The SEEK Contemporary Urban Arts Festival, which took place in Dundalk this past week, has been hailed as a huge success by its organisers.
Dundalk welcomed five renowned outdoor muralists and urban artists, all based on the island of Ireland, to take up residency in the town. The artists created large scale artworks of key themes and characters inspired by Dundalk’s rich history and heritage.
Building on the success of the inaugural festival in 2019, five new artworks now have pride of place in the heart of Dundalk.
Scheduled guided walking tours ran throughout the festival, with extra dates added due to demand. The walking tours gave visitors an insight into the themes behind the new and existing artworks from 2019 and 2020, the artists themselves, and a glimpse into the history of Dundalk.
The painting workshops for children and teenagers at the Market Square, and ceramic workshops held in An Táin Arts Centre also proved very popular, with sold out events taking place throughout the week.
Town Centre Commercial Manager, Martin McElligott said: “We are overwhelmed by the support of the local community and visitors to Dundalk, who joined the walking tours, engaged with the artists, and attended the workshops.”
He continued: “The Arts has a huge role to play in the Urban Regeneration process that we have been working on, and the seek festival is another branch on the tree of that work. We have an eclectic mix of people living in Dundalk from all over the world and have developed in a very cosmopolitan way and that is a key strength in our future attractive proposition as an area.
“I am delighted that Dundalk’s unique brand is now finally shining through. I am equally delighted to have collaborated with fellow organisers, Sarah Daly from Creative Spark and Barry Finnegan from Thinking cap Design.
The project’s overall success fills me with pride for the huge voluntary team we have built around this, with a special thank you to Dundalk Tidy Towns for their huge early morning push with all wall preparations and all our tour guides, including Liam Gaynor.
“But, off course, the festival could not have gone ahead this year without the commitment of our main sponsors, Colourtrend, Creative Ireland as nothing can happen without this kind of support.”
Barry Finnegan, one of the organisers and local artist Omin explained that each of the artists “embraced the ethose of the festival”.
He said: “It is an absolute honour to be in a position to invite artists of this calibre to leave their mark on Dundalk. Each artist has really embraced the ethos of the festival, which has been highlighted by the warm reception they have all encountered from the people of Dundalk”.
Paula Kavanagh, daughter of renowned local photographer, Paul Kavanagh - who is the subject of one of the murals - said: “To have these artists painting to such a huge scale right before your eyes day after day and to watch their progress is just so amazing. It was quite emotional for my family and I to see my Dad's painted portrait.
“I felt I was looking right into his eyes and actually thought I was able to have a conversation with him again. The image is so life-like and even his suede jacket brings back so many good memories.”
She added: “I think the murals bring a lovely vibe to the town and our family and friends have been busy sharing the images of the murals all over the world. I'm sure it brings great recognition for Dundalk as well as for Paul”.
According to visiting artist Aches: “The SEEK Festival is a great initiative, Martin McElligott, Barry Finnegan and Sarah Daly done a great job building the project over the past two years. During this time, they have helped to implement top quality murals around the town, giving some well needed colour to the area. I was delighted to be invited back this year to paint a mural to honour Tom Sharkey, the Heavyweight Boxing Champion who was born in Dundalk. The wall I was given for this piece is on the side of O'Hanlon Park Boxing Club on the Long Walk, a fitting spot for the mural and a great wall to paint”.
As part of the SEEK Contemporary Urban Arts Festival and in the spirit of connecting to Dundalk’s history, local art collective AAEX (Art as Exchange) created an installation of a large Flamingo Sculpture with mechanical wings. The sculpture is in commemoration of a flamingo, which in 1985 took residency in Dundalk Bay. The sculpture now has pride of place on the roof of the Dundalk Tourist Information Office.
AAEX is a collective of over 30 local artists, supported by Creative Spark, which since 2016 has provided a variety of art initiatives in the region.
Sarah Daly of Creative Spark, Dundalk’s Centre for Creativity and Innovation, said: “We were delighted to work with the BIDS team again in 2020 to bring this festival to the streets of Dundalk. Creative Spark is all about supporting creativity in our communities and this project is a fantastic way to shine a light on the people and stories of the town and to celebrate them in an extremely creative way.”
She added: “The line-up and talent of the artists this year is superb and everyone who has watched the work evolve over the week has been truly amazed at the murals they have produced. The festival has given a much-needed, and colourful, boost to the town and the people who visit and live here.”