Meet some of the amazing artists working with Helium Arts who are bringing joy and creativity to children living with illness and disability across Ireland.
Hospital and Community Team
Chelsea Canavan is Helium’s Children’s Creative Health Programme artist in Limerick. Chelsea is a visual artist interested in understanding narratives and shared experiences. Exploring ever changing places and spaces and its effects on individuals and community identity. She often collaborates with other artists, communities and groups on issue-based themes that are affecting them. The outcomes are participation based and influenced directly from those she works with. They manifest as multi-media works, participatory events, workshops, dialogues and collaborative performances in the context of society, education and cultural heritage. Following graduation from Oakland University in Michigan, USA with a BA in Fine Art in 2009, Chelsea moved to Korea to work as an artist in schools. Currently Chelsea is completing a Masters in Social Practice in the Creative Environment in LSAD. To date, her work with community groups and collaborative projects has been supported by the Arts Council of Limerick, Creative Ireland, and Creative Europe through numerous awards and travel bursaries. She is a member of the Visual Artists Ireland.
Ciara Harrison is Helium’s Children’s Creative Health Programme artist in Dublin. Since graduating with a B. Des. in Textile Design (2011) and an MA in Design History and Material Culture (2016) Ciara has focused her artistic practice in socially-engaged and participatory art with themes centering around hospitality, education and the preservation of skills and knowledge. She endeavours to create social change through collaboration with individuals, communities and institutions in the creation of participatory art. She is particularly interested in creative interventions in non-formal art settings, creating projects where tea, biscuits, play, craft and other domestic processes act as prompts for collaborative curiosity, conversations and exchanges of ideas.
Working as an Artist in Residence in the Waterford Healing Arts Trust (2017), Ciara further developed her interests in facilitation, partnership building, outreach, access and reflection. The residency centred on the development and management of a large-scale, participatory arts project entitled Wild Thing (you make my heart sing).
Ciara continues to work on socially engaged projects with support from the Arts Council, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland. She is a member of Visual Artists Ireland.
Rachel Tynan has been an artist in residence with Helium Arts since 2012, collaborating with teenagers at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital in Dublin on the Cloudlands and Fireflies Projects and with teenagers in the community on our community arts programme.
Rachel graduated from the National College of Art and Design (BA Art and Design Education) in 2009. Her Masters degree in Design examined the effects illness has on the human body through textile, sculpture and body art. A solo exhibition Cut Throat at The Lab (2012) pushed her work beyond the fixed manifestations of installation with an explorative dance performance which further explored the experience of living with an illness. www.racheltynan.ie
Ashleigh Ellis is a multi-disciplinary artist who loves material and process-led art, making art in/with nature and drawing as meditation. She is passionate about sharing this experience with others. She graduated from the Crawford College of Art and Design in 2011, and completed a MEd with the Open University in 2017 in which she undertook research about young artists identity and self-esteem. She has ten years of experience teaching the arts in different alternative settings and was a residential Art Teacher in the U.K. for four years in an international school where she developed inquiry-based, multidisciplinary curriculum, taught Human Ecology, and was a Curriculum Coordinator. She is also very talented on the harp!
Lucy Hill is a visual artist, facilitator, and academic and was recently awarded a PhD in art education from NCAD (2021). She completed her M.F.A at Winchester School of Arts in Barcelona, after her degree in painting at Crawford College of Art in Cork. In her PhD Lucy proposed a posthuman ‘ethico-aesthetic’ paradigm for arts based research, which presents an alternative, artistic perspective of young children’s learning and experience with materials and objects as inclusive, diverse, relational, complex, and always more-than-human. She has won several awards for her studio painting practice, including a residency on the artist’s work program at IMMA. She has completed four public art sculpture commissions and has exhibited her work in numerous solo and selected group exhibitions. She has also had her academic writing published, in for example, The Sage Handbook of Global Childhoods (2021). Lucy was The Ark Cultural Centre for Children’s inaugural John Coolahan Early Years Artist in Residence during 2018/2019 and was an invited speaker at the International Art Education Week in Seoul Museum of Modern Art, Korea. She has also been a voluntary resident artist with Woodland Park Preschool in Westport since 2007, collaborating on documentation projects, exhibitions, installations, toddler and sibling workshops, education programs for parents and educators, family art events and research. Lucy has also worked with agencies, consultants and institutions on long and short term Arts Council funded projects that have culminated in interactive child-friendly exhibitions. Her training and professional development in this area includes a study visit with Early Childhood Ireland to visit Reggio Emilia inspired preschools in Italy. Lucy was a Creative Associate with the Arts Council/Creative Ireland Creative Schools program from 2018-2021.
Early Years Team
Joanna Williams is Early Years Director with Helium Arts, developing and directing Pop Up Picnic, a multisensory, interactive piece of home theatre for children with complex disabilities and their families. Joanna is a visual theatre artist and performer creating original work for early years audiences as Little Bigtop. She has been consistently developing her working methodology with this age group since 2002. Her process begins with the child: ideas and themes for new work are developed through explorations with young children, using a child-centred approach, driven by play & observation. Little Bigtop shows tour nationally; they are interactive, highly visual & playful. Work includes Sunflower Show, Elf Factory, Footprints in the Bog and Whatever the Weather. www.littlebigtop.info
Thomas Johnston is a performer on Helium’s Pop Up Picnic, which he developed with Joanna Williams and Niamh Lawlor. A musician, educator and researcher, Thomas’s work lies in those spaces between Irish traditional music, performing arts for young audiences, community music, and music education practice and policy. He is the Artistic Director of Tradoodle Festival, County Monaghan’s traditional arts festival for young audiences. In 2016, Thomas was a recipient of the Arts Council’s Next Generation Bursary Award. Thomas has developed and toured several productions for young audiences with his company Ceol Connected including The Quiet Tree, The Far Field, The Wonderful Tune, and A Winter Wish.
Niamh Lawlor is a performer on Helium’s Pop Up Picnic, which she developed with Joanna Williams and Thomas Johnston. Niamh (BDes MA) is a founder and Artistic Director of Púca Puppets since 1997. She has extensive experience as a maker, performer, director and designer for Púca and others including The Ark, The Abbey and Wide Open Opera/Dumbworld. She was an artist on Helium’s Puppet Portal Project and is a member of Dublin City Council and DLR County Council’s Artist Panels. Her work has won several awards including Guinness Living Dublin Award, AIB Better Ireland Award, and most recently the Fisín Award from Dingle International Film Festival. www.pucapuppets.com
‘I think I could learn a lot from working with Helium Arts, and heighten my sensitivity, not only as a performer, but also as a human being and mother to a five-month-old girl, for whom every day is a multisensory exploration.’
Roseanne Lynch joined the Pop Up Picnic team as a performer in 2018. Roseanne is an actor and playwright. She trained at the Samuel Beckett Centre, Dublin, and Drama Centre London. Performance credits include Couples and Pairs 2 (Blue Heart / Theatre Upstairs), Imelda McClory’s Snowflake Story (Welly Boots), Sisters of the Rising (For the Birds), Overshadowed (Sunday’s Child), Whisky Galore (National Theatre of Scotland), The Vikings at Helgeland (Firstborn Theatre), Macbeth (RIFT), Recording Hedda (Ibsen Stage Company) and An Ideal Husband (Abbey Theatre). Roseanne recently received an Emerging Artist Bursary from Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Arts Office, to support the development of a new play she is writing.