I was fortunate enough to be able to go to Belfast, Northern Ireland, this past summer for a final project after graduating from the University of Kansas. I got to go with four other students as well as an awesome designer artist couple. This was a life changing experience, as I have come to find out that each journey has been, whether or not it has been jumping the pond, or traveling to one coast or the other. This trip actually inspired me to get a work and holiday visa in Ireland, and finally leave the comfort of the midwest. I was born and raised in the midwest, and I have always loved my home, but being landlocked has never done me any favors either.
Belfast as a city is somewhat small and industrious, and we were lucky to come at a time where much of the religious and political strife had settled significantly. The people here are seriously awesome and incredibly welcoming and accommodating. The Northern Irish may still be quarreling among themselves, but are more than warm to outsiders. Everyone I met wanted to know why I was there and about my life. Belfast hasn't been on the top of any European city destinations because of the city's violent history, however it quickly became one my favorites.
If you are unfamiliar with Belfast, you may not know that there are murals painted all over the city, but most are politically and religiously motivated. We were asked to collaborate with Genesis+Art studio and paint a mural for Palmerston Home for those suffering from Alzheimers and Dementia. Each of us were asked to design a mural focusing on how art and color can affect or trigger memory for those who have dementia. Using the different senses, sight, touch, sound, and smell we hoped to spark memory so they may reconnect with their former selves. Ultimately, my friend Luke's mural was chosen.
We were there for two weeks painting this landscape mural with different elements and monuments of Belfast. We kept it very open and simple so as to allow members of the community, staff, and families to join in and contribute to the mural. It was a great success, and the residents loved having us there. We succeeded in bringing some joy to the lives of the residents and their families, which is an amazing feeling indeed.
Here is a short clip of the finished mural.
Everyone was so welcoming and helpful while we were there. We were given free accommodation at the George Best childhood home (an infamous footballer) which everyone seemed to get a huge kick out of. Also, tea time is the best. Black tea with milk is absolutely delightful. Everyday we were painting, we were given tea and scones, twice a day in fact! I think that all cultures should take a break of during the day whether it be to relax and enjoy tea, spend time in nature, or just enjoying the company of oneself or others. The Irish are definitely doing it right.
Overall, I absolutely loved the time I spent in Belfast. The city is beautiful (minus the rain, I missed the sun far too much) and the people were wonderful. The nightlife is fun, and we definitely made some friends visiting various pubs like the Duke of York. The Guinness is delectable and Magner's is pretty great too. The noshes are great, however I don't understand how the Irish have survived for so long on diets based solely on meat and potatoes (maybe a slight exaggeration). My friends may have gotten annoyed with me because I may have complained my veggie intake was severely suffering. However, tea time is fantastic, and is definitely something I miss now that I am back in the states. If you have the chance, definitely put Belfast on your list of cities to visit. It would be hard to regret!