The spirit of creativity continues to be nurtured throughout the lockdown at South Tipperary Art Group.
With restrictions leading to both the groups and classes being indefinitely cancelled, the creative nature of STAG managed to adapt quickly to the times.
All members have continued to paint at home, with some embracing outdoor painting. The group has even acquired new members over the lockdown with the pandemic providing a time to get in touch with their creative side.
“I believe the sales of canvases and paints went through the roof!” notes Maureen Purcell, an organiser of the art group since its foundations in 1968.
To spur creativity during the bleak isolating months, Maureen set a series of challenges to inspire members to keep creating.
Starting in September, the challenges have produced interesting results with all on display on STAG’s website and Facebook pages.
Throughout the last year, many members have occupied themselves with their own commissions, murals and instillations, including decorating a roundabout for Christmas.
The restrictions meant creating the group’s tradition of creating larger instillations were hampered by social distancing.
There are plans in place to create another instillation for Easter, with their annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations due to be cancelled for a second time.
The group has provided a valuable source of social interaction, with the meetings leading to friendship alongside art, providing a hub of creativity for anyone looking to escape the everyday.
“We have great fun, we paint away but we are talking all the time! It’s a social outlet for people,” said Maureen.
STAG’s work has been exhibited in locations including Befani’s, Mr Bumbles, the Outpatients Clinic of Clonmel Hospital, Slievenamon Golf Club and the Showgrounds Shopping Centre.
The members benefit from having their work displayed with the sales also a bonus during a difficult time for the arts.
STAG was founded members first met while attending art classes in Central Technical Institute and decided an art group was needed in Clonmel to foster the creative community in South Tipperary.
The Junior Art group had its fiftieth anniversary last year, however celebrations were cut short due to restrictions.
At the time, art was not offered as a subject in most of the secondary schools and two years later STAG provided Leaving Cert and Inter-cert Lessons for exams.
After a reform on the examination process, the spirit of STAG lived on and the group continues to host productive art classes.
The six art teachers at Junior STAG are looking forward to the easing of restrictions for the group to meet again.
‘We really miss them,” said Maureen, noting the group has never been disbanded for this long in its fifty years of running.
The Junior classes place a particular emphasis on not only nurturing a child’s love of drawing, but also to improve their confidence and provide an outlet for them in an environment where imagination is encouraged.
The works are continually updated online, however members are looking forward to in-person exhibitions again.
An exhibition was due to take place to commemorate the junior group’s fiftieth anniversary with submissions from students of past and present. Due to restrictions, the organisers adapted by placing the exhibition on their website.
Art can provide a valuable outlet during these challenging times, with the benefits of learning how to paint or draw endless.
Maureen advises anyone keen to embrace their artistic side to start with acrylics paints as opposed to oils or watercolours, alongside sourcing good quality paper to the creation justice.
“Even if it doesn’t turn out the way you hoped it would, it doesn’t matter,” stressed Maureen. “You are doing it for yourself and it’s very good for you.”
While the resilience of the pioneering art-group continues to nurture the artists in the locality, perhaps more will turn to the canvas in the coming months.
One last piece of advice to any aspiring artists from Maureen is: “Practice makes perfect, after fifty something years we all know that!”
For more information about South Tipperary Art Group, see https://s-t-a-g.ie/