The old adage ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ will certainly ring true when the Irish Prison Service Headquarters, Longford, plays host to the artistic work of over 50 Irish prisoners. From Wednesday July 25 onward, the modern setting will become home to one of Ireland’s most exciting art exhibitions, ‘The Crushed Bull’.
Up to 60 artistic pieces, all of which are developed by prisoners in Irish prisons or members of post release centres, will be on display. They will consist of a variety of art forms including paintings, drawings, sculpture, lino prints, mosaics, photography, jewellery and pottery.
Veronica Hoen is an art development worker with the Irish Prison Service and also works with the Prison Education Services. She believes that visitors are in for a great surprise when they view the work at the Ballinalee Road venue.
“I think people will be very surprised at the quality of the work. Most of these prisoners had never put pen to paper prior to doing these art classes. It really is amazing to see what they have achieved,” said the Cork native.
Over 100 prisoners took part in the original exhibition which was displayed in March in Kilmainham Jail Museum. Over 145 pieces formed that collection.
Ms Hoen, who previously taught at Spike Island prison for ten years, believes that art is a vital component of prison life.
“It passes the time for them and it is also a very practical way of encouraging them into other subjects. They get qualifications on the inside and some even go on to get further qualifications on the outside at colleges such as the National College of Art and Design,” she said.
She continued: “It is also highly therapeutic. I’ve worked with people who have said ‘this (art) has changed my day’. They become serene. It also helps them with problems with their families as they send work back home.”
Asked if it worried her that she may be tutoring some of the country’s most vicious criminals, she replied: “They come from right across the spectrum. You don’t look at the crime. I don’t know what their crime is and I don’t want to know about it. I feel safe when I teach and there is always an officer nearby.”
‘The Crushed Bull’ art exhibition will run from Wednesday July 25 to Friday August 31 at the Irish Prison Service Headquarters, Ballinalee Road, Longford. Admission is free and the exhibition is open Monday to Friday 9.30am to 5.30pm daily.