Joan Clancy's decade hosting art in An Rinn - The Munster Express
Friday 8 October 2010
By Dermot Keyes
"I could never grow tired of it," said Joan Clancy, when asked about the glorious maritime vista which Dungarvan Bay, Helvick Head and the Cunnigar naturally provides at her home in Ring.
"It's ever changing. It's never the same twice, between the clouds and the wind, the tide being in, the tide being out, all the different seasons. Even on a daily basis it changes, from the sunset to the sunrise, it's fantastic!"
It's 10 years since Joan opened the doors of her acclaimed art gallery in Mweelahorna, An Rinn, a decision made for both personal and practical reasons.
"Both Blawnin and Rayleen (two of Joan's three daughters) are professional artists and I was selling their work from the kitchen, if you like and that was the primary motivation behind the gallery's coming into being."
The reputation which Joan's gallery has established over the past 10 years has been well earned, with its relatively remote location just one of its many charms.
"Galleries are usually on a high street or somewhere that's very accessible to a very large footfall and despite having neither of these elements in our favour, we've become well-known," she said.
"The quality of our work is of a very high standard so we do tend to attract people when we have an exhibition.
"People also like to come here because it's in Ring, because it's in the Gaeltacht and there's a mystique that goes with a Gaeltacht area that's very special. Some of the old Irish culture is still alive here; the tradition of music and singing is still here so there's all that ethos which people like to tap into when they visit here."
Joan hosts four exhibitions annually and the gallery participated in the recent 'Culture Night' which was held at hundreds of locations around the country.
And when it comes to sourcing work to hang in the gallery, there's never a problem when it comes to finding art of the desired style and required quality.
"The training is there for artists now, from the minute they go to kindergarten," said Joan when asked about the deepening pool of talent this country now plays host to.
"If a child has a talent towards the creative side, it's being nurtured and fostered now all the way through the school system into Junior and Leaving Cert and beyond, which is wonderful."
Joan's late husband Tom, who won fame with brothers Paddy and Liam Clancy along with Tommy Makem, had a lifelong 'grá' of painting and drawing. That Blawnin and Rayleen have pursued art professionally could well be described as a natural progression.
"Art was something that was always available to the girls and Tom encouraged them to follow what they wanted to follow.
"He didn't say to them 'oh don't, you'll have to make your way in the world, you'll have an uncertain future' and all that kind of thing….what Tom said to them was 'if you want to do it, then do it'.
"Some parents would be afraid to encourage their children to go into the performing arts or creative arts, which I can understand, but that was never the case with either Tom or myself."
Joan believes that there's a "huge amount of talent" throughout Waterford and beyond currently. "There's a wonderful standard out there now, and there are so many qualified artists both locally and in the wider area, so it's clear to me that the creative juices continue to flow well, I'm happy to say!"
But art is far from Joan Clancy's only passion. As a long-time supporter of the Helvick Lifeboat ("a treasure –a one woman army" according to the RNLI's Niamh Stephenson), she continues, and rightly so, to champion an outstanding community venture.
"I grew up in Dungarvan by the sea, so I always had that natural affinity and a high regard for the importance of safety at sea, so it was quiet a natural fit," she says of her RNLI affiliation.
"The Lifeboat at Helvick was reconstituted in 1997, a new Lifeboat house was also built and I was delighted to become involved in highlighting the Lifeboat's good works.
"The amount of support which the local community provides during times of trouble at sea, much of it filtered through the Lifeboat Station, is tremendously heartening, overwhelming even."
She added: "It costs about €1500 to kit out each crew member, so there's quite a lot of fundraising that needs to be done every year, but people never shirk from contributing to the Lifeboat locally because they know how important it is. For my own part, it's good to be able to contribute something to the society that you're living in, to do your bit for the community."
Fiercely proud of Tom's acting and musical career and daughters Rayleen, Blawnin and Rosemary, Joan Clancy has much to be proud of in her own right.
Her beautifully appointed gallery has become a well-known artistic hub for talent both local and imported, while her association with the RNLI promotes a great community facility and illustrates the generosity of her own spirit.
Communities would cease to be were it not for people of Joan Clancy's calibre, who positively contributes to this country's lifeblood on so may levels.