"Everything in life is vibration"
Maria is a multidisciplinary, socially engaged arts practitioner. Her work can take various forms, including interactive multimedia, drawing, sound, writing, video, or community music making. Movement, sound and play are essential ingredients of the work, and in recent years she has used yoga, percussion, and drawing as tools to engage with diverse communities of interest. With mental wellbeing as a particular focus, her work seeks to engage and playfully co-create with others, to harness the healing power of the creative act.
Comhcheol arts workshops always look to nudge their participants towards playful creative flow, and are likely to involve percussion, movement, song, drawing and improvisation. These workshops have run with diverse participant groups and always adapt to the group’s particular needs. (Deánann sí ceardlanna trí mheán na Gaeilge go minic fosta). The ‘Yoga Drawing Jam’ (See video below) featured in First Fortnight 2021 and Connecting for Life Donegal is supporting an upcoming pilot of her arts for mental health project Filleadh Cholmcille. She directed the bilingual theatre show Mo Bhagáiste (First Fortnight 2019, IMRAM 2020.
Maria is the West and Northwest Coordinator for First Fortnight; Ireland’s Mental Health Arts & Culture Festival. This work, which she has been doing since 2018 allows her to curate and organise exciting arts and health projects and shows regionally.
Some of her arts skills are in demand commercially, including interactive multimedia, video production etc.
Maria Coleman - Artist
Maria is a multidisciplinary, socially engaged artist, with a strong history in the use of interactive multimedia.
Most recent work has involved directing,producing, writing editing and recording short films. (See Macalla Cholmcille, Síle na gCíoch ar an Trá and An Caol Áit below.) Her photographic work has been included in two exhibitions in 2021 and she has self-published a photo-essay book called ‘lockdown Emergence.’
She has a degree in Fine Art (Sculpture) from LSAD and an M. Phil. in Music and Media Technology from Trinity College, with PhD research conducted at the School of Art, Design and Printing at DIT. From 2006-2010 she produced a major body of work through developing an interactive multimedia system called the BRS (Body Response System). (2nd video below) The system was designed through iterative ‘playtests’ with different user groups. What resulted was a system of sensors that reacted to physical movement with audio and video responses. The BRS coaxed intuitive playful activity from its users, and was used to collaborate with performers and audiences to make improvised, live art works. This body of work and the resulting research led to a chapter being published in the book ‘The Performing Subject in the Space of Technology.’ (2015). This chapter describes her adoption of the “Work-in-Movement’ as a collaborative practice methodology. (Showreel on this page.)
In 2012, a paper about multi-sensory art she published in Crossings eJournal of Art and Technology won the ARTStap Title Award for arts research. Her arts research has also been presented in ‘Peripheries’ (Gorey School of Art) at The Science Gallery (D.A.T.A) and at conferences in Trinity College, Derry and Chichester. Her art work has been supported by Donegal Co. Co., Dublin City Council and Limerick City Council. In 2010 she won the ‘arts@DIT Award’, which resulted in a series of performances including ‘Project Brand New’ at the Project Arts Centre, ‘Quantified Self’ at the LAB, Dublin City Council and ‘Freeplay’ in the Crypt at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.
Maria is also a musician, with bands including ‘Wee Small Gods’, and ‘Fracas’ (Video here). As a writer, she has had articles published as a Citizen Journalist on the European Ladder Project, in the Visual Artists Newsletter and through The Donegal Women’s Network. She directed the play ‘Mo Bhagáiste’ by Pól O Gallachóir (First Fortnight, 2019, Imram, 2020. (40 min video available to view. Email comhcheol[at]mail.com for access), and was sound designer for Pól’s award winning play ‘Madadh Mire’ (Féile Náisiúnta Drámaíochta, 2019). She also has experience in arts administration through managing the Irish language theatre, Amharclann Ghaoth Dobhair, coordinating the peace building cross-cultural project ‘East Meets West Donegal’ and as a Regional Coordinator of First Fortnight; Ireland’s Mental Health Arts & Culture Festival.
‘Filleadh Cholmchille’ is an arts and health project that harnesses arts participation as a powerful form of self-expression, a catalyst for communal connection, and as a mental health intervention. Initiated by First Fortnight and supported by Connecting for Life Donegal, this pilot project, led by artist Maria Coleman, will provide wellbeing groups in Co. Donegal with instructional art resources to guide the co-creation of collaboratively authored artworks or ‘Works-in-Movement’. The project will take the creative legacy of Colmcille as inspiration. The Donegal saint celebrates the 1500th anniversary of his birth in 2021. An artist himself, the Columban story provides ‘rich pickings’ for artists and community groups to investigate ideas each as creative openness, exile, resilience and a necessary Return (‘Filleadh’ in Irish) to the potent self-care tool that is arts participation.
The idea of the ‘Works-in-Movement’. Was coined by Umberto Eco in his essay ‘Poetics of the Open Work’ (1962). The essay predicts much of the creative openness that became popular in the relational and participative art of the following decades, but history leaves us much fewer example of the more radically collaborative ‘Works-in-Movement’. Coleman embraces this idea, since such art works are left open enough to not only be interacted with, but actually be creatively completed by their audiences. Maria sees such creative input as a necessary evolution from the conventional formula, where finished works are presented fully formed, and audiences consume them on an intellectual or emotional level. This evolution goes beyond the catharsis that may come from resonating with the art work’s beauty or meaning. It inches instead towards a collaborative possibility where meaning is co-created. In this context, the wellbeing enhancing properties that accompany the creative act have space to come alive.
(This is a pilot project, that will run in 2021, with research findings and reflections published at the project’s conclusion). Visit the Filleadh Cholmcille Site.
Maria was so impressed by First Fortnight and its mission “to utilise arts and culture to challenge mental health stigma while supporting some of Ireland’s most vulnerable people through creative therapies,” that she volunteered as a Donegal event coordinator in 2019 and 2020.
In the run up to the 2021 festival she was engaged as the West and Northwest regional coordinator. In 2021, the national line-up included an impressive raft of events dotted throughout the west and northwest, curated by her. All info HERE
These included Hawkswell Theatre: Cultural Companions., The Dock: Jung, Symbols & Songs of the Soul,The Seany Project, A special edition of online poetry journal, Dodging the Rain, Donegal and Sligo library’s arts therapy events MotherSoothe, Roscommon Arts Centre: Mental Health Matters for Artists’ , and online event Havin’ A Laugh: Life behind The Book
Maria’s own work features in Yoga Drawing Jam (See first video below) and Filleadh Cholmcille