by Miriam Kehoe and Clíona McDonough
St Louis High School in Rathmines, Dublin 6, is an all-girls secondary school under the Le Chéile Trust, with a long tradition of participation in the arts and creative activities. After two years of no communal activities caused by the pandemic’s restrictions, Arts Co-Ordinator, Miriam Kehoe, and Principal, Clíona McDonough, led a multi-discipline arts project enabling the whole school community to reflect on their collective pandemic experiences and re-connect.
“Every so often during lockdown I’d come into the building and it was so empty, there was an eeriness to it.”
said Principal Clíona McDonough.
“You need children in a school, and when they’re not there, that energy is missing.”
Entitled ‘Reflections’, the project included music, photography, painting, poetry, gardening, time capsules, creative writing, and murals. Space for self-expression was also provided, along with encouragement for moving forward together with a renewed sense of community spirit that had been severely impacted by the pandemic.
“We asked the students to reflect on something they had lost. It could have been a loved one, or loss of freedom, or independence, or confidence. Like all forms of loss and grieving, there’s healing power in giving time and space for reflection.”
Staff also underwent training in bereavement support that inspired and shaped many of the activities, and in particular creative writing and poetry all of which were illustrated.
“We really wanted students to work through sadness and grieving through artwork. And to try and show them that there is a process like a journey and a process that they can do through art.”
Another of the activities the students reflected long and hard on was painting Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night. The girls chose the painting partly to bring beauty and life back into the school, but also because the stars symbolised hope in dark times, the sky’s pathway everyone’s individual life journeys, and the defined brush strokes how they’d come together in supporting each other.
As well as reflecting on what was lost, the school also wanted to explore what was gained. With this in mind, decorative artist Patricia O’Malley was invited to participate in a project for the school’s teachers.
“We wanted a project for the staff especially. So we took the notion of origami cranes, with the birds representing peace and resilience and that led to our beautiful project ‘The Dance of the Cranes’ installation.”
Reflections culminated with an exhibition of artwork and a series of Cuimhní is Céiliúradh (Memories and Celebrations) concerts over Easter 2022. However, some projects such as planting spring bulbs, are ongoing and will return every year to remind them of the extremely special one where they were all re-united under one roof once again.
For more, you can watch this video below: