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“Picture Our Future” Exhibition Reception Showcasing Laois Climate Action at Portlaoise Library
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“Picture Our Future” Exhibition Reception Showcasing Laois Climate Action at Portlaoise Library

Laois Climate Action at Portlaoise Library showcased

A reception on 26th June celebrated “Picture Our Future”, a new and unique exhibition at Portlaoise Library highlighting Laois County Council’s ongoing climate action initiatives and inviting community participation in future ones. 

The foundation for this exhibition was a collaboration between Laois County Council and Trinity College Dublin’s Ireland’s Knowledge Centre for Carbon, Climate, and Community Action (IKC3). Together, they conducted a groundbreaking course titled Systems Innovation for Sustainable Enterprises and Communities (SISEC), focusing on the Portlaoise Low Carbon Town Project. Chosen participants from across Laois completed the course, learning to apply systems thinking to tackle local sustainability challenges.

In an innovative move by the Climate Action team at Laois County Council led by Suzanne Dempsey Climate Action Coordinator, artists were invited to engage the people of Laois in creatively communicating County Council progress and ongoing climate action projects to date. During the course artist Oisin McGann used a technique called graphic recording to create a visual record of this learning journey. Later, Oisin joined with artists Laura Dunne and Aisling Brennan, to form an artistic team and the people of Portlaoise were invited to “Picture Our Future” together, as a community. To develop the exhibition the artists creatively interpreted and showcased some of the course outcomes and learnings to the wider public, as well the achievements and plans for Portlaoise as a Low Carbon Town.

Mary and John Brennan; artist Aisling Brennan with her work Iceberg; and artists Mary and Joanne Slevin at the Picture Our Future exhibition reception in Portlaoise Library. Picture: Alf Harvey.

Reception evening

In keeping with creative climate communication, the “Picture Our Future” exhibition evening reception opened with a spoken word performance by Jeremy Haworth from his latest book “Four Season Farm” (available to borrow in Portlaoise Library). Jeremy is a Laois-based writer and market gardener, winner of 2019 Cuirt Prize for Writing, and the founder of Charis Garden Laois. 

Artist Aisling Brennan; Alina and Diana Lescevskaja and Michele Cartiau, Green Schools at the Picture Our Future exhibition reception in Portlaoise Library. Picture: Alf Harvey.

Reception guests, including local officials, community members and SISEC course graduates heard from other speakers on the night including the exhibit artists, Oisin, Laura and Aisling. Suzanne Dempsey, Climate Action Coordinator for Laois County Council, and the driving force behind the original exhibition idea, spoke on the importance of effective communication on climate action to empower and support people. Quentin Crowley from Trinity’s ICK3 was invited as a special guest to speak on the origin of the exhibition which was the SISEC course. Quentin noted how the teachings on this course are on an incredible journey outward from the original 40 course participants to the wider community in Laois via this creative exhibition. In a sweet treat nod to the theme of the exhibition, guests were treated an edible Doughnut Model and Portlaoise Low Carbon Towncupcakes.

Mary Miller, Laois Librarian Bernie Foran and Michele Cartiau, Green Schools at the Picture Our Future exhibition reception in Portlaoise Library. Picture: Alf Harvey.

The exhibition

During the reception guests had an opportunity to explore the exhibition self-guided as there is a catalogue available at library reception and QR codes to scan as you go. The “Picture Our Future” exhibition provides a responsive, engaged platform for exploring Laois’s climate action in creative ways. On the ground floor at the heart of the library, McGann’s series of illustrations feature his graphic recordings. Guest followed the boards from 1 to 10 for a narrative of climate action explored during the course. Visitors also explored these art boards, featuring information written and designed by artist Laura Dunne on the back where the Laois climate action projects are distilled into reader-friendly, accessible storyboards. 

Library staff, Rory Dunne, Margaret Carroll, Rachel Hoban, Celine Coughlan and Aoife Moore at the Picture Our Future exhibition reception in Portlaoise Library. Picture: Alf Harvey.

Situated throughout the Library ground floor other installations created from sustainable materials by artist, Aisling Brennan. One such installation is a 5-Foot Ice Berg, made entirely from discarded packaging and newspaper, showing how art and sustainability can combine to create something impactful.

Diana and Alina Lescevskaja and Sam McLeod, LCC at the Picture Our Future exhibition reception in Portlaoise Library. Picture: Alf Harvey.

The exhibition also features outside installations. “The Tree of Trash” in the libraries rear garden was contributed by artist Heather Roche and is a thought provoking installation made of litter collected after a recent Waste Characterisation Study by Laois County Council. There is a “Pollinator Planter” contributed by Laois County Council showcasing perennial pollinator friendly plants. Planting perennials, which flower year on year (unlike annuals who only last one flowering season), results in less energy wasted on growing, transporting, and disposing of plants for our green spaces. It is a climate action that also saves the gardener precious time and contributes to biodiversity. It is a living example of the types of plants we can choose to nurture in our own gardens. 

Caitriona Glynn and Sandra Redden from Mochua Print with Tarik Abouhajar and Badr Watfa from the S.I.S.E.C. Climate Change Action course at the Picture Our Future exhibition reception in Portlaoise Library.
Picture: Alf Harvey.

Where to next?

The exhibition has uniquely merged art with climate action communication, driving creative public engagement across a broad range of people throughout the month of June.

In addition to the visual displays, the exhibition offered over 10 free interactive art workshops for all ages throughout June. These workshops provided a hands-on experience to reflect on a climate challenge, allowing participants to explore how systems thinking can be applied to their own climate action goals – whether big or small. 

Library staff, Rory Dunne, Margaret Carroll, Rachel Hoban, Celine Coughlan and Aoife Moore at the Picture Our Future exhibition reception in Portlaoise Library. Picture: Alf Harvey.

The exhibition also sparked significant public engagement, with groups of all kinds taking part in short tours, informal talks, and creative responses of their own. Community members, local students, visitors to the library, and various interest groups – of all ages, participated actively, sharing their insights and ideas on climate action. This diverse involvement enriched the exhibition, fostering a sense of shared purpose and community in a shared future vision to address local climate challenges. Highlights included the weekly Ciorcal Comhrágroup wowing the artists with their passionate climate discussion through the Irish language; and the gathering at the library to enjoy the exhibition after a town clean up activity themed Care for Our Home: A Tidy Towns Clean-Up on 22nd June. 

Quentin Crowley, TCD: Illustrator Oisin McGann with his work; Suzanne Dempsey, Climate Action Coordinator for Laois County Council and Subhash Chandra, TCD at the Picture Our Future exhibition reception in Portlaoise Library. Picture: Alf Harvey.

There are plans that the exhibition will have its own sustainability journey and will travel to other venues across Laois and beyond. By doing so, the message of climate action and the Portlaoise Low Carbon Town project can reach even further and engage more communities in an effort to picture and create a sustainable future that involves us all. 

Mary and John Brennan; artist Aisling Brennan with her work Iceberg; and artists Mary and Joanne Slevin at the Picture Our Future exhibition reception in Portlaoise Library. Picture: Alf Harvey.

Laois County Council Climate Action section

Laois County Council Climate Action section is dedicated to supporting the county be more sustainable and vibrant through working with stakeholders on climate action projects. The section aims to reduce carbon emissions, enhance climate resilience, and promote environmental stewardship across Laois. 

Artist Aisling Brennan, Cllr Padraig Fleming, cathaoirleach of LCC; artist Laura Dunne and illustrator Oisin McGann at the Picture Our Future exhibition reception in Portlaoise Library. Picture: Alf Harvey.

This project was kindly supported by Creative Ireland Laois and Laois County Council.

For further information on Laois County Council’s climate action projects and to learn how you can get involved, please visit here or contact 057 8664000.

Ireland’s Knowledge Centre for Carbon, Climate, and Community Action (IKC3)