Project Type:
Arts in Education, Visual Artist in Residence

March 2020

Participant Group:
Children in primary and post-primary education in Northern Ireland and Ireland

Julie Forrester, Lisa Cahill, Andrew Livingstone, Ann Donnelly, John D'arcy, Naomi Draper, Ann Henderson, Sharon Kelly

St. Patrick’s PS, Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh; Killard House, Donaghadee, Co. Down; Ballydown PS, Banbridge, Co.Down; Strandtown PS, Belfast; Aughnacloy PS, Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone; St. Colman’s PS, Lambeg, Co. Antrim; St. James’s PS, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim; Donaghey PS, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone.

Paul Hamlyn Foundation; Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Virtually There exhibition

The Virtually There exhibition showcases work developed by children, artists, and teachers in eight schools in Northern Ireland over the last three years who participated in this collaborative, virtual arts-in-education project. Though the exhibition focuses on the last three years, the project has been running for thirteen years. It was held in the Ulster University, Belfast, during March 2020.

The exhibition gives real sense of the depth and richness of the project, along with an insight into the meaningful creative processes that children, teachers, and artists underwent together. The exhibition pieces from the eight collaborative partnerships present moments from creative journeys, from experimentation, questioning, looking closely and with new perspective, slowing down, from conversations and communication. The result is a really beautiful, immersive, and thought-provoking exhibition.

On Saturday 7th of March, we held a special opening event to celebrate the exhibition, and to launch Open Space, the action research report on the Virtually There project by Dr Bryonie Reid. This event also featured a fascinating panel discussion between some of the project participants.

St Colman’s Primary School - Virtually There Exhibition - Kids Own Publishing
Killard House School Virtually There project, Kids Own Publishing
Ulster University exhibition 2020 | Virtually There Project | Kids' Own Publishing Partnership

Dr Ali FitzGibbon, Lecturer in Creative and Cultural Industries Management, Queen’s University Belfast, officially launched Open Space. Commenting on the research report Open Space, Ali commented: “One of the most fascinating things raised by this project was the idea of the expert. Who was the expert in this process? Who was allowed to have an opinion that shaped this process? And it’s very clear that this was a project in which the children were guiding and intuiting an awful lot of things but in a collaborative relationship between teacher and artist.” Open Space captures so much of the complexity of the Virtually There project and the careful attentiveness of each of the collaborative partnerships. We think it is a really valuable publication for the arts in education sector, as it is rare to have such an in-depth study from a longitudinal project. The publication of this study speaks to the value and potential of meaningful and long-term arts in education projects. It is available to read below or online here.

We concluded our special opening event with a panel discussion entitled “What does collaboration really mean?” This discussion was chaired by Mark O’Brien, director of axis Ballymun, in conversation with some of the artists and teachers from the Virtually There project. The discussion amongst the panel and the wider audience brought important perspectives from those involved in these very particular forms of collaborative partnerships and in which children have a central role.

This exhibition was a really important one for Kids’ Own, and for the participants involved.  Sincere thanks to all the children, artists, teachers, and schools who took part, to exhibition curator Vanya Lambrecht Ward, and exhibition co-ordinator Bryonie Reid.

Here’s a video by Éanna Mac Cana if you’d like to take a virtual tour of the exhibition.

Individual Schools Work
Aughnocloy exhibit at Virtually There exhibition - Kids Own - Close-up of collage tree made of paper, wood and paint

Aughnacloy Primary School

Ballydown exhibit in Virtually There exhibition - Kids Own - Experiment jars

Ballydown Primary School

One hand / one foot - Virtually There project - Kids' Own Publishing

Donaghey Primary School

Killard House School Virtually There project, Kids Own Publishing

Killard House School

St Colman’s Primary School - Virtually There Exhibition - Kids Own Publishing

St Colman’s Primary School

St James's Primary School - Virtually There Exhibition - Kids Own Publishing - Posters Fuzzy logic

St James’s Primary School

St Patrick’s Primary School - Virtually There exhibition

St Patrick’s Primary School

Strandstown Primary School - Virtually There exhibition - Kids own Publishing - display with sculptures

Strandtown Primary School

Virtually There is a long-term project that places artists in schools via virtual technology. Running since 2007, the project supports artists to connect from their studios with teachers and children in the classroom, engaging in contemporary art practice that stems from the artists’ own studio practice.

The project has its own dedicated website,, where you can closely follow its progress.

This exhibition Virtually There and the action research report Open Space were made possible through the four-year funded programme we received from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.