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Conversations in Portrait

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3 min read

Conversations in Portrait

3 min read

16/02/21

Conversations in Portrait

In 2020 Roscommon County Council worked with Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal County Councils on what developed into a remarkably beautiful project that offered insight, perspective and, most of all, new connections between the Older Age members of our localities and Creativity.

We put a call out for cocooners over the age of 70 who might be interested in participating in a virtual portrait sitting with artist Andy Parsons, who received an Arts Council Covid-19 Award, in association with Age & Opportunity.

Sixteen people from the four counties were selected and Andy set to work. Over three zoom sessions, Andy Parsons painted the portraits while talking and getting to know each person. It was a wonderful opportunity to find out how the elderly people had responded to the adaptations to life that occurred because of Covid.

In return for their time, Andy has arranged for the finished portraits to be delivered to the sitter’s homes. Although this tangible piece of art is the outcome of the sittings, Andy has said it “was as much about the conversations as the portraits. Interactions built over time, to the point of including comfortable silences!” It is hoped that a small number of close family, friends and staff will be able to view the portrait, depending on Covid restrictions, thereby democratising the consumption of art.

This socially engaged project has been representative of the nation-wide intuition to cherish the things we have, be present in our circumstances and reconnect with the things our busy lives had obstructed pre-Covid. It afforded the chance for the sitters to connect with society outside of their homes and care settings in a way that may not have otherwise been possible. Seeking out the voices of our elderly people that can too often be overlooked.

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Pictured here is Maisie a 97-year-old lady who resides in Sonas Nursing Home Cloverhill, Roscommon. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Maisie has consistently kept up to date on all the news, following it intently. She has maintained a positive outlook on the situation, showing complete understanding of all the changes which are happening around her and, all the time, maintaining her faith, and praying for better times to come. Artist Andy Parsons, described her as a truly inspirational lady. The portrait now has pride of place on Maisie’s wall.

Our other sitters:

Noel Higgins, Boyle. Noel has had to cocoon since March following a quadruple bi pass and a broken back and has still managed to stay positive throughout all.

Paddy Horan. Residing in the Plunkett Home, Paddy is a very good conversationalist and this project was suited to his character as the artist Andy Parsons and Paddy enjoyed the sittings.

Rosaleen Callery from Knockarush, Boyle was left with no social outlet after Covid restrictions set in. 87 years of age in October, Rosaleen has sadly passed away since the project was undertaken and we offer our sincere condolences to her family. We hope the portrait will bring them solace. May she rest in peace.

Photographer Brian Farrell was engaged by Roscommon County Council to capture the sitters in their homes with their finished portraits at times when Covid restriction Levels permitted and the results have been a wonderful sight.

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