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Under Darkening Skies Launch

Date: 23-06-2022

Under Darkening Skies, a public art commission by the visual artist Susan Mannion at the Ballycroy Visitor Centre at Wild Nephin National Park was officially launched by Sean Lysaght on Tuesday, June 21st, 2022. 

The artwork was commissioned by the Office of Public Works (OPW) under the Percent for Art Scheme in collaboration with the NPWS of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and Mayo County Council Arts Service, to mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of Ballycroy Visitor Centre. 

Denis Strong, NPWS Divisional Manager said ‘The National Parks and Wildlife Service welcome the installation of Under Darkening Skies by Susan Mannion which represents the wonder and beauty of our natural world and the importance of environmental education in its protection. This artwork will add to the immersive experience at the Visitor Centre and encourage visitors to look up and enjoy our ever-changing skies’. 

The two-stage open competition was coordinated Mayo County Council Arts Service in partnership with the OPW. Susan Mannion is a visual artist based in Boyle specialising in copper enamel work, a technique that has been used since the 13th century BC. ‘During the selection process the panel were greatly impressed with the artist’s approach to the commission and her proposed artwork inspired by the dark skies and the landscape. Mayo County Council is delighted to have worked with the OPW and NPWS on this commission’, Aoife O’Toole, Acting Public Art Coordinator, Mayo County Council 

Indeed Ms Mannion was ‘spellbound by the majesty and beauty of the night sky’ on first viewing the Milky Way while holidaying in Mayo in 2013. Subsequent visits to the National Park followed with Mayo’s naturally dark skies continuing to inspire her, and creating and ‘emotional and protective connection… I loved having the opportunity to create a wall-mounted sculpture combining imagery of the night time skies of this unique site, created in the jewel like qualities and amazing colour range of enamel. I designed a sculpture that would not interfere with, obscure or damage this unique and distinctive setting.’ 

The artwork was informed by discussion with the community, staff and visitors to the centre and through a questionnaire that was conducted in 2020 and 2021. People expressed how the landscape and dark skies had a huge impact on their lives and explained what delighted them about this area of County Mayo and their love of the landscape. 

The Per Cent for Art scheme is a government initiative that was first introduced in 1978, which allocates 1% of the cost of any publicly funded capital, infrastructural and building development to the commissioning of a work of art. Since 1997 this scheme has been made available to all capital projects across all government departments. Claire Anderson states that the ‘The Office of Public Works is delighted to hear that this Percent For Art Scheme project has come to fruition and that the artwork has been installed for visitors and the local community alike to appreciate and enjoy. The OPW is pleased to have co-operated with NPWS in the development of this visual arts project which will greatly enhance the environment of the Ballycroy Visitor Centre.’ 

This stunning artwork ‘Under Darkening Skies’ can be seen on the exterior wall on the Ballycroy Visitor Centre, which is open to the public daily from 10.00 – 17.30 from mid-March to early November. 

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