By Chelsea Tyler McNeill
This summer saw the end of an era for the residents of Donore Avenue, after ten two-story premises were demolished in St.Teresa’s Gardens. Residents were heartbroken as homes and places that held so many childhood memories were destroyed, but artist Adam McGrane offered his services to the Dublin City Council and was commissioned to do a memorial mural so the place would never be forgotten.
“I have been working with Dublin City Council for the past four years as part of their student summer placement program, which is like a summer camp. For the past three years I have been placed in Donore Avenue. I have gotten to know the residents of the flats there and created bonds with all the kids we work with,” he said.
“I’m an artist so started to incorporate art in the centre there. I took the kids out one of the days and they helped me paint minions on all the bollards in the flats, they thought this was amazing and it really brightened up the place.
“When the flats in Donore Avenue were getting knocked down this summer, the council wanted to do something for the residents to remember what once meant so much to them so I offered to do a huge wall mural on a wall in the centre of the flats. Trevor Higgins and Stephen Shields in the Dublin City Council looked at my ideas and commissioned the piece. That was the biggest art commission I have ever gotten, I only had two weeks to do this huge mural and I was doing it completely alone so it was a lot of pressure but I knew it meant so much to the people living in Donore Avenue.
“The government might see those flats as buildings that are in the way but they were once someone’s home, people grew up in them and all of their childhood memories are there but people didn’t think about that when they were being knocked down. This mural now symbolises that people do care and now the image will always be here. It is an amazing feeling that my art and my name will be on that wall long after I am gone, it is great to be able to kind of leave my mark on Dublin city centre and it was great for my art to be recognised on such a big scale,” he said.
Adam, who is 22 and from Kingswood in Dublin, never imagined himself getting such a big break because even making it to art college was a struggle.
“I didn’t really know anything about art college, even when I left school, it wasn’t something that our career guidance told us about because I don’t think she saw it as a real college choice. When I asked her about becoming an art teacher, she laughed and told me that I could never do it because I didn’t have the grades. I am dyslexic so school wasn’t easy for me, I wasn’t academic and I was told that I wouldn’t succeed because of that but it was that negativity that actually pushed me to where I am today, it motivated me to prove everyone wrong.
“No one told me about portfolios so when it came around to the CAO, I missed the chance to send in a portfolio and apply for art colleges. I ended up doing a PLC course in Inchicore, I did a portfolio preparation course, we had to do briefs for different colleges and I ended up applying for nearly every art college in Ireland. I didn’t know about NCAD until I was in that course and our lecturer there told us that it was so difficult to get into because it was one of the best art colleges in the country. That pushed me too and made me want it even more,” he said.
When Adam went with his portfolio to NCAD, he saw the vast amount of students who were also there to apply which made him feel like he didn’t stand a chance. “When I got the letter from NCAD I was with my mam and dad, I told them that it didn’t matter if I didn’t get in because I applied to loads more. I didn’t think I had a chance and when I saw that I was accepted, I couldn’t believe it. My mam started crying, I was the first one of my siblings to go to a university so it meant so much to her, I wanted to do it for my parents more than myself, I knew it would make them so happy.
“I was anxious about going into NCAD because of my dyslexia, I chose to do education as well as fine art because I wanted to be a teacher but that meant that I would have to do a lot of assignments and it would be much more academic than just doing paint so I didn’t know if I would be able. Four years on, I have written a thesis, I am currently doing my teaching practice in Wesley College and I will be graduating next year with a joint honours degree.
“I heard a saying years ago, ‘an artist is a kid who never stopped drawing’ and I think that is true. My advice to any kid reading this would be not to stop, never give up on their dreams and don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it, if you want something and work hard enough, you will get it, I did,” he proclaims proudly.
Adam’s goal is to be a secondary school art teacher but he is determined to keep up his painting work on the side. “I am working in a school at the moment and I am going to be doing an end of year exhibition in NCAD next year, I am creating a lot of work for that and I can’t wait to have a big showcase of my work. I plan to be a secondary school teacher when I graduate but I will always do commissions on the side. I have done a wall mural of the Joker in a barbers in Tallaght, I have done Audrey Hepburn in a bedroom, I have done footballers in kid’s rooms, cartoon characters and anything that people want really.”
Adam is available for commissions, you can view his work or contact him through his Facebook page ‘Adam Mc Grane Portrait Artist’ or his Instagram account is ‘Adammcgrane’.