Emer Casey Education Coordinator with Limerick Printmakers
Born in Kerry I have, nonetheless, been in Limerick on and off since 2006, and have lived here permanently since 2011.
I went to national school in Sneem, Co Kerry (my home town), attending secondary school in Pobalscoil Inbhear Sceine in Kenmare and the University of Limerick (UL). I am relatively new to the art game as I didn’t study it in college, my degree is in English Literature and New Media, but I am primarily a printmaker. I, also, practice crafting and illustration. Indeed, illustration and printmaking go beautifully together.
When I was younger I used to find it difficult to call myself an artist as I had a predisposed idea of what an artist was, and what they did or didn’t do.
Once you get serious about it, though, and start to pursue art seriously, you figure out very quickly that there are all sorts of artists out there, being creative in their own right. This is what appeals to me the most about being an artist. It really must be on your own terms. While there are some painters on my Dad’s side of the family there are no professional artists as such. He calls me the artist of the family and both my parents have been really encouraging about my career choices. My older sister, Marie, is delighted that I am a printmaker, but that might have to do with the fact that I’m hand screen printing her up-coming wedding invites for free.
While I try to print as much as I can, I am mainly involved in, and focus on, arts management. Indeed, I have been working with Limerick Printmakers, as their Education Co-ordinator, for the past couple of years.
It is a really varied role and I love it. As well as running a kids and adults education program, ‘the printmakers’ is a busy studio with a constant stream of artists coming through the doors. In fact, it’s always buzzing with creativity. As a member I have access to the studio and can take part in their exhibition program. There’s a non-stop hum of activity in there, with different projects, workshops, exhibitions and everything in-between, going on at once. So, it’s really inspiring to be able to work in that kind of environment. There is a real community feel; something about the arts scene in Limerick makes it feel so inclusive.
In Ireland, but not exclusively, there are some serious obstacles out there for artists when it comes to sustainability and making a living through their work.
I’m lucky, in that I am able to be involved in this area, and work with some amazing artists, but am still able to make a living on the side. There can be this expectation that artists will work for very little (or for free), to acquire some good experience, or because they should do it for the love of their art. It’s crazy but I think that this is changing, through individual groups and organizations, like Visual Artists Ireland (VAI). They demand that artists be paid what they deserve and are trying to remove any stigma.
While I have amazing support from my family and friends I have always felt that it’s important to make your own decisions.
This is something that I’ve done, with varying degrees of success, down the years. But when it comes to pursuing a career in arts I have always had incredible support and advice from my good friend, Kate O’Shea. Kate is an artist who never stops; she’s constantly creating and bringing people together, a real firework. Together with Kate and Aoife Scanlon, we created a multidisciplinary festival, called Nomshtock in July of 2014, in Kenmare. It brought together artists, poets, engineers, yogis, writers, academics and musicians, to create a really unique experience, which we are very proud of. Working as creative director for the festival, led me to getting involved in the Limerick Spring Festival of Politics and Ideas. Indeed, I have co-ordinated their kids’ event for the past two years. Today, the festival is one of my favourite events in Limerick City as it has such a diverse audience with so much to offer. This year we created a kids’ zine, and sought submissions from all over the world, before hand printing it and launching it at the festival. Both of these festivals were a great opportunity to work on both sides of the industry, namely management and creativity.
I would absolutely encourage anyone who is unsure about art as a career to just go for it.
I always regret not doing it sooner for sure. You’ll never regret doing something that makes you happy and fulfilled. In fact, I will continue to work in arts management in future. Organisations like Limerick Printmakers are vital for artists and the community. They create a tangible link to the arts world, which can, at times, seem lofty. I love the idea of getting children, and young people, interested in art early on. Indeed, I have been working on children’s printmaking workshops with Limerick 2020 this year, and the results have been incredible. Kids are far more insightful than adults, and way more fun to work with. Working with organisations, festivals and coordinating projects, is usually the norm for me.
Working as a curator for the Limerick City of Culture project; ‘Are You Dancing?’ (2014), is something that I always wanted to do.
In fact, it was a great opportunity to work hands on in a really creative role. Today, I try to travel as much as possible. Great cities inspire me, places like Berlin and Barcelona are so amazing looking and steeped in art and culture. You could just walk around for days and days without even looking down!
For more information about Emer Casey please see: @caseyemer on Twitter.