Published 23.11.2015
by Kids’ Own

Virtually There: Introducing project curator Ann Donnelly

For the past eight years, Kids’ Own has been nurturing a new form of engagement between artists and school children through the Virtually There project. As Virtually There continues into a new phase, with renewed funded through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Lottery Fund, we are delighted to introduce project curator Ann Donnelly who reflects on the project and her plans for the coming year. 

Ann Donnelly:

Since the first online residency in 2007, Kids’ Own has been developing and supporting this pioneering programme connecting children and teachers in schools with artists in their studios. The project has been showcased in two touring exhibitions and a publication over recent years, and the team has amassed an abundant archive of experience during that intense period of activity. So as we begin yet another new phase of Virtually There, it feels like this might be a good time to take stock of the project.


School sessions FE Mc William Gallery, 2015












I have been lucky enough to be a resident artist with Virtually There since 2009. Alongside my ongoing residency with Donaghey PS in Co.Tyrone, this year I will be taking on the additional role of project curator for Virtually There in order to look at where we have been, what we have been learning and where we might go in the future.

The core of Virtually There is still the work that is being done between artist and schools but over the past couple of years, we have been trying to find appropriate ways of extending the reach of the project beyond that nucleus. As curator, I will investigate some of the side projects that have been taking place, bringing aspects of the Virtually There project to a wider audience outside the classroom. I will also be inviting other project participants, artists and teachers to identify points that they see as milestones for the project over the years.

Sample Layout for images 1

L: 100-E-Drawing 2, Ballydown PS and Ann Henderson, 2014 R: Tracing Hands, St Patricks PS and Sharon Kelly, 2013

As well as sifting the project archive, I will be following the progress of the project as it moves forward, supporting the rest of the team and documenting and reflecting on the work. As the project develops, I hope to strengthen the child’s voice within the process. While Virtually There relies on a tripartite balance between the children, teacher and artist, for various reasons the child’s perspective is often hardest to communicate beyond the classroom.

RecordingeveryvoiceintheschoolP1,DonagheyPS and artist Ann Donnelly, 2015

Recording every voice in the school P1, DonagheyPS and Ann Donnelly, 2015











For any artist, engrossed in the process, it can be difficult to maintain perspective on creative work and unless you have experienced the online sessions, you’ll have to believe me when I say that it’s doubly challenging to explain them to anyone outside the project. I am hoping that my new inside/outside position of participating artist/curator will allow me to explore and communicate about the deeper levels of this immensely rich and slightly mysterious creative process. More on all of this in future articles…

Meanwhile, you can follow the progress of the project through the online journals:  Virtually There Project Journals