Art Lending Scheme showcases NI Artists in Schools

2nd February, 2023

The walls and halls of St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena have been given a new injection of colour, adorned with artworks by some of Northern Ireland’s best contemporary artists.

Students at St Louis Grammar school pictured in front of Colin Davidson's portrait of pianist and conductor Barry Douglas
Students at St Louis Grammar school pictured in front of Colin Davidson's portrait of pianist and conductor Barry Douglas

St Louis, along with Magherafelt High School and St Patrick’s College Maghera, recently received works as part of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Art Lending Scheme for Schools. The scheme offers schools the opportunity to exhibit works from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Contemporary Art Collection with the aim of promoting the work by local artists and to increase opportunities for young people to be inspired by and engage with high-quality visual arts.

The Arts Council’s Art Lending Scheme for Schools is a free programme which enables participating schools to choose and exhibit works from the Arts Council Collection, which currently holds over 500 artworks, by established and emerging visual artists working in Northern Ireland. The scheme was officially launched in 2019 and to date 12 schools have taken part.

Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said,

“We are delighted to be able to bring these stunning works of art out into schools. We hope the students enjoy engaging with them in their school environment and draw inspiration from them.
“We are honoured to have so many wonderful artists represented within the Arts Council’s contemporary art collection, including two-times Turner Prize nominee, Willie Doherty; Cara Murphy, whose work is included in the Downing Street Sliver Collection; and Colin Davidson, who painted the Queen’s portrait in 2016. We work closely with each of the schools to choose pieces to go on display, including paintings, ceramics, sculpture and photography. By offering the collection for public display in schools, we are helping to showcase the work of our artists and to introduce the public to Northern Ireland’s wealth of creative talent. We hope through the course of this year to extend the collection out into more schools and are keen to hear from schools who’d like to take part.”

Among the pieces on display at St Louis are Remnant by Anne Butler, The Medium and the Massage, Into the Void by Leo Boyd and Bemusing Board by Ellen Nesbitt. Also on display is a very special work by textile artist Mairead McCormick, a former St Louis pupil.

Eilish McDonald, Head of Arts and Moving Image Arts, St Louis Grammar School, commented:

“It is a huge privilege to be loaned five artworks from the Arts Council. It has been a pleasure working with Joanna and the team to curate artwork that best suits our school space. To exhibit work by renowned Irish artists in our Creative and Expressive Arts Centre, allows us to make connections between learning in the classroom and a future career as an artist. We were able to select work that links directly to current projects, providing vital inspiration for our pupils. We are especially happy to have our past pupil Mairead McCormick's work on display.”

The Arts Council is keen to hear from schools that are interested in taking part in the scheme and are also on hand to help advise and curate an exhibition for each school if required. For more information email