Islanders graduate from unique DIT Art and Culture programme

A unique graduation ceremony took place on Sherkin Island in West Cork on Thursday March 25. Islanders from Cape Clear, Heir Island and Sherkin Island, and participants from surrounding rural areas of the West Cork mainland, were awarded certificates by Dublin Institute of Technology following a unique three-year pilot programme in Art and Culture. The certificates were presented to the twenty graduates by Minister for Education and Science, Mr. Noel Dempsey, and Dr. Frank McMahon, DIT Director of Academic Affairs.

l to r Frank McMahon with Vincent O'Driscoll, the Chairman of Sherkin Island Development Society (SIDS)

The Sherkin Island Project grew out of a demand among islanders for a formal art course and was developed in partnership by the Sherkin Island Development Society (SIDS) and the School of Art, Design and Printing in Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). The course participants ranged in age from mid 20's to mid 70's and the three year programme was delivered through an innovative combination of direct and distance learning.

According to Bernadette Burns, Course Committee Chair and DIT lecturer, `The partnership originated from a desire among islanders for a formal Art course and from a sympathy among the project partners with the fragile nature of isolated island communities and how education can play a key role in securing their future. DIT's School of Art, Design and Printing saw the project as an opportunity to develop a living model of remote learning that can also be applied in other communities 'for example, in the EU accession states.'

Front row, left to right Lorraine Bacchus, Minister Noel Dempsey, Dearbhail Connon, Tess Leak, Peggy Townend,Middle row (l to R) Adele Plant, Monica Boyle Perry, John Desmond, Catherine Ryan, Veronika O'Driscoll, Jenny Snashall, Rebecca Keyser, Gill Good, Ciarnad Ryan, Carrie Barker,Back Row Alison Trim, Pat O'Connor, Geoff Stephens, Bernadette Burns(course co-ordinator), Majella O' Neill Collins (local facilitator)

The pilot programme was designed using a combination of live and remote methods of delivery, including video link-ups and web. It was accredited under DIT's short course programme and was thus eligible for the award of credits under the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). ECTS credits will be taken into account if the graduates of the programme wish to apply to pursue further studies.

The Sherkin Island Project came to life through an innovative collaboration between rural communities, artists and educationalists and has served to develop the artistic skills of the participants and has helped to keep the spirit of these remote communities alive. As a model, it addresses the objectives of the White Paper on adult education, which was published in 2000 and which stipulates that there must be a systematic approach to lifelong learning, incorporating equality and inter-culturalism.

Minister for Education and Science, Noel Dempsey with two of the programme's participants l to r Monica Boyle Perry and Peggy Townend

The three year pilot programme in Sherkin has now been completed and the School of Art, Design and Printing will submit the programme to DIT's Quality Assurance programme for validation as a BA degree programme in Visual Art. The programme has raised interest in many academic centres in Europe and North America, including University of Ulster, Queens University Belfast, Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, University of Art and Design in Finland, Ryerson University in Canada and California Institute of Arts in the USA.

Following on from the programme, a series of workshops has been organised by the Sherkin Island Development Society throughout this year and these will culminate in an exhibition of work by the participants at the West Cork Art Centre in Skibbereen in May 2004

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