There was much to be proud of in Ardagh last Friday morning when President Michael D Higgins spoke of the rich heritage and abundance of creativity that was evident in Co Longford.
The President, who was on a whistlestop tour of the area was a guest at Ardagh’s Heritage and Creativity Centre which is run by local women Annette Corkery and Ann Gerety Smyth.
President Higgins spoke of the value and importance of skill and creativity as each generation learns from the last, as he planted a Willow Tree at the site.
“As you all know community arts is very dear to me and it is in abundance here in Co Longford,” said the President. “I am delighted to be here at Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Centre and to learn what it is all about. There is such a wonderful appreciation here of children and the arts and it is a place for people of all ages. It is great to see such enthusiasm for all matters cultural.”
President Higgins then spoke of the significance of planting the tree.
“Trees are very important, particularly in this part of Longford,” he added.
“The Weeping Willow - which I planted - is very apt as it fits right in with this centre’s mission statement, which is to use the various elements of the natural, built and historic heritage of Ardagh village to inspire creativity and works of art amongst those who use its space.
“ This is a place that celebrates community arts and as you all know, community arts is very dear to me.”
The published poet and former Minister for the Arts was keen to highlight his artistic credentials on the day.
“For 11 years I was involved in the Galway Mayo arts scene,” he continued proudly.
“Ciarán Benson said as far back as 1979 that we are created because we are able to exchange creativity with each other and this is true of community arts. We are able to enjoy all the different forms of artistic exploration and mix this with new technology, and are thus liberating our citizens from consumerism.
“We are making a choice between being active or passive and art in all its forms can be made available to the community.”
The President then spoke indepthly about his own involvement in the arts along with his wife Sabina, and how enjoyable an experience that had been for them.
“We made the best of friends through the arts - something that we value deeply,” said President Higgins.
“We have seen children who hold leaves in their hands and older people making choices; that is what Ardagh Creativity offers, a place where the young and old can gather together and have the best of opportunities presented to them; that is indeed truly special.
“Annette Corkery and Ann Gerety Smyth have made all this a reality here in Co Longford; they are the carers of many generations of people sharing their skills and ideas. “Here we have an opportunity to celebrate the very best of ourselves into the future and there is no distinction between the beauty of craft and the expression of art - beauty is timeless, it doesn’t change.”
He added, “The Irish have always known what was excellent and what was beautiful”.
“From our silversmith, glass producers and potters to basket makers and weavers; the list goes on and on and on. We are looking at the importance of crafts in our own particular story.
“This is a wonderful occasion for all of us to celebrate who we are and to look deep within ourselves. The artists and sculptors that I have known, and yes while there was a great solitary part to it, there is the wonder of how the piece will turn out.
“The hours spent alone, contemplating. Then there is the final result; a piece of work that has the personality of the creator and the stamp of the maker. Truly beautiful. Remember that everytime something is replayed it is recreated, that is why the arts is a gift to us all.”
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