In July this year Donzo took a group of students from Purchase College, State University of New York on a private tour of the murals in West Belfast. And last week he got a chance to attend an afternoon of theatre, music, art, dance and conversation presented by the students in response to their time here.
The tour he took them on was part of a Study Abroad Programme with leading Belfast based arts venue the MAC. The students, who are majoring in playwriting, dance, visual art, music and screenwriting, were here to learn from post-conflict Northern Ireland and exploring the role of the arts in supporting reconciliation.
Thirteen young people travelled from New York for the programme which lasted four weeks and involved talks, excursions, research projects, lectures, art exhibitions and theatre shows. At the end of the programme, the students presented their own piece of work inspired by their Belfast experience.
As well as their tour of the West Belfast murals, the group was also taken on a guided tour of modern-day street art. Local artist, Kerrie Hanna joined the group from Purchase College to tell them more about the street artworks and the stories behind them.
Peggy Stafford, Assistant Professor of Playwriting at Purchase College, said: “Over the past couple of years I’ve been developing this study abroad trip with the MAC. I travelled across the Atlantic with thirteen creative students who were both anxious and excited. Once we arrived we couldn’t have felt more welcome. The MAC has been a nurturing environment, providing for us a sense of community, belonging, and resiliency.
“We’ve had meaningful conversations with artists, activists, peace builders, and citizens of Northern Ireland about the past, present and future, and the ways in which the arts have paved important paths toward peace. We’ve also had the opportunity to think about the role the arts play in shaping our perspective of social issues here and at home.”
We were delighted to take part in this programme and Donzo certainly got a very warm welcome from the students on Friday. The work they presented was moving, thoughtful, sometimes funny, and demonstrated the deep impression their time in Belfast had made on them all.
For more information on the work of the MAC and its Study Abroad Programme, visit www.themaclive.com.