Live in Killeagh

By Clare Byrne
Artist in residence February 2017

Re-blogged, with permission, from
Posted February 26th, 2017

Well, for three weeks, I’ve able to say “I live in Killeagh” too – all because of Jessica Bonenfant Coogan and her husband Hughie Coogan who are launching Greywood Arts, a new multi-disciplinary artist residency center in the village Killeagh, near Cork in Ireland. So thrilled to see this massive longterm project of theirs take flight.

dsc01617I’m a bit reluctant to leave Greywood and Ireland  –  but I hope to come back soon! What a lovely and productive time it has been. Killeagh is a small village; the Greywood residency house is right on the Main Street, so as I worked up in the third floor studio I could look out and see the Dissour River flow by next to the house; watch the weather (always changing! a bit cold for February, too, though cherry blossoms were out), passersby on the street, and churchgoers of St. John and Virgules Catholic Church just across the intersection. Great to wake up before sunrise, drink lots of tea, work through mornings and afternoons, cook meals in my own little kitchenette at night, or step out to The Thatch Pub next door for hearty dinners and a pint. I took walks up into the moss and ivy-coated oak and piney Glenbower Wood. My time there was very focused, very quiet time. Monastic. I had my new electric guitar, loop pedal, yoga mat, weights. I ran scales, vocals, yoga-d, ballet barred, hunted through journals from the last five years, created melodies for prose, wrote new verses, made dance phrases for song verses, extracted stories – and then linked some of what I had amassed into a sequence for the open house showing. There’s no shortage of song material. The question is if and how to use it all.

Lovely to do the Greywood open house last week – hundreds of people from the area streamed through the three-story house, as deep as it is tall, and a bunch of lovely folks found their way up to the third floor where I got to run my sequence twice and glean some feedback too. In such a small space, it was wonderfully interactive, especially with children jumping into the mix! Children shape and change context in an instant, if you are open to it. I’m not sure exactly what I have as I head to Italy, but it’ll be good to look it over on video. The question of what exactly it is I’m shaping it all into is still in the air. Happily I don’t need to figure it all out, yet. Or really ever.

Magical to be at Greywood at this moment in time, when the house is in a process of transformation –  all hands were on deck: volunteers Stephanie Guillette, a friend of Jessica’s from CT, her partner David, and Colm, a longtime resident of Killeagh, were also working with Jess and Hughie on the house in prep for the open house. I would come down from my rustic garret artist studio under the eaves and see new things each day: wallpapering, painting, sealing, flooring installed and varnished, movement of furniture, and displays of some of the treasures of the house. A particularly special moment to sit down for an amazing Irish Sunday brunch cooked by Jessica with a roast bacon from Hughie’s mother the day after the open house in the newly furnished living room.

I’m wrapping up my time in Ireland – already midway to Italy! I’ll continued combing and culling and dancing and songwriting at the Bogliasco Foundation near Genoa. Stay tuned.

With Gratitude-Open House Success!

What an incredible day we had on 18th February. We’ve estimated that approximately 150 people crossed our threshold on Saturday!

Wedsc01575 had an extra special guest, Peg Ahern, from whom we purchased the house. It was the first time we met her and it was very moving to watch her take in all the changes. She was delighted to see the house being cared for again.

There were a number of people who called in that have known the house for a long time, as well as people whose curiosity had built up over many years and could finally take a peek. We had a strong arts community contingent from East Cork and as far afield as Cork City. My mother-in-law came down from Wicklow to man the tea table, and the ladies from my yoga class descended on us, arms full of home baked cakes!

Our dear friend Stephanie Guilmette, who is staying with us for three months to help work on the house, created an exhibit of relics from the previous occupants up in the future movement studio.

We tried to give our guests a sense of the house’s history, as well as an idea of where we are going with it. We tried to answer questions like “what is an artist’s residency?” because it’s not a common term for those outside of the arts. It was fantastic to listen to people’s ideas for ways the space could be used, and we were overjoyed by offers of donations of things on our wish list. We now have a list of volunteers we can call on to help us out.

Clare Byrne’s work-in-progress showings had a great turnout. Clare played guitar, harmonica and keyboard while singing her own soulful folk-bluesy
repertoire. She incorporated contemporary dance that emerged from the rhythms she played on her instruments. Her movement ranged from robust to viscous to contemplative. And there was even a cameo performance by an toddler running through the space!


At the end of the day we felt full. Grateful. We were riding high on the positive energy that filled the house. Our guests were so warm and welcoming.




Reclaimed Floor

Some serious work went into restoring these planks covered in decades of paint.


The pine floorboards were reclaimed from a convent in Dublin. The floor would be fairly typical of a house like ours fullsizerender-4(maybe wider and without tongue & grooves in 1767).

It took three rounds of paint stripper to get them ready for sanding!

We rented an orbital floor sander and went over (and over, and over) with three grades of sandpaper.

We filled the nail holes with wood glue mixed with sawdust, but maybe it was the wrong glue as it left residue that wouldn’t sand up and we had to tackle it spot by spot.

Our good friend Stephanie had the patience to hand sand all of the edges where the floor met the skirting, and under the radiators.

Dust, everywhere.

The freshly sanded pine was lighter than we wanted, so we stained it to get a more aged look. Then we applied hard wax oil to finish it. Oiling floors would be more in line with the time period of the house, plus it will be easier to spot treat damaged areas in the future. Applying the hard wax oil was probably the easiest part and had the biggest impact.

After working on it almost a month, the floor is curing now.  I’m dying to get some furniture in there and have a sitting room for the first time since we moved in a year and a half ago!


Applications are Open!

Calling all visual artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, dancers, actors, directors, playwrights, poets, inventors, investigators, researchers, thinkers, doers, collaborators, and interdisciplinary art makers. 

We are now accepting applications for residencies from June 2017 through May 2018!

gatecropAre you interested in process? Digging deep? Honing your craft? Reimagining, reinventing, subverting, politicising, abstracting, nurturing? Do you value play, experimentation, and risk taking?

Greywood Arts is a site for investigating the how and the why without an emphasis on product. 

Work at any stage of development is welcome, so long as the project is compelling. We welcome individuals as well as groups of collaborators.   

We want Greywood to be a welcoming space – unpretentious, comfortable, and practical so you can focus on the work.

Residency details can be found on the Programs page.

Applications can be downloaded as PDF or WORD documents.

We are ALWAYS happy to have a conversation. Simply drop us an email: greywoodarts [at] or give us a ring: Jessica +353 83 845 1750.