Meet our fantastic team! We believe in the power of the arts to transform the healthcare experience of children and those who care for them.
Helene Hugel, CEO and Artistic Director
Helene Hugel is CEO and Artistic Director of Helium Arts. She has an Honours BA Degree in English from Trinity College Dublin and a qualification in Hospital Play Specialism during which she won the Eve Latimer Award for her dissertation. She was co-founder and partner of the award-winning Puca Puppet Theatre Company until 2002. As an individual arts practitioner developing arts and health for children between 2002 and 2008, she was awarded multiple Arts Council grants and bursaries to develop her practice working with children in hospital. She is the recipient of both a Level 1 and Level 2 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Award and in 2009 she founded Helium Arts in order to provide a structure for collaborating with other artists and healthcare practitioners to extend the impact of arts and health practice to more children and young people living with illness across Ireland.
Mitzi D’Alton, Programme and Operations Manager
Mitzi D’Alton is a cultural producer with 12 years experience in theatre, festivals, events and cultural community projects. She joined Helium in January 2019 as Project Manager of Pop Up Picnic. Over the years she has worked with a number of arts and cultural organisations including Dublin Fringe Festival, The Ark, Dublin Theatre Festival, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin City Council led festivals, Science Gallery Dublin as well as a variety of independent projects with independent artists and theatre makers. She graduated with First Class Honours in Business with Arts Management from IADT.
Emma McKinley, Development Manager
Emma McKinley joined the Helium Arts team in May 2022 as the organisation’s Development Manager. In this role, Emma leads on the strategic development and implementation of the organisation’s fundraising strategy. Prior to this, Emma worked from 2008-2022 for the Children’s Rights Alliance as their Head of Development and Communications. Emma also worked for six years with the ISPCC as Communications Officer. She holds a BA (hons.) in Philosophy and Classical Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin and a Masters in Globalisation from DCU. Emma also has certificates in Non-Profit Leadership and Management, Child Law and Constitutional Law. Emma is a passionate advocate for children’s rights, believing that what’s best for children should be a primary goal in a just society. In her spare time, Emma loves to sing, travel and enjoy good food.
Niamh Whelehan, Family Liaison
Niamh Whelehan joined the team in 2021 in the role of Family Liaison. She completed her BA in Visual Communications at Athlone IT in 2007. In 2012, she retrained to work in early years education, completing her level 5 Childcare training. She gained valuable experience working with children from a diverse range of backgrounds and with a range of additional needs in various pre-school and after-school settings in Galway city before returning to complete her MA in Early Childhood Education at NUI, Galway in 2018. She is currently completing her second MA in Creative Psychotherapy at the Children’s Therapy Centre, Co Westmeath. She enjoys teaching part-time and tutors a number of FETAC Level 5 and 6 Special Needs Assisting courses and Childcare modules.
Her passion is creativity and her research to date focuses on the impact creativity has on education and learning, particularly in the early years. She is a keen crafter and enjoys crochet, knitting, needle felting and embroidery. In her spare time, Niamh enjoys yoga, vegan cooking, and spending time outdoors with her dog, Alfie.
Jenni Little, Volunteer Coordinator
Jenni has worked in the Arts Sector for over ten years in a variety of roles varying from stage management, assistant directing and event management to visitor services and marketing. She has worked for a number of organisations including Dublin International Film Festival, Dublin Fringe, Culture Night, International Literature Festival and The Ark. In her spare time she attends gigs, theatre and takes pictures of birds.
Jenni joined the Helium Arts Team in January 2021
Gloria Kavanagh, Finance Executive
Gloria joined Helium in December 2022. She has worked in a variety of finance roles for over 20 years, predominantly in accountancy practice with KPMG and PwC but also with the Healthcare Industry.
Gloria holds an honors degree in Commerce from National University of Ireland Galway and is also a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
In her spare time Gloria enjoys staying active, walking or jogging outdoors, playing GAA or practicing yoga.
Cathy McGann, Marketing and Communications Executive
Cathy joined Helium Arts in May 2022 as Marketing and Communications Executive. She joined the team straight from completing a level 9, Postgraduate Certificate in Digital Media and Marketing with Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT). She also holds a Bachelor of Commerce International (with Spanish) from University College Dublin. Cathy is an enthusiastic, innovative, and driven professional. She has her own personal experience of growing up with a health condition and is passionate about the possibility of empowering children and their families through creativity and the arts. Cathy loves to travel, learn languages and is very involved in her local community, working with children through the school. Cathy has also worked as a volunteer, in the past, for Special Olympics Ireland and the Muiríosa Foundation’s Friendship programme.
Róisín McGannon, Programme Co-ordinator
Róisín joined the team as Programme Co-ordinator in May 2022 with a background in community engagement, arts management, youth participation and co-creation. She has worked closely with a range of community groups and stakeholders including artist’s, young people, researchers, teachers, cultural practitioners and underrepresented, minority groups. Róisin has worked as a Project Manager, Facilitator and Researcher in museum education, programme design and development to deliver inclusive and engaging learning experiences through arts and culture. She has worked at a number of institutions, art galleries and independent cultural spaces across Ireland most recently Science Gallery Dublin and the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin. She has managed and coordinated several European Funded Research projects and co-authored publications on the topics of Informal Learning and Art, Science & Society.
With a particular interest in access and inclusion, Róisin completed a certified course in Accessibility in Curation from the Node Centre of Curatorial Studies. She has also completed a level 9 Professional Diploma in Creativity, Innovation and Leadership with UCD. As a Visual Artist she has exhibited her work and been awarded residencies across Ireland and Europe, graduating with a First Class Honours BA in Fine Art Printmaking from the National College of Art and Design.
Sinéad Cliffe, Remote Programme Co-ordinator
Sinéad Cliffe joined the Helium Arts team in January 2023. A graduate of NCAD, Sinéad spent extensive time abroad studying with the Film Academy Baden-Wurttemberg GmbH (Stuttgart) and the Animation Workshop / VIA University College (Denmark). Sinéad also worked and trained with children’s cultural and educational organisations in Copenhagen and Viborg during her five years living in Denmark (Kulturprinsen, Carte Blanche, Centre for Education and Animation / AW-VIA).
On her return to Ireland in 2005, with the assistance of Enterprise Ireland and Cork City Arts Office Sinéad established Ainm8, a mobile animation station documenting children’s stories. She worked as arts manager for over 10 years with YWI Cork developing music and arts programmes for young people living with addiction and social, emotional issues. She then went on to coordinate an early years arts programme which was delivered with a team of artists to childcare facilities including Direct Provision across Cork city and county.
Sinéad is very passionate about access to the arts for all children. In her spare time she enjoys doing qigong, gardening and singing with her local choir.
Shannon Re, Programme Co-ordinator
Shannon joined Helium Arts in January 2023. Shannon has worked in Gallery Education developing and managing visual art programming for all ages. Working with various stakeholders to create meaningful engagement and further access to cultural resources both in the gallery and community contexts. This year she completed an MA in Creative Practice from ATU with a particular focus on participatory art engagement and shared learning. She graduated in Printmaking and Contemporary Practice from LSAD in 2016.
Veronica McGuire, Hospital Programme Co-ordinator
Veronica McGuire specialises in the field of the mental and emotional health of children aged 4- 12 years; focusing on behavioural difficulties and loss through sickness, bereavement, and separation. In her work, she draws on over twenty-year’s experience working with families and children in her ongoing work as a radiographer in Crumlin Children’s Hospital, Dublin. As a Creative Arts Therapist, she works in a variety of settings and services, offering therapy and creative arts to children with physical, intellectual and emotional disabilities. She has also worked as production manager with Barnstorm Theatre Company and a drama facilitator with the ARK Children’s Cultural Centre on their Healing Ark Programme across children’s hospitals.
Monica Flynn, Project Manager
Monica joined Helium Arts in 2017 as Project Manager on the Fireflies Artist in Residence project at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital. Over the last couple of years she has supported work by artists Siobhan Clancy and Rachel Tynan and project managed the Fireflies Toolkit a set of creative tools for young people transitioning from paediatric to adult health services. She enjoys working directly with artists and seeing young people blossom creatively in the collaborative process. A visual artist in her own right Monica has an MA in Visual Arts Practices from Dun Laoghaire IADT and H.Dip. in Arts & Cultural Management. From U.C.D. She also works part time for the artists representative body Visual Artists Ireland as their Professional Development Officer.
Irene Hislop, Operations Co-ordinator
Irene is Helium Arts’ Operations Co-ordinator. She has a BA from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and a Diploma in Community Development Practice from the National University of Ireland Galway.
Irene has worked in communications for the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, and she has been a news reporter, clinic manager, and legal secretary. She is also a freelance copywriter. Irene’s creative passion is words, and she likes knitting too. She believes that creative expression is vital for every individual of every age, and that all children deserve to explore every creative medium that appeals to them.
She enjoys walking with her dogs, pottering around the garden and travelling anywhere she hasn’t been yet.