Leanne McDonagh

Leanne McDonagh is an artist and an educator, she is also a Traveller woman who grew up on a halting site, with first-hand experience of the prejudices and misconceptions that society has about Travellers. As an artist she feels she has a unique opportunity to represent and record her community from within.  She is employed by Cork Institute of Technology as the Traveller Education Coordinator, while she also develops her practice as an artist.  She is currently working on a public sculpture funded by the % for Art scheme and has recently illustrated a short story book, titled, “Why The Moon Travels” written by a fellow Traveller, Oein De Bhairduin which is the first of its kind in Ireland.  

What is your job?

I am both an artist and an educator, I am currently employed by Cork Institute of Technology as the Traveller Education Coordinator, but I also continue to develop my creative practice as a mixed media artist.  I have always had a passion for both art and education so I cannot simply separate the two or choose one above the other. 

Do you have a favourite type of art?

I cannot say that I do because I enjoy making all types of art, craft & design.  Ever since I was a child, I have always loved to make things and I get great satisfaction out of knowing that I have created something new.  I also tend to experiment with various art forms and processes and then combine them together by layering them up and exploring what kinds of visuals or objects I can create.  This is something that excites me a lot and it motivates me to experimenting and to keep exploring.

Why is art important?

It is important because it is a means by which we can explore and celebrate our true identities.  It also can help break down barriers and surpass cultural divides.  Which is amazing because even though we all have differences, we all also have similarities that connect us together and it is important to acknowledge that.  Art can help us to achieve a more compassionate understanding of each other.    

What is the job of art (or of artists)? 

Art is not simply for decoration it is to provoke questions and to evoke emotions, regardless of what those emotions might be.  It is to instigate a thought process or even a debate.  So that we can question ourselves and our notions about the world around us.  It is to leave us wondering.   

How will you judge This Is Art! and what will you be looking out for? 

Art can take many shapes and forms so I will be excited to see what the young minds of Ireland can produce.  I will be looking out for those who aren’t afraid to experiment and explore with different media.  I will also be looking out for those who have a message to share and I would be interested to see how they will use art to get that message across.   

Is an artist statement important to you as a viewer?

Personally no, as sometimes a piece can speak for itself, but sometimes this is not always the case.  Hence I would advise each artist to provide a statement because it does two things; it provides the viewer/judge with a better understanding of the idea behind your piece but it also helps you as an artist to become more comfortable and confident when speaking about your work.   

When did you know you wanted art to be your 'job' ?

I did not ever think that I would grow up to be an artist.  I have just always been very creative, and it was something that both my parents and teachers encouraged along the way. Hence it naturally progressed into a career.   

What advice do you have for young artists?

Not everything has to be a finished complete piece and sometimes that process is just as important if not more important than the end product, the artwork  Also, I think you should keep everything that you make, to a certain degree, as you never know when you might need to revisit old ideas.   

How do you know if you are a good artist?

If you enjoy making art and you are happy when you do so, then you are a good artist! 

What is art? 

Everything is art or born from within the arts!