Arts & Culture – Autumn ’23
|Dates||Sept 6th- Nov 20th|
|Group Size||16 Students|
Arts & Culture – Spring ’24
|Dates||Feb 26th – May 14th|
|Group Size||16 Students|
Irish Arts & Culture Program
What’s It All About?
The Irish Arts & Culture Program gives students an opportunity to explore and cultivate their creative side, build their independence and become part of the Irish arts community.
You will work across a variety of mediums with our team of professional local artists in daily, small-group workshops. As the program progresses, you will focus on the mediums that appeal to you most as you prepare to exhibit at the ‘Le Cheile’ Art Exhibition.
Students will explore the rich tapestry of Ireland’s cultural and artistic heritage while traveling to some of the country’s most unique and celebrated locations on our program expeditions. Gappers will learn to live and work with their peers, to manage a household and to cultivate their creative side in a supportive and low-stress environment that resembles college.
The Irish Arts & Culture program is based in Bundoran, a quaint and inviting town located on the world famous Wild Atlantic Way, in County Donegal. Gappers will live like locals, with their own home in the community and will venture into the northwest of Ireland and beyond to immerse themselves in all things Irish.
The Irish Arts & Culture Program is for students interested in a broad-exposure, small-group, art program in Europe with tangible takeaways. This is a low stress program designed to facilitate independence and develop your creative side using the arts as a vehicle for this journey.
You don’t need previous artistic experience to enjoy and benefit from this program, it is all about delving into Irish culture and developing as an artist and person, above all else it is about having fun!
- Explore and cultivate your creative side in daily small group workshops with professional artists across a wide range of disciplines.
- Focus in on the mediums that interest you most, working with our expert art tutors as you prepare to exhibit your work at Le Cheile art exhibition.
- Learn to manage your own house with your peers and build your independence in a supportive and safe environment.
- Travel all over Ireland on our overnight expeditions to Ireland’s coolest cities, towns, villages and regions: Dublin, Galway, Dingle, Derry, Belfast, Kerry, The Gaeltacht areas (Irish speaking), the Boyne Valley, the Aran Islands and more.
- Discover Donegal, your home away from home and National Geographic’s ‘Coolest Place in the World’ in 2017 (yes, it really is that beautiful).
- Rekindle the joy of learning and your intellectual curiosity in a low stress environment as you take in the culture, history and current events of Ireland.
- Make new friends and memories that will last a lifetime.
Find Out More About our Arts & Culture Program
Our Irish Arts & Culture Program is focused on four cornerstones; Cultural Immersion, Experiential Learning, Artistic Exploration and Cultivating Independence. These themes act as a compass, guiding students on a developmental journey of discovery through the lens of the arts.
The 4 Cornerstones of our Irish Arts & Culture Program
Find out more about our 4 Cornerstones by clicking on each of the icons below, or by clicking under the dropdown menu titled “Grow” at the top of every page.
Artistic Exploration: Filling Your Creative Well
Artistic exploration is about filling your creative well, finding inspiration and nurturing your creative side in a supportive environment. It is about thinking of art in new ways and experiencing your Irish journey through the lens of art.
This is accomplished through a combination of working with professional artists and daily creative connection exercises.
You will be working with local Irish artists who will provide a breadth of new artistic perspectives and skillsets. Over the course of the program, you will participate in daily workshops across a range of artistic disciplines. Our team of artists put the emphasis on the creative process rather than the end result, creating a learning environment that is more about the creative journey than the end destination.
Daily creative connection exercises give you the tools to temporarily break free of the logical, analytical mind and journey into your artist’s mind, where holistic, sensory experiences are craved to feed your inner inventor. The ‘Artists Pages’ and ‘Artist Date’ are the primary tools for aiding this process and we set aside each week for these exercises.
You don’t need to be particularly artistically skilled to enjoy these workshops, all we ask is that you are open-minded and excited about participating.
Let your imagination run free and pursue your work purely for the joy of learning and creating something unique to yourself.
Daily Workshops with Professional Artists
One of the elements our students love most about their creative journey with Irish Gap Year is the opportunity to work with so many talented artists. This offers students a broad exposure of complimentary artistic perspectives and skill sets.
In our workshops we seek to go beyond simply teaching students how to imitate the world around them. Instead, tutors help guide students in developing their own personal self-expression through process-orientated art. Art that allows different outcomes and focuses on the creative process rather than emulating a preconceived finished product. After all, the essence of art is expressing oneself.
Your work will be inspired from your travels and may be used as a stepping stone onto other art programs or simply as a vehicle to further develop your interest in a particular area of the arts. You will work with our team of professional artists in the following disciplines:
- Found Art and Upcycling
- Wood-Carving and Wood Turning
- Jewellery Making
- Land Art
Creative Connection: Developing tools for releasing your creative spirit
Daily creative connection exercises give students the tools to temporarily break free of their logical, analytical mind and journey into their artist’s mind, where holistic, sensory experiences are craved to feed your inner inventor.
The Artists Pages and Artist Date are the primary tools for this process. We set aside each week for these exercises.
The Artist Pages involve ‘sending’ your thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears and subconscious self out into the ether – It is a mental cleansing, a clearing of mind-clutter and a method of creating space for inspiration to thrive unchallenged.
The Artists date is about receiving information, inspiration, insight and guidance by opening yourself up to creative input. On Artist Dates, we journey to inspiring places (oftentimes in nature) and observe, connect and drink-in the experience. The Artist Date is a solo-experience that is pre-planned and defended against interlopers and distraction (no phones!), it aims to top-up your creative well, allowing you to draw on this inspiration at later times.
Experiential Learning: Learning by Doing
Experiential learning is learning by doing, reflecting on the experience, then applying the skills and lessons to future endeavours.
We use the principles of experiential learning on our Irish Arts & Culture Program to educate our students in Art skills, Adulting-skills, Irish history and culture. In fact, this practice permeates the entire program so that the whole experience becomes one big learning opportunity.
This approach to education is fun, hands-on and practical. We hope that our students will take away a new method of learning that is non-academic, but valuable nonetheless.
Here are a few examples of what experiential learning on our Irish Arts & Culture looks like:
Explore and compare the ruins of Gaelic and Plantation castles, clambering around their walls and cavernous rooms. Here, we will learn about the difference between a Gaelic castle and a Planter’s castle and the period of Irish history known as the Ulster Plantation and its significance in Irish history.
Complete our ‘Humans of Dingle’ project, where you will set out to meet and interview a local person from the small, coastal village of Dingle in County Kerry. After our expedition you will present the person’s story to the group along with your own artistic interpretation of their portrait.
With the support of your Program Leaders you will learn
to prepare wholesome and nutritious meals, to budget, to manage a household and how to plan and host events like the La Cheile’ Art Exhibition.
Learn about the legacy of wood spirits as protectors of Irish homes in ancient times as you carve a wood spirit of your own in our wood carving workshop.
Cultivating Independence: Your Key to Freedom
Learning to lead and manage your life takes time and practice. Building your independence in a supportive and constructive atmosphere is one of the primary goals of our Irish Arts & Culture Program.
How do we accomplish this? Through a process that we call ‘scaled responsibility’. This involves building trust with our students and gradually increasing their responsibility and independence level as the program progresses.
From the onset of the program, students will be responsible for their household’s cleanliness and general upkeep including cleaning up after meals, doing dishes (sometimes not even your own!), doing your laundry and taking out the rubbish.
A more challenging piece in building responsibility is self-advocating. Moving beyond the parental communication loop is essential to leading one’s own life as a young person. We strongly encourage our students to advocate directly to the Irish Gap Year team when issues arise, breaking that ‘digital umbilical cord’ and learning the invaluable lesson of standing on your own two feet.
Travel throughout Ireland and exploring our cities, towns and villages also helps students build their independence. For some students this will be their first foray into the world without their parents, while others will have travelled independently previously. Either way, there is much to be gained by learning to navigate a new country in a safe and supportive way.
We believe that one needs to be allowed to learn from both their successes and challenges to grow and become independent. We therefore offer support rather than handholding and encourage insight and learning over discipline.
Cultural Immersion: It’s All About Community
We travel to explore, to broaden our horizons and to immerse ourselves in new and different worlds. Cultural immersion is a deep dive into the people, place, and pace of life of a new country.
Community is very important to us at Irish Gap Year and we welcome our gap year students into our town with open arms.
Throughout the Irish Arts & Culture Immersion Program you will get to be part of a modern-day community in one of the Northwest’s most vibrant towns while experiencing Irish culture and community-pride. By getting to know the locals, your art tutors and the Irish Gap Year team, you will get a real taste of modern Irish culture along with a wide range of perspectives on current events in our part of the world
You will also get to explore the best of Ireland on our overnight expeditions around the country and on our day trips throughout the Northwest. These expeditions are designed to provide you with an immersive and unique experience of Ireland and put Irish history into a modern-day context.
For the open-minded, curious student, cultural immersion is an opportunity to connect on a meaningful level with others and contextualize the world we live in.
Becoming involved in another culture challenges students to expand their world view, while developing empathy for other cultures and people and is therefore essential to a holistic education.
The Irish Arts & Culture Expeditions Interactive Map
Irish Arts & Culture Program Expeditions
Each expedition on the Irish Arts and Culture Program is unique with its own area of focus and theme. The expeditions are 3 to 5 days each and take place every other week throughout the program.
These expeditions will show you the unique culture of Ireland and bring you face to face with many interesting and colourful characters involved in the local communities and arts scene.
You will be travelling with your cohort and Irish Gap Year Program Leaders on our minibuses and staying in a combination of guesthouses, chic Bed & Breakfasts and high-end hostels.
Hover your cursor over the spots on the map, for more details on ‘The Expeditions’.
Dublin: An Artistic & Cultural Pick n’ Mix
Our expedition to Dublin City is designed to give you an introduction to Dublin’s rich artistic and cultural heritage.
We will tour the city’s most notorious literary pubs, where gangsters, revolutionaries, novelists and poets shared many pints of Guinness while plotting the 1916 uprising. Actors will perform works by acclaimed Dublin writers such as James Joyce, Roddy Doyle and Sean O’Casey to give you an interactive insight into where and how modern Ireland was shaped.
You will take on the challenge of the ‘Dublin City Photo Scavenger Hunt’, on which you’ll have to scout out some of Dublin’s most iconic places that have played a major role in shaping modern Irish society. You’ll receive clues from our program leaders as you progress through the hunt with your team.
We will tour The National Museum of Ireland learning about the artwork, culture and legacy of the ancient peoples of Ireland, the Celts, Saxons, Normans and Vikings. After that there will be a free afternoon for you to explore the City Centre before heading for some evening entertainment as a group.
Of course, no trip to Dublin would be complete without a visit to the Guinness Brewery and Storehouse. Here you will learn about the long and fascinating Irish obsession with ‘the black stuff’, sample the finest pint of Guinness in the land and take in the best views of Dublin City from the 13th floor of the brewery before making our way back to Donegal for a relaxing evening meal at home.
Belfast: Perspectives Old and New Through Street Art
When people think of Belfast the first thing that usually comes to mind is political turmoil of the 1960’s – 1990’s known as ‘The Troubles’. Indeed, this period played an important role in the cities cultural identity, but there is so much more to modern Belfast.
We will meet a new generation of artists who helped restore the city into one of Northern Ireland’s most vibrant communities. Our focus will be a comparative survey of the old Belfast versus the new Belfast through the lens of street art. We will tour Belfast’s most notorious neighbourhoods that witnessed civil unrest for over 30 years and speak to the people directly involved in the conflict and hear their stories.
You will tour the inner cities unique and politically charged street art murals followed by street art sketch classes in the evening with local artists. We will discuss the different perspectives on Belfast’s tumultuous past and enjoy all that modern Belfast has to offer.
Of course, we will be visiting some of the ‘must see’ locations too, such as the Titanic Museum, The Botanic Gardens and the Grand Opera House.
Galway: Ireland’s Culture Capital
Galway is just about everyone’s favourite Irish city, and it’s no wonder why.
Its cobbled streets meander through a medieval town centre, the music of buskers floats in the air mixing with delightful smells wafting from cafés and restaurants and the sea air permeates the entire city.
While in the ‘City of Tribes’ we’ll take in the amazing ambiance of Galway, enjoying museum visits, day-tripping to the Aran Islands to explore ancient Celtic fortress’ and amazing nature, have wonderful group dinners in the evening and allow for ample free time. Galway’s museums are amazing, the pubs world-renowned and the people among the friendliest in Europe.
Boyne Valley: Pagan Ireland, Sacred Sites and Folklore
Even before the pyramids of Egypt were built, New Grange was already the spiritual and political centre of Celtic Ireland. At over 6,500 years old the tombs and sacred sites in the Boyne Valley are what most would consider the starting point of Irish culture and history.
At these UNESCO World Heritage Sites you will journey underground into ancient tombs, have discussions with archaeologists, historians, folklorists and gain private access to some of the lesser known sites in the area. we will also create our own artwork interpreting the heritage of the area into sketches and poems.
we will visit the Hill of Tara, where Gaelic Irish Kings were coroneted and pagan rituals took place millennia ago. we will enter the passage graves of New Grange, Knowth and Dowth, where the remains of the royals were entombed and where the veil to the underworld is said to be its thinnest. you will explore Uisneach, the alleged burial place of Eriu the Goddess from whom Ireland got its name while hearing Ireland’s oldest and most colourful folklore from a practicing witch.
You will also come face to face with some of the oldest artwork known in Europe, traditional Celtic stone carvings within the tombs – guaranteed to give you goose bumps.
This expedition is all about bringing ancient Ireland to life and bringing you face to face with the earliest forms of Irish culture and art.
THE DERRY EXPEDITION
Locals will take us on a tour of the city walls, which tell the story of ‘The Troubles’ in graffiti and symbols. Although this artwork is politically controversial, powerful and graphic, it is left for all to see and serves as a reminder of how far things have come in the past 20 years.
We will then depart Derry and head to the Inishowen Peninsula to explore this seldom visited region of County Donegal, famous for its beaches, castles and traditional villages.
Artists Retreat: Dunfanaghy, North Donegal
In the breath-taking wilds of remote north Donegal you’ll find the small fishing village of Dunfanaghy. Set against the mythological backdrop of Tory Island, Ards Friary and Horn Head this region of Donegal is the perfect setting for our artists retreat trip, where our gappers will leave their phones behind for a few days and focus on working toward an exhibition theme for Le Cheile’. Side adventures around Dunfanghy include enchanting forests, islands populated by Puffins and plenty of cute café’s.
- All food (breakfast, lunch and dinner) excluding the occasional lunch during free time on city trips
- All accommodation, linens and towels
- All art supplies and instruction
- 24/7 contact and support for students
- All transportation in Ireland
- Laundry facilities
What’s Not Included
- Travel Insurance
- Pocket money
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you still have a question about the Irish Arts & Culture program we haven’t covered yet?
Take a look at our FAQs and if your question still hasn’t been answered, get in touch and we’d be happy to talk you through it.
A Day in the Life of our Irish Arts & Culture Program
Every day on our Irish Arts & Culture Program is unique and we strive to get the right balance of creative output and inspirational input. Many days will follow a format that includes an art workshop in the morning and a cultural outing in the afternoon, followed by a homecooked, group dinner in your house.
Here is one example of a normal day on our Irish Arts & Culture Program:
9am: Program Leaders arrive to your house
9.45am: Head out to your morning art workshop.
10am – 1pm: Mixed Media & Upcycling Workshop with Ken Gunning
1pm-2pm: Lunch at home
2pm – 5pm: Tour Donegal Castle, followed by a loop walk (with some plein air sketching) of Lough Eske and the surrounding forests.
5.30 – 6.30pm: Free time at home
6.30pm: Group Dinner
7pm on: Free time
Le Cheile Art Exhibition: Coming Together through Art
‘Le Cheile’ means ‘together’ in Irish and our Le Cheile exhibition at the end of the Irish Arts & Culture Program is a coming together of local artists, our gappers and the community for an evening of art, food, music and laughs.
Preparing and hosting this event is the capstone project of the Irish Arts & Culture Program and sees gappers exhibiting selections of their own work alongside local artists.
Don’t worry, you will receive mentoring and support in creating a body of work for the exhibition from your art tutors. Equally our program leaders will encourage them to work as a team in organising and producing the event.
The Le Chéile Art Exhibition is a wonderful community event where professional and amateur artists along with our students exhibit side by side. There is music, artwork in a variety of mediums, poetry and more in a friendly and inclusive environment. You can check out previous Le Cheile Exhibitions here.