Initiated in 2007, Virtually There began as a partnership between one artist, Ann Henderson, and one school, Ballydown Primary School in Banbridge, County Down. With thanks to continued funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Lottery Fund, the project was extended to more artists and schools over a number of years, with each partnership developing into a long-term relationship. In 2016, Kids’ Own was delighted to secure and a ‘More and Better’ grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Arts and Learning Fund to extend and develop the project and to support longitudinal independent research to investigate the impact of the project on all participants: artists, teachers and children. The research is being conducted by Bryonie Reid of Quarto Collective.
The artists currently engaged on the project are: Rhona Byrne, Lisa Cahill, John D’Arcy, Ann Donnelly, Naomi Draper, Julie Forrester, Ann Henderson, Sharon Kelly and Andrew Livingstone.
The teachers and schools currently engaged on the project are: Leanne Kyle (Aughnacloy Primary School), Chris McCambridge (St Colman’s Primary School, Lambeg, Lisburn), Marcella Wilson (Donaghey Primary School, Dungannon), Stella Cross (St James’s Primary School, Newtownabbey), Wendy Davey (Killard House School, Donaghadee), Julie Orr and Judith White (Ballydown Primary School, Banbridge), Fionnuala Hughes (St Patrick’s Primary School, Crossmaglen) and Paula Courtenay (Strandtown Primary School, Belfast).
The project connects with Kids’ Own’s core strategic aims to:
- Increase children’s access to high-quality arts-based learning by embedding an enquiry-based approach in participating schools.
- Continue building a body of work by children and artists that represents high-quality enquiry-based practice and reflects the child’s voice.
- Increase the creative use of technology in Irish schools as a means for connecting with the professional studio practice of artists.
- Make an evidence-based case for access to long-term arts practice with professional artists in all Northern Irish schools.
- Build confidence around the value of long-term arts-based practice within the education sector at ground level and policy level.
A touring exhibition and events programme in 2014–15, funded by the Arts Council of Ireland’s touring award, resulted in the publication of this book, showcasing some of the work developed since the project’s inception in 2007.