The Arts Interview: Kate McElroy

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

The Arts Interview: Kate McElroy
Born in County Limerick my early education took place in a small primary school in Castlemahon and in Scoil Mhuire Agus Íde (SMI) Secondary School, Newcastle West.

Born in County Limerick my early education took place in a small primary school in Castlemahon and in Scoil Mhuire Agus Íde (SMI) Secondary School, Newcastle West.

Later, I attended Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD). Since leaving college I have shown my work in a few exhibitions across Ireland and have been with Occupy Space artist’s studio for three years now. I joined when I was in third year, in college, after I interviewed its directors, as part of a professional practice elective in college. I started off by invigilating and have got to help in the running of loads of events, talks, tours and exhibitions.

A major challenge for Occupy Space has been to try and find places, suitable for exhibitions and events.

We have had an array of spaces since but they have always proved to be temporary. It makes it more difficult as we constantly have to do up spaces to make them suitable for exhibitions but, then, have to re-locate and do the same thing all over again. It, also, results in less people knowing where our events are on because we are always on the move. It does, however, fit with our name, in that we are constantly relocating (or re-occupying) and who knows what we can become in future years.

Berlin is certainly the creative capital of Europe.

I hope to keep my ties with Occupy Space and Limerick, though, while seeking some means of connecting with them from over here. For example, I am currently doing a project with a primary school in Limerick in conjunction with Mary Immaculate College (MIC) where the students respond to my work and I, then, respond to their work. I have visited the school a few times and can now continue the project over here via a virtual connection. It has made me realize the potential for making connections to original artwork.

Having visited twice before I have come to love the place.

Berlin has energy and a rawness about it that is quite unique. I find it very inspiring as there is so much to look at. Indeed, there is a certain wildness, here, as if the city has been taken over by artists. It is similar to how I imagined New York to have been in the 1960s. If you want to bring about some change in your art you have to see and experience different things. Your situation and your surroundings have a massive influence on your artistic practice and I feel that Berlin will feed me with just what I need artistically speaking.

My own art teacher in secondary school was very inspiring.

Indeed, getting encouragement and igniting curiosity from a young age is very important. I did a H. Dip in Art Education after my degree year, which was something that I wanted to do, in conjunction with my own art practice. Everyone has their passions and the closer you work with them the happier you will be. I plan to, hopefully, keep teaching and to keep practicing my art, in addition to being involved in as many things that interest me, as I can.

Limerick is a great place that it is just going to keep getting better.

I can eventually see myself coming back, here, but, for now, though, I would like to try something different, for example, by trying to get a studio in Berlin and starting to exhibit. I would, also, like to do a Masters Degree in Fine Art, abroad, at some stage. It is very difficult to earn a living from just producing art, especially, if your work is not, particularly, commercial, so I would advise having something else in conjunction with it, but hopefully, in some way related to it, if possible.

I wouldn’t advise people for or against becoming an 

It is difficult to become an artist so you really have to make yourself set aside the time to do it properly. There is never anyone going to push you to do it, so, you really have to be self-motivated. For me, personally, my art is inspired, usually, by a certain feeling or conflict and, I will, then, research into the area. Sketchbooks are a massive tool for me in sorting through these ideas. I am usually drawn to using a variety of media and will try out a wide range before settling on what, I feel, is the most appropriate, and best means, of portraying the idea. I enjoy using clay, drawing and performance art, as these are quite cathartic, and are, in a way, very therapeutic.

Artists tend to be very busy people.

In addition, to making art itself, one, also, has to make time for things like, exhibitions, events, and maintaining a website. There really is quite a lot of paper work and organizing that goes with being an artist too. You have to keep seeking new opportunities as there is no point in just making art for no one else to see. However, artwork is, also, very personal and artists tend to pour what they are feeling, or thinking, into their work. However, putting it out there for everyone to see can be very daunting.

Art in schools is a resource that is often underestimated.

Not only is it a means by which students can express themselves (which they may not experience with other subjects) it, also, develops very different mental skills. For example, it promotes lateral and imaginative thinking that children, in particular, are naturally good at. Ultimately, art is a problem solving subject and it teaches you how to communicate and decipher information in a different way!

For more information about artist Kate McElroy’s upcoming exhibition please see the website