posted on January 2nd, 2019

Local young leaders’ artwork exhibited alongside National Portrait Gallery Collection

A group of aspiring young leaders from the Ards peninsula and surrounding area have had artwork they produced, hung alongside world-famous portraits at Mount Stewart.

The National Trust has partnered with Ards Rural Project Youth Forum on a creative project at Mount Stewart as part of the Faces of Change: Votes for Women partnership exhibition with the National Portrait Gallery. The exciting endeavour, funded by Enkelon and National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, saw a group of fifteen young people, aged between 13 to 17 from local villages across the Ards Peninsula, undertake an eight-week creative programme looking at the themes of identity, culture and power.

The young people from the Ards Rural Project Youth Forum who took part in the project were identified by the Education Authority in Northern Ireland as emerging community leaders, who are active in developing young people’s rights and responsibilities.

The youth group enjoyed onsite visits to Mount Stewart, working with National Trust staff and facilitators from the Nerve Belfast Creative Learning Centre to incorporate their own unique responses and ideas into the exhibition. Using digital technologies, the young people were encouraged to explore new ways to make history and heritage relevant to their generation. The partnership is ongoing, and the group are currently developing a walking trail which visitors will be able to enjoy at Mount Stewart in 2019.

The group produced an inspiring collection of digital images on the theme of identifying and merging their portraits with those of their spirit animals. One of the digital images depicts the artist’s ace merged with that of a seal. The young artist took inspiration from his local area, “growing up in Portavogie, sea life has always had a special place in my heart. This image represents my vibrant personality whilst also giving a glimpse into what life is like in my area.”Another image focuses on a face merged with a lion’s face, “A lion depicts my inner strength, courage and loyalty. They are generally found in a pride, indicating their strong family and community relationships.”

Tammi Peek, Volunteering, Learning and Community Involvement Officer from the National Trust commented, “We were delighted to work alongside these inspirational young people on this creative partnership as a wider extension of the exhibition, Faces of Change: Votes for Women at Mount Stewart, running in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition displays well-known, but rarely seen paintings, drawings and photographs loaned from the National Portrait Gallery and celebrates the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which first gave women the right to vote.

“We were inspired by the success of our partnership with the National Portrait Gallery and we wanted to take this further and reach out to our local neighbours, giving us the opportunity to work collaboratively with groups who may not otherwise have visited the exhibition. Working together with the NERVE Belfast Creative Learning Centre and the young people has been a great experience and we truly believe the digital photography collection adds another layer to the impressive Faces of Change: Votes for Women exhibition at Mount Stewart.”

Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland added, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to providing meaningful opportunities for young people to participate and engage in the arts. We are delighted to support this terrific project which brought young people together to explore local heritage and history using exciting digital arts technologies to create their own artworks which are now exhibited alongside impressive works from the National Portrait Gallery – truly inspiring!”

Members of the youth group agreed that the partnership was an inspiring and educational process for them commenting, “I have learnt a lot about the house at Mount Stewart and the roles the National Trust has played in Mount Stewart. I have also learnt about Edith’s role in the suffrage movement. Another said: “I enjoyed being able to have the opportunity to be creative and use machinery that I would not normally be given the chance to use.”

Special events and tours will be planned for the duration. For more information visit:

The Faces of Change: Votes for Women exhibition is on display at Mount Stewart from Thursday to Sunday, 11am to 3pm until 3 February 2019. Visitors will also have the opportunity to view the work of the young people alongside the National Portrait Gallery exhibition.