The group was first established in 2011 by Dutch woman, Jolanda van Herk, who says a dedicated core group of members remain deeply involved.
“I am originally from The Hague in the Netherlands but I have also spent time in Utrecht and Rotterdam. My partner, Barbara, is from Amsterdam and we moved here 14 years ago in February 2008,” Jolanda explains.
“Like so many people, I always thought I couldn’t draw but when we arrived in Ireland we did a course with what was then the VEC and is now GRETB (Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board). It was Barbara who was interested first and I said I’d join her. We both loved it and it was nice to do something together too”.
Jolanda and Barbara then set up the Ballaghaderreen Community Art Group which now boasts a multinational membership.
“There have been lot of different nationalities involved over the years…Belgian, Swedish, Polish…and more Irish people have also become involved,” Jolanda says.
“A lot of people have passed through also before going on to start jobs or going on to further education”.
Like many groups, the art group was affected by the outbreak of Covid-19 with meetings moving online.
“During the lockdowns we set up a WhatsApp group to keep in touch and to keep each other busy with prompts. We also posted on Facebook and that helped to keep the interest. Now that we can meet up again we hope to hold an exhibition of our works in future”.
Jolanda says the group received great encouragement during Covid from the GRETB.
“The GRETB offered us a tutor during the lockdown and Mary Duignan was very popular with members. We now have a new tutor starting with us, the artist Andrew Dillon, and we will be doing online and general classes,” she said.
The group looks to give something back to the community and has provided an outlet for those arriving in Ballaghaderreen from war-torn countries.
“We have had a couple of Ukrainians attending the class and before the pandemic started we were in with the Syrian refugees at Abbeyfield. The classrooms were not that big and our classes were crammed with both the Syrian residents and our members. It was such a pity we couldn’t continue due to Covid,” Jolanda says.
The Ballaghaderreen Community Art Group continues to meet from 10.30 am to 1 pm every Monday at Ozanam and are always on the look-out for new members. If you are interested in getting in touch with your artistic side then check out the group’s work on their Facebook page.