Connecting Artists 2024 national exhibition opens at RCSI

by Alison O'Hanlon
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The exhibition marks the culmination of a transformative 10-week online programme designed to empower artists with intellectual disabilities nationwide by providing them with mentorship, professional development, and increased visibility in the arts community. By showcasing the artists’ talents, this exhibition also aims to challenge societal misconceptions and stigma surrounding disability in the arts.

Officially opening the event, Miriam O’Callaghan said; “It is a tremendous honour to be here today celebrating the achievements of these talented artists in this beautiful setting.”

Now in its third year, the Connecting Artists Programme, designed by Miriam Spollen, founder of Connections Arts Centre (CAC), has significantly advanced the careers of participating artists. Since 2022, 30 artists have taken part in the programme. Highlights from the 2022/23 programmes include national exhibitions at prestigious venues such as the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), which attracted nearly 20,000 visitors, the University of Atypical in Belfast, and Art Source in Cork City Hall. Notable solo exhibitions featured 2023 participants Thomas Higgins at Cavan Library and Matthew Sexton at Bishopstown Library, Cork.

Broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan with artist Joe Hallam, of Enniskerry Co. Wicklow, at the opening of the Connecting Artists 2024 Exhibition at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin.  
Picture: Marc O’Sullivan

The programme has generated tangible financial benefits for its artists, with 58 individual art sales valued at €9,605 to date, supporting 20 artists. Additionally, artists have facilitated talks and demonstrations at institutions like RHA and Crawford Art Gallery in Cork.

CAC is thrilled to announce continued support from RCSI and RHA, who have committed to hosting future CA exhibitions, talks, and workshops in 2025 and 2026, ensuring sustained exposure and development opportunities for participating artists.

Speaking at the opening, Miriam Spollen says, “Our plan for next year is to support up to 50 artists and have three national exhibitions. To achieve this ambitious goal, additional support, including corporate sponsorship, will be crucial. This will help us harness social inclusion in every county in Ireland and beyond.”

Artist Jason Grace, of Tallaght Dublin, at the opening of the Connecting Artists 2024 Exhibition at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin.   Picture: Marc O’Sullivan

Through increased visibility and recognition within the wider arts community, artists in the programme have experienced significant personal and professional growth. This is exemplified by the achievements of artists such as Thomas Higgins, who overcame personal challenges to showcase his work at a national level in both the RCSI and the RHA gallery.

“We are proud to host this fantastic exhibit. By fostering and encouraging the talent and confidence of these exceptional artists, CAC has created an impactful and enriching programme. The positive impact on the artists, their families, and the broader community is profoundly inspiring, and we are excited to see the ongoing success and expansion of this initiative,” says Liz Hughes, Head of EDI, The Royal College of Surgeons.

Artist Bradley Farrell, of Cranmore Sligo, at the opening of the Connecting Artists 2024 Exhibition at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin
Picture: Marc O’Sullivan

Connections Arts Centre adopts a rights-based approach grounded in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). By providing long-term support and visibility, CAC ensures that artists can pursue and be recognised in their artistic careers on an equal footing. CAC seeks partners committed to fostering an inclusive society and supporting the arts as a dynamic force for social change.

Upon completing the programme, participants have the opportunity to join the Connecting Artists Collective, a platform for ongoing support and artistic growth. The Collective facilitates artistic expression, skill-sharing, and collaboration, hosting notable exhibitions at prominent venues like the RSCI and Royal Hibernian Academy. Connections Arts Centre continues to support artists with paid opportunities, including facilitating talks, workshops, and selling their artwork.

Supporting the Connecting Artists Programme means investing in a more diverse and inclusive arts community that enriches everyone.

For more details, visit

Featured image: Broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan takes a selfie with artist, Rachel Coen, of Palmerstown Dublin, at the opening of the Connecting Artists 2024 Exhibition at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin. 

Picture: Marc O’Sullivan

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