RECENTLY, members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht invited Offaly County Council and Anam Beo to make a presentation on how the Arts in Offaly is used to combat social exclusion.
Representing Offaly were Pat Gallagher, County Manager, Sinead O’Reilly, Arts Officer and Julie Spollen of Anam Beo, Offaly’s Arts and Health Programme.
The presentation focused on how the benefits of participation in creative activities have individual and community impacts, such as the acquisition of skills, self confidence and better social networks, which can lead to improved job prospects and a willingness to pursue other opportunities to improve life chances in other ways.
It highlighted that the Arts are not a panacea for social exclusion, but are a unique experience to orientate individuals and groups towards greater participation in the life of their communities, towards a self-esteem which is often lacking in citizens who find themselves on the margins of society, an experience which promotes a greater sense of place and civic pride.
The presentation was well received and the members of the Committee engaged in a questions and answers session with the Offaly representatives for well over an hour. The purpose of the meeting was to inform the committee towards a new focus on social inclusion and the arts.
Arts Officer Sinead O’Reilly said, “It was a great experience, very worthwhile and very encouraging to have our work highlighted and discussed in this way, particularly for Anam Beo, who work so hard to bring creativity to health care settings across Offaly.”