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Talking about the EU Lab

Co Author:
Sheena Barrett

Audrey MacCready interviews Sheena Barrett, Assistant Arts Officer, Dublin City Council

What is your background and your current role with Dublin City Council?

I studied Art History and Art, and then Arts Management and Cultural Policy at UCD. From there I went on to work in the National Museum and the National Gallery, primarily in education and outreach. After curating several exhibitions and working with contemporary art, and art and health, an opportunity came up to work with ‘Breaking Ground’ which was part of the Ballymun Regeneration. There was an Arts Commission for that and I was the Project Manager for public art.

Sheena Barrett, Curator The LAB Gallery, with pupils of the Central Model Senior School Fariha Ali (10) and Winnie Odigie (10) who curated IAWATST (Interesting and Weird at the Same Time), an exhibition of artworks from the OPW Collection and Department of Finance (Northern Assembly) art collections at Dublin City Council's gallery The LAB on Foley Street. Image by Mark Stedman
Sheena Barrett, Curator The LAB Gallery, with pupils of the Central Model Senior School Fariha Ali (10) and Winnie Odigie (10) who curated IAWATST (Interesting and Weird at the Same Time), an exhibition of artworks from the OPW Collection and Department of Finance (Northern Assembly) art collections at Dublin City Council’s gallery The LAB on Foley Street. Image by Mark Stedman

What is your project?

The idea behind ‘the makerspace’ was developed several years ago. The Lab held an exhibition called Quantified Self which threw up new ideas about collaborative art and how it could generate innovation in artistic practice. One of the works illustrated a truth about how we are disconnected from hand skills, for instance. A conclusion that emerged was that artists needed a space not only for production but also to have a peer network – that is where the idea emerged from.

You recently had experience of the EU Lab? How did you find it?

It was a really good experience. Our first conversations with the EU Lab were to get our heads around where we might take our Makerspace in terms of EU funding. That was at an early stage of our own thinking and the EU Lab Project Manager mapped out some possible business solutions around it.

Developing the work with the Project Manager we got back to the core idea of what we wanted to see if that would fit (with EU funding). It was the confidence thing too, of understanding the process. We looked at what we were trying to achieve to see if it was worthwhile going down that road. As well as the Makerspace project, I’ve also been involved in the Erasmus+ application that Liz (Coman) is driving. That was really good too, as it was a quick process because Liz is very connected in the area of visual thinking strategy. To see that journey of how the EU builds trust with different people and to see where each person’s strength lies, that was all really interesting.

Would you use the EU Lab again?

Yes. When you are in a local authority, you have your core body of work. Local authorities are very responsive to other’s agendas, so it’s useful to have a specific tool to focus on an EU project. I found it very useful to work with someone who has a good eye on the process, to keep things on track for deadlines, so that you don’t miss key markers. When it’s an application that you are not used to, it’s useful to have someone else who understands the pace of it. That’s the kind of experience that’s invaluable, I think.

Sheena Barrett at The LAB
Sheena Barrett at The LAB

Would you recommend it to other colleagues?

Yes, I would absolutely, yes. I found the EU Lab Project Manager’s facilitation skills really strong. The timelines are so tight and bringing together different partners is a particular dynamic that differs from working with a team in one city. You have to get a lot done in one day, instead of having hour-long meetings once a week.

Any final thoughts on the EU Lab? Is there anything that you would like to see added to it?

I know that you mentioned before the idea of having different case studies on it. When we went to Enniskillen (Interreg Information Seminar 7 March 2017) it was really useful to hear other groups’ experience alongside the guidelines for making applications. It makes it more real to hear where the problems might be.

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