Surviving or Thriving?

Supporting wellbeing in the arts sector, in partnership with the Arts Council 











The Arts Council/An Comhairle Ealaíon and Waterford Healing Arts Trust (WHAT) have announced details of an innovative new online series designed to support the wellbeing of arts professionals in Ireland, with particular relevance to the present Covid-19 pandemic.  Entitled Surviving or Thriving?, the series of panel discussions, workshops and podcasts, which is open to all those working in the arts in Ireland and is free of charge, aims to strengthen resilience, restore confidence and promote connectedness across the arts sector.  The programme features panel exchanges chaired by psychologist Dr Maureen Gaffney, with guest speakers from a range of art forms, including writer Anne Enright, musician Eleanor McEvoy and artist Austin Ivers, in addition to follow-up workshops and online resources exploring self-care and wellbeing.  Surviving or Thriving? takes place over three weeks from 15 March to 01 April 2021, with podcasts and other online resources available ongoing.  See below for further details and booking links.  See also

Click here for a snapshot of Surviving or Thriving?

Surviving or Thriving? has been developed in response to the cessation of arts activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Covid-19 has had a profound professional and personal impact on artists and arts workers, with major structural impacts for organisations.  Artists and arts workers from across the arts sector in Ireland provided a myriad of real-life examples of the effect the pandemic has had on their wellbeing to the Arts Council for its report Survive Adapt Renew.  Among its recommendations the report included commitments to building resilience, inclusion and sustainability in the sector as it faces into the future.

Each element of Surviving or Thriving? seeks to inspire and support, while acknowledging current challenges and realities.  Recognising the need to break through the saturation of online events available and to offer real value to the target audience of arts professionals, WHAT has been liaising with national and regional art form and development organisations who have offered their expertise and guidance in developing the programme and putting together a high calibre line up of speakers.  These organisations include Music Network, Visual Artists Ireland, Theatre Forum, Words Ireland, Create, Age and Opportunity, Minding Creative Minds and Dance Limerick.

Speaking at the announcement of details, Maureen Kennelly, Director of the Arts Council, said: “These past 12 months have been extraordinarily difficult for people across the arts landscape.  Alongside their own cares and concerns for family and friends, they have been dealing with the shocking cessation of activity and the resulting loss of income.  We continue to support individuals and organisations through various schemes and initiatives, and we hope that this new programme with WHAT will provide further vital support to this brilliant profession.”

Claire Meaney, Director of Waterford Healing Arts Trust, added “Waterford Healing Arts Trust is very pleased to be working with the Arts Council on this important initiative to support the wellbeing of arts professionals in Ireland.  The overwhelmingly positive response we have received over the course of planning Surviving or Thriving? indicates the need that exists for this type of support.  We are extremely grateful to all of the associate organisations who have so generously worked closely with us to present a strong programme which participants can engage with at different levels and which, we hope, will not only lift spirits but will nourish and encourage artists and arts workers to restore their confidence, foster their resilience and fall in love with their creativity all over again.”

About the Arts Council
The Arts Council /An Comhairle Ealaíon is the Irish government agency for developing the arts.  The Arts Council works in partnership with artists, arts organisations, public policy makers and others to build a central place for the arts in Irish life.  It provides financial assistance to artists, arts organisations, local authorities and others for artistic purposes.  It offers assistance and information on the arts to government and to a wide range of individuals and organisations.  As an advocate for the arts and artists, the Arts Council undertakes projects and research, often in new and emerging areas of practice, and increasingly in cooperation with partner organisations.

About Waterford Healing Arts Trust
Established in 1993, Waterford Healing Arts Trust (WHAT) is based at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and brings arts experiences – music, creative writing, painting – to the bedsides of patients at the hospital and other healthcare settings in the community.  WHAT believes that exposure to the arts softens the clinical environment and reduces anxiety and stress for patients, families and staff. WHAT believes the arts contribute to the wellbeing and vitality of society as a whole, including within healthcare settings, and that engaging with the arts stimulates the participant’s sense of identity and creativity. WHAT is a leader in the national development of arts and health in Ireland and manages the highly regarded resource website

The organisation operates from the WHAT Centre for Arts and Health, the first of its kind in Ireland, on the grounds of UHW, enabling the organisation to bridge its work between the acute hospital setting and the wider community.  WHAT is a registered charity and is core funded by the Arts Council, HSE and Department of Social Protection. Additional funding is provided by Waterford City and County Council, Punchestown Kidney Research Fund, the Ireland Funds and the National Lottery. WHAT raises additional funding through sponsorship and fundraising initiatives.


Additional Info:

Surviving or Thriving? programme schedule:
Please note: Live captions will be available for all Panel Exchange events
Monday 15 March:
Panel Exchange 1: Literature
Chaired by Dr Maureen Gaffney, with guest speakers writer Anne Enright, writer Helena Close and poet Stephen Sexton.

Tuesday 16 March:
Workshop 1: Literature Slowing Down as a Source of Creativity, facilitated by poet Lani O’Hanlon  **UPDATE: Fully booked

Thursday 18 March, 10.30am:
Panel Exchange 2: Visual Art
Chaired by Dr Maureen Gaffney, with guest speakers artist Brian Kielt, artist Miriam O’Connor and artist and educator Austin Ivers.

Friday 19 March, 10.30am:
Workshop 2: Visual Art Sustaining the Self, facilitated by artist Marie Brett. **UPDATE: Fully booked

Monday 22 March, 10.30am:
Panel Exchange 3: Collaborative Arts
Chaired by Dr Maureen Gaffney, with guest speakers visual artist Deirdre O’Mahony, choreographer/ curator Ruairí Ó Donnabháin and dance artist Tobi Balogun.

Tuesday 23 March, 10.30am:
Workshop 3: Collaborative Arts Building a Culture of Care: Anti-burnout practices for socially engaged artists, facilitated by trainer, researcher and activist Dr Krini Kafiris and artist Kate O’Shea.  **UPDATE: Fully booked

Thursday 25 March, 10.30am:
Panel Exchange 4: Dance
Chaired by Dr Maureen Gaffney, with guest speakers choreographer and dance artist Fearghus Ó Conchúir, choreographer and dance artist Catherine Young and choreographer David Bolger.

Friday 26 March, 10.30am:
Workshop 4: Dance Embracing your dance practice and knowledge to support your wellbeing, facilitated by Dr Jenny Elliott, dance artist, choreographer, Artistic Director and CEO, Arts Care, a leading arts and health organisation in Northern Ireland.

Monday 29 March, 10.30am:
Panel Exchange 5: Music
Chaired by Dr Maureen Gaffney, with guest speakers songwriter and performer Eleanor McEvoy, composer Jennifer Walshe and Tony Sheehan, Director, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork.

Tuesday 30 March, 10.30am:
Workshop 5: Music Nurturing the Creative Mindset:  Time and tools to support resilience and forward thinking, facilitated by Grainne Hope, musician, Director of Kids Classics and Atlantic Fellow Global Brain Health Institute at TCD.

Thursday 01 April, 10.30am:
Panel Exchange 6: Theatre
Chaired by Dr Maureen Gaffney, with guest speakers theatre maker Louise Lowe, actor Aaron Monaghan and costume designer Catherine Fay.

Thursday 01 April, 12.30pm*
Workshop 6: Theatre Working in the Arts: How to live on the edge of chaos, facilitated by Chartered Psychologist and musician Louize Carroll.
*Note: Different time for this workshop

Dr Maureen Gaffney – Bio
Psychologist, writer and broadcaster Dr Maureen Gaffney earned a BA in Psychology from UCC, an MA in Behavioural Sciences from the University of Chicago and a PhD at Trinity College Dublin. She has completed Executive Education Programmes on leadership and governance in the Harvard Kennedy School, the University of Chicago Business School and the Kellogg School of Management. She is a member of the Harvard Kennedy School Women’s Leadership Board and served on its Executive Committee.

Dr Gaffney brings the latest research and thinking on emotional intelligence, resilience, and transformational leadership to her work with companies.  She has worked with a wide range of organisations, including Intel (Ireland and the US), Boston Scientific, Amazon, Google, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, as well as major professional service companies and the educational sector in Australia.

She is a much sought-after speaker and has addressed businesses in Ireland, the UK, the US, Sweden, Germany and Spain. Dr Gaffney is a highly experienced chairperson and moderator in both the public and private sector including Executive Chair of the National Economic and Social Forum, Chair of the National Monitoring Committee of the Programme for Revitalising Areas by Planning, Investment and Development and Chair of the Insurance Ombudsman of Ireland Council for three years. She was a Board member of the HSE and has extensive experience of the health sector. She has retained a long-term interest in the legal sector since her ten year tenure as Law Reform Commissioner.  She has worked in many other sectors of Irish life – as Director of the Doctoral Programme in Clinical Psychology in Trinity College Dublin, Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Society in University College Dublin and she served on the board of the Council of the Economic and Social Research Institute.

Support from Associate Organisations

Words Ireland
“Writing can be an isolating and often lonely activity. The sector has sorely missed the readings, events, and meet ups that usually help to break up that isolation – conversations that allow writers to share all sorts of issues among peers and help to refill the creative well. This sector-wide conversation will undoubtedly help to fill that void.”
Brendan MacEvill, Words Ireland

Visual Artists Ireland
‘Visual Artists Ireland welcomes the opportunity to partner with the Waterford Healing Trust on this initiative.  As the wellbeing of artists and issues surrounding isolation is one of our core concerns, this important series for the wellbeing of people working in the visual arts sector is most welcome.’
Noel Kelly, CEO/Director, Visual Artists Ireland

Music Network
“As a national resource organisation for musicians, we are very pleased to be working together with Waterford Healing Arts Trust, the Arts Council and peer organisations on this programme, which will explore ways to safeguard individual wellbeing, reframe both personal and professional challenges and forge a creative path towards deeper resilience. We ourselves are looking forward to gaining insights and inspiration from the diverse line-up of contributors to Surviving or Thriving from across the art forms.”
Sharon Rollston, CEO, Music Network

Minding Creative Minds
“Minding Creative Minds is delighted to be an associate organisation of ‘Surviving or Thriving’ hosted by Waterford Healing Arts Trust in partnership with the Arts Council.  This initiative, which includes workshops, discussions and online wellness resources will provide great support and strength for attendees and everyone involved in the creative sector as we strive to emerge and prosper at this exceptionally challenging time for the arts community.”
Dave Reid, Founder, Minding Creative Minds

Theatre Forum
Results of a 2019 Theatre Forum Payscales survey confirmed that artists experience precarity in their work, careers, and lives. Now, in the midst of this COVID-19 hardship, artists and arts workers are surviving on less paid work in an even more precarious and mostly shut-down arts sector. Surviving as an artist has always required resilience. As we emerge from this crisis, the agility to adapt to new conditions will be essential if artists are to thrive in the future. On behalf of all our members, Theatre Forum welcomes the WHAT/Arts Council Surviving or Thriving? initiative as an important step to help build artists’ resilience and promote their well-being in an evolving performing arts sector.
Anna Walsh, Director, Theatre Forum

Dance Limerick
“Dance Limerick is really pleased to be involved in Surviving or Thriving?, a timely initiative from the Arts Council and Waterford Healing Arts Trust to support wellbeing across the arts sector.  The contemporary dance community has demonstrated its resilience and creativity over the past year, coping with very difficult circumstances added to dance artists’ already precarious professional lives, but it has been really challenging.  Surviving or Thriving? provides a real opportunity for us all to reconvene, to check in with each other and to, hopefully, remind ourselves of our strength in unity”.
Jenny Traynor, Director, Dance Limerick 

Create, the national development agency for collaborative arts
Create is delighted to work with WHAT on the Collaborative Arts panel and workshop as part of Surviving or Thriving? – Supporting wellbeing in the arts sector. This is an important and very necessary initiative as arts practitioners navigate the considerable challenges imposed by COVID-19, which has highlighted the extent of an already fragile eco-system for the arts. For artists whose practice is dependent on collaboration, through engaging with communities of interest and / or of place, maintaining a social practice in a time of extensive lockdown and physical distancing is especially difficult. Sharing experiences, strategies and tactics is always a good idea and even more so now. No doubt this series will also illuminate ways forward for a more sustainable sector into the future, which is all our concern.
Ailbhe Murphy, Director, Create

Age & Opportunity / Bealtaine Festival
“At an extremely testing time in all of our lives, Age & Opportunity is pleased to support this important initiative from Waterford Healing Arts Trust and the Arts Council”
Tara Byrne, Arts Programme Manager and Bealtaine Festival Artistic Director,
Age & Opportunity