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Report on Art and Older People at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

Participation in a carefully devised and sustained art education programme can have a transforming effect on the lives of older people. This is the main finding of a new research project on the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s programme for older people. The research, carried out by Dr Ted Fleming and Anne Gallagher of the Centre for Adult and Community Education, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, found that participation in the programme promoted a sense of well being, offered significant opportunities for adult learning and fostered relationships of equity, trust and friendship both within the group and with Museum staff.

The research found that the non-judgmental and non-competitive atmosphere pervading the programme was particularly conducive to the learning experience. Members of the groups frequently spoke of IMMA as a new home. The programme had not only transformed their own homes into places where they remembered ideas and tried out new roles; it had helped them make IMMA into a new home for themselves, and, in hosting visits by other older people’s groups, for others also. They had been made to feel a valued part of the institution in a positive, affirming and highly motivating way.

The report, entitled “even her nudes were lovely”, and a further publication, “I was born a baby”, based on a project involving four agencies from the Inter-Action Network, will be the focus of a two-day conference on life-long learning, interaction and inclusion in society for all older people which will take place at the Museum on Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 May. The two publications will be launched by Dr Michael Woods, TD, Minister for Education and Science, at 5.30pm on Tuesday 23 May at the Museum.

The Irish Museum of Modern Art’s Older People’s Programme, initiated even before the Museum opened in 1991, forms part of its award-winning Education and Community Programme. It has developed through a number

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of strands. National policy work and international programmes have grown through a partnership with the national agency, Age and Opportunity, whose role is to encourage older people to use their skills, to exchange ideas and
to confront issues that concern them. The long-term ongoing work with St Michael’s Parish Active Retirement Art Group, a group of older residents from the nearby area of Inchicore, is at the core of the programme. In 1997, A Sense of Place, an exhibition of ten works by members of the group exploring memories of significant places, was shown at IMMA. To mark the UN International Year of Older Persons in 1999 the group selected and curated an exhibition of works from the Museum’s Collection and also exhibited some 100 of the own works in “… and start to wear purple”.

Commenting on the report Helen O’Donoghue, Head of the Education and Community Programme at IMMA, said: “This publication represents one of IMMA’s key strategies; to disseminate its models of practice to a wider public. It captures both the spirit of exploration and fun experienced by all those who participate in or facilitate the programme and underlines the importance of a museum participating in society through collaborative programmes with other agencies, such as the current project with Inter-Action Network. The research offers the museum sector a framework for developing policy and practice in the future – for engaging with older people, adult education institutions and older people’s orgainisations”

The research project, commissioned by the Museum, was supported by funding from the EU’s Socrates Adult Education Programme and was carried out in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Swedish Museum of Architecture, Stockholm; Form d’Art Contemporain, Luxembourg; Boro fur Kulturvermittlung, Vienna; Museu Municipal de Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal; and the School of Education Studies, University of Surrey, England.

The groups involved in the Inter-Action Network project are St Michael’s Parish Active Retirement Group, Inchicore, and four leading national disability agencies: Hospitaller Order of St John of God, Carmona and Menni Services, St Michael’s House and Stewart’s Hospital.
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Publication of the report was supported by the UN International Year of Older Person 1999. The report, “even her nudes were lovely” is available from the Museum’s bookshop (price £15.00).

For further information please contact Philomena Byrne or Onagh Carolan. Tel: + 353 1 612 9900, Fax: + 353 1 612 9999.

17 May 2000