29 June 2023
By Tom Collins
Island City, Cork’s Urban Sculpture Trail has today announced its first sculpture, as part of the biggest ever single investment in public art in Cork City. Niamh McCann’s ‘Sentinals’ takes flight on Carey’s Lane is the first sculpture to be unveiled in Cork’s Island City Trail. This is the biggest single investment in public art in Cork City in the most ambitious project to date.
Sentinels [flew through the ages in the shape of birds], by Irish artist Niamh McCann on Carey’s Lane is the first of five contemporary sculptures to be installed around the city this year. The sculptures are part of a unique cultural trail for locals and visitors intended to enhance the City Centre by providing an experience that is arresting, intriguing and playful whilst illuminating the city’s unique heritage. The temporary artworks will remain in situ for a period of five years.
Island City, which is a Cork City Council project funded to the tune of €670,000 by Fáilte Ireland, will animate the city and its heritage with public art, adding to the visitor experience. Four of the sculptures have already been commissioned after a competitive process, supported by the National Sculpture Factory, and the fifth will be chosen through an open call process, which will open in the coming weeks.
The first sculpture is ‘Sentinels’, by artist Niamh McCann. McCann, who now lives and practices in Dublin, studied in MTU Crawford College of Art and Design for a number of years, 1991-94. The lane-length sculptural piece is influenced by the architecture, geography, and incidental features along the length of Carey’s lane in Cork City Centre. The work is fixed above head height on the lane and is held by the simple image of a seagull, perched atop a neon strip, sentinel-like on either end of Carey’s Lane. The sculpture is intended to be intriguing and playful, animating the lane by day and by night – a work that is both intimate and dynamic and responds to the shifting shape of the city.Contemporary Irish artist Niamh McCann who works in three-dimensional work, painting/drawing and installation, said, “I have a real fondness for Cork having spent formative years as a student and artist here and it’s my home away from home. I wanted to really get the true feeling of the city across in the piece. ‘Sentinels’ is a nod to the old and the new – from Cork City’s diverse and migratory history and its merchant and yachting tradition to its welcoming of new cultures and its urban adaptability. Using a combination of contemporary materials and craft, the installation explores the themes of travel and landscape and draws a line from one end of the lane to the other. I was also influenced by the inhabitants and geography of the lane such as the history of craft, culture and the presence of the Huguenot graveyard. I worked with sustainable materials that work well in outdoor settings such as bronze, jesmonite, and cedar wood. The red rope that links the pieces is a nod to the Rebel county’s traditional colour.”
Newly installed (since last Friday) Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy, said, “Island City – Cork’s Urban Sculpture Trail is the most ambitious public art project in Cork City to date. It is a testament to the resilience and creativity of our cultural sector and we were delighted to partner with Fáilte Ireland and work with the National Sculpture Factory to bring it to fruition. We believe this initiative will deepen the city’s connection with public art and encourage locals and visitors to explore new areas of the city as art comes to life on our streets.
Michelle Carew, Arts Officer, Cork City Council, who is one of the leads on the project, said, “We underwent a robust selection process with an expert national and international panel in art and architecture, and the sculptures to be unveiled over the coming months place contemporary sculpture right at the heart of our public realm.”
Mary Houlihan from Fáilte Ireland said, “Through the Urban Animation Scheme we want to re-imagine and reinvigorate public spaces for locals and visitors alike. We want to create spaces that will help people to connect more with the city. We are delighted to see the first of the sculptures installed in Cork and we have no doubt that it will intrigue and delight those who see it.”
Commenting, Jeff Safar Hamidi from Koto on Carey’s Lane, said “We are thrilled to be involved with Cork City Council and Fáilte Ireland on this exciting art installation on Carey’s Lane. The wonderfully talented artist Niamh McCann has created a stunning multi dimensional art feature for the Huguenot Quarter and Cork City. This art piece will attract locals and tourists alike to pause, look up and appreciate the beauty and heritage of our streets. The joint effort of all involved is testament to the innovation and creativity that is pumped into our city every day making it a vibrant place to live, to visit and to enjoy. “
Aidan Duke from Dukes said, “It’s a very clever piece, with a connection to the Huguenot Quarter, and I believe it will have a huge positive visual impact when it’s hanging suspended over Carey’s Lane. Many of us in the ‘Carey’s Lane Traders Association’ have been liaising with Cork City Council and other bodies for years to try and come up with a way to celebrate the area, it’s unique charm and interesting history and I believe this art Installation is the perfect method to achieve this goal”.
Over the coming months the remaining four sculptures will be installed on the Exchange Building on Princes Street, Cook Street, The Coal Quay and Triskel Christchurch.
Island City, Cork’s Urban Sculpture Trail is a Cork City Council project funded by Fáilte Ireland under the Urban Animation Scheme, with commissioning support by National Sculpture Factory.
To learn more about Island City, follow @IslandCityCorkSculpture on Instagram.