Explore the trail around Portrane →
The fascinating omni-presence of the former Victorian Psychiatric Hospital St Ita’s has influenced artists from Johnathan Swift to Beckett. The initial invitation to artists for Resort Residency in 2014 asked them to consider the site of a holiday destination and its proximity to the hospital—the visitor / visited, one who came and went or never left. In this case the artist would be the visitor and many returned to the presence both physical and historical of this hospital. During our explorations of St Ita’s history it became clear that the communities of Portrane / Donabate had a great affection for the hospital: families worked there and it formed an identity for the town: an identity that described how it fostered a great care for each other. Since the beginning of Resort Residency at Lynders, we have witnessed many changes to the area, including increased tourism, sadly coastal erosion,* and a re-activation of the local area’s historical memories and connections to St Ita’s Campus and its cultural significance with the relocation of the NFMHS to an adjacent site.

While the practices and function of St Ita’s have changed, traces of the original vision where clients are cared for and empowered to have a degree of  autonomy in their recovery journeys is still very much present. In parallel to this, the NFMHS recently demonstrated their contemporary approach to patient-lead / patient-focused care through their support of an ambitious pilot project by OPP with CMH clients at Usher’s Island where high quality arts engagement was placed at the centre of the recovery journey, not as art therapy but as a meaningful route to independence, to express without judgement and engage in necessary moments of collective joy that comes from making art together.

I invited OPP’s first generation of resident artists—Glenn Loughran, Emma Finucane & Jonathan Cummins, as well as OPP’s director, artist John Conway, to the new context of Portrane in 2020 for Resort Residency to reflect on their experiences and observations as arts practitioners in the NFMHS and explore possibilities to continue their practice in its new home. For Resort Residency / Revelations 2021, we are delighted to present a diverse array of new work encountered as a promenade style circuit around Portrane and Donabate. The show, titled Future Happiness, features new work by each of the artists. Jonathan Cummin’s series of works, Compliance / Insight, were developed with service users during his residency in Usher’s Island, Emma Finucane’s work explores the local community’s historical affiliation with mental healthcare and the sea through site specific communal action in a work titled FLOAT, Glenn Loughran reflects on the local area and its history using archival audio material in his work PARA-RADIO and John Conway invites us to look forward while prompting us to consider the present moment, with a site specific work titled Future Happiness, a phrase contained in a letter by Johnathan Swift to his love Stella, whom a famous Portrane landmark is named after. On Saturday 9th October between 15:00 and 17:00, St Ita’s Hospital Radio (available worldwide online and locally on 89.5FM) will broadcasta short interview with John Conway about the exhibition, followed by a series of experimental audio documentaries produced by John with family members of patients and a former patient of the CMH during his initial research into the NFHMS context. This will provide a deep insight into the complex lived experience of forensic mental health care.

Resort Residency was home to An Urgent Enquiry in 2019—an Arts Council partnership with Fingal County Council, Wexford County Council and Dublin City Council that focused on the effects of climate change on the east coast Special Area of ConVersation by resident artists Joanna Hopkins and Mary Conroy was presented on theme of home and biodiversity loss on Portrane’s Burrow Beach.

Caroline Cowley
Public Art Co-ordinator, Fingal County Council

About Caroline Cowley

Caroline is the Public Art Co-ordinator with Fingal County Council and is committed to bringing contemporary art practices into all aspects of life in the county. She currently directs and manages the council’s Public Art Programme Infrastructure 2017-2021, Resort Residency at Lynders Mobile Home Park, THE HIDE SCULPTURE by artist Garrett Phelan at Rogerstown Park & the Skerries Art Trail in addition to commissioning work as part of private development opportunities in the county and programming in the field of heritage, art & ecology and Arts in Health. She holds a BA in History of Art from Trinity College Dublin, Masters in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy from UCD and Masters in Visual Arts Practices from Institute of Art & Design, Dun Laoghaire. She is the current chair of artist run organisation Pallas Projects/Studios.

About Resort

Resort Residency / Revelations is a unique artist residency and commissioning programme located at Lynders Mobile Home Park, Portrane. This unique partnership between the Lynders Family and Fingal County Council’s Arts Office began in 2014 where a selection of invited guest artists and curators were chosen for their specific interests in site specific enquiry. The Resort Residency experience was such that the 2014 residents were invited to return in 2015 for the first Resort Residency / Revelations with a view to make new work inspired by their time in Portane and as part of a locally organised initiative—The Bleeding Pig Festival. This model of reside-and-return has continued since and Resort Residency has been home to almost 40 of Ireland’s most exciting artists. In 2016 Lynders Mobile Home Park and Fingal Arts Office were recognised for this unique project and were awarded a Business to Arts Award. Lynders furthered the facilities for artists on site by building a Studio / Exhibition space in addition to the provision of a mobile home which is used by artists during the summer months. The Programme and the business has gone from strength to strength.

Future Happiness exhibtion (October 2021).
Future Happiness exhibtion (October 2021).
Other People’s Practices in Portrane

St Ita’s, built in 1903, had a massive impact on the cultural fabric of Portrane, with numerous local families having at least one generation employed there. In the same way, the Dundrum suburbs grew up around the original CMH which was built there in 1850. The hospitals, and their local context do not exist in isolation from one another. Indeed recovering and recovered service users will take their first steps back to community life in the local area. OPP seeks to position itself on the overlapping thresholds of the existing local community in Portrane, and the new community of the NFMHS.

OPP’s vision is to support future generations of long-form artists residencies to work with staff and patients in the local area on participatory art projects: Future Happiness: Other People’s Practice X Resort Residency / Revelations is the first in a series of steps which attempt to establish OPP in the local area in order to realise this vision. It is a brilliant opportunity between OPP’s Phase 1 and 2 where we can connect and respond to the local area, and exhibit new work based on the artist’s collective research, engagement and insight into the NFMHS through their Usher’s Island residencies, and their connectivity to Portrane through their experience during their Resort Residencies.

OPP’s end goal is the establishment of a community arts and health site which provides a platform for artists to work in Portrane both within the new NFMHS and in the local community—an arts-centric site with capacity to reach patient and staff populations of the CMH, as well as the local community where recovered and recovering patients will eventually find themselves spending time as they progress back to community living—providing access to, and participation in, top quality art projects exterior to the hospital institute and not orientated as healthcare staff / patient, but artist / participant.

Founder and Director
John Conway
October 2021