A GAA star who embarked on a huge art challenge in 2021 to raise money for mental health awareness has just held her first solo art exhibition in her seaside hometown.
uairi Mooney made his debut with paintings of his native north coast and more at Portstewart Golf Club last weekend over the course of two days.
Last year, the former Derry inter-county footballer made an original work of art every day for 100 days, until New Year’s Eve.
For every painting sold, he donated 10% of the profits to AWARE NI, which is the only charity working exclusively for people with depression and bipolar disorder in Northern Ireland.
The Eoghan Rua clubman said having his own art exhibition was “a big step” in his establishment and was also “a big goal and landmark”.
“I’ve spent over a year working towards this and putting together a full portfolio of work that I can now display together. It’s a great feeling to have people come to see all of my work in one space. public,” he said.
“It’s been really encouraging and I’m happy with how it’s gone so far.”
Previously a teacher, Ruairi is now a full-time artist, but still adds the caveat that this is his only career “at the moment”.
“I always put that ‘minute’ part at the end because I don’t want to get ahead of myself and I know nothing is guaranteed with this type of work,” he continued.
“It’s something I’m still working on and I try to spread my work, get my name out there and share my pieces with as many people as possible. But, I love it and I’m happy to put all my eggs in the art basket for now. Who knows what the future holds?
The keen Gaelic footballer and howler added that his ‘100 Days’ challenge was a ‘great way’ to share his work, but the main takeaway is that ‘it has raised a lot of money for a major charity “.
“I was overwhelmed with the support people were willing to give. It was obviously a cause that a lot of people thought was important, as did I,’ he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“From an art perspective, it was great to be able to post so many of my ideas and work. I’m now able to look back and see some of the early ideas I started experimenting with during this period, and I am now able to develop them with my portfolio.”
GAA players aren’t usually known for being the creative type, but in recent years big names in the game have slowly started to challenge that stereotype.
Armagh star Jamie Clarke co-founded menswear brand Ilk two years ago and often goes back and forth on the County Orchard inter-county panel as his work in fashion l frequently takes to the jet-set.
Former Roscommon full-back Neil Patrick Collins held his first major solo art exhibition in Dublin in 2020, after living in New York, and former All-Ireland winner Kerry legend Paul Galvin is also now a leading fashion designer, starting to launch a men’s collection with Dunnes Stores almost a decade ago when the prospect of a Gaelic footballer following such a career path was totally new.
“I think the guys I grew up with would have been familiar with my art, but for some of the county guys it might have been a bit of a shock,” Ruairi previously said of reactions to his work.
“Gaelic football and the GAA come with the old traditional tag; there are a lot of primary school teachers and a sort of traditional Irish background, whereas when you have people who come from the arts and different things that are maybe more modern or contemporary, it’s unusual.
“But it’s been very well received, there’s a lot of support from friends of mine and even people I wouldn’t have known before I started the [mental health] challenge.”
Check Ruairi Mooney’s Instagram, @artbymooney to keep up to date with his work or follow Ruairi on Twitter at @RuairiMooney