Our trip around The Burren

For this year’s J-Term session, I took part in a Graduate Studio Intensive in Ireland at Burren College of Art. Columbia is trying out graduate student study abroad opportunities. Eight of us went, including seven grad students: six Photo, MFA candidates – Allison Clarke (3), Phaedra Call (3), Yeinier Gonzalez (3), Eileen Walsh (2), Jeanne Donegan (2), & me; Interdisciplinary Arts and Media, MFA candidate Thea Baldwin; and our advisor Kelli Connell. We were hosted by the Burren College of the Art, in Clare, County, Ireland in the town of Ballyvaughan and ended our trip in Dublin.

Burren College of Art

Our days were spent at our studio spaces or working/photographing around the area with our weekends free to explore. The first week we had the campus to ourselves. The college has undergraduate study abroad programs, MA/MFA/PhD programs, art exhibitions, and artist residences (programmes).

Our studios at Burren College of the Art

Our second week kicked off with a dinner celebrating the start of the semester. We met the current graduate students, some faculty and staff, and also some undergraduate students. Built into our course, we had two seminars, one led by Kelli Connell, that centered on the exhibition Work Ethic and one led by our Burren College host, Conor McGrady, that centered on socially engaged art. We also had one-on-one critiques, group critique with our group and the Burren MFA students, open studio visits, and mini-artist lectures.

Cottages in Ballyvaughan

We stayed in the town of Ballyvaughan, which is part of The Burren. It is maybe 2km long. It operates as a tourist attraction during the warm months and during winter it is a nice escape from Chicago. It was quiet and consisted of mostly locals, college faculty, and students. Only a couple places were open: Logue’s Lodge (nicknamed “wifi lodge”), O’Loclainn’s (renowned whiskey bar), and Spar (grocer/goods). Our major adjustment was to exist without immediate internet connection/limited data plans (300MB for 3 weeks :o).

Sunrise view from the Cottages

Our first week included a trip around The Burren to the Cliffs of Moher and a visit from Irish storyteller, Eddie Lenihan.

Panorama – The Burren

Cliffs of Moher (random people)

At the end of our second week, we took a trip to Galway. We could see the city across the bay from our cottages.

Panorama – Galway city, Ireland

SNOW!! We did not escape the snow (near Burren College of Art)

Chicago’s unpredictable winter weather followed us. We had a mix of really high winds, to the point some thought the roof would fly off our cottages, to snow (my personal favorite), to rain, to hail.

A smaller group comprised of Allison Clarke, Yeinier Gonzalez, and Thea Baldwin took a road trip our first weekend and traveled around the northern part of Ireland. I asked Allison to write about their experience and share some of her images:

Seascape on the Wild Atlantic Way by Allison Clarke

We caught a bus Friday afternoon from our small town of Ballyvaughan to the closest city, Galway, to rent a car.  I was quite nervous about driving on the opposite side of the road, but after some close calls, I quickly adjusted. Our first night we stayed in Sligo, a town on the western coast, at the nicest Best Western we had ever seen! We went to dinner and tried the local delicacy, Sheppard’s Pie. The dish is spiced minced lamb and a mashed potato crust. I rather enjoyed it, but others were not impressed. 

Donegal, Ireland by Allison Clarke

The next day we drove north to Donegal Town in Co. Donegal, a small town overlooked by a 15th Century castle. The local shops were filled with tourist trinkets. From there, we followed the coast out through several small towns on the way to the Cliffs of Slieve League. The wind was so strong we could not even walk up the hill. We were able to enjoy the scenic view and have fun playing around in the strongest winds we had ever experienced!

Seascape on the Wild Atlantic Way by Allison Clarke

That night, we traveled to the town of Letterkenny in the North of Co. Donegal. We stayed two nights at Bonagee House, the most charming B&B.  Ours hosts were very welcoming and we were so grateful to have them. They even helped change an unexpected flat tire. That afternoon we journeyed across the border into Northern Ireland, into the historic walled city of Derry, that is a part of the United Kingdom. We spent our Sunday afternoon exploring the city’s architecture and sights in the hilly town.

by Allison Clarke

We were on the road again in the morning, driving back to Galway. We had just enough time to stop at the Glencar Lough Waterfalls on the way before rushing to catch our bus back to Ballyvaughan. Overall it was a really great trip!

To be continued….

Shows to check out:

What Remains at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP), featuring Barbara Diener, CCC Photo MFA 2013.

Context 2015, Filter Photo’s inaugural juried photo exhibition at their new gallery space in West Town. Opening February 6th, featuring a current CCC photo student & alums and my undergraduate advisor Rebecca Sittler (Go Beach!).