Artists-in-Residence Examine Irish Conflict and Transformation to Peace through Art
For conflict transformation to succeed, a mutual story about the future must emerge. Muralists Danny Devenny and Mark Ervine, former enemies in the war in the north/Northern Ireland, are looking together at the future and have combined their talents to create shared narratives through public art. This spring they will be artists-in-residence on campus, taking part in a number of events, including publicly painting a mural for the University as part of the Art of Conflict Transformation, a multi-year series of events.
For the past forty years murals have colored the terrain of the north/Northern Ireland, communicating about the conflict and other pressing issues within and between communities. Some neighborhoods have multiple murals on each city block depicting pain, pride, demands, and hopes of more than one generation. Devenny and Ervine for decades marked the walls of Belfast with their talents in support of views that reflected the turmoils of their respective communities.
In 2007 a power-sharing government was elected, providing a stable platform for communities to create a shared future. That’s when Devenny and Ervine decided to team up. Their first co-production in 2007, the painting of Picasso’s “Guernica” in Belfast, showed how murals could take a significant role in helping move society forward in its transition to peace. Their second joint mural, “Painting from the Same Palette,” was unveiled at UMass Amherst in spring 2008 to a standing-room-only crowd and the muralists joining via videoconference from Belfast. Click here for an overview of this event.
As a follow-up, in April 2009 UMass Amherst sponsored “Public Truth Recovery: Memory, Justice and Conflict Transformation” with internationally renowned transitional justice experts Dr. Patricia Lundy of the University of Ulster (Belfast) and Dr. Mark McGovern of Edge Hill University (Liverpool). To another full house, they explored the challenges of reaching shared understandings of the past.
Having already engaged in several virtual classes (via Skype) and public Skype sessions, Devenny and Ervine finally arrive in person on campus this spring, thanks in large measure to Congressman Richard Neal’s efforts to resolve visa issues for one of our guests. Devenny and Ervine will create a mural based on about 100 comments (to date) from the community on what it should depict. They will also offer a slide presentation about their separate and collaborative careers, while examining how conflict has been imprinted and expressed through art.
As part of the UMass-in-Springfield (Massachusetts) initiative, the artists will work with youth in Mason Square to paint a mural there. Prior virtual engagement between the artists and youth groups has provided input and relationship building in preparation for the project.
The Art of Conflict Transformation highlights the dedication of UMass Amherst to research, teaching and service as well as its leadership in generating new ideas and creatively contributing to their application across disciplines. For more information about the mural and events for spring 2010, visit mural.umasslegal.org or contact Leah Wing (legal studies), faculty coordinator of the series.
March 15, 2010