

I would like to add a brief point on the local budgeting process. Given the times we are in, it is important that those who participate in, benefit from or appreciate local arts work, which is done through and with local authorities, should tell that to their local elected representatives. Elected members are currently under much pressure from reduced budgets and competing priorities, so they should hear at local level that people want it, benefit from it and appreciate it. This is a factor as to what is decided upon at budget time.

Mr. Peter Hynes

We can give two examples as regards consultation which might be worth hearing.

Ms Ann McCarthy

I refer to consultation with reference to public art. A particular example is Clare Island. It is exciting because one has to go by boat to reach it. We met the entire community council, a total of 25 people in the room, ready to literally lynch us. We usually make a presentation to show all the public art available because sometimes people need a process of education and this is very important. We do not impose anything nor do we threaten to impose any particular art on a community. We show what is available and it is up to the community to decide what they would like. There were some very difficult and probing questions but thankfully we were not made swim back to Roonagh.

We gave the community time and space and we answered all their questions and eventually they said they wanted us to work with children and on a particular project to do with photography. We have a panel of artists for public art from which we draw up a short-list depending on expertise and the community would be involved in the decision-making. We find this is a user-friendly approach and it means that people have an ownership. In the same case with Ballinrobe, the community decided they wanted a project for older people. They wanted older people to be engaged and for their stories to be captured and it was up to us to find the right project for them. I hope this answers the question.

Ms Sinéad O’Reilly

To follow up on the public consultation arts scheme, the Killane Drive project with the bird house sculptures was a case of pure collaboration and more than consultation. The artist chosen by the residents to work with them came with no proposal and they liked the idea that here was somebody coming with an open mind who had no preconceived idea of what they wanted. That artist was chosen purely on the basis of the previous work she had done in other contexts and by telling them she had no proposal but wanted to work with them. They liked her work and they liked her approach with them. What one sees in those bird house sculptures and the planted trees is a pure collaboration between artist and community.

Ms Julie Spollen

Nobody is dragging people in to participate; people are invited. People may be sitting in a room lonely and isolated but when they are gathered together around a table, within a few minutes, the place changes. We have seen a person moving from sitting alone in a corner who within a week is moving around, using his or her arms, communicating instead of being switched off. The benefits of workshops like ours, which are participant and process-led, have been well documented. There is no obligation to join in and take part; we are there as facilitators. Over a period of years, people who would never participate, click back into life. They may have decided to opt out of participation in life. It depends on the environment of the centre, whether that is the Irish Wheelchair Association, the hospital renal unit or care centres. Some care centres can facilitate us better than others and some have very little funding while others are very well set up. I invite the committee members to join us some day and they will see there is no pressure, it is a case of come along and join the party.

I thank the delegates and I welcome the visitors from Mayo and Offaly. I am very impressed with the presentation. One of the roles of this committee is to get a macro view of how the arts are funded. From my own experience I know how innovative are the arts and artists in accessing funding from all kinds of different sources and this can be a disadvantage because one can become caught in a particular round and conditions of funding. Mr. Pat Gallagher mentioned it and I suggest the committee should take a view on whether there should be a greater co-ordination between various Departments on how the money should be spent at a local level. I can imagine that at any county council level there is engagement and a funding relationship between the arts office and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Department of Health, the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Social Protection through the community employment schemes, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and perhaps others such as the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

This committee should perhaps take a view on this. I ask the Chairman if we can have a breakdown of direct arts funding or indeed, indirect arts funding, from these Departments and which are funnelled through the arts offices. I have been unable to get these figures. I ask the delegation to comment on whether a leverage scheme exists by which the Arts Council puts pressure on or even encourages the groups to raise money locally. I ask for comments from the respective county managers because it might give the committee a sense of both the climate and the environment in which art is being created and disseminated locally.

Given that Anam Beo is doing this work for very little money, I wish to ask Ms Spollen a particular question. She spoke about filling a recognised gap in services. I will be provocative and ask her if it is her job to fill that gap or is that how she went about leveraging the money to do what she planned to do anyway? I am also interested in the fact that she clearly stated that it is not about facilitating the artist or their artistic needs. I want to tease that out because what I hear from Ann McCarthy from Mayo is that there is more of a balance between the role of the artist in that process. Perhaps Ms McCarthy could share with us how she balances the participant, the end-user, so to speak, the client or the citizen, and the artist. Those are the areas that interest me. We should ask the county managers for this information every week because we need it, especially if the Minister, Deputy Hogan, is looking at decentralisation and reorganising local authorities. I know for a fact that all arts officers use their money well or in a smart way and it is directed as quickly as possible to the end-user. I would like to hear the views of the county managers and more specifically from Ms Spollen and Ms McCarthy who can provide particular examples.

Mr. Pat Gallagher

Senator Mac Conghail has identified the fact that resources can come from a range of different areas. Local authorities are well used to dealing with a range of bodies - public, non-governmental, national and local. The evidence in this and other areas is that there will be a need for brokering, not as an end in itself but to ensure that our communities benefit. I would offer this as a strong role which the local authorities can play in linking the national and the local, with national policy taking the lead in some respects but allowing the local to lead as well. We are in a good place to bring together the various elements of the system. The type of evidence which the committee has heard today and which would also come from other local authorities, would support this view. It is clear that our objective is not for people to say that the local authority is great but rather it is to ensure that from the artistic point of view there is artistic and cultural development in our areas but also that our communities can benefit from the various resources which are available. I offer this view as a key piece which can be provided by local authorities. All funding bodies are always concerned to know that their governance and administrative systems are robust. Deputy Corcoran Kennedy also raised this matter, in terms of funding through the local community development programme and the LEADER programme. In our instance, the local authority consults the local development company about its plans and programmes and takes its views on board, and vice versa. That is at planning level but at operational level in the areas of arts, heritage, conservation, architecture and environmental protection, our staff meet regularly with the staff from the local development company. We share information about project proposals and ensure that between us we respond better to both the needs and opportunities that arise in our local communities. That is a space we are good at working in and I offer it for the committee’s consideration.

Ms Julie Spollen

There was a question about participants as opposed to facilitating artists. That is what Anam Beo is about but it does not mean that our facilitating artists cannot do separate projects which are about them in a health context. There have been many studies done on this. Recently, the Arts Council differentiated between the meanings of arts and health and arts-in-health. Arts-in-health might mean an artist working within a health care environment where the ownership of the work has to do with the artist. In what we do in Anam Beo, however, arts-in-health means the ownership is primarily about the participants; it is for them. There is no specific outcome or product and it is never about either of those. It is purely about social inclusion, the enjoyment of and the engaging of the participant. One can be a very successful artist and be rubbish in arts-in-health but one can be a successful artist and be good at arts and health. They are quite different.

How does the work of Anam Beo link into the HSE on an operational level?

Ms Julie Spollen

We work in the context of older people so we work in care centres such as Riada House in Tullamore, Clara Day Care and Ofalia House. We work in both residential and day care centres. One of the things we found in the past is that everybody wants to be involved. Although we may have started off in day care we then asked why we could not do the same in residential. Instead of doing the work once a week in one area we have to jump-hop and try to have a continuous participation. We are having to spread it out.

The HSE funds us from its budget for older people. We are tied----

How much is that, as a matter of interest?

Ms Julie Spollen

Some €12,750 a year.

How many people does that reach?

Ms Julie Spollen

Over a period of a year it means 1,000 attendances and up to 600 participants. We are tied to going to the care centres for older people whereas other funding and other sources allow us branch out, such as the Irish Wheelchair Association, the renal unit and different community projects. Our hands are tied in one aspect but it is all relevant work and we love to do it.

There is another point about the gap in services. This is the question people always fear to ask. When one goes to a health care setting or a nursing unit unfortunately it is one of those things one does not want to see. However, the pressure involved for the carers and the nurses is huge and they can only do so much. One person does the job of three people. A few years ago there was such a thing as an activities nurse and an age in opportunity programme. I and others were involved at the IMMA training nurses in activities, providing back-up for the likes of us. What we do-----

Is Ms Spollen saying the arts are somehow filling a gap that could be filled by others? That is not a criticism but a comment. It is important for us as members to know that.

Ms Julie Spollen

I understand. Artists do what artists can do. We can pass on our skills which is a very good thing to be able to do. I do not think an activities nurse can do our job. We could not be replaced-----

If I may intervene briefly, my understanding is there is occupational therapy that patients need and there is an artistic environment in which patients can be involved. I believe Ms Spollen is separating those areas. From listening today, my understanding is there are environments where arts are not accessible, or historically have not been accessible. These are mainly in the medical arena. One could take the case of Cork University Hospital which is a massive campus and has hundreds, if not thousands, of patients. It has a similarly sized staff and there are visitors coming in on a daily basis. With MRSA and other matters, there must be precautionary measures. However, if I went to visit somebody in hospital I would much rather go to a lunchtime recital with them rather than watch them looking at "Neighbours" for an hour on television. Is that the direction in which Anam Beo is trying to branch out?

Ms Julie Spollen

We are not just activities people.

It is not occupational therapy.

Ms Julie Spollen

No, it is not occupational therapy.

Ms Julie Spollen

Nor are we art therapists. That is a whole different ball game. We are artists who are willing and well capable of transferring our skills into a group area. It is about the social environment and the positive aspects, which include the physical ones. Over a period of time those benefits are there. All one has to do is join in.

Does Ms Spollen believe that along with other services the arts can combat disadvantages in marginalised communities?

Ms Julie Spollen

Absolutely, but I do not think we can be replaced as artists. We are artists and cannot be replaced by activities nurses. In any case, these nurses are few and far between now or they do not have time to do the work. It depends on where one is but this whole aspect has more or less disappeared. We are filling the gap, that unfortunate gap, socialising and bringing a social environment, enabling and encouraging freedom of expression and independence. If one is in these places - institutions and hospitals - one loses all one's sense of choice and independence, whether it is the dinner one needs or the time one goes to bed. It is good to be able to sit beside a person and simply offer help. There is no pressure, it is an invitation and it is free. We are filling a need, a gap that unfortunately exists.

Ms Ann McCarthy

There is a perceived gap but we are also creating a gap. Part of our job is to be visionary and put things in place that nobody else has even dreamt of. Maybe in Ireland arts in health care is not a common practice although it is in other countries. Perhaps our job is to show that it works and is very beneficial. In one of our care settings in Claremorris, HIQA recently came to do its assessment and was astonished to learn that older people had arts workshops every week. It wanted to know whether we were doing it for show, for the HIQA assessment. That is part of our job as well. We show what is possible and demonstrate the transformation that is possible and, hopefully, make it mainstream.

That is the key, is it not? It goes back to what Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Hynes stated, namely, the arts are not a luxury. Whatever emerges at the end of this, clearly the arts are part of the glue along with other activities

Mr. Peter Hynes

Other extra-curricular ones.

It is a part of the holistic make-up of any cultural community environment and that is really important. It came out strongly.

I will allow Mr. Hynes to speak, then Ms O'Reilly.

Mr. Peter Hynes

I apologise - I did not realise I was cutting in. I return to the question of participation which is a key and ongoing debate. I refer to the example we showed from Bohola, "The Flyer". We have this debate with artists about whether they should be making special pieces, making submissions for the Per Cent for Arts scheme or whether, in an ideal world, we would simply commission larger versions of pieces they are working on in any case. There is always a balance to be struck.

In the case of "The Flyer", that was an exhibition piece put into a competition in a particular context but it was accompanied by a piece of writing by Sebastian Barry which explained it and transformed it. It went from being quite a challenging exhibition piece to being a very popular local piece because of the work the artist did in engaging with the local community, specifically the schools. There is not necessarily a right and a wrong way of doing it. There are successful ways and less successful ways. The least successful way is to parachute something in overnight and have everyone react in shock. We have had some small experience of that too, if truth be told, and that is part of the learning process over 20 years.

In terms of our budget, our percentage on the revenue budget would be approximately 60% from own resources and the Arts Council; 25% from FÁS, which would be an Arts Squad scheme that has been running for 15 years; and the balance of some 15% coming from the Per Cent for Arts scheme. As Mr. Gallagher stated, we would deal with a vast range of bodies, Departments and funding agencies. We would very much like to take up the challenge posed of taking a specific year, and we will do it for last year, and breaking down where both the direct and indirect funding came from because we would have had funding for local projects that was sourced locally which we would have facilitated and enabled both through the arts office and other offices in the council. From the Leader companies we would have had a small amount of private sponsorship going into the mix. We would have the levies and then tourism related projects which have given a spin-off to other arts projects.

To come back to the fundamental point, there is a tendency sometimes to artificially divide out the arts as if they could be segregated into a corner. The arts are much more integrated and organic in the work of local authorities than people realise. In terms of when we get it right, one of the sequences we removed in the presentation for brevity was Westport. Westport is one of the examples we use of a town that is doing well. I am not saying it is Utopia but it is doing well. In the past 20 years it has been transformed because of a certain amount of community confidence and a certain amount of God-given advantage in terms of location. The arts were part of that, and investment and a certain amount of good planning and guidance has contributed to making a town that works well. The arts are a fundamental part of it, however, and in terms of the value they contribute they certainly justify and give a much greater bang for the buck than many other programmes in which we are involved.

Ms Sinéad O’Reilly

Following on from what Mr. Hynes stated about the types of funding that can be sourced by local authorities for projects, one thing arts officers do well is partnership with many agencies, not just Departments but also State bodies. Over the years we have had funding and support for projects from Bord na Móna, Waterways Ireland, the Health Service Executive, Irish Rail and ESB. They all have a context within Offaly and are largely based on projects that have a local distinctiveness but it would be an interesting exercise to see where local authorities have sourced partnerships and partnership funding over the years.

I would like to investigate that. If it would not put undue pressure on both managers to give us that kind of information it would allow this committee collate more from other county councils and take a view of that.

I apologise for not being present for the witnesses' presentation. I wanted to be here but I had questions tabled in the Chamber. I apologise in advance if I ask a question that has been answered already.

We are all in agreement here that the arts are not a luxury but that is the perception. What contingency plans have the witnesses put in place to combat the reduction in their budgets? They mentioned that their budget was reduced by 25% in the past three years.

With regard to arts for children and young people, what is their engagement with local schools and the local communities to promote the various projects? What challenges do they face in ensuring those projects become a central part of the community?

Mention was made of the U2-funded scheme and the €600,000. The witnesses might explain that in more detail.

Mr. Pat Gallagher

I thank the Deputy. On our contingency plans, I am sure the Deputy is aware that elected members at local level and ourselves are finding it very difficult to put annual budgets together. We must be creative in terms of identifying the various sources of funding, both public and private, available and bring them together to deliver both artistic and cultural development and community responses within the areas we serve. I have suggested that is a space we are good at working in and in which we are willing to work.

Regarding schools, our Engage with Architecture project is going on in schools currently and I will ask Ms O'Reilly to speak on that.

Ms Sinéad O’Reilly

Working with schools is an interesting issue because the Arts Council is currently doing a study on the way local authorities engage with schools. One of its findings is that it is very different across the board. There is no "one size fits all" approach. In Offaly we work on a project basis as opposed to a residency basis in that we bring young people on board a wider project in the community as opposed to something that is specifically within the school context which might not get a broader community airing.

Something we are all experiencing is that the role of the arts office in the changing financial climate is changing a great deal in that it is becoming more facilitative than one of the provision of funding. We are very much on shifting ground with that and something all arts officers are conscious of is that our role is changing because of the lack of resources but we will continue to maintain imagination with what we have.

Mr. Peter Hynes

One of the areas where creativity is probably needed most in local authorities is in the area of budgeting. It would be facile to say we have been creative thus far, and the contingency plan is probably to be even more creative next year. The annual budget is becoming somewhat of an ordeal and balancing it, as members would be well aware, is a challenge. We will be looking to EU funded projects, as will every other local authority, collaboration with agencies that may not have been as badly hit as local authorities, and any other partnership we can access to keep activity going in the arts area. What stands out from both presentations is that there is a huge commitment to the arts at local authority level. That is reflected throughout the country and it is probably one of the key messages to get across.

In terms of engagement with schools, I will hand over to Ms McCarthy.

Ms Ann McCarthy

We have had a programme with schools for years. Unfortunately, due to budgetary constraints that has been diminished but we are hoping through music generation funding that we can at least engage with more young people in the area of music.

We do co-funded workshops with schools for six weeks at a time where an artist who is interested in doing that kind of work would work in a school in one art form. We do about 20 of those a year.

We also have a schools exhibition. We have a Mayo County Council collection and two smaller collections which we lend to schools, and we have a work pack that goes with that so that teachers can engage meaningfully with the exhibition. That is successful, and it goes out to about four schools every year. We go out to the school initially to determine if it has a good place to hang the work. We would advise the school on that and then talk them through the pack. One of the artists in the exhibition would also do a workshop with the school.

We work closely with the Mayo Education Centre and if it does work with teachers it will always ask for our advice on who should do that kind of work.

The U2 music funding is a huge opportunity and is extremely well driven by Rosaleen Molloy, who is amazing. We were very fortunate to be one of the first three counties to receive that funding and we had to make a strategic plan, which was one of the great aspects of the funding. We have a map for developing music for the next three years and, more important, we can resource that for the next three years. Much of our time and energy will go into ensuring there is access, particularly for children whose parents cannot afford to send them to music classes or who cannot take on music because they cannot afford an instrument. That is the area on which we are very keen.

Before I summarise the discussion I am aware some members want to ask brief supplementary questions. Senator Mac Conghail's suggestion would be helpful in terms of giving us a template when we meet the various groups.

I will offer a simple suggestion on behalf of the committee which might be useful to the Tacú Family Resource Centre. When it comes to presentation and display, the arts require considerable space. Where arts groups take advantage of empty retail spaces, whether on the high street or in a shopping centre, local authorities might consider waiving their rates provided the landlord does not charge rent for the space in question. This would allow groups to exhibit their work in, for example, retail spaces in a shopping centre in County Offaly. The cost would be minimal because the landlord would like the premises to be occupied during the flip over period. However, he or she does not want to be hit by council rates. Are the county managers prepared to consider this idea?

Mr. Pat Gallagher

We have done as the Chairman suggested in a number of instances but we consider applications on a case-by-case basis. Last year we used a main street shop space to engage the public with our architecture programme. We also supported a pop-up shop in one of our main towns to sell local crafts over the Christmas period. However, in deciding on applications we seek to ensure the landlord offers a reduction in rent.

Mr. Peter Hynes

We are in the same boat as Offaly County Council. We consider applications on a case-by-case basis because, while there is no argument that a pop-up exhibition space used for a month over the summer will enhance a town or village and expand our capacity for artistic activity, there is a point, such as after three months, at which the endeavour becomes semi-commercial. We are open to applications and we have facilitated such uses of space for the Claremorris Open and exhibitions in Westport.

Ms Julie Spollen

Tullamore has lacked an arts centre to display any kind of work but we are fortunate to be able to exhibit our work in the Offaly County Council offices. We have a wonderful space adjacent to the motor tax and housing offices, which means a considerable number of people from non-artistic areas pass by it. The average customer who comes in to pay motor tax has an exhibition in front of his or her nose without going to an exclusive art event. We hope to have our own arts centre shortly.

Our annual exhibitions, which open the Bealtaine festival, offer an opportunity for families, friend and staff to socialise and network. The work does not disappear into a box afterwards, however, because it is sent back to the centres. This year we are staging a connections exhibition which was opened by President Higgins. This is a fundraising exhibition which will travel around the towns. It was in Birr during vintage week. We will also be creating a booklet which we will use as a selling point. We are continuously trying to get the knowledge out and to show off.

In terms of engaging the public in the arts through the use of pop-up shops or venues, I alluded to the funding we have received from Irish Rail. One of our projects was to permanently hang work done by the group in 2007 in the train station in Tullamore. If one passes through the station on the way to Westport or Galway, one will see the work. People encounter it on a daily basis and we have even received national coverage when someone from the Irish Independent noticed it and contacted Ms Spollen to find out more. People encounter the arts in a wide variety of places in addition to venues, whether temporary or permanent.

Ms Michelle Walsh

The Luisne project has informally exhibited work throughout Ballinrobe, including in the local credit union, restaurants and the library.

It is widely recognised that the arts have contributed to social, cultural and economic activity not only in County Offaly but also the entire country. However, the contribution made by local authority arts officers has not been adequately recognised. I would love to see a day when arts officers are called "arts managers" because they are in fact managers. The title of "manager" offers an additional status even if one is doing the same job. Even that small change would make a huge difference in the perception of arts officers. Mr. Gallagher spoke about persuading local authority members to commend pieces of art. Members might also develop a slightly different perspective on the role of arts officers if they were regarded as arts managers.

I am fascinated by the volume of work done by Anam Beo and the number of people who participate in its projects despite the fact that it is run on a shoestring. Is there another project in the country similar to Anam Beo?

Ms Julie Spollen

I am not aware of any similar project in the context of our work as a charitable organisation. We were mentored by Tom Meskell, an artist from County Mayo, and he did a great job.

Mr. Pat Gallagher

The Deputy asked a good question in regard to describing arts officers as arts managers. Many arts officers do indeed manage their arts services. However, it is often the case that arts officers also have a relationship with the wider structure of the local authority. An official at more senior level is generally responsible for management of the arts services as part of his or her brief. It deserves consideration but in the context of the staffing reductions we have experienced since 2008, I must be honest and say it was 25%.

In the context of the funding reductions we spoke about earlier and also what is set out for us in the agenda of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group, which is calling for further savings both in staff numbers and funding, I would not see any proposal to upgrade any level of staff making much progress in the current circumstances.

Mr. Peter Hynes

The question of titles is sometimes contentious. While the proposal to upgrade would be supported in many places, it would be contentious in the overall scheme of things. It is a subject we can examine but it is probably one to be addressed further down the road.

If we had to make one comment about the importance of the arts area, it is that it is integral to real development in a county. There cannot be economic, cultural and physical development in a county if artistic development is not happening in tandem with it. To try to segregate it from the other work that happens naturally in local authorities is artificial. That is possibly the great strength local authorities bring to the entire area.

I concur with Mr. Hynes that if the investment is not put in, there will not be the return.

Mr. Pat Gallagher

On behalf of all of us here, I thank the committee for affording us the opportunity to come before it and for the time the members, as a committee, are giving this subject. We appreciate it and it is important. The Chairman asked for further information in respect of our two authorities which we will be happy to give but in terms of our colleagues in other authorities, if the committee needs any further information or assistance in its deliberations on this subject and if we can help in bringing forward that information for its consideration, we will be happy to do so.

That is my cue to bring this afternoon's deliberations to an end. The committee will give six sessions to this topic in the coming weeks. The witnesses are more than welcome to observe the other modules as they happen whether they do that online or by way of the records of the presentations. If they wish to add anything further to today's events, given what they may hear in the coming weeks, we would welcome it.

Regarding Mr. Hynes's final comments, one of the measures in the recent budget was the roll-out of The Gathering in 2013 which will be a huge headline event for this country. However, for it to work it will have to work at local authority level, not in the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht or in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. A massive responsibility is being placed on the shoulders of local authorities to ensure that happens but it cannot happen by accident. It needs some strategic support.

I thank Ms Spollen, Ms Jackson, Ms Walsh, Ms Harrington, Mr. Hynes, Ms McCarthy, Mr. Gallagher and Ms O'Reilly for assisting us in our deliberations today. We would be grateful for any further input they wish to give the committee.

The joint committee adjourned at 4.35 p.m. until 11.30 on Wednesday, 7 March 2012.