Limerick remembers late EVA founder Ursula Walsh

The late Ursula Walsh, founder of the EVA International art festival.

THE LATE EVA International founder, Ursula Walsh, passed away earlier this year on June 24.

She was well loved as a Senior Lecturer in Drawing and Painting at the Limerick College of Art and Design from 1969 to 2008.

Also known as Ursula Brick, she was born in Cork on September 9, 1944, one of four children, to Eileen (née Field) and Tady Brick. She was christened Helen but adopted her middle, Ursula, and from a very young age.

Her father, a Comandante in the Irish Army, was stationed at various barracks around Ireland throughout her childhood and adolescence until the family finally settled in Limerick.

For the last two years of Ursula’s secondary education, she attended the Presentation Secondary School in the city. She entered the then Limerick School of Art in 1962 and graduated in 1967 with a First-Class Honours Art Teacher’s Certificate (the equivalent of a First-Class Honours Degree).

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Following her graduation, she taught in secondary schools in Ennis and Banagher before returning to the Limerick School of Art and subsequently becoming a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art.

Ursula was described as being scrupulously fair in all her dealings with students and colleagues, and kept her own mind on the difficult decisions she occasionally faced within her teaching practice.

Those close to her say she had a staunch, ethical position on all the decisions she made. She held hard work, discipline, and application in the highest esteem; talent or instinct were often secondary concerns.

In 1977, along with other artists from Limerick City, she co-founded the Exhibition of Visual Art, an open submission exhibition now known as EVA International.

Ursula was the first chairperson and, in 1979, oversaw a new direction when EVA adopted a single and independent international adjudicator, a turning point in the visual arts in Ireland. In 2023, EVA International will celebrate its 40th anniversary.

She was the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) nominee to the Council for the Status of Women and subsequently served as a TUI representative on the Board of Governors when the School became part of the Limerick Regional Technical College. She also coordinated the Erasmus exchange programme, which allowed her to travel throughout Europe.

Ursula’s own artistic output was limited, committed as she was to her teaching profession. When she retired, she devoted much of her time to her elegant garden.

Although Ursula was born with dyslexia, a difficulty much misunderstood at the time and which presented certain challenges throughout her education, in later life, with the arrival of new technology, she would often send letters, emails, and text messages using her unique vocabulary. Nothing deterred her in saying what she wanted to say, and, in time, this perceived limitation became a great strength.

Generosity was the cornerstone of Ursula’s life. In a final act of giving, she donated her body to scientific research. A celebration of her life was held in the Hunt Museum on July 28.

In 1978, Ursula married the artist Samuel Walsh and they lived for a time in Ballyneety, County Limerick, before moving to Clonlara, County Clare.

She was predeceased by her brother Tim ‘Teddy’ Brick, former deputy city engineer for Dublin, and her nephew Dermot. She is survived by her husband Samuel and their three children, Tady, Aoife, Esther, her son-in-law Matthew, grandchildren Helena and Rupert, sisters Rita and Olive, sister-in-law Maeve, brother-in-law Gerry Boland, nephews and nieces, and a wide extended family, including Helena’s mother Milena Martinović.

She will be remembered fondly and often by many friends, artists, fellow gardeners, former colleagues, and countless former students.