Kevin Killen

Murmuration is a large-scale sculptural work commissioned by the Ulster American Folk Park, National Museums Northern Ireland and the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. The project was part-funded under Priority 6 (LEADER) of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Union. 
The commission was designed as part of the development of the International Appalachian Trail, an extension of the infamous Appalachian Trail in the United States. Since 2009 a series of international trails have been created in places like Greenland, Denmark and Morocco, and in 2014 an Ulster-Ireland section was developed. 
The commission was to create a resonance with the connections between Tyrone, Northern Ireland and Appalachia, looking and both human and geological links. The value of the commission was £80,000, and it will be on permanent display at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, though the installation has been delayed due to Covid-19. 
Kevin Killen's concept encompassed the actual physical journeys of Ireland to America, the journey along the Appalachian Trail, the journey along the Ulster Appalachian trail from Donegal to Larne and the stories of those that made those expeditions. The actual work is a large-scale metal sculpture with an integrated lighting system.
 The overall shape represents the twisted and meandering lines of the trails. Having mapped both the Ulster trail, the original trail and the routes between Ireland and America, the final shape is an amalgamation of all three. The curves and peaks of the sculptural form are shaped from words and phrases, marking the stories of the travellers who have walked the trails and made the migration. 
The swoops, twists and turns of the words mirror the momentum of the people who have made these journeys and will encourage people to walk around the work, reading and connecting with it. The project included a wide range of cross-community involvement. 
Working with the Ulster American Folk Park Museum staff and the International Appalachian Trail working group, Kevin Killen engaged with groups including Ulster-Scots Agency; Foras Na Gaeilge; Scotch Irish Trust; MCMS; Omagh Ethnic Community Forum; Strabane Ethnic Community Association; North West Migrants Forum; South Belfast Roundtable Association; Local Chinese, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Indian, Islamic, Syrian, Filipino, Polish and Lithuanian communities; African American Irish Diaspora Network; Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Museum; Beyond the Spectacle project; Tenement Museum NY. The engagement process was an essential element of this project. 
Speaking about the process, Curator of Emigration at the Ulster American Folk Park Liam Corry said, “We want to involve the new communities in the longer term with the Ulster American Folk Park. We want to engage with them to see how they see or do not see themselves represented at the Park. We want to reflect on voices pushed to the edge of the story told at the museum. The idea is to create strong links between historic Irish migration and the new migration to Ulster/Ireland. The art piece hopefully will be the catalyst in this process.” Galvanising was used you give the artwork protection from the elements, giving it a longer life span. 

Photographs © Kevin Killen
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