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Out of the Box Illustrations

Co Author:
Shauna Sweeney

Out of the Box was a project linking Dubliners through The National Neighbourhood from across the city with The National Archives of Ireland, who supported them on a personal research journey.

Through regular one-on-one meetings, The National Archives team guided the researchers through the myriad resources available to them within the Archives itself as well as other organisations such as The National Library, Dublin City Archives, and the General Register Office and local parish records.

Four groups of artists were commissioned to visually interpret the research carried out of each participant.

  • Illustrator, Rob Ickis Mirolo and Letter Press Printer, Dave Darcy of One Strong Arm worked with Kathy Gleeson of Irishtown
  • Illustrator and Painter, Cesca Saunders and Virtual 3D artist, Liing Heaney worked with Muirne Bloomer of Sandymount
  • Illustrator, Ida Mitrani partnered with Victoria Ní Bhraoin of Ballymun
  • Painter, Joy Ní Domhnaill worked with Mary Fagan of Ballyfermot

After months of hard work by the artists on each piece, in June we finally had the big reveal of the artworks which were presented to their new owners at a reception in The National Archives of Ireland. On behalf of Dublin City Council, Mary Fagan was presented her piece by Councillor Vincent Jackson; Victoria Ní Bhraoin’s work was presented to her by Councillor Paul McAuliffe; and Councillor Claire Byrne attended to present pieces to both Muirne Bloomer and Kathy Gleeson.

Read on to learn about each story the participants uncovered as part of their journey in Out of the Box, and how the artists’ visually responded to their discoveries.

Participants of Out of the Box looking at their new artworks. Picture by Marc O’Sullivan

Muirne Bloomer from Sandymount was intrigued to discover the use and history of a local building on Serpentine Avenue which currently houses the only Sikh Temple in Ireland. This building was once The Ritz Cinema (first called The Astoria) which opened in 1936; and then The Oscar Theatre opened in 1979. The majority of her findings were based on stories gathered through meeting with locals who attended both The Ritz and The Oscar, supplemented by research in The National Archives, online and in her local library. She discovered that the building housed a church before it was a cinema, so it seems the use of the building has come full circle. Muirne was amazed by how a relatively small building can be so central to a community. Her own career as a dancer and choreographer began in the building when it was The Oscar Theatre. She was offered an apprenticeship with Dublin City Ballet in 1979 by Louis O’Sullivan the owner of The Oscar.

Cesca Saunders and Liing Heaney were commissioned to work with Muirne Bloomer. Their piece ‘thetemple.jpg’ uses a combination of contemporary and traditional media such as computer generated imagery and oil painting. They focused on materials such as velvet, gold and wood as these were all common materials found in each stage of the building’s history. From the heavy plush curtains of a theatre to the drapes surrounding the Sikh altar, they found that these materials allowed them to abstract the building’s functions while harmoniously showing the common threads between its past. The creative process for this piece was done in two steps. Liing began by modelling the exterior of the building in Maya, a 3D modelling and animation software. Using this software, she was able to surround the building with realistic materials such as the gold and velvet. This image was then rendered, and once printed, Cesca was able to use oil paints to illustrate the history to tie it together. She detailed the exterior of the building with elements of its past such as fading cinema seats, the Oscar sign, a Sikh symbol and dramatic theatre mist. Behind the building is a map of its location within Dublin.

Director of The National Archives, John McDonough with Muirne Bloomer and Councillor Claire Byrne. ‘thetemple.jpg’ was created for Muirne by Cesca Saunders and Liing Heaney to reflect her research journey in ‘Out of the Box’. Image by Marc O’Sullivan

Kathy Gleeson from Irishtown wanted to chart the history of female ownership of the village pub, The Vintage Inn, where she grew up and now owns and runs. She has been inspired by the local stories and memories about the pub down through the years. She was aware of one female owner, Anna Quinn during the 1940s and was keen to find out more about this woman and her life as the landlady of a pub during The Emergency. Through her research in The National Archives she discovered that Anna Quinn had left the pub in her will to a Mary Nolan, so Kathy isn’t the second female owner, but the third! Kathy plans to create a community museum in The Vintage Inn to showcase documents and artefacts she has gathered on her journey and also invite her neighbours to contribute to the display.

Rob Ickis Mirolo was commissioned to work with Kathy Gleeson. They met to discuss her research and the most significant detail of their conversation for Rob was that the pub was owned by two women consecutively and now by Kathy. Kathy had co-written a monologue for the Mystery History Cabaret in Sandymount using the deeds of the pub as part inspiration. Kathy gave this to Rob to use when developing the art piece ‘Do You Never Get Scared?’. He identified some lines within that had a resonance for all three generations.  The piece was ar- directed by Rob and letter press printed by Dave Darcy of One Strong Arm.

Do you never get scared
Do you never get scared? artwork with reflection of Kathy Gleeson by Rob Ickis Mirolo and Dave Darcy. Picture by Marc O’Sullivan

Victoria Ní Bhraoin from Ballymun grew up with family stories of a Great Great Great (maybe even more!) Grandmother from the Far East and she was eager to discover whether this story was actually true. This was the starting point for her research, and although she has yet to find this elusive family character, she did discover many strong females going back generations, all called Sarah! Victoria found out that she comes from a long line of butchers who all migrated towards Moore Street, so Victoria has strong family ties to one of the most historical streets in Dublin City.

Ida Mitrani was commissioned to work with Victoria Ní Bhraoin. Ida was working with the Around the Table project on delicate hand-drawn maps of Central Dublin. Victoria liked Ida’s work on display on her website and was drawn to the idea of a map of sorts for her research as the Northside and Southside of the river were significant to her findings. Victoria told Ida about streets, buildings and building features which had significance to her life and her discoveries through her research. The finished piece is called ‘Rooted’.

John McDonough, Director, The National Archives; Victoria Ni Bhraoin with Cllr Paul McAuliffe presenting 'Rooted' created by Ida Mitrani as part of 'Out of the Box'. Picture by Marc O'Sullivan
John McDonough, Director, The National Archives; Victoria Ní Bhraoin with Councillor Paul McAuliffe presenting ‘Rooted’ created by Ida Mitrani as part of ‘Out of the Box’. Picture by Marc O’Sullivan

Mary Fagan from Ballyfermot has done extensive genealogy research of both her and her husband’s family, and needed some help to follow certain family members going back through the generations. She wanted to track down the graves of triplet siblings to her Father. She also wanted to search for two Uncles who, after spending time in Artane Industrial School, were never seen again. The story goes they went to America. Through the course of Mary’s participation in Out of the Box, she discovered a “new” cousin, from America now living in Kerry. She is the daughter of one of the mysterious Uncles. Mary and her cousin have met and exchanged stories and photographs.

John McDonough, Director, The National Archives; artist Joy Ní Domhnaill with Mary Fagan, Councillor Vincent Jackson and David Fagan presenting ‘Uncovering the Past’ created by Joy as part of ‘Out of the Box’. Image by Marc O’Sullivan

Joy Ní Domhnaill was commissioned to work with Mary Fagan. Her piece ‘Uncovering the Past 1 & 2’ uses collage and pointillism, bringing together the many documents Mary collected throughout her research, into a collage of a tree trunk and its branches. Documents include photographs Mary got from her “new” cousin; birth, marriage and death certificates; letters from the Midwife to the President asking for some money to support the family after the birth of the triplets; and photos of the triplets’ graves in Mount Jerome. Joy began working on a blue and green piece but began to feel it was quite dark and Mary had expressed an interest in bright colours. Joy began a second piece, using yellow and green, once this was finished she decided to finish the original and so supplied both for Mary to select her favourite.

Out of the Box is linking Dubliners from across the city with The National Archives of Ireland to support them on a personal research journey. Find out more about the project HERE



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