Artist Name(s) Fiona Coffey & Liz McMahon
Artwork title Dóchas
Context/Background In 2009,Gaelscoil Eoghain Uí Thuairisc, Ceatharlach, Ireland’s largest Gaelscoil with over 400 children launched a visual arts initiative in the context of its Per Cent for Art commission with the intention of:
  • Nurturing in the children and the wider school community, a love of art
  • Enhancing the visual environment of the school
  • Supporting and complimenting the visual arts education of the children and the wider school community
  • Supporting artists and art-making
  • Establishing links with local and national visual arts organisations, curators and galleries
The visual arts initiative has several distinct and interconnecting strands to support sustainable, high-quality art commissioning, artist engagement, wider participation and local and national partnerships between the school and the visual arts community at local and national levels:
  • The commissioning of a permanent artwork through the Per Cent for Art Scheme through open competition
  • The establishment of a school’s art collection underpinned by a sustainable policy and structure (and the procurement / purchase of three 2D artworks to seed the collection from Carmel Benson and Joan Coen)
  • A photography residency – Me, Myself, EYES – designed to encourage children to explore themselves in their world through self-portraiture using photography, writing and image-making (funded by the VEC, with support from VISUAL – centre for contemporary art, Carlow and facilitated by Sharon Murphy)
  • The commissioning of a new musical composition from local composer Ollie Hennessy for performance by the school choir under the musical direction of Mary Amond O’Brien, Director Aspiro
  • A visual arts creative hands-on workshop programme for teachers led by artist Jole Bortoli.
The core element of the public art initiative was the commissioning through open competition of the art work Dóchas from Fiona Coffey and Liz Mc Mahon who worked collaboratively with the children on an artwork that depicted the people, place, ethos and identity of the school. The sculpture is sited outdoors, close to the front door of the school. It was launched by President Mary McAleese in April 2011.


The artwork consists of nine granite boulders placed in front of the main entrance to the school. On seven of the boulders and on the school walls there are 58 bronze figures of approximately 20 cm height, depicting children taking part in the school life of Gaelscoil Eoghain Uí Thuairisc. The various groups show such activities as Gaelic football, hurling, musicians playing traditional instruments such as a bodhran, fiddle, whistle, flute and concertina, while a group of dancers dance a set and another pair are step dancing. As you walk through the boulders you come across older children helping younger children to read, pupils sharing their lunch and lots more of the daily life of the school.

The children were involved in the project from its initial conception, to the whole school researching school activities through clay. Two classes, from 4th and 5th, then explored the topic further, through  drawing, photography and wax, finally making their figures in wax which were then poured in bronze using a simple lost wax casting process, which the artists demonstrated to the whole school.

The artists made a 27 minute DVD of the whole process for the school, which can be used as a learning tool for future staff and pupils.


Liz McMahon studied in Limerick School of Art and Design in the late 70s. Since then she has been involved in a creative practice with young people and children through IMMA’s Education and Community Department, Mus-e project, Creativity in the Classroom programme and many more.  

Fiona Coffey studied ceramics in LSAD, and has been based in Glendarragh Studios, Newtownmountkennedy for the last 10 years. She has been working in various media including clay and bronze.

This is the fifth school based collaborative project that the two artists have worked on together.

Commission Type Schools/Colleges
Commissioner Name Gaelscoil Eoghain Uí Thuairisc
Commissioning process Open submission competition
Project commission dates June 1, 2010 - February 1, 2011
Artform Visual Arts
Art Practice Arts and education
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 10000 - 30000 euro
Project commission start date 01/06/2010
Project commission end date 01/02/2011
Location Gaelscoil Eoghain Uí Thuairisc
County Carlow
Town Askea
Content contributor(s) Lead artists: Fiona Coffey and Liz McMahon
Relationship to project Commissioned Artists in collaboration with the children
Public engagement

All the children in the school initially. Then 58 children from 4th and 5th classes worked on the final piece.

Associated professionals / Specialists involved

The Initiative was managed and produced by Sharon Murphy. The Selection Panel included artist, Rachel Joynt and arts programmer/ commissioner, Dara Carroll.

Artists and facilitators included:
Carmel Benson
Joan Coen
Mary Amond O’Brien
Jole Bortoli
Sharon Murphy
Ollie Hennessy
Eddie Sheehan



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