The Verbal Arts Centre teamed up with Art Take Part to celebrate ‘the Big Draw’ during the Halloween celebrations this year. Halloween means MONSTERS and we invited…
Ava, (21), from St. Paul, Minnesota, came to Derry as part of her studies and spent her placement at the Verbal Arts Centre, working on its Reading Rooms and Crows on the Wire projects.
Ava explained: “I’m from St. Paul, Minnesota. I grew up in the suburbs, but now live, work, and study in the city. It's a cold and snowy place most of the year, but I love it. I study Literature (English and American mostly, but with a growing focus in Irish), and minor in Politics.
“My university urges most students to study abroad, so I wanted to go somewhere where I could get out of the classroom, study my interests, and still speak English. Students from my university have come to Derry and worked with the INCORE programme at Magee and highly recommended it to me, so I signed up!
“I didn't know much about Derry before I arrived but since living here, I have come to love this city. The history is fascinating, but my favourite part is definitely the welcoming people and the size. I have enjoyed so much about my time in Ireland, but the two things that stand out are my time at Verbal and the landscapes and nature. My placement at Verbal has been incredibly rewarding, both in terms of enhancing my studies and also giving me a sense of purpose during my time in Derry.
“I have also loved getting out of the city and seeing the ocean or the beautiful countryside. It's much different than my landscape at home, and it's been lovely and hugely relaxing. This is my first time on the island, but I'm quite sure it won't be my last. I also hope to stay connected to some of the people I have met here.”
Ava continued: “Macalester College is renowned not only for its high level of scholarship but emphasis on international engagement and civic responsibility. My time at Verbal and at the INCORE programme at Magee - the International Conflict Research Institute - have given me new perspectives on both literature and politics.
“I've encountered so much wonderful Irish literature, as well as international literature, at Verbal, which will inspire new studies when I'm back home. Also, learning about the conflict and peace process in Northern Ireland has been fascinating, and will certainly affect the way I study domestic politics in the United States.”
Ava discovered that her home city of St. Paul and Derry are surprisingly similar. “They are similar sizes, which is lovely for pedestrians like me. They are also quite historic, and have pride in their history and in their future.”
Speaking about her “wonderful” placement at the Verbal Arts Centre, Ava said: “I have been shadowing staff members, facilitating Reading Rooms, assisting with administrative tasks, and essentially doing anything possible to lighten the load of the hard-working staff. I have learned about arts organisations, the logistics involved to run one and reasons why they are important. I've also learned about how outreach projects come to fruition - from funding to evaluation.
“I would certainly encourage others to come to Derry. It's a fascinating city, and welcoming too. I'm so grateful for my time here, and would encourage others to spend time exploring and getting to know people in the city,” added Ava, who hopes to pursue a career in community outreach work - particularly with community organisations that serve women and children.
Sinead Devine, Reading Rooms Programme Manager, said: “Ava has a great love of literature and this really shone through so she was a perfect fit for a placement at Verbal. She contributed so much throughout her placement and showed that she was really committed from the outset by joining the team early and participating in our accredited course OCN Level 2 Facilitation Skills for Shared Reading. This allowed Ava to deliver Reading Room sessions here and in Belfast to vulnerable groups.
“She was also a great asset to Susanne Stich, the Literary Guide, helping her to select and prepare materials for other volunteers. We would like to thank her for all her hard work and commitment and wish her well in her studies when she returns home to America.”