Youth inspires at the Apollo Project

Elena McCrory speaks to Jessica Sharkey on her upcoming exhibition about “boring art”

There is no doubt that the arts have suffered monumentally since the pandemic hit Ireland. Innovation and creativity work synchronously and it is vital that as a nation we find a way to provide programmes and projects for our future generations in this business. That is what makes the Apollo Project so significant. I got to chat with a fellow Trinity student, Jessica Sharkey, on her involvement in this astounding programme, as a student of art history and architecture.

Embodied with the phrase “Art makes you”, the Apollo fellowship is a long-term project hosted in the National Gallery of Ireland that aims to connect with young artists, designers, and creatives so that education, creativity, and wellbeing can happen simultaneously. In a nutshell, Sharkey describes the programme as “a medium through which young people can connect with each other and with art. Events that the Apollo Project runs are always aimed at young people, and like the upcoming exhibition, they focus on engaging with young people no matter how many artistic bones in your body. Genuinely, there is something for everyone.” It only takes a scroll through the Gallery’s webpage to confirm the statement; through the current Apollo Project creative careers discussions and artistic licence activities, aiming this programme at young creative minds is a way for the Gallery to create strong future innovators with the support of professionals.

As many students in the arts will come to realise, opportunities like these do not present themselves often. Sharkey discusses how she stumbled upon such a programme. “I actually found out about the Apollo project from Instagram, or maybe the Gallery website? It was an event called Gamechangers and there were people speaking about the Climate Crisis. It was brilliant. I went out of sheer curiosity and have not looked back. Since then, the Gallery has been a part of what I do, especially our new exhibition.” 

“This project is quite literally walking through every step of the curatorial process, from choosing our works to creating our own themes”

It can be challenging to find a programme as immersive as this one, throwing you into the real world of networking, organising, curation, and exploration. But it is a project that offers pro-activity, and it is invaluable. Sharkey explains: “This project is quite literally walking through every step of the curatorial process, from choosing our works to creating our own themes and despite the ongoing restrictions, staff from the Gallery have been incredibly helpful in joining our meetings. Elaborating on this, she says: “To replicate the process of curating an exhibition we are having meetings and discussions with Gallery staff on Zoom, which is strange but also great to have that feedback, steering us in the right direction and helping at every stage of the process.”

The Apollo Project’s main contribution from their programme is the exhibition they will be holding for young people, led by young people. Unfortunately, the show has been postponed due to coronavirus restrictions and is set for later on in 2021. Sharkey assures me that “worst case scenario everyone will be cordially invited to view it virtually.” She states: “We are taking that into consideration while we are planning it. The possibility of creating an effective virtual exhibition experience in the future is not such a shame because we have adapted to plan and curate a whole exhibition almost solely through online meetings. So, if an exhibition takes place online, it’s a new medium to explore and new ground for both the NGI and the Apollo Project.” With the support of the Gallery the opportunities creatively are endless, and it is exciting to see such a renowned institution mentoring our future innovators.

“We are creating an experience to deconstruct the idea of Boring art. Our team of young thinkers are coming to this project with different backgrounds and our approach is really going to be evident in the finished product.”

I sneakily ask about the exhibition itself and Sharkey reveals that the title is “Boring Art?”. “It’s going to be an exhibition worth seeing. We are creating an experience to deconstruct the idea of boring art. Our team of young thinkers are coming to this project with different backgrounds and our approach is really going to be evident in the finished product.”

“The Gallery in the past year has delivered entirely on exhibition experience, and much like their Mondrian exhibit, they have learned to adapt to a new means of display.”

If all goes to plan, the exhibition will run from the 16 October 2021 to the 16 January 2022 at the Hugh Lane room with free admission. The Gallery in the past year has delivered entirely on exhibition experience, and much like their Mondrian exhibit, they have learned to adapt to a new means of display. I have no doubt that they, along with the Apollo team, will create something particularly special.