Irish Arts & Culture Program
What’s It All About?
The Irish Arts & Culture Program is a structured, community based, semester-length program designed to give students an opportunity to explore and cultivate their creative side, build independence and develop an appreciation of Irish arts and culture. Throughout the program gappers will try their hand at many artistic disciplines as they work with local artists, photographers, writers, performers and musicians in personalized, small-group workshops. Students will explore the rich tapestry of Ireland’s cultural and artistic heritage while traveling to some of the country’s most unique and celebrated locations. This program is all about exploring and developing your creative side and no prior experience is needed – Only enthusiasm!
The Irish Arts and Culture program is based in Bundoran, a quaint and inviting town located on the world famous Wild Atlantic Way, in County Donegal (National Geographic’s Coolest Place on Earth in 2017). Gappers will live like locals, with their own home in the community and will venture into the northwest of Ireland and beyond to immerse themselves in all things Irish.
Our Irish Arts and Culture Program is focused on four cornerstone; Cultural Immersion, Experiential Learning, Artistic Exploration & Portfolio Development and Cultivating Independence. These themes will act as a compass, guiding students on a developmental journey of discovery through experiential education. There are no grades or compulsory assignments on this program as our students are encouraged and mentored to explore their own areas of interest. This method of education is at the heart of all Irish Gap Year programs as we feel that organic, on site education is the most meaningful and particularly beneficial to personal development.
Program leaders will accompany gappers throughout the program, contextualizing activities, adventures, projects and daily life within this framework and utilizing their skills as experiential educators.
The program is divided into local weeks and expeditions around Ireland. Local weeks focus on a combination of ‘open’ and ‘focus’ workshops, day trips to places of cultural, artistic and historical significance in the northwest and group projects such as theatrical performance and student led trips. Expeditions around Ireland, of 3 -5 days duration, take place every other week. During travel gappers will visit art galleries, museums, theatres, castles, cathedrals, ancient fortresses, breweries, farms and many more of Ireland’s uniquely rich and quirky locations. Expeditions take place in the Irish Gap Year bus with program leaders providing 24/7 guidance, support and comic relief!
The ultimate goal of the program is to develop independence, rekindle a joy of learning and facilitate self-motivated exploration of the arts. Gappers will learn to live and work with their peers, to manage a household and to cultivate their creative side in a supportive environment. They will delve into Ireland’s cultural heritage and modern arts scene, immerse themselves in our community, explore many artistic disciplines, develop a self-designed portfolio and above all else have fun.
- Explore your artistic side by taking part in small group Open-Workshops ranging from photography to traditional basket weaving to cheese-making to felting and more.
- Have in depth instruction in our Focus-Workshops where you will work with expert tutors in your area of interest.
- Take the road less travelled as you explore Ireland’s hidden gems (the places you won’t read about in Lonely Planet).
- Live and work with your peers while managing your own house (Don’t worry, we’ll help you).
- Work with local experts to develop your self-designed portfolio. Anything from a photo-essay to an upcycled work of art to a theatrical performance or Irish song – Get ready to be creative!
- Local Living: A community based experienced that brings you deep into Irish culture.
- Travel the country on our expeditions to Ireland’s coolest cities, towns, villages and regions: Dublin, Galway, Dingle, Derry, Belfast, Kerry, The Gaeltacht areas (Irish speaking), the Boyne Valley, the Aran Islands, Inishmurray Island and more.
- Discover Donegal, your home away from home and National Geographic’s ‘Coolest Place in the World’ in 2017 (Yes, it’s really that beautiful).
- Rediscover the joy of learning and intellectual curiosity in a low stress environment designed to give you broad exposure to the liberal arts.
- Enjoy the support, humour and mentoring of the Irish Gap Year team.
Who is This Program For?
The Irish Arts and Culture Program is for students interested in a broad-exposure art program in Europe with tangible takeaways. This is a low stress program designed to facilitate independence and self-exploration using the arts as a vehicle for this journey.
Many of our past students have enjoyed the benefits of taking part in a community-based program. This means that you will have your own home, neighbours and really get the chance to be part of our town. It also means that you will develop independence in an environment that resembles college life.
You don’t need to be artsy to enjoy and benefit from this program, it is all about self-discovery.
Dates for Upcoming Programs
Autumn Irish Arts and Culture Program: September 16th – December 1st 2019
- Spring Irish Arts and Culture Program: February 17th – May 1st 2020
US Dollars: $16,500.00
How to Apply
To apply for our Irish Arts and Culture Program you must…
- First create your account with Irish Gap Year. It's an easy process and can be done through the link above.
- We will reach out to you via email once you've created your account and help you to begin your formal application.
- You will have a phone interview with director of admissions Ryan Allen to get to know our program better and make sure we’re the right match for you.
- You will complete our medical history form and then formally be offered a place on the program.
Upon acceptance, a 10% deposit is required to secure a place on this program. The balance of the program fee is then due 90 days prior to the start of the program.
To start the application process and manage your registration and payments please create your account here
Find Out More About Our Irish Arts and Culture Program
The Irish Arts and Culture Program is based on four cornerstone themes, Cultural Immersion, Experiential Learning, Cultivating Independence and Artistic Exploration/Portfolio Creation.
Our Four Cornerstones
The four cornerstones of the Irish Arts and Culture Program are designed to give you a broad exposure to the arts while also encouraging deeper exploration in your area of interest through travel, workshops and portfolio development. We feel that this method encourages your to become involved in many areas of the arts and then test your resolve, interest and creativity in one particular area of choice. Living like a local means that you will broaden your comfort zone, challenge your cultural gaze and develop independent living skills crucial to success in university.
The ultimate goals of the program are to develop independence, rekindle a joy of learning and facilitate self-motivated exploration of the arts.
1. Cultural Immersion
Local Living: It's All About Community
Experience life as locals do from your Victorian home in the heart of Bundoran, Co. Donegal. Your 8 bedroom, traditional Victorian home is just 20 minutes walk from the Adventure and Leadership gap year house. You will have an opportunity to interact with and be part of a modern-day community in one of the northwest’s most vibrant towns while reflecting on Irish culture, community and the history of Ireland. Becoming deeply involved in another culture challenges students to expand their world view, while developing empathy for people of varying backgrounds.
You'll also get to explore the best of Ireland on our expeditions around the country. There are seven big trips around Ireland throughout the program (ranging from 3 to 5 nights away each), each with a different cultural focus and theme.
The trips are designed to provide you with a deep and candid experience of Irish culture, be prepared to take the road less traveled.
You can read about the expeditions in details in 'The Expeditions' section of this page further down.
2. Artistic Exploration and Portfolio Creation
Self-Designed, Unique and Tangible
Gappers will have the opportunity to explore various areas of artistic interest from photography to found art/upcycling to stone carving to music and performance to creative writing in our workshops. With expert tutors, these workshops will provide a chance to try your hand at many artistic disciplines and create tangible takeaways from your time in Ireland. Not only will you get to immerse yourself in Irish arts, but you will meet unique and interesting people while doing it!
Workshops are divided into two categories: Open Workshops, which take place the first half of the program and are designed to introduce gappers to a broad range of artistic disciplines (see Open Worshops below) followed by tailored Focus-Workshops, which are taught in small groups the second half of the program and focus on a student’s particular area of interest.
Focus-Workshops are geared toward the creation of a self-designed portfolio. You don’t need to be particularly artistically skilled to create a portfolio, it can be anything from a photo-essay, to a collection of poems to a performance. Let your imagine run free and pursue your portfolio purely for the joy of learning and creating something unique to yourself.
Our Open-Workshops include, but not limited to the following:
- Arts and Crafts: Drawing, mixed media, sketching and more
- Willow Sculpting: Building a living work of art
- Found Art and Upcycling: Create mixed-media artwork from things people discard
- Temporary Nature Art: Standing rock art, leaf art and sand gardens
- Felt Making: Traditional wool craft
- Basket Weaving: Traditional craft
- Creative Writing and Journaling
- Performance and Theatre
Focus Workshops are offered during the second half of the program and are designed to encourage students to create a body of work unique to themselves. We encourage you to get creative with the theme of your portfolio, which you'll introduce to the group mid-program. Once you've decided on your area of interest and theme you will receive one-on-one instruction from our workshop tutors. Portfolios will be presented in a coffee house at the end of the program at a reception hosted by the gappers. Each student is encouraged to come up with their own portfolio theme within one of the following disciplines.
- Music: Irish music (learn the tin whistle and Irish drum), folk music, rock, spoken word
- Performance: Theatre, period theatre and on-site re-enactment, poetry reading, comedy, improvisation.
- Photo/Film: Photo essay, collage, photo framing, short film, video-blogging, mixed media
- Multi Discipline Arts and Crafts: Upcycling, drawing, found art, nature art, print making, sketching and more
The purpose of your portfolio is to create a body of work that is unique to you, fun and tangible. It will act as a takeaway from your time in Ireland and may be used as a stepping stone onto other art programs or simply as a vehicle to further develop your interest in a particular area of the arts.
Remember that portfolio creation is not exclusive to experienced artists. It is a project, a collection of work and a snapshot of a time and place in your life through the lens of art.
3. Cultivating Independence
A Stepping Stone
You will gain independence and build resilience during your time on the Irish Arts and Culture Program. We believe that a great gap year program acts as a stepping stone to college, work and life as a young adult. By managing your own home (yes, you’ll have to do laundry, cook, clean and co-exists with your peers!) you’ll gain practical independent living skills, learn to live with your peers and most importantly learn to be responsible for your own day to day living.
But fret not gappers - You’ll have our team’s full support in this process. Program leaders will help you to manage your household, create delicious student led meals, shop and navigate your new town.
You will also gain practical real-world skills during our trips around Ireland; from navigating public transportation to making reservations for dinner to budgeting and time management. All of these ‘adulting’ skills are interwoven throughout your expeditions around Ireland. Best of all, more often than not you won’t even realize that you are expanding your comfort zone and becoming more independent – We call this organic personal growth.
4. Experiential Learning
Act, Reflect, Contextualize, Apply.
As with all Irish Gap Year programming, Our Irish Arts and Culture Gap Program is based on the principle of Experiential Learning. This sounds complex but really it’s not. In fact, you have probably already practiced it in your everyday life, but just didn't realize it. Our goal is to teach you how to apply the practice in your own life.
Experiential learning is essentially learning by doing, reflecting and conceptualizing that experience and then applying what you learned to your next experience. This will often involve ‘on-site’ learning: whether though the hands-on experience of sampling many disciplines in Open-Workshops or during your portfolio development in Focus-Workshops, the most important aspect of experiential learning is the reflection and follow through.
This program is a journey of self-discovery and education, it not a test that is graded. It is a process of continuous learning and reflection, struggling and failure are as much a part of the process as achievement and success. We hope that you will develop a method of thinking and practice that you can take with you for future endeavors.
A Bit More on Our Expeditions Around Ireland
Each expedition on the Irish Arts and Culture Program is unique with its own area of focus and theme. The expeditions are 3 to 5 days each and will show you the unique culture of Ireland and bring you face to face with many quirky characters involved in the local communities and arts scene.
The structure of the expeditions is as follows:
- Prep and Contextualize: Program leaders will discuss and contextualize the upcoming trip and its theme with the group. You’ll discuss how the elements of the trip fit into the broader picture of Irish culture. There may also be individual or group challenges assigned for some trips in the days prior to travel. The goal of these discussions is to familiarize you with both the details and cultural significance of the upcoming expedition.
- Travel, Site Visits and Activities: Interactive, experiential and fun. This is learning by doing, seeing and feeling. Whether you are taking part in a photo scavenger hunt around Galway city, interviewing a busker or performing yourself, the trips and activities are designed to bring you into direct contact with Irish arts and culture.
- Reflection: Following each expedition we will debrief on the trip and discuss the takeaways such as what we learnt, who we met and how we may incorporate lessons from the trip into the broader context of the program and our lives.
Without giving too much away here’s a little sneak peek into a few of our big trips.
Dublin: An Artistic & Cultural Pick n’ Mix
Our first expedition to Dublin City is designed to give you an introduction to Dublin’s artistic and cultural heritage.
The trip starts with a day touring the city’s most notorious literary pubs, where gangsters, revolutionaries, novelists and poets shared many pints of Guinness while plotting the 1916 uprising. Actors will perform works by acclaimed Dublin writers such as James Joyce, Roddy Doyle and Sean O’Casey to give you an interactive insight into where and how modern Ireland was shaped.
On day two of the trip you’ll explore and participate in the great Irish tradition of story-telling as you meet folklorists and story tellers. You’ll learn about Irish folklore, humour and tell stories of your own while learning the elements of what makes an exciting, funny and entertaining tale.
On day three you will take on the challenge of the ‘Dublin City Photo Scavenger Hunt’ which will bring you face to face with some of Dublin’s most iconic places, places that have played a major role in shaping modern Irish society. You’ll receive clues from our program leaders as you progress through the hunt with your team. Be warned: Expect the unexpected!
On the fourth day we’ll spend some time at The National Museum of Ireland learning about the artwork, culture and legacy of the ancient peoples of Ireland, the Celts, Saxons, Normans and Vikings. After that there will be a free afternoon for you to explore the City Centre before heading for an evening performance at the Gaiety Theatre (Ireland’s premier theatre).
Of course, no trip to Dublin would be complete without a visit to the Guinness Brewery and Storehouse. Here you will learn about the long and fascinating Irish obsession with ‘the black stuff’, sample the finest pint of Guinness in the land and take in the best views of Dublin City from the 13th floor of the brewery before making our way back to Donegal for a relaxing evening meal at home.
Dublin Revisited: Samhain in Dublin: Hauntings, Vikings and Fiddle Strings.
Our second big trip to Dublin takes place over Samhain, the ancient Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season. In modern times this festival is known as Halloween. What better way to spend Halloween than in the shadows of Vikings, at Ireland’s most haunted places and tapping your toe to a bit of traditional Irish music in one of Dublin’s underground ‘trad’ pubs?
We’ll follow in the footsteps of the Vikings as we explore the Scandinavian roots of Dublin. From Christchurch in the City Centre to the Battle of Clontarf and the old city walls of Dublin you’ll come to appreciate the influence of Vikings on modern Irish Culture (there is also a hilarious surprise on this trip that involves horned helmets and a duck boat!).
In keeping with the spirit of Halloween we’ll indulge in some dark tourism at the Hellfire Club in the Dublin Mountains, Ireland’s most haunted and spooky place (seriously Google it – it’s pretty frightening).
Our ghostly tour of Dublin continues with a site visit to Kilmainham Gaol, Ireland’s most infamous prison and a place rich in national heritage. The leaders of the 1916 Easter Uprising were held here and eventually executed for their part in the revolution. You will sit in their cells, walk the dungeons and corridors of the gaol and stand in the place where the forefathers of Ireland gave their lives for their cause.
In case the Vikings, haunted buildings and gaols have you feeling a bit gloomy we’ll brighten things up our last day in Dublin with a writing class where you will learn to write your name in Ogham, the ancient Irish script. We’ll have some free time in Dublin City for shopping and attend a traditional Irish music session before making our way home to Donegal.
Boyne Valley: Pagan Ireland, Sacred Sites and Folklore
Even before the pyramids of Egypt were built New Grange was already the spiritual and political centre of Celtic Ireland. At over 6,500 years old the tombs and sacred sites in the Boyne Valley are what most would consider the starting point of Irish culture and history.
At these UNESCO World Heritage Sites you’ll journey underground into ancient tombs, have discussions with archaeologists, historians, folklorists and gain private access to some of the lesser known sites in the area. We’ll also create our own artwork interpreting the heritage of the area into sketches and poems.
We’ll visit the Hill of Tara, where Gaelic Irish Kings were coroneted and pagan rituals took place millennia ago. We’ll enter the passage graves of New Grange, Knowth and Dowth, where the remains of the royals were entombed and where the veil to the underworld is said to be its thinnest. You’ll explore Uisneach, the alleged burial place of Eriu the Goddess from whom Ireland got its name while hearing Ireland’s oldest and most colourful folklore from a practicing witch.
You will also come face to face with some of the oldest artwork known in Europe, traditional Celtic stone carvings within the tombs – guaranteed to give you goose bumps.
This expedition is all about bringing ancient Ireland to life and bringing you face to face with the earliest forms of Irish culture and art.
Galway: Europe’s Culture Capital 2020
Galway has been named the cultural capital of Europe for 2020 – No small feat given that hundreds of cities were in the running. The lead-up to the 2020 Galway Arts Festival and European Cultural Capital Year will showcase the best of all that is Galway and we want to be there to be part of the buzz!
While in the ‘City of Tribes’ we’ll speak with the people involved in various projects with the cities acclaimed artists and get behind the scenes of the Galway arts scene. We’ll find out what’s at stake for the local community as this small city receives international recognition and grows in popularity.
You’ll explore the quirky shops and pubs along the meandering cobblestone streets of Ireland’s favourite City, enjoy street performances from entertainers from all over the world and sample the cities many culinary delights. We’ll also have dedicated journaling and sketching time on the famous promenade at Salthill and be sure to include plenty of free time for you to check out the city.
Our more performance inclined students will have the option of performing their own student-led work on the streets of Galway as a side project that we’ll prepare in the weeks ahead of the trip.
From plays, to street performances, to speaking with artists to visiting art installations and the offshore Aran Islands we’re off to Ireland’s favourite city to live it up and be part of the buzz that is Galway, a city guaranteed to steal your heart.
Belfast: Perspectives Old and New Through Street Art
When people think of Belfast the first thing that usually comes to mind is political turmoil of the 1960’s – 1990’s known as ‘The Troubles’, but we’re here to meet a new generation of artists, activists and politicians that have rebuilt the city into one of Northern Ireland’s most vibrant communities.
Our focus will be a comparative survey of the old Belfast versus the new Belfast through the lens of street art. We’ll tour Belfast’s most notorious neighbourhoods that witnessed civil unrest for over 30 years, we’ll speak to the people directly involved in the conflict and hear their stories.
You’ll tour the inner cities unique and politically charged street art murals followed by a street art sketch classes in the evening with local artists who will also provide pizza and beer. We’ll discuss the different perspectives on Belfast’s tumultuous past and enjoy all that modern Belfast has to offer.
Of course, we’ll still be visiting the ‘must see’ locations such as the Titanic Museum, The Botanic Gardens and the Grand Opera House where we’ll get a backstage tour of the Victorian theatre before enjoying an evening performance.
Kilkenny: Fine Art in Ireland’s Medieval City
With narrow lanes, historic building, castles, cathedrals and medieval pubs around every corner, Kilkenny is the Ireland you may have dreamed of. As if the overwhelming beauty of the city weren’t enough, Kilkenny is also one of the finest towns for arts and crafts in Ireland.
We’ve organized a unique student challenge for your time in Kilkenny. You’ll prepare for the trip by reaching out to local artists, musicians, storytellers or anyone involved in the arts the area to organize a time to meet. In groups of two, you’ll speak with local people in your area of interest and get a deeper insight into what life in Kilkenny as an artist is all about. Of course, there will be some prep work involved in setting up the meetings (don’t worry we’ll help!).
You will also visit fine art galleries and speak with artists, visit the National Design and Craft Gallery, attend a professional hurling match (a traditional Irish sport dominated by Kilkenny), tour the largest and finest Norman castle in Ireland and speak with the team at Cartoon Salon, Ireland’s premier digital animation company.
Fun Fact: Kilkenny was once the capital City of Ireland.
Dingle Peninsula: Where Traditional meets Alternative at the Edge of Europe
On the wild southwest coast of Ireland in County Kerry you’ll find the Dingle Peninsula, full of quaint villages with colourful locals and small yet vibrant arts scenes. This is truly the edge of Europe and the whole place has a wild, windswept and timeless feel to it.
Our project is to document the people and places of Dingle through film, prose and sketches as we venture through the many villages.
We’ll tour the peninsula taking in the world famous scenery, meeting the locals and getting involved with artists through day-workshops.
You’ll venture to the offshore Blasket Islands to explore the ancient settlements clinging to the cliff-sides, have a night in traditional Irish Pub where we’ll sketch the musicians, tour the famous Dingle Distillery and create our own pottery with local ceramic artists.
The Dingle Peninsula expedition is one of our most eclectic adventures and sure to be the source of many laughs, dramatic photos and food for thought (literally – this place is a foody heaven!). Enjoy.
What’s Included In The Irish Arts and Culture Program
- Accommodation - Students will share a self-catering house that includes, kitchen, 5 bathrooms, living room and 6-8 bedrooms. All linen and towels are provided. Please note that the Irish Arts and Culture student house is its own home located 5 minutes from Bundrowes House (the Adventure and Leadership gap year house).
- Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner at Student House – The kitchen is kept fully stocked and gappers will make their own breakfast and lunch. Most evenings our house cook will prepare dinner for the gappers, with the exception being student-led dinners. Please note that meals out on trips around Ireland are not included. However, there is nearly always a healthy and economic option (cooking your own dinner) on all trips.
- Dinner (Monday to Saturday) – Students are provided with a main meal each day prepared by our experienced and friendly chefs except for Sunday their rest day where they can decide to cook or eat out as they please. Students will also have free time for lunch and dinner on teh majority of the trips around Ireland.
- Irish Gap Year staff are available 24/7. Parents and guardians are given a dedicated telephone number to call if they need to speak to their children urgently. Students are also provided with this number and staff are always located close-by.
- All equipment and transport necessary for all the workshops, trips and adventures.
- All staff conducting activities are fully qualified and trained to undertake the activity.
- Fully insured and certified activity providers.
- Fully insured and certified transport providers.
- All transport to and from cultural sites and other activity locations.
- All entry fees and taxes in relation to the cultural sites students will visit.
- All accommodation in relation to the over-night cultural trips.
- All course-work and paperwork in relation to their group projects and workshops.
- Staff all have occupational first aid if not a higher level.
What's Not Included?
- International flights
- Travel insurance
- General spending money (See FAQ’s – We recommend 60 euro for local weeks and 100 euro for expedition weeks)
- Meals out on trips around Ireland. There are seven big trips around Ireland amounting to roughly 28 days of the program.