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'We Can Do Better'

Artist Joe Caslin standing in front of Downhill House
Artist Joe Caslin is renowned for his large-scale, monochrome pencil sketches on public buildings | © Nerve Centre

Led by Nerve Centre and acclaimed artist Joe Caslin, 'We Can Do Better' will transform the iconic Downhill House into a giant canvas and AR experience.

A new piece of street art from acclaimed artist Joe Caslin will go on display this spring at Downhill House, the iconic National Trust property on the north coast. Produced by Nerve Centre, We Can Do Better is a site-specific installation and augmented reality (AR) experience exploring the lives of a generation of young people born into peace yet navigating the legacy of conflict.

We Can Do Better is part of the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, a national partnership programme of artist commissions inspired by the heritage of conflict. Led by Imperial War Museums, the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund was created following the success of 14-18 NOW, the official UK arts programme for the First World War centenary.

The project will transform the exterior of Downhill House into a giant canvas for Joe Caslin to bring his monochrome sketched artwork to life on an unavoidable scale.

Launch Weekend Programme

Joe Caslin has previously created towering pieces of temporary art that adorn buildings across Ireland, including the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Trinity College and the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. Like all of his pieces, the materials used at Downhill will be biodegradable and will wash away, leaving no trace on the building.

Co-created with ‘The Kindred Collective’, a group of young women born since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the artwork will reflect some of the issues affecting young people in Northern Ireland today. Through a nine-month process of engagement and co-creation, the collective have supported Caslin to create a piece of work that reflects societal conflict, empowerment and change.

Artist Joe Caslin and the Kindred Collective standing in front of Downhill House
The new installation will explore some of the issues affecting young people in Northern Ireland today | © Nerve Centre

Announcing the location of the new artwork, artist Joe Caslin said: “Collaborating with The Kindred Collective has been a rewarding and eye-opening journey. This group embodies the aspirations of young people in Northern Ireland, advocating for their voices to be heard and acknowledged. Downhill House is a perfect venue – its landmark presence offers a fitting backdrop for the significance of the stories being shared.”

Rachel Donnelly, Head of Partnerships at Imperial War Museums (IWM), said: “Imperial War Museums has a long tradition of commissioning artwork on the topic of war and conflict, and through our IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, we are delighted to work in partnership with Nerve Centre on this impactful project. We look forward to sharing this empowering and reflective work from Joe and The Kindred Collective.”

Emma Cunningham, North Coast General Manager at National Trust, said: “We are excited to host the Nerve Centre and Kindred Collective at Downhill. "We want Mussenden Temple and the Demesne to feel like a place where everyone feels they belong, and this is a fantastic opportunity to offer the historic House and the surrounding estate to these young people as a platform where their voices can be heard.”

As well as the physical installation, an interactive augmented reality (AR) app is being created that will further enhance the public’s ability to engage with the work and to step inside the shoes of the collective. Development of the app has also been supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Niall Kerr, Head of Heritage and Community Relations at Nerve Centre, said: “We Can Do Better has been a really exciting opportunity to give a group of young women the tools they need to have their voices amplified at such an iconic location. Joe’s sustained and meaningful engagement over nine months has delivered a truly unique, multi-layered experience that invites the public to reflect on the past while also looking forward with hope and optimism.”

Downhill House was identified by project participants and selected for its historical significance, connections to art and themes of unity and reconciliation. Located on the edge of Northern Ireland it serves as a metaphor for looking outward and striving for a better future, echoing the project's aspirations.

Matthew Malcolm, Creative Industries Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support the Nerve Centre in the development of an augmented reality app to accompany the street art installation at Downhill House. The app development has been funded through our National Lottery Organisations Digital Evolution Award, a programme which is supporting a number of NI arts organisations in the creation of art using digital and immersive technologies.

"This programme reflects the Arts Council’s commitment to encouraging innovative practices that cross artform boundaries and build digital capabilities within the Northern Ireland arts sector. We Can Do Better demonstrates the power of using digital arts to enhance and enrich an arts experience, and I would encourage everyone to go along this spring to experience this impressive project.”

The front facade of Downhill House.

'We Can Do Better'

The project will launch to the public later this spring and will be accompanied by a programme of free events and activities.

An image of Mussenden Temple.
Place
Place

Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne 

Visit this stunning landscape and beautiful gardens.

Castlerock, County Londonderry

Partially open today