Mullingar art idea goes national - so get drawing!

Story by Tom Kelly

Saturday, 17th November, 2007 9:00am

Two artists who came up with the idea for an art exhibition which ran in Westmeath earlier this year, have now had the thrill of seeing their idea adopted, and transformed into a national campaign.

Theresa Doyle from Ranaghan, Collinstown, and Edel O`Reilly-Flynn, from County Down, invited people to send self-designed postcards to them - and in February of this year, with the support of Westmeath County Council, they organised an exhibition of the 500 postcards they received both from this country, and from all over the world.

Last Tuesday night at the Gallery of Photography in Meeting House Square in Dublin, the launch took place of a national version of their “C Both Sides” idea, with An Post on board as national sponsor.

This marks the start of what is set to be Ireland`s biggest ever collective art exhibition, and for the coming twelve months, An Post will be asking the public to design a postcard.

In 2009, a country-wide exhibition of selected entries will be made, recording and communicating to the public a time in Ireland`s collective social history.

The campaign celebrates postcard design and the skill of handwriting. Anyone can take part in the project to make a personal statement, depicting a favourite memory, a special place, someone important or even a secret. There is no set theme, just the criteria to communicate for the price of a stamp and use a postcard as the medium.

It was after February 2007`s “C Both Sides exhibition” in Mullingar that An Post, who had seen the work, asked the two women if they wanted to take it to a national level, with An Post as sponsors.

That led to Tuesday night`s exhibition and launch in Dublin, which was attended by many important figures from the Westmeath arts scene, and North Westmeath councillors, Frank McDermott and Paddy Hill.

Speeches were delivered by television personality Craig Doyle, who showed his favourite postcards from the exhibition and said that the exhibition "stands out" for its embrace of simplicity. Mr. Doyle called on others to spread the word.

Also speaking was An Post Chief Executive Donal Connell, who reflected on the lost art of postcards and the `Mail Moment` which happens whenever a person receives or sends a postcard.

“An Post`s sponsorship allows the project to become a national and international venture. Both An Post and the artists who will continue to curate the project are gearing up for a massive response,” he said.

The main speech was given by Theresa Doyle who gave a beautiful speech on the origins of C Both Sides, now Ireland`s largest collaborative art exhibition, and how Westmeath Arts Officer Catherine Kelly`s help was invaluable in helping to sustain the exhibition from Mullingar in February to its transfer to New York in September. She also spoke of her desire to "give people a voice" with her work.

The exhibition will run again in 2009, after 12 months of asking for postcards from different groups in society, such as prisoners, migrants and schoolchildren - a different one every month - and all are invited to take part.

While anyone can enter at any time during 2008, An Post C Both Sides will focus on particular communities during each month.  The call for people to take part starts in January with Family Members; February, Sports People; March, Health, Wellbeing and Caring; April, Travellers; May, Older People; June, Business People/Unemployed People; July, Prisoners; August, Migrants; September, Politicians; October, Education and Learning; November, Farming Community; December,Artists/Individuals.

Postcards must be regular size (5.5 inches x 4 inches or 14cm x 10cm) sent through the postal system and stamped.  People can send as many postcards as they wish with either a name or address or leave the entry anonymous. A design template is available on the An Post C Both Sides website Entries should be sent to An Post, “C Both Sides”, PO Box 2009, Mullingar.