• By - Jessica Pettit-Mee
  • 01 November, 2018

The idea came to me out of the blue.

About six months ago, while scanning the newspaper clippings detailing the Ludgate’s successes, I realized I wanted to connect the growing digital community of Skibbereen with the larger arts community through my art and technology.

For those who don’t know, the Ludgate Hub is a co-working environment in my small town of Skibbereen, a well-known artsy town full of writers, crafters and artists. Since the opening of the Ludgate Hub and its 1GB of connectivity, Skibbereen has been dubbed the "digital capital" of rural Ireland.

But back to my idea. I’d always known I wanted my exhibition to differ from your typical art exhibition, but I wasn’t sure exactly how. I knew it had to add value to people, to give them a reason to come out and enjoy themselves. Flipping through the clippings that day, I realized that way to do this was by blending art with technology -- through the use of Augmented Reality, an interactive experience that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world.

Augmented Reality (AR) was the perfect answer because it’s an intergenerational activity that can be enjoyed by the entire community. My hope was that after downloading an AR app, visitors would be able to use their phone’s camera to view 3-dimensional, virtual objects over my wildlife artwork, creating the illusion that the animals in my paintings are real and moving at the exhibition.

Because I knew such an idea was sure to be rather expensive, I sought out financial assistance from the Arts Council Ireland.

By coincidence, the Arts Council happened to be accepting grant applications for projects like mine. Though I had less than five weeks to gather letters of support from the Ludgate, the Skibbereen Chamber of Commerce, a venue and a company who specialises in AR, I was able to do so. And not only that, but I was also able to secure Lord David Puttnam as a guest speaker for the launch.

During those five weeks, I also scheduled a creative photoshoot showcasing myself as an artist, as well as my paintings to date, and I set up a website to help strengthen my application.

Sixteen weeks later, I received news -- but it wasn’t good. My application had been denied, with no explanation. After pouring my heart and soul into the words I’d submitted with my application, I’d gotten little to nothing in response. Though not angry, I felt gutted. I felt unsure of my capabilities as an artist.

But through this experience, I also grew. Now, more than ever, I am sure of myself. I believe in myself. I know that I have what it takes, and I know that my comeback will be stronger than my setback.

For the time being, I am focusing primarily on my print collection, the packaging of my products and preparing for the Christmas markets.

As far as my first exhibition goes, I’m still unsure of the venue or the exact specifics, but the plan is to have one by May 2019.

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