Impressions of community life in Ireland over 50 years...
...as seen through the eyes of our children.
When asked to describe the impact which the
Texaco Children's Art Competition had on her career, renowned batik
artist and former winner
Bernadette Madden said "A wonderful childhood
experience. A magical memory. Children's Art sowed a seed which
encouraged me to develop my
artistic talents at a very young age. Thank you
Her memory of the Competition and of the
profound influence which it had in helping to develop her interest in
art is typical of the
feelings held by many who have enjoyed success
in the Competition.
When interviewed by The Irish Times in 2004,
Ruairi Quinn TD, a prize winner at the time of the Suez Crisis, said "I
won my first Caltex
(Texaco) prize at the age of 10.Then I was doing
it (art) without realising I was good at it. By the time I was a
teenager it was central to my life.
I painted constantly, right through until I was
about 27 or 28."
Speaking on the Arts programme RTE's Rattlebag, he added "I was
fortunate enough to get encouragement from that first award. I won a
other awards at different age categories...it
had a profound effect on my life and what I subsequently did". Another
comment in similar vein was made by
artist Marie Connole who said "I entered the
Competition often during my teenage years and it was very influential
decision to continue with art as a career".
Other distinguished past winners whose early interest in art and the
arts may well have been encouraged by their participation in
the Competition include artists Dorothy Cross,
Graham Knuttel and Robert Ballagh, fashion designer Paul Costello,
Mansfield and Terry Prone, ICTU General
Secretary David Begg, novelist Clare Boylan, actress Jean Anne Crowley
and musician Ethna Tinney.
In addition, one can only imagine the countless
other winners whose early love of art was fostered by this Competition
and who still reflect
this warmth in their daily lives as adults,
parents and teachers.
The world into which the Texaco Children's Art
Competition was born was one distinctly different from today's. The
year was 1955 - two years
before the Treaty of Rome brought the European
Economic Community into existence. For the children of that era, life
was far simpler and
less complicated. Television and the transistor
radio were still a way off while rock 'n' roll had yet to hit the
everywhere were blissfully unaware of the impact
it would have and of the pop and celebrity that would follow in its
Theirs was a life illustrated in comic book
adventures and played out with simple gadgets such as skipping ropes,
spinning tops, footballs, soap box carts and
other similar inventions. Truly, it was an age when children spent
time in their imagination and found expression
for their thoughts in art and other simple forms of creativity.
As Ruairi Quinn recalls "the Competition and the
prizes were immensely important. Ireland was an introverted and
isolated place. Anything like that (the
Competition) took on enormous significance."
The concept devised for the first Texaco
Children's Art Competition (then known under the name Caltex) was one
children were invited to illustrate the phrase
'Keep It Quiet', a slogan that was being used to promote Havoline motor
oil at that time. In the fashion still
operative to this day, brochures were printed and circulated to every
and secondary school throughout the country.
Though little was expected from it, the
Competition attracted an amazingly large entry... so large, in fact,
the organisers quickly realised that they had
tapped into something very special. Nowhere was this more evident than
in the excited faces of those first young
winners and their parents who travelled to Dublin to receive their
presented over lunch in the elegant
surroundings of the Gresham's Aberdeen Room.
In making the decision that a second
Competition should be held - free of any guidance or constraint as
method or medium - few would have prophesied
that it would become an annual event whose integrity would be
recognised; one that would endure for half a
century during which time it would make its own unique contribution to
art and art education in Ireland.
With an annual entry of up to 50,000 paintings,
the Texaco Children's Art Competition is one that has touched the lives
virtually every family in Ireland at some time
or another throughout its 50 year lifetime. In that respect alone, it
is quite special.
For children, it has a magical appeal -
remembered by broadcaster Terry Prone as "the highlight of the year
from the time I was seven".
It brings the challenge of competition in which
all young people delight. To this, add the prospect of reward, a trip
to Dublin to attend the
prize giving ceremony, and the chance to win a
glittering prize. For the children of the 1950s, this was something
... really different! So it has been ever since
... for the children of the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and now 2000s.
Persons who have officiated as Guest of Honour
at this ceremony include former President and UN High Commissioner, Mary
Robinson, former Taoisaigh,
Lord Mayors, Diplomats and other distinguished
persons. Indeed, one could argue that the willingness of such high
profile persons to participate
in the event is, in itself, a reflection of the
regard in which the Competition is held.
And so it was on the 19th May 2004 when the
President of Ireland, Mrs. Mary McAleese was the Guest of Honour at the
Anniversary Awards Ceremony. A feature of the
Ceremony was the unveiling by her of four postage stamps which were
by An Post to commemorate this special
anniversary. By her presence and by the issue of these postage stamps -
reproductions of four of that year's winning
entries - the affection and respect which the Irish State and the
people of Ireland
have for the Texaco Children's Art Competition
was clearly reflected.
Other events which celebrated this special
anniversary included the presentation of twelve paintings to the Office
Works for permanent exhibition in Government
offices and other State buildings, the commissioning of a television
and the publication of a supplement in Irish
Arts Review, copies of which were circulated to audiences here and
Activities were also planned in Texaco offices
across the globe.
In conclusion, it is perhaps natural that we in
Texaco believe that the Texaco Children's Art Competition can no longer
be viewed simply as a commercial sponsorship.
While the objective set for it all those years
ago would differ little from any we would set for it today - namely 'to
support and encourage children through art' -
we believe that, over time, it has reached far
beyond that definition. In essence, it has acquired the status of an
institution and become a part of the fabric of
Irish life that has endured and developed
across the generations.
In every respect, it is a testament to the
enduring innocence of childhood and to the power and inventiveness of a
child's imagination. Despite the culture
of pop and celebrity referred to
earlier...despite the appeal of computer games and the influence of
high technology... when a child of 2004 sits down to
paint a portrait of 'My Mammy' with her wavy
blonde hair, luscious red lips and deep blue eyes, she still looks as
beautiful today as she ever did in the
1950s! In our opinion, therein lies the magic
of the Texaco Children's Art Competition... and the strength that has
kept it alive and vigorous across the generations.