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Irish Museum of Modern Art Celebrates International Year of Older Persons

An exhibition of some 60 artworks created by a group of older people from the Inchicore area of Dublin, who have been engaged in a long-term collaboration with the Irish Museum of Modern Art, opens to the public at the Museum on Thursday 11 March. ‘… and start to wear purple’, the first in a series of events being staged by the Museum as part of 1999 UN International Year of Older Persons, traces the development of the Museum’s programme with St Michael’s Parish Group, Inchicore. The exhibition aims to demonstrate and celebrate older people’s creativity and their engagement with contemporary visual art through the Museum. It will also provide a review of IMMA’s activities in this area, based on eight years of local, national and international programmes developed with older people. The exhibition will be officially opened by Louise Richardson, Director of the International Year of Older Persons, at 6.30pm on Wednesday 10 March.

The exhibition takes its title from the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph, which begins with the line “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple” and ends: “but maybe I ought to practice a little now? / So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised / When suddenly I am old and start to wear purple.” Key works include Ribbons of Life 1993, which features the personal histories of ten women from the group, and A Sense of Place 1996, where the group addresses the importance of memories and experiences of significant places in each of their lives. During the exhibition, members of the St Michael’s Group will be available to discuss the artworks on show with the general public and with invited older people’s groups from Dublin and around the country. On Friday 7 May Helen O’Donoghue, Head of Education and Community Programmes at the Museum, will give a curator’s talk on the exhibition.

Concurrently with organising the exhibiting, in October 1998 the group embarked on an investigation of the Museum’s Collection, a project that will lead to their curating an exhibition from the Collection in Autumn 1999. The aim of this project is to develop a structure to support the group in the curating process and to identify key elements of the Museum’s programme as resources for lifelong learning. This process includes a series of practical workshops exploring selected artworks from the Collection; working with artists from the Museum’s artists team, to make work in response to their chosen artworks, and meeting with a number of Collection artists to discuss their work and regular sessions with Museum staff.

Commenting on the group’s involvement with the programme, Teresa Egan, a member of the group, who has been visiting the Museum since 1991, says;
“We are all convinced that the programme is of great benefit to us. We derive immense pleasure and satisfaction from taking part and are deeply indebted to IMMA, for giving us the means to expand our knowledge of shape, texture, colour and form and the ability to design and create, even when only using scraps and waste, because in our twilight years, that is what we would be, ie scraps and waste, if it were not for those bodies who know and care enough to untrap the artistic qualities which everyone possesses, but few get a chance to unfurl.”

The Irish Museum of Modern Art’s Education and Community Department has worked with a core group from St Michael’s Parish Group since it opened in 1991. The programme is broadly based and experimental, comprising visits to exhibitions, meetings with exhibiting artists and working with artists in the studios. Practical workshops are a core element of the programme and participants work through a range of materials, processes and techniques to explore themes, concepts and ideas.

A special exhibition guide, with a text by Helen O’Donoghue, accompanies the exhibition.

‘.. and start to wear purple’ continues until 16 May.

1 March 1999