Archive for April, 2022

Artist Christopher Steenson reflects on his win of the 2021 Best Use of Creativity in the Workplace Award supported by ESB

April 20th, 2022

Irish Rail - Best Creativity in Workplace

With the deadline for nominations for the 30th Business to Arts Awards just a few days away, we caught up with artist Christopher Steenson on his experience winning the 2021 Best Use of Creativity in the Workplace Award supported by ESB for his partnership with Irish Rail/Iarnród Éireann for ‘On Chorus’.

This large-scale public sound artwork used field recordings of the spring dawn chorus of birdsong around Dublin during the first Covid-19 lockdown and was broadcast over the Irish Rail PA system from 8am – 9am every morning from November 18- 29, 2020.

What made you decide to work with a business when creating this project?

Collaborating with Irish Rail/Iarnród Éireann On Chorus emerged as a natural decision, because of the unique set of circumstances surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.

With galleries closed, most artists and institutions were migrating their programmes online, as a way of adapting to government restrictions which was something that I found particularly troubling, as it seemed to devalue the communal experience of art that happens in the shared space of a gallery, music venue, theatre or otherwise.

So, On Chorus was partly about figuring out a way of presenting art in a way that didn’t solely exist online, whilst still working within the public health restrictions that existed at that time.

This can be particularly problematic for sound-based artworks because they usually rely on a lot of technology – like speakers, audio amplifiers, media players and cabling – to present them to audiences. So, for me, what makes the artwork special is the fact that it was able to utilise Iarnród Éireann’s network of PA systems for a new purpose and I was actually able to create large-scale ‘national’ public sound artwork, that was broadcast across the entire country for two weeks.

It would have been nearly impossible to achieve a sound artwork of this scale and ambition without Iarnród Éireann’s support in this regard.

How did winning a Business to Arts Award help you to further your practice?

Winning a Business to Arts Award was a significant moment for my artistic practice. Very few awards like this exist in Ireland, so receiving this award was a huge validation of my practice to date, as well as serving as an important form of recognition for the On Chorus artwork.

The impact that awards have can be very difficult to quantify, but I do think that receiving this award, and the positive coverage surrounding it and the artwork in general, definitely made more people aware of my work and has led to various other opportunities, exhibitions, to funding, residencies and opportunities to speak about my work.

The award also allowed me to leverage additional support from Iarnród Éireann. They sponsored the creation of a vinyl record of On Chorus (, which documented the artwork as it was broadcast in train stations around Ireland. This is the first of hopefully many sound-based publications I’ll make in the future.

Additionally, ESB supported the ‘Best Use of Creativity in the Workplace’ award I was given. I recently received funding from ESB through their Brighter Future Arts Fund to create a new sound artwork for the Derry City Walls, which I am currently developing in collaboration with the Nerve Centre, which will be launched in Summer 2023. I’m sure that receiving the Business to Arts Award gave them a positive view of my application.

What advice would you give to someone embarking on a new arts and business collaboration?

My main piece of advice would be to not be afraid to approach a business if you think that they can offer support. The worst thing that can happen is that they will say no, and there is usually plenty of scope for conversation, even if this is the answer you do get initially. But also think carefully about the ways in which a company can offer something unique for your particular project, and how it can enhance the work you are trying to make, whilst also aligning with your own values and ideas.

Not every project needs support from a business as well, and that’s fine too.

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