By Rosie Dore
For anyone walking through the rainy streets of Ballina on Thursday, 6th July, the climate conditions were surely not far from thought in some way or another—particularly if you had forgotten your umbrella. Yet as explained by the speakers of that day’s Climate Conference, held in the Ballina Arts Centre and Civic Offices in partnership between The Mary Robinson Centre, Ballina 2023, Mayo County Council and University of Galway, the current rate of climate change is already bringing vastly greater hardships than merely damp clothes, and these will continue to worsen if action is not taken, for Ireland and all around the world. Spending much of the day volunteering within the Mary Robinson Centre building, I was unable to attend the conference as an audience member myself, but the event was well-attended and from what little I was able to catch of the end of the day’s final topical session, these conversations made for highly illuminating yet sobering listening.
Following on from the topics discussed throughout the day’s conference, the ‘What We Stand To Lose’ exhibition was a chance for regional Irish artists to respond to the subject of climate change as a subject of such utmost relevance across all demographics, communicating their individual perspectives as a piece of artwork for public viewing. I was lucky enough to have been selected as one of these artists, and so was very excited to see my works on display in the gallery space within the Ballina Civic Office; this comprised of a collection of pieces made specifically for this exhibition focussing on the Bramble Cay melomys, an extinct rodent species and notably the first mammalian extinction to have directly resulted from human-induced climate change.
Yet in looking around at the works submitted by other artists within the exhibition, what I perhaps hadn’t expected to see was the sheer diversity of different ideas and viewpoints on show; from the moody, monolithic abstract shapes in Jo Killalea’s ‘not yet saved’ to Gordon Bromley’s beautifully-drawn depictions of icy mountainsides, the crackling, foaming acrylic texture of Ciara McKelvey’s ‘Cracking Coasts’, the swirling wool and intricate embroidery of Karena Ryan’s textile works and the lively scattering of colour—reminiscent of confetti or rain—in the handmade paper background of Jill and Gill’s striking portrait of Greta Thunberg, it was an enlightening experience to see so many different angles on this most pressing topic, each artist having something different to say through their work.
The attendance of the exhibition reception was also very encouraging; it was great to see the amount and range of people engaged with the artwork and the artists’ speeches that accompanied them, and fantastic for artists such as myself to have been given this space to connect with the wider community.
All in all, it’s wonderful to have this kind of event held not in a big city, but on my very own doorstep in the town of Ballina, and for this I can only commend the team at the Mary Robinson Centre, Ballina 2023, the University of Galway, Mayo County Council and all the speakers, volunteers and everyone else involved in the preparation of this exhibition and the Conference itself. This dedication to opening people’s eyes and minds to the reality of our world’s situation and inspiring action is something that is much-needed right now; and indeed, just as this event was made possible by the collaborative efforts of the community both in the local area and further afield, so might other positive changes be made, if only we are willing to work together.