History of the Burren College of Art

Founded in 1993 by Michael Greene and Mary Hawkes-Greene, to give student artists the opportunity to develop their creative potential in the unique environment of the Burren, the Burren College of Art has grown rapidly to an institution of international standing. Michael was passionate about the Burren. He wanted to enable creative people from around the world to work and be inspired by it while helping the local community thrive as a result. His vision in establishing the Burren College of Art was clear - the college would reconnect with the tradition of learning established by the Brehon and Bardic schools of the 6th century; it would recruit artists internationally, grant degrees, re-energise the local community and become 'the greatest little art school in the world'.

President and co-founder, Mary Hawkes-Greene, reminds us how it all began…..

April 18th 2005

The Mace bearer of the National University of Ireland, Galway, leads the robed academic procession from the 16th century Newtown Castle to the ultra-modern new gallery for the conferring of the first MFA degrees in Ireland, at the Burren College of Art. The strong tradition of learning, dormant in the Burren for centuries, is revived.

Throughout the ceremony, Michael's words and another picture continue to occupy my mind. It was a summer evening in 1986. We stood with our two toddlers outside the doorway of the crumbling Newtown House, now our new home, silently admiring another stunning Burren sunset.

"We will have an art school here Mary, with students from all over the world, with university degrees - it will be the greatest little art school in the world"

"Dream on Michael" I replied flippantly

And he did.

Our first decade was one of construction - of buildings, of programmes, of linkages.

Our second decade dawned with a graduate programme, an international student body, new studios and 'The Gallery'. Our vision for the future is to broaden and deepen the nature of the creative experience at BCA and to expand access through scholarships, to the most talented students suited to this unique experience.

We envision the college as a confluence of creative ideas from diverse cultures, a forum for discussion and debate, a truly international campus. As its core the Burren itself, this truly inspirational landscape, the reason we exist and which we are committed to protecting and preserving.

Since setting up the college in 1994 my greatest satisfaction continues to come from witnessing students positively transform in this environment.  This growth results not always from adding new layers of skills but rather from stripping away excess and discovering their true selves and who they are as artists. I pay particular tribute to the late Eugene Wicks, our founding president and friend, who established the standards of excellence that are our bedrock.


Mary Hawkes-Greene