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Artist Name(s) Fiona Coffey & Liz McMahon
Artwork title Traces
Context/Background Greystones Educate Together National School appointed a voluntary committee with relevant expertise to oversee the per cent for art commissioning process. An external curator, Máire Davey, was appointed specifically for her expertise in working in a highly collaborative way as meaningful involvement from the students and school was viewed as central to the process. The procurement route chosen was limited invited competition. The curator undertook a research period and presented the committee with a number of options in terms of artists. As part of the research period, the teacher on the committee (Emmet Hickey) worked with the curator to put images of works by the artists she had selected as a 'long list' onto a usb for teachers to use in their whiteboards for a class enabling their students to engage with the images. While this was in the 'shortlisting phase', the emphasis by the teachers was not on selection but on the children's own critical engagement and discussion of the works of a number of contemporary artists. The teachers did take a note of comments and discussion by the children, and the teacher on the committee compiled these responses for the committee to consider when selecting the shortlist from expressions of interest received from the invited long list. Three artists were invited to present a proposal which would result in highly creative, imaginative and child centered artwork/s. The brief required that the final artwork/s would have some permanency or be lasting in some way and that engagement with the students and teachers would be a central part of the process.  The proposals were assessed by a selection panel* which included representatives from the school in addition to the curator and independent artistic expertise.  The proposal from artists Fiona Coffey and Liz McMahon was selected as the most appropriate to the context.  The selection panel consisted of Aileen Lambert, artist; Emmett Hickey, teacher, member of the Board of Management, and member of the GETNS Per Cent for Art Commission committee; Máire Davey, curator; Jacqui Dunne, teacher, arts expertise; Orla Kenny, Creative Director of Kidsown Publishing; Vicky Kummer, parent, nominated by the Parents Association Committee

Traces makes reference to geology and archaeology and how they are interpreted in museums. The aim was that by using art materials, natural materials and age old techniques to explore themes of local geology and archaeology, the children, working with the artists, would gain a new interest and understanding of time, weather, erosion, silting, fossils and early man, and see that they too will be leaving traces for the future.

The installation begins at the top level of the stairwell with a museum cabinet, containing work that refers to fossils, shell middens, geology, sea-life and the Bronze Age. Escaped bronze fish from the cabinet swim down the stairs towards sea stones, which lead to photographs of three sea stone-fish. On the next turn of the stairs one encounters a series of photographs of the drowned forest, this leads to the bottom floor where one is surrounded by twenty-one charcoal drawings of trees.


This commission was a fully collaborative work with the students and teachers involved from the start. During her research period, the curator designed questions for the Students' Council to explore the purpose of the Per Cent for Art Scheme and its relevance to the school from the children's perspective. The questions were also about the children's aspirations for the scheme. The curator drafted the brief for the invited artists and embedded the perspective of the Students' Council in the brief. The selected artists involved all of the students in the school during the creation of the artwork – this included off-site visits to the beach and local area to collect materials and undertake workshops, classroom work and pit-firing on the school grounds where all the classes had the opportunity to see the artists at work. The focus and scope of involvement was arranged on a class by class basis with specific age-appropriate activity.


Fiona Coffey and Liz McMahon 

Liz McMahon studied in Limerick School of Art and Design. 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 15 years. She has been working in various media including clay and bronze. This is the seventh school-based percent for art commission that the two artists have worked on in collaboration with children.

Commission Type Schools/Colleges
Commissioner Name Greystones Educate Together National School
Commissioning process Limited invited competition
Project commission dates October 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015
Artform Visual Arts
Art Practice Arts and education
Funded By Department of Education and Skills
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 10000 - 30000 euro
Project commission start date 01/10/2014
Project commission end date 30/06/2015
Location Greystones Educate Together N.S. Wicklow
County Wicklo
Town Wicklow
Content contributor(s) Catherine Boothman, Ciara King, Fiona Coffey, Liz McMahon
Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Máire Davey was appointed as the external curator for the commission.

The school per cent for art committee included the Principal Catherine Sadlier; teachers Emmet Hickey and Jacqui Dunne; and 3 parents with specific relevant arts expertise assisting in a private voluntary capacity: Catherine Boothman (Arts Council), Ciara King (Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Arts Office) and Niamh MacCárthaigh (independent arts producer). The primary liaison person between the school and the commissioned artists during the implementation of the project and the creation of the work was teacher Jacqui Dunne.