The Arts Interview: Jessica Tobin

John Rainsford

Reporter:

John Rainsford

The Arts Interview: Jessica Tobin

Having grown-up in a small village in Co Waterford I only moved to Limerick City several years ago.

Previously, I attended Primary School at Aglish National School, in Co. Waterford and Secondary School at the Loreto Convent Youghal, in Co. Cork. Finally, for Third level, I graduated with a BA in Fine Art Printmaking from Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), and an MA in Cultural Policy and Arts Management, from University College Dublin (UCD).

In between, I have been lucky enough to visit parts of North America, Mexico, Cuba, South Africa and several European countries.

I backpacked around South America alone for five months which definitely opened my eyes up to the world around me. Artists whose work I return to again and again include Kara Walker and Paula Rego. I am, also, an avid reader but love watching a wide variety of films. I would say that I am keenly interested in people, their motivations and behaviours, so if I hadn’t taken this route in life, I might well have studied or worked in areas like psychology or history.

Art was always part of my life and the myriad of processes and techniques offered by printmaking particularly attracted me.

After college, I worked in sales, as part of a prominent commercial art gallery in Galway. I, then, completed internships with The Gaiety School of Acting and with Glór in Ennis and went on to work in a marketing role for a photography studio. It was in early 2013, that I began working with Limerick Printmakers (LP), and immediately loved it, before being appointed its manager this year. LP is a great organisation with a very supportive board of directors and a varied group of some 50 studio members who are the lifeblood of the organisation.

Limerick Printmakers is a multi-faceted organisation providing a huge range of services, some of which may surprise the public.

For example, we offer a variety of studio memberships for practising printmakers, together with bursaries for emerging artists. As part of our artistic programming we, also, host regular exhibitions. Furthermore, we run weekly children’s art classes and seasonal camps throughout the year while offering a programme of adult printmaking and photography courses. Recently, we have completed printmaking workshops with primary and secondary school students both in our main studio, here, and via our mobile printmaking units. We are, also, experienced at running printmaking workshops at events and festivals.

Printmaking, photography and other creative handmade endeavours are more valid and vital than ever before in this digital age.

Developing new technologies and techniques only serves to broaden the possibilities available to those working with them. It is not simply a case of foregoing more traditional methods, in lieu of new and developing technologies, rather is it more about combining elements that work for you as an artist or enthusiast. Indeed, people are always looking for new ways to express themselves, for example, look at the popularity of personal blogs and social media tools such as Instagram. Printmaking and other related fields allow for the continued development of skills and experimentation, meaning that the arts will evolve in new and positive ways.

Following our move to John’s Square, from Sarsfield’s Street, in 2014, we no longer have a permanent exhibition space onsite.

We have adapted over the last twelve months by collaborating with local venues in order to continue to hold exhibitions in new and varied surroundings. We are proud, therefore, to be curating a series of exhibitions at 69 O’ Connell Street between now and the end of March 2016. Symbiotic relationships, such as these, are indicative of groups and organisations striving to be proactive and finding new ways to achieve their goals together. Similarly, we are very much looking forward to our upcoming Winter Member’s Exhibition in The Hunt Museum this coming December. Indeed, our studio members are currently exhibiting in the Hunt Café every month.

Developing stronger local communities can only improve Limerick.

In fact, I have been consistently impressed by how friendly and welcoming the majority of people, here, are. Observing the many young artists I come into contact with is genuinely exciting, and there is a real enthusiasm to get things done on their own terms, using the limited resources at their disposal. For me, this positive attitude is much more indicative of Limerick than any tired old stereotypes. So, it is really vital that the wider public take an interest in what is being done in this city and get a chance to experience it.

It defeats the purpose if people feel that they ‘should’ partake in arts or culture.

In reality, culture has a huge part to play, in helping all of us, to understand that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, and that we all have a ‘right’ to express ourselves. The accolade of European Capital of Culture (2020) is another great potential opportunity for our city. For Limerick to be granted an opportunity, to build on the achievements of the National City of Culture (2014) project, would be extremely positive and would facilitate further long term cultural planning.

How culture and the arts are perceived is a question that is certainly not just confined to Limerick, or even Ireland.

Last year was a great year in the cultural life of Limerick and those involved are working hard to continue this momentum. My own feeling on this is that many people are not sufficiently exposed to, or do not get an opportunity to try, a variety of cultural activities. This may result in some believing that such activities are ‘not for them’ which is a terrible loss!

For more info about events at Limerick Printmakers, such as the current exhibitions at 69 O’Connell Street and the Winter Member’s Exhibition in The Hunt Museum, please see: http://limerickprintmakers.com/