Artist Name(s) Ruth Lyons, Vera Klute, Hope Inherent & Theresa Nanigian
Artwork title Unit
Context/Background Project history: Unit was the third in a series of visual art projects in County Laois.  The first took place in 2006 when Laois Arts Service developed an Artists' Symposium held at Emo Court, a beautiful rural country estate and parkland.   Artists were asked to respond and to make new work in this rural environment of over a number of weeks. The artists included Barbara Nealon, James Hayes, Julie Merriman and Lisa Fingleton.

In 2007 Laois Arts service commissioned Finding Portlaoise, curated by Maria Kerin, this project focused on a number of urban interventions, which encouraged artists to address the changing context and growth of Portlaoise town. Which at the time, had experienced significant social and infrastructural changes. Further details of both these projects are available on request from Laois Art Service.

Unit the project, 2008/09 was led by Sarah Searson and commissioned by Laois Arts service as a residency project. The project asked artists to spend time working within the physical and material sphere of the town, exploring its social, economic and geographical aspects. Artists and curators worked together to highlight everyday concerns that might be apparent and of interest them. Curators and artists worked closely together throughout the project. Four curators were invited to nominate four artists; the key participants were; Padraic E Moore and Theresa Nanigian, Sally Timmons and Ruth Lyons, Cliodhna Shaffrey and Vera Klute, Sarah Searson and Hope Inherent


The Unit project offered an alternative way of commissioning public art projects in the town and surrounds of Portlaoise. The projects structure was designed to be supportive of thinking, making and writing. The ethos of the project was to work by mutually investing in the key participants. Inviting artists and curators/writers to work alongside each other while thinking of their practice in relation to context and place rather than be asked to respond to it.

The artists had in-depth support from the writers/curators along the time frame of about five or six months. The local authority financially and administratively supported the project and worked with the lead curator Sarah Searson on the development of its structure.  

At the time of developing a context for the project in early July of 2008, Sarah Searson began to research into the stirrings of economic stresses which were beginning to splinter into the town. So it was from this point of research she began to develop a number of briefing documents for the artist / curator parings. Four projects manifested themselves in very different ways, with both tangible and intangible outcomes. 

  1. The curator and writer Cliodhna Shaffrey nominated the artist Vera Klute. Vera took the hospital in the town as her point of reference, taking ideas of invasion, replication and micro, from medical machinery such as x-rays and scanners. She was also looking at commuting and the way we live and its affects. She made a series of animations which were on view in the town, seen by a wide audience, but the work was also very much about her own interests and practices at the time. 

  2. The curator and writer Padraic E Moore asked the artist Theresa Nanigian worked with students of English who were new to living in Portlaoise and who had moved to the County from non-English speaking countries. Responding to a text she found, were the poet John Betjemam describes a parlour game which encourages participants to imagine a private Eden. She worked with students exploring their dreams and aspirations of their own perfected world. The outcomes of the discussions and writings were published as book designed as a portable art in itself.

  3. Hope Inherent (artists Tara Kennedy and Jennie Moran) were invited to the project by Sarah Searson, their examined the idea of the prison as a starting point for their research. Previous work project explored necessity of hope for the human spirit, through ideas of exchange and gifts. As the project developed into a series of research questionnaires and thoughts evolved over the term of the project, direct access into the prison became less important as a methods of direct communication, the context of the residency funelled Hope Inherent's research and project into an inverted position which emerged as an interesting resource from which to develop lateral connections rather than direct action into the prison. The practical and tangible resolve to mark the end of the project became gift or object that could be used both inside and outside the prison context, it was offered as a solution, a fun and game-like gift, a viewfinder from which to be in a place of reflection, making and action, which highlighted the idea of prison as a place to pass time. A small model of a sundial was placed in various locations in the town.

  4. Ruth Lyons, was selected by artist and curator Sally Timmons, who work closely together on initial research for the project and how it might be orientated. Ruth for the duration of the project moved from her studio at the Good Hatchery which she co-founded in Co Offaly and relocated to Portlaoise town centre where she opened a temporary studio. Using imagery based on research of the many new housing complexes and estates she used the window of the studio as a point of access into her work, she made a model using painting and projection as medium for expressing her delicate and beautiful response to the town.  

Public discussion about the _Unit project was held at the Dunamaise Theatre, Portlaoise on Friday 5th December 2008 
Artists and the curators from the project presented and discussed aspects of their practice and their research experiences for the project.

Two booklets were published with writings about the unit project in 2008 and 2009 with the following commissioned writings 

Padraic E Moore’s essay The Other Eden contextualises Theresa Nanigian’s
Seeker Project

Sarah Searson's writes about the prison context and Hope Inherent’s research
intentions in her essay Dwelling Time.

Cliodhna Shaffrey’s essay Pantoffeltier explores the imagery in Vera Klute’s animation trilogy

Sally Timmons and Ruth Lyons converse about research and working
on the project in a transcribed interview. 

public exhibition took place in various locations in the town from the 19th-23rd of May 2009.

Artists workshops were run in association with the project in the Dunamaise Theatre, on the following themes.  

Written Representation: selection and curatorial processes with both public and private bodies place increasing expectations on artists to represent themselves with clearly and articulately written proposals. This informal workshop lead by Sarah Searson was intended to give participants time and space to review and revise their artists statements and biography. The workshop was supported by reading material and suggestions for further research. 

Visual Representation: The workshop lead by Claire Nidecker suggested ways of organizing your digital portfolio and understanding available technology. The focus was on the importance of understanding digital imagery, compatibility, and how this knowledge makes it easier to upgrade representation. The workshop was informal and handouts suggested areas for further research.


Padraic E. Moore is a writer, art historian and curator. Moore graduated from University College Dublin with a B.A.(Hons) in the History of Art and English literature in 2004 and curated and participated in several exhibitions and projects before and while completing his M.A. in Visual Art Practices(curating) at IADT from which he graduated in 2007. In addition to Moore’s curatorial work in public galleries recent independent curatorial endeavours have included a group exhibit conceived for the Curators Project Space at the Dublin Art Fair (2008) and Plans, Sections and Elevations, a Group Exhibition at the Royal Institute of Architects, Dublin (2008).

Recent literary projects include the production of a collaborative text with artist Sarah Pierce for catalogue of the third edition of If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution and composing a piece of prose for a catalogue of artwork by artist Felicity Clear.  In Summer of 2008 Moore was awarded the curator/critic studio at Temple Bar Galleries. The diverse facets of Moore’s practice are unified by his subjective but rigorous approach to excavating art historical narratives.

Theresa Nanigian was born in Maryland, USA and lives and works in Dublin. She received a BA in Business Administration at Babson College, Massachusetts in 1983 and an MBA at Columbia University, New York in 1986. 

Her business career encompassed a number of positions including management consulting at McKinsey & Company and running a worldwide technology division at American Express where she was a Senior Vice President. 

She then returned to university and received a BFA from the Dublin Institute of Technology in 2002 and an MFA in Media from the National College of Art and Design in 2004. 

Recent exhibitions include Art in the Life World, Breaking Ground, Old Swimming Pool, Ballymun (Dublin, Ireland), Spring 2008, Is Mise Ireland, Xin Tian Di area (Shanghai) and Central Academy of Fine Art (Beijing), Spring 2008, what is…(solo show) Void Art Centre (Derry, N. Ireland), Winter 2006, within & without, Tulca 06, Fairgreen Gallery (Galway, Ireland), Winter 2006 and EAST International 2006. Nanigian currently Lives and works in Dublin.   

Sarah Searson is a curator and cultural consultant. At the time of this project she was completing a two year public art commission with South Dublin County Council’s public art programme, In Context 3, with artists, Jackie Sumell, Denis Connolly and Anne Cleary, Bik van der Pol, Jennifer Walshe and Dermot Bolger. 

More recent curating projects include  Tulca (2006) Satellite (2007) and a forthcoming exhibition at RED, Tallaght Arts Center (2008) and was she was curatorial advisor to Tulca and Trade (2007) and artistic the direction of Wicklow County Council's Public Art Programme.

Hope Inherent is an ongoing collaborative project between Jennie Moran and Tara Kennedy. They wish to sustain and explore a particular kind of practice: bringing positive and engaging experiences to members of the public. Recent projects include an assembly line designed to help people to give lovely Christmas presents at the BiG Store, in Temple Bar Gallery2007. 

At the Out of Site Festival 2007 Hope Inherent played gramophone records from a tea trolley for passing workers in the Financial Service Centre. Supported by a bursary from Dublin City Council, Hope Inherent ran a one month project based in a kiosk on Grattan (Capel Street) Bridge in Dublin city centre. This project offered simple hopeful services to passing members of the public. Services offered a temporary retreat from the city and included street furniture made from hay bales; music; a facility to make and send a postcard for someone you like and hopscotch.

Jennie Moran was recently artist in residence at Airfield Trust, Dublin and has exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, including in Berlin, Tokyo, Auckland and Milan. Tara Kennedy recently participated in Two Minds, a collaborative project run by Royal Society of Ulster Architects. She was awarded the Epson FAR Award for Artistic Research in Milan in 2006. Notable projects in Ireland include Transplant ,Sandymount strand 2006, and Highlighters, Cork Street 2005. 

Vera Klute was born in 1981 in Salzkotten, Germany. She graduated, with a First Class Honours degree, in Fine Art from the Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire in 2006. She is currently in residence at the Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Buckingham Street, Dublin. Her recent exhibitions include Phoenix Park at the Kerlin Gallery, 2008; The Video Project Pawn Shop Los Angeles, 2008; Big FootMonsterTruck, 2008. Weather Permitting at Mantua Projects, Ballingare, County Roscommon, 2008; and Life as Such at thisisnotashop, Dublin, 2007. 

She has participated in the Darklight Film Festival and Galway Arts Festival 2008. Vera Klute lives and works in Dublin, Ireland.

Cliodhna Shaffrey practice includes exhibitions, public commissions and longer term projects such as Artist as Traveller and TRADE, which she developed during a residency with Visual Leitrim and Leitrim and Roscommon County and Body City – phase one and two - exploring the inter twining between body and city included a video apartment, seminar and website. 

This was developed with artist and curator Nigel Rolfe and Shelagh Morris for Dublin Docklands Authority. Her writings have been included in House Projects and Living Landscapes amongst other publications.


Ruth. E. Lyons is an artist and co-director of the Good Hatchery project in Co. Offaly where she holds a permanent studio. She graduated in 2007 with a BA Hons in Fine Art Sculpture from the National College of Art & Design. Since graduation  she has exhibited broadly and received numerous residencies and awards.Her practice includes installation,video and painting.

Sally Timmons is founder of Commonplace Artist’s Studios in Dublin’s city centre. Through commissioning, publishing and collaborative endeavour she has developed a number of independent curatorial ventures including Commonplace Amateur Projects (ongoing artists commissions since September 2007),Rigor Mort book and touring exhibition Basement Gallery Dundalk and Castle Ellen House in Athenry 2007) and associated projects such as, The Temporary Collection exhibition and website (Castletown House,

December 2007 in association with Kildare County Council Arts Service) and the group exhibition titled Based On Our Current Science which took place in Dublin’s Gallery of Photography in August/September 2008. As a visual artist using research based photography, moving image and drawing, Timmons has involved herself in various associations with artist - led groups and organisations such as, Via, The Moore Street Lending Library, Pallas Heights and Projector

Collective - all based in Dublin, along with Human Resources in Galway, Platform in Finland and N55 in Denmark. Timmons is committed to an involvement with arts in health and currently works in association with Tallaght Hospital arts office. - www.commonplace.ie



Commission Type Local Authority
Commissioner Name Laois County Council
Commissioning process A curated process
Project commission dates September 30, 2008 - April 30, 2009
Partners Commissioned by Laois County Arts Office, with funding from The Arts Council of Ireland. Venue support from the Dunamaise Theatre,  Artists workshops were supported by the Midlands Arts Network, Create and the Dunamaise Theatre
Artform Visual Arts
Art Practice Arts Participation
Funded By Laois County Council,The Arts Council
Budget Range 10000 - 30000 euro
Project commission start date 30/09/2008
Project commission end date 30/04/2009
County Carlow
Town Portlaoise
Street Address Various locations in Portlaoise
Content contributor(s) Muireann Ni Chonaill
Relationship to project Arts Officer, Laois County Council
Public engagement

The Unit project officially concluded with a celebration at the county hall in Portlaoise on Tuesday, 19 May 2009.

Outcomes and finished art works were installed, exhibited and placed in the following locations from 19-23 May 2009.

Vera Klute 

Installation at main Street Lower 

Ruth Lyons 

Studio at Church Street 

Theresa Nanigian

County Hall Dunamiase Theatre 

Hope Inherent 

Portlaoise Train Station

Jims County Kitchen

Dunamaise Theatre

Citizens information enter 

Garda station

Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Muireann Ni Chonaill, Arts Officer Laois County Council 
Arts Office Staff, Bridie Keenan and Patsy Lynch
Project Support Una Collins



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