Jean Kirwan with her Tree of Hope and Positive Affirmations which has been placed at the lower end of Market Street in Cootehill. Photo: Alex Coleman

Branching into community art

Artist Jean Kerwin decided to plant a seed of hope in the town of Cootehill. Jean grew her ‘Tree of Hope and Positive Affirmations’ idea using wood, broken jewellery and materials given to her by the community.

When talking to the Celt, Jean had “only just stopped gluing” having completed the construction of her tree.

“I wanted to give people hope and I wanted to contribute in some way.

“Trees have always been part of Irish culture,” said Jean referring to Ireland’s Celtic roots.

The community have been asked to come down and hang leaves of positive affirmations on the tree.

“The idea is that people come down and put their affirmations, poems or fears into the little pockets provided.”

The tree is situated at the bottom of Cootehill town, by the Christmas tree.

Jean hopes to burn all the affirmations on December 31 at 3.30pm in a ceremony with music. The event will go ahead weather permitting and in line with Covid-19 guidelines.

“You have to do a final thing at the end to release people’s dreams and wishes,” she explains.

She also made a call for pieces of broken jewellery to be fixed onto the tree.

“That in itself is giving part of you because you give some sort of memory... just by giving it away.”

She praised the local businesses and the wider community for their input into the project.

“The shopkeepers have been very good,” she said of E&M Stores Cootehill, who donated offcuts of material and Hannigan’s, which acted as a drop-off point.

“People have rallied around... I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of carpenters who helped me and people donating stuff.”

“Everybody can make art; you don’t have to be a professional artist,” she encouraged.

Jean created her ‘Tree of Hope and Positive Affirmations’ as part of a community-based project and endeavours to organise more creative projects in the future.

“I created this for the community, with the community.”

Longing for the days when she can return to schools and work with groups of people, she views her tree as an “introduction” hinting at many more projects in the future.

“When I do another project in the future, I want people to feel free to come on board.

“I want to do community projects with people for people... there’s no right or wrong you just do it.”