Big thank you from

Jenny Monroe talks to Mo McDevitt, artist and ceramicist

Mo McDevittMO McDevitt is an artist and ceramicist who in 2008 independently funded Studio 23 - a social enterprise located at the former DeLorean factory in Dunmurry Industrial Estate and offers facilities for artists, designers, crafts people and musicians. She recently celebrated the expansion of the facilities and is keen to get more local people involved.

A graduate of Ulster and Leeds University, Mo founded the Creative Arts Workshop in 1984 and was facilitate with the Douglas Hyde Gallery from 1980 -1988. She was a tutor/lecturer with the National College of Art and Design in Dublin from 1979 to 1992. The artist has battled aggressive brain tumors for a number of years and has undergone extensive neurosurgery and radiotherapy but remains committed to to providing a creative environment for the promotion, development and enhancement of the Arts - visual, literary and performing.

I spend most of my days at the studio in Derriaghy making sure everything is running smoothly. As well as managing the studios I have to do the administration side of things to so I tend to do this in the mornings so I can get on with my own art work in the afternoons.

I could be taking calls from people interested in hiring a studio or I might be working on the marketing side of things. I don't get any funding and my own money has been used to fund the facilities but now I really need other agencies or individuals to come on board, I'm keen to get people to sponsor artists or studios. This would be amazing if it happened as there is so much talent out there but the lack of funding holds people back.

The educational programmes offered at the studios are high caliber, with the intention of raising awareness the full potential of all participants. We offer a diverse and skilled range of workshops facilitated by expert and experienced tutors suitable for beginners wishing to explore personal creativity and also for practising artists seeking a challenge and a safe place to energise a restless spirit.

There is a lack of suitable studio space for artists within the province and an absence of a supportive community within this environment. Artists often feel isolated and struggle to find affordable accommodation which can also help them develop their skills, network with like-minded people and support the marketing and sales of their work. Most of our talented artists have low incomes, often taking part-time jobs to make ends met. Studio 23 benefits the wider community by providing a open environment for individuals and other organisations to access artists space and courses m a neutral space. Being an artist can sometimes be a lonely and isolating experience. At Studio 23, we aim to provide not only artistic space in which to create but also a supportive environment where ideas can be explored, collaborations established and most importantly, enterprising aspirations can be nurtured.

My art has changed from being subtle and tonal to being garish and primary coloured. A certain part of my brain was affected and I have had to acknowledge that and be honest to my art. My art also deals with western notions of beauty and acceptance. You are who you are and accept what you like. My illness caused a lot of change in me mentally and physically and I've learned to accommodate that.

Brain tumors get very little awareness and this is something I am also very passionate about. It's so important to fight for public and medical awareness of it. I've always been involved in representing or campaigning for people from my student days. You have to warrior on and occasionally stick your heads above the parapet and that's what I've always done in life. If life has any quality to it then it's definitely worth living. I do a lot of fundraising for Brainwaves, a local charity that offers support to children and adults with brain tumors, their families and carers.

I established the studio by accident, a random occurrence and opportunity that I felt would benefit others within this dysfunctional community Northern Ireland needs to wake up and evolve - see the greater picture and look outside rather than inwards, accept and practice fairness and inclusion. Otherwise Studio 23 won't have a future.

Ulster Star