Facilitating art lovers and art makers in Dunmanway

Though her surname might lead you to assume otherwise, Cecilia Scholte Lubberink is proudly Dunmanway born and bred. The artist’s deep love for her town meant there was no doubt about the location of ‘Le Chéile Arts’, her new shop that is dedicated to promoting the work of local artists, crafters and designers. 

The seed of the idea came last summer during Dunmanway Arts Weekend, a relatively new and energising annual summer event that gave Cecilia an opportunity to mix with the many local artists and crafters taking part. She quickly became aware that others had similar concerns about the lack of a permanent creative outlet in Dunmanway, as well as a lack of local art being shown.

“There wasn’t anywhere for us to share resources and facilities, to learn from each other or to share ideas. There are fantastic hubs in other towns but I was tired of commuting and wanted to have something on my own doorstep,” she explains.

Shortly afterwards Cecilia noticed Cork County Council and Creative Ireland’s call for applications for their Creative Startup Grant, aimed at revitalising disused retail spaces. 

“I wanted to create a fair space for artists to sell their work without high commission rates, but it’s very hard to do this while starting up a new business – there are so many unavoidable costs involved. The owner of the old Kerr’s Pharmacy on the Main Street was incredibly supportive and, with the help of Paul Looney, organiser of the Arts Weekend, I put all of my energy into applying for the grant and then setting up a Christmas pop-up shop. 

“This was such a positive and successful experience that I decided to take the plunge and open a permanent shop in the same location.”

Le Chéile Arts officially opened on March 16. Inside there is an eclectic selection of original paintings, drawings, ceramic art, and sculptures, as well as functional pottery, knitting, homewares, candles, lamps, children’s books, jewellery, cards and prints. “I have designed the space but the artists make the shop come alive when they bring me their unique creations,” Cecilia emphasises.

Now that the shop is open Cecilia is dedicating time to getting the upstairs of the building ready to hold classes and workshops. “There has been a lot of interest expressed by the community and many of the participating artists so I’m working on the space to facilitate this. I hope to hold exhibitions upstairs too and I’m developing a studio for myself and for any other artists who need a creative space.”

Dunmanway is a growing town with several more businesses setting up there recently. “There is a fantastic sense of community in this town,” Cecilia says, “everyone is so supportive. I hope to brighten up one more building with this shop and to give even more reasons for people to stop and walk around the town. There is fantastic architecture and natural beauty in and around Dunmanway that needs to be appreciated.”

Cecilia’s own journey into art started with writing poetry, “my first creative love”, which she then illustrated in pencil, charcoal and pen. She began painting at college, first at St. John’s Central College and then in the Crawford College of Art & Design. You may already know her work from West Cork Animal Welfare Group’s Christmas cards or charcoal sketches of the architecture of Skibbereen for the Heritage Centre.

“In the past year I’ve been working on combining watercolour pencils and acrylic paint to capture the animals I see around me in the countryside. There is abundant wildlife and inspiration in this beautiful area.

“I took up ceramics at Crawford which I loved. Through Le Chéile Arts I have met other ceramicists who I can now learn from; I’m very excited to get back to working with clay. Creativity fosters creativity; I find seeing other people’s work so invigorating and am always getting new ideas for my own practice.”

Whilst Cecelia struggled to achieve a work-life balance when setting up the pop-up shop, she is now eager to work in a more sustainable way going forward by sharing hours in the shop with participating artists who want to do so, in a way that works for everyone involved.

This will hopefully allow her to enjoy some time off with her partner Gavin O’Reilly and daughters Olive (5) and Alice (2), and also allow her to get back to gardening, long walks with her dog and hopefully sea swimming.

WCP Staff

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