Carrickfergus chooses Brandon Long for artist exchange program

Published 8:28 am Wednesday, November 15, 2017

It’s now official, Brandon Long, creative director for the Community Arts Center, has been selected as Danville’s representative to its Sister City, Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland, to participate in an artist exchange program May 12-26.

Long was chosen by a selection committee in Carrickfergus for this artist’s residency in the northern coastal Irish city of about 28,000.

The other two contenders for the artist exchange program from Danville were Heather Henson, an award-winning author for young readers; and Travis Lee Kern, a musician, singer and songwriter.

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In an email to members of Danville’s Sister City Commission announcing the winner, Rosalind Lowry, Arts & Events Development Officer with the Mid & East Antrim Borough Council of Ireland wrote, “A unanimous decision was made to select Brandon Long as our chosen artist… The panel felt that Brandon was an all-rounder who could be flexible and work in different mediums and with different groups.”

Long said, “I think that any artist would jump at the chance to do an international artist exchange. To be able to share your art with a new audience is an exciting experience.”

One of the projects Long said he hopes to demonstrate is the art he makes using recycled materials. 

“Locally, I use old roofing tin from barns and sheds to make assemblage/collage styled work.” As old barns collapse to the ground, Long said, “it shows that we are moving on from an agricultural society to something a bit different. So my art is a bit about how we’re losing some of our farm-based roots.”

Long is looking forward to seeing what kinds of recyclable materials Ireland has to offer for his art projects, and how those materials relate to their cultural story. 

“You can often learn more about a culture from its trash than its treasure,” Long said. “I’m not quite sure what they have to work with. I think I’d prefer to go to a scrapyard than an art store when it comes to getting art materials.”

As for taking art supplies with him to Ireland Long said, “I don’t think I’d be able to get through airport security with my pockets full of rusty tin and nails.”

A definite teaching curriculum hasn’t been decided on yet, Long said, and a lot of details still need to be worked out, but he does have some ideas of what he wants to do. 

“As an artist and arts instructor, I try not to get too focused on one single plan because there may be any number of alternatives that would be a better fit.”

In addition to demonstrating one style of his art, being a painter too, Long said he hopes to learn more about public art. He explained that Northern Ireland has many murals that, “really seem to embrace that medium of expression. A lot of their murals are a lot more politically charged than anything we’d be comfortable with in Danville. I love that they are open to using art as more than a means of decoration, but as a means to cope with what has been a rather difficult past.

“Hopefully we’ll get to make a mural while we are over there. I think that would be a great way to collaborate with the community.”

While visiting Carrickfergus, Long said he “hopes to make great art, make new friends and get some valuable connections between our communities. I also plan to blog a lot about the experience so that people back in Danville can follow along and feel like they went on this trip as well.”

Long’s wife, Kristin, is an art teacher at Garrard County High School and will be traveling with him to Carrickfergus for the artist exchange program.

“I definitely feel that they are getting a good ‘two for one’ deal with this artist exchange. She does a great job of relating art to teens — presenting it in a way that  ‘they get it.’ I hope we get to collaborate in some sort of setting that engages that demographic.”

Details on how and where Long will be teaching and demonstrating his art are still up in the air. 

“I hope that we’ll be able to work with the kids in a school setting, but I would certainly welcome the potential of community arts programming as well.”

In addition to teaching, creating and sightseeing, Long said they “hope to hope to catch up with Ryan and Amy Moffett from Uplift, the group that does the summer acting workshops at West T. Hill Community Theatre. They do such great work when they come over and our kids absolutely love them. I hope to get a chance to see what their home base operations look like. That collaboration between Uplift and West T. Hill actually got started from the last artist exchange when Danville sent playwright Liz Orndorff,”  which was in 2012.  

London, England is the closest Long has ever gotten to Ireland. 

“Sometimes I tell myself on my foggy morning commutes that the road between Danville and Lancaster looks like Ireland when the sun hits it just right.”

In anticipation of their trip, Long and his wife have already begun researching things to do while visiting Ireland. 

“Half the fun of a trip is the planning,” he said. 

He admitted, however, that once he gets into “art-making mode” he becomes absorbed in the process and loses all track of time. 

“Kristin will make sure that I get out and see some sights and experience what Northern Ireland has to offer rather than spending the entire visit in a studio.”