Friday, March 9, 2012

Political muralists from Northern Ireland to visit SBU as artists in residence

At Left: Credit: Karen Vester
The mural “The Petrol Bomber” by the Bogside Artists depicts scenes from the Battle of the Bogside that took place in August 1969. The mural shows a young boy in a gas mask, which he used to try to protect himself from the gas used by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The boy is holding a petrol bomb. The mural was painted in 1994.

Three muralists whose work draws thousands of visitors from across the world to the Northern Ireland city of Derry each year will bring their skills and experiences to Western New York this month with a weeklong stay as artists in residence at St. Bonaventure University.

With buildings in the Bogside area of Derry as their giant canvases, Tom Kelly, his brother William and their friend Kevin Hasson spent 12 years commemorating more than 30 years of civil strife and conflict in the six counties of Northern Ireland. The trio has become known as The Bogside Artists.

The 12 murals of what has been dubbed The People’s Gallery stretch in a line the length of Rossville Street in the Bogside area of Derry, which experienced the worst of the troubles throughout the long conflict.

At left: Credit:  Karen Vester
The Peace Mural was one of the most recent murals to be painted by the Bogside Artists. The mural was completed in 2004 and was unveiled by the mayor of Derry. 

Coinciding with their visit to campus will be an exhibit of their murals, the senior project of St. Bonaventure art major Karen Vester. The exhibit, “Peace and Reconciliation: For Them, For Us, For Me,” will feature large photographs of each of the murals taken by Vester. Other elements of the exhibit will feature creative work by area school students.

The exhibition opens Monday, March 19, and runs through Tuesday, March 27, in the San Damiano Room of Francis Hall. Hours for March 19 are 6 to 9 p.m.; during the remainder of the show, the exhibition will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

While on campus, the Bogside Artists will be joined by students from the Department of Visual and Performing Arts to complete a mural for the university. The theme will be “Freedom of Speech” and the public is invited to stop by, watch the artists paint and ask questions about their work.

A presentation featuring the Bogside artists will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, in the San Damiano Room. The program is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception.

The artists’ visit and the display of their work is made possible through the joint efforts of Vester, the Mychal Judge Center for Irish Exchange and Understanding at St. Bonaventure, and the Lenna Foundation.

The Judge Center is a unique venture that offers student, faculty and cultural exchanges with the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the United States, including academic study, service learning, co-curricular seminars, and research.

St. Bonaventure has a strong Irish legacy, which dates back centuries to its founder Nicholas Devereux, who emigrated from County Wexford, Ireland, in 1806.

Area Students Share Their Perspectives
Area high school students will be given a voice in the exhibition. Allegany-Limestone eighth-graders in Nichole Missel’s Advanced Art class will be replicating a Northern Ireland project “In My Shoes,” undertaken by WAVE Trauma Centre and first launched in 2006.

The creative storytelling project has played an important part on the road to peace, reconciliation and healing for many of those traumatized, especially for children. Participants each created a shoe as a means of revisiting and telling the story of how they were impacted by the violence, said Vester. 

“Each shoe contains various materials symbolic of different aspects of who they are, the story they are telling, and even the experiences that helped in their recovery. It has been tremendous in the healing process as it brings people together to share what it’s like to be ‘in my shoes’ while imagining what it’s like to be in another’s ‘shoes,’” Vester said.

Each of the Allegany-Limestone students will create a shoe that is representative of who they are, along with a short story describing their shoe.

“I think this is a wonderful idea and opportunity to teach my students about empathy, judgment of others and to further their artistic abilities in expressing themselves,” Missel said.

At Olean High School, English students of Sally Ventura will be writing essays about their understanding of peace and reconciliation. The essays will be hung as part of the exhibit.

Ventura’s students have been studying the poetry of Robert Lax, whose work is archived in Friedsam Memorial Library at St. Bonaventure.

“I am excited about the interdisciplinary connections,” Ventura said. “Students are examining themes related to peace as they are expressed in the visual arts, music and poetry.”

Also on loan to the exhibit is a bronze replica of Hands Across the Divide, a bigger-than-life sculpture located in the roundabout at the Craigavon Bridge, the site of a series of protests against housing conditions in Derry. The replica is on loan from Jack and Maureen Fecio, who are directors of the Belfast Summer Relief Program in Buffalo, which brings children from Northern Ireland to Western New York for a summer holiday. The program, which originated in Belfast in 1975 but moved to Derry eight years later, allows children of Northern Ireland to “get a new perspective on life and the realization that people can live together in peace despite their religious and/or political differences,” Jack Fecio said.

About the Artists
Tom Kelly has been painting murals since long before 1969, seeing in art a means by which Protestants and Catholics can come together. Outside his role as a muralist, he leads a small nondenominational Christian fellowship. He has traveled as part of a humanitarian ministry as well as a spokesman for the Bogside Artists.

William Kelly studied art in Belfast Art College in 1970 and went on to take an honors degree in painting at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, in 1977.

Kevin Hasson has travelled widely and has painted many murals across Germany. He comes from a family talented in the pictorial arts and in music, and his experiences at a young age in Calcutta, India, as a member of The International Voluntary Service awakened his mind to the ubiquity of social injustice and its roots.

To view maps of campus and directions to the university, visit

To learn more about the Bogside Artists, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment