Street art has become an integral part of Limerick’s identity, Catherine O’Halloran speaks of her contribution.
By Ciara McKenna
As street art continues to flourish across Limerick city, the founder of Draw Out, Catherine O’Halloran spoke about the significance of bringing colour and art to the streets of Limerick and how legal strides are being taken in favour of the art form.
Re-imagining and transforming the city’s forgotten sites is at the forefront for Draw Out such as the recently completed work on the University of Limericks city campus by highly recognised Spanish muralist, Digo Diego.
A psychotherapist by profession Ms O’Halloran founded Draw Out to introduce an art form to her role as a youth and community worker. The initial aim of the organisation was to create a platform and audience that could celebrate the urban roots of street art.
“It’s about reviving communities where there’s long-term dereliction, where the sites have been neglected or where there’s key spaces within the city that might not feel safe”, explained Ms O Halloran,
Incorporating art to these spaces “can totally transform the area and suddenly then people want to engage in the environment again,” she added.
But their work is not just confined to derelict sites. Earlier this month Draw Out started working on the women’s wing and staff courtyard of Limerick Prison, one of their biggest projects to date.
“We have a couple of surprises in store so we’re going to be very very busy and again what I hope to do is continue to roll out the utility boxes because I want to see that really grow and expand into the county hopefully as well, so there’s a lot happening”, Ms O’Halloran added.
Attitudes towards street art have changed drastically over time. The art form that was once faced with reluctance is now embraced and loved by citizens. Initially, the first proposals for murals were a means of addressing illegal graffiti and flipping the narrative to allow talented young artists to create in a safe and controlled way.
“I think we did that really successfully but initially there was nervousness, trepidation.
“I think Limerick has grown to completely embrace the artwork, people are just so grateful for it, and they love it,”, she explained.
Progress is also being made legally, in favour of street art in Limerick. A bill Titled the “Public Art Mural (Exempted Development) Bill 2022”, proposes to change the current legislation and open more doors for artists.
The bill is being proposed by SUBSET, a Dublin-based collective of artists, who believe that current legislation is outdated and “questionable at best”.
The new Bill was introduced in Dáil Éireann on the 2nd of February 2023 to address this issue.
According to a statement issued by SUBSET, murals are “an integral part of public art and can greatly improve our cities’ visual environment, as well as greatly supporting placemaking.”
The new bill has also been welcomed with open arms by Draw Out, who believe “the power to govern some of these decisions needs to be taken back into the hands of city-based practitioners.
“I’m really hoping that this bill will allow much more freedom for expression. What you want to be able to do is drive through a city and for the environment to tell us a story about who lives there, said Ms O’Halloran.
The selection process for street art in Limerick city is like that of any prestigious art gallery or exhibition across the world. When Draw Out selects a mural site, care and attention is placed on the local community and its needs.
From here the unique story behind the artwork is cultivated based on all of these components and an artist is selected who can accurately realise their specific vision.
Ms O’Halloran’s objective is, “for this artform to be embraced like it is across the world, and for us to kind of get with the times and evolve a bit more because I just think there’s so many benefits in it to embrace the growth of artists in the city”.
Draw Out is constantly developing its portfolio of artists, and though many of the featured artists in the past have been international, there is always local involvement. A team of young people from communities around Limerick are taken under the artist’s wing and mentored.
“Every artist that comes, no matter where they come from will bring new skills, new flavours. It’s evolving so quickly, and they get to pollinate the city which is amazing”, Catherine added.
Limerick-based artists, however, have been heavily featured in the beautifully decorated Utility boxes that add vibrancy to the streets of the city.