Word-Tree and Our Place

Artist Name(s) Cathal McCarthy
Artwork title Word-Tree and Our Place
Context/Background Word-Tree and Our Place is an external sculpture and internal LED photographic installation commissioned by Sancta Maria Secondary School in Louisburgh, Co Mayo and completed in 2020. The sculpture was commissioned for the new school building designed by Taylor McCarney Architects Castlebar. The artwork was created with Transition Year students engaging with the artists over a year-long period. McCarthy's practice often involves social aspects where he provides frameworks for meaningful socially engaged participation. He creates multi-disciplinary platforms using source material that animate the creative spark of the participants. Works are manifested with collaborative process and dive in practice.

A sculpture and LED photographic installation commissioned by Sancta Maria Secondary School in Louisburgh, County Mayo. The artwork explores ideas about community, place, being and the natural world via poetry, drone photography and sculpture.

The project consists of two parts; an outdoor, permanent sculpture, Word-Tree, and an internal installation of drone/aerial landscape images, Our Place.The external sculpture which reads as a poem was fabricated into a tree-like form of mirror polished stainless steel composed of 273 individual letters.The internal photographic installation Our Place is composed of six large-scale LED photographic prints which were taken by the students assisted by a professional drone photographer.The textual element created by the students reads: 'When I dream skies open with memories of cherished friendships ’I am home.

The external sculpture and internal photographic installation explore ideas about community,place, being and the natural world via poetry, drone photography and sculpture. Encompassing ideas about student life, friendship, place, and the timbre of school life it connects these elements together in a sculptural form. This socially engaged multi-level collaborative public art project was created by visual artist/sculptor Cathal McCarthy in collaboration with Sancta Maria Transition Year students and invited artists poet Jean Tuomey and graphic artist Frank O'Reilly. The students were given full editorial authority on the final shape of the work.

To create the text for the Word-Tree sculpture and photographic installation Our Place the students worked over a year via creative writing workshops, art and drone flying workshops, site visits and artist/student meetings. The writing process was facilitated by creative writer/poet Jean Tuomey. Powerfully written by the TY students it encompasses relevant themes about place, location, and school life, the final line of the poem reads 'Our grades do not define us.'

The drone footage was created over a series of site visits to local important locations that were selected by the students for investigation. The location of the school along the Wild Atlantic Way in Louisburgh, Co Mayo is an area of historical and natural beauty that gave plenty of opportunity for aerial photography. The students working in collaboration with the artist learned how to observe the landscape using aerial footage. They also were closely involved in the editorial selection process for the photographic installation. Each of the LED photographs contain a textual element underneath composed by the students which relates to the location and selected photographic sites. It links the external sculpture with the internal installation


Artist's publication of project photographs with critical writing by curator and art critic Catherine Marshall. Duefor publication mid-2021.


Cathal Mc Carthy is a sculptor from Co Mayo. His sculptural works explore the boundaries between art, poetry, nature and scientific enquiry.

His works are a cross-pollination of ideas and influences and often involve meaningful elements of social engagement. He has completed several public art commissions including: Stream Spire (2011) Mullingar Town Centre for Westmeath Co Council percent for arts scheme. The Player (2003) in Ballindine N17 route for Mayo Co Council percent for art. In 2017/18 he completed two sculpture residencies at Richard Hunt studios in Chicago USA. He has also completed several private sculpture commissions. Mc Carthy has received several awards for his work which including Professional Development award Arts Council 2020, Project new work award for Arts Council 2009, Ireland funds award 2007. Mc Carthy previously instigated several large-scale art projects for adults with special needs. These include: “Words Are My Prisoner” 2009 a joint project with Aideen Barry and Carrowbeg Theatre members. His work has featured on local and national media. television, radio and print. He has taken part in several group shows and has work in private collections nationally and internationally. He studied fine art at GMIT Castlebar and completed studies in theatre, community arts and disability arts. He works from his studio in Castlebar where he is based

Current public art commissions 2020/21 include: Sonic Garden for St Patrick's Special School Enniscorthy, Friedensbaum (Peace-Tree) Hochstadt, Cultural Mile, Bavaria, Germany. Semblance Scoil Bhríde N.S. Edenderry, Co Offaly Other art commissions awarded include: 2019 Rainbow In A Box Dublin Fringe Festival (touring 20/21. Website https://www.cathalmccarthy.net

Jean Tuomey is a poet/creative writer based in Castlebar, Co. Mayo.

Frank O Reilly is a graphic artist based in Westport, Co. Mayo.

Commission Type Schools/Colleges
Commissioner Name Sancta Maria Secondary School
Commissioning process Open
Project commission dates September 30, 2019 - October 31, 2020
Artform Visual Arts,Literature
Art Practice Arts and education,Arts Participation
Funded By Department of Education and Skills
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 35000 - 70000 euro
Project commission start date 30/09/2019
Project commission end date 31/10/2020
Location Santa Maria College
County Mayo
Town Louisburgh
Website www.cathalmccarthy.net
Content contributor(s) Cathal McCarthy
Relationship to project Commissioned artist.
Public engagement

Transition year students Sancta Maria School Louisburgh, Co Mayo.

Associated professionals / Specialists involved
  • Ms Deborah Maxwell TY Coordinator Teacher,Sancta Maria School.
  • Barry Kirrane Architect, Taylor Mc Carney Architects
  • Jean Tuomey Poet,
  • Frank O Reilly Graphic Artist,
  • Jess Matterer Computer-Aided-Design,
  • Fergal Mc Grane Structural Engineer



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