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Trá na Mná: A Reflection of Our Time

3 min read

Trá na Mná: A Reflection of Our Time

3 min read


Trá na Mná: A Reflection of Our Time

At Salthill’s Ladies Beach, a playful mural celebrates the love of swimming throughout the years in Galway Bay.

Across nine weeks, nine artists from Arts Alive Galway worked in collaboration with award-winning artist Jennifer Cunningham to develop a mural that depicts a community of swimmers and the landscape of the sea and coast, and highlights the diversity of people who value the wonderful community facility which is the Trá na Mná shelter on Salthill prom in Galway City.

Arts Alive Galway is a community-based arts programme in Galway City where young adults with  intellectual disabilities can explore their personal creativity, enhance their self- development, and connect artistically with the community.

The nine young artists (Amy Clarke, Aoife King, Eilish Lee, Róisín de Burca, Natasha Lydon, Alan Keady, Damien Graham, David Mc’Anena and James O’ Connell) took part in workshops with lead artist Jennifer Cunningham, creating cyanotypes of seashells, seaweed, and other objects washed up on the beach.

The group invited ideas from swimmers of Ladies Beach and local Salthill community groups. Throughout this process of creative enquiry, the group developed a design that captured the surging spirit and energy of this treasured Galway Bay swimming spot.

Above: Sea shells and natural ocean items used for cyanotypes

Participant Róisín de Burca

"The mural is the talk of the city and we are proud of it."

In late September, on Culture Night, the mural, curated by Gary Walshe, was launched publicly with an official opening by Jennifer Cunningham. The special event was attended by the Mayor of the City of Galway, Eddie Hoare, and over 200 members of the public. The launch included an exhibition of cyanotype prints, an exhibit of photographs of the project process, and a celebratory community dip.

Jennifer Cunningham said:

“The project puts me in mind of the Irish saying ‘Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’, which translates as ‘People live in each other’s shadows’. Meaning: we are shielded from the sun by each other, we rely on each other for shelter. People need each other. We needed each other to get the mural painted.

Ladies Beach swimmers are a tight-knit community who help each other and others. They were so kind to us during the project, offering encouragement, ideas, and even snacks.”

Above: The Salthill shelter lit up at night

“It was amazing to meet all of the different swimmers that swim on Ladies Beach”, said one participant, Alan Keady.

Another participant, Róisín de Burca, said:

“We learned a lot from Jennifer and our experiences shaped us into the mural painters and sea swimmers that we are today. The mural is the talk of the city and we are proud of it.”

Special thanks to lead artist Jennifer Cunningham, project manager Gary Walshe, project organiser Sheelagh Mc’Inerney, Arts Alive Galway’s Programme Coordinator Gaie Stewart, and programme arts facilitators Laura O’Connell, Adam Stoneman, and Councillor Clodagh Higgins, the Creative Ireland Programme, Galway City Council, Brothers of Charity Services Ireland and The Village Salthill.

Read more about the Trá na Mná project here

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