Dancer and Choreographer Catherine Donnelly performing ‘Money Matters’ at Bank of Ireland Roscommon Town

A unique programme in Co Roscommon is helping people within companies to think of their work in a whole new light, by bringing artists into their environment and allowing interaction between them. Called Art@work, this distinctive project has deservedly received the Best Sponsorship by Small to Medium Enterprises award at this year’s Allianz Business to Arts Awards. 

Can you imagine someone making a cast of your nose at work? Or choreographing a dance to represent your daily tasks? These are the types of things that have happened as part of the Art@work programme in Co Roscommon

First started by Roscommon County Council Arts Office in 2002, the programme involves a broad range of artists spending three weeks in certain companies. While there, they make artworks using either the materials from the firm or inspired by the environment, staff or working practices within it.

“We started Art@work to offer the opportunity to people to see art being made, rather than just the finished product hanging on a wall,” says Philip Delamare, arts officer, Roscommon County Council.

“Art@work allows people to delve deeper and find out how it all starts, how ideas develop, why an artist makes the things they do. Naturally, what’s made relates strongly to that particular environment providing a greater interest and involvement in the work from staff. More often than not staff play a key role either providing the motivation for the artwork or bringing their particular skills and experience to the making of the artwork. For the artists, the new environment is provocative and stimulating.”

The companies involved in 2008 were Arigna Fuels, Bank of Ireland (The Square, Roscommon), Feelystone, FDK Engineering, Gleeson’s Guesthouse and Molloy’s Bakery, although some companies become involved year after year.

“Having artists on site often makes a major impact on the employees. For example, dancer Catherine Donnelly, a former bank official herself, created a video piece using a box theme to reflect what it’s like to work in a bank, which got a strong reaction from the staff,” says Delamare.

Declan Molloy, owner manager of Molloy’s Bakery, says Art@work has given him and his team of 38 people a different outlook on what artists actually do, as well as building character, pride and morale within the bakery. A fourth-generation family business, Molloy’s Bakery has turned the clock back to the way bread used to be processed 30 or 40 years ago.

“We saw that bakers have a connection with artists as they have to be able to express themselves with innovation while using their hands, for example, when decorating cakes. Over the years, the resident artists watch what we do and can’t get over the speed we work at.

“One artist designed a Valentine’s Day cake with a chocolate dagger and blood coming out of it. We put it in the window and someone bought it. Two years ago an artist made a cast of everyone’s nose and then made a recording of what each person could smell – no two people said they smelled the same thing. It was comical, but it created an interaction and the staff no longer described themselves as ‘just a baker’,” he says.

Delamare notes that Art@work is a unique marketing tool, advertising a brand in different circles to new audiences whilst also demonstrating openness to new things and a creative approach to business. This was evident in the latest residency at Molloy’s Bakery.

“Last year the artist Michelle Brown wanted to get across the idea that our products were made by human beings rather than machines. She sketched the bakers at work, got their faces printed onto labels and stuck them on every packet, according to what each baker made. This meant anyone buying a ginger cake or a cream cake knows exactly who made it.”

Design by New Graphic.