18 Aug 2022

Young Derry woman achieves her artistic dream with new exhibition which begins later this week

A young Derry woman with Down Syndrome is about to achieve her dream of having her first ever art exhibition. Tori McNeill always enjoyed drawing at school, but it was not until she started art lessons two years ago that her flair for painting came to light. In her first lesson with art facilitator Karen Torley, of the Banyan theatre company, she produced two striking images of animals silhouetted against a sunset. “She loved art from a very young age and it would always have been her favourite subject at school,” explained Tori’s mum Dara McNeill. “I’m not sure where her talent came from because I haven’t an artistic bone in my body, but her father is very into music so maybe she gets her creative side from him,” she laughed. Tori is also a talented photographer and takes pictures of well-known land marks like the Fanad Light House and Derry’s Peace Bridge, which she then recreates in water colour. “The pieces can take anything from an hour up to nine hours depending on the level of detail” Karen added. “She can paint in so many different styles. Some are abstract and some are more detailed. “She goes through different phases, but landscapes are her favourite. “Tori’s signature style is colour. People always seem to comment on how the colours are so vivid and bold.” Tori and Karen have now set up a Facebook page ‘Art by Tori’ which quickly established a strong online following and she has since sold several paintings and been commissioned to paint several more. “From there we thought that we should do an exhibition,” said Karen. “The Waterside Theatre are very good at supporting aspiring artists and we now have 50 paintings all ready to go and all framed.” Tori is currently in her second year of a transitional course at the North West Regional College and is also a member of the Foyle Down Syndrome Trust (FDST) where she is able to take part in music, art, photography and gardening. “FDST try to do things that the members are interested in,” said Dara. “They have been a great support to Tori throughout her life amd I feel like she is living her dream at the minute.” “Tori can sometimes find social situations difficult, but this has given her so much confidence, through answering people on her Facebook page and talking to people about her art when she is out and about. “I think it will give other people hope that they can achieve their dreams. Dara added: “All any parent wants for their kids is for them to be happy and she is so happy when she is painting.” Tori's show will take place at The Waterside Theatre from Friday, September 7 to Friday, September 21. There will be an opening night event this Friday, September 7 from 7pm to 9pm. The theatre is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm from Monday to Friday and on the evening of theatre performances.

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