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We had a 3 minute catch up with our new Education Curator Rebecca Blake to welcome her to our small team. Rebecca is joining us while the lovely Rachel McAree is away on maternity leave with her brand new twin girls. Rebecca has 10 years experience working in the arts. Previous employers include Tate Britain and Tate Modern, London and The Royal Drawing School Young Artists Programme, London, so we’ve stiff competition! She has also worked as a secondary school art teacher and previously trained and worked in fashion design for Quin and Donelly and Lainey Keogh, Dublin.
Irish Architecture Foundation: How are you settling into IAF?
Rebecca Blake: I’m settling in great thanks. I’m really enjoying it. It’s very dynamic and quite fast paced but I really enjoy working like that, it’s a really creative environment and everyone on the team is cool and lovely.
IAF: Ah thanks! What projects are you most excited about working on while you’re here?
RB: All the projects I’m working on are really interesting and they are all quite different in their approach so the variety is brilliant. I’ll be delivering the National Architects in Schools Initiative starting in the autumn, I’m looking forward to working with schools and architects all over the country. And this summer I’m working on a Play Park project in Ballyfermot where I’ll be devising a range of creative activities to engage and consult the community on the design of the play park. I’ve met some really interesting people who are mad about play so it’s going to be great fun I think!
IAF: Tell us how you went from fashion to architecture and what happened in between?
RB: Ha! Well, it’s been a bit of a meandering, roller-coaster journey but a very interesting one! After studying fashion at NCAD I worked in the industry for a couple of years with Lainey Keogh and Quin and Donelly women’s wear companies. This was punctuated with a five month trip to Calcutta in India where I volunteered in a school and did some research into ethical and environmental ways of manufacturing for the fashion and textile industries. The experience really sparked my interest in education and I saw how the arts and the creative industries can be a powerful catalyst for learning. After a life changing opportunity working as a secondary school art teacher I went to London to study an MA in Applied Imagination. There I discovered a world of multi disciplinary practice learning with designers, architects, comedians, artists, politicians, entrepreneurs, and educators. So working in this space across disciplines and engaging the public in creative activity is where I love to be. So the IAF feels like a perfect fit!
IAF: You worked at Tate tell us about the most exciting project you worked on there?
RB: I was lucky to work on so many brilliant projects at Tate, but I guess one that really stands out is Play Your Place: Play South Westminster. It was a collaborative project with Furtherfield digital art collective and Peabody Housing Trust where we asked the community to make drawings and tell stories about what they wanted to save, change or celebrate about their local area. All their contributions made five online video games that highlighted the best and worst of the South Westminster neighbourhood and they are great fun to play!
It was also amazing to work on the opening of the New Tate Britain Gallery in 2013. Caruso St John Architects led the £45million refurbishment project to restore the 1897 building originally designed by architect Sydney Smith. I developed activities to get the local community engaged in the project in the lead up to the opening. We made an audio art work for local radio, site tours, a newsletter and community private view for 7000 local residents. The new building is beautifully restored and updated and it was wonderful to be able to bring local people into spaces that hadn’t been open since the 1920s.
IAF: How are you finding Dublin after living in London, is it a changed place, happy to be home?
RB: I’m loving Dublin! I’m very happy to be home and so delighted and lucky to have this job. I really have noticed a change in the energy of the place, it’s really positive and buzzy. I left in 2007, at the height of it, and I’m back now at what feels like a new phase for Ireland and it feels good. There are loads of cool new pubs and events going on and it feels like loads of people have come back with fresh ideas that are reinvigorating the city. I hope I can contribute to all that creative energy and help bring some great ideas to the IAF education programme.
IAF: We are sure you will. Welcome to our team, we’ll have to do cake.