Arts, News

It’s Art, It’s Unique and Contemporary, and it’s Straight Out of Ireland

Talk about Ireland, and most people envision green, rolling hills, pastures dotted with sheep, thatched cottages, quaint little villages, sprawling beaches and high, craggy cliffs. And make no mistake, Ireland is all of those things and more. Chances are pretty good that you’ve seen paintings, photography, crafts, knitwear, glassware and other works of art that depict all of the above.

Maybe you haven’t seen everything, even if you think you have. The folks at the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia believe there are more and unique ways of capturing the essence of Ireland. And they’re presenting a sweeping three-day event called “Straight Out of Ireland” that displays a wide variety of art that captures new and distinctive ways of seeing the Emerald Isle.

The works of more than 25 Irish artists, and a dozen American artists who have been influenced by Ireland will present their works in an Immigration Center benefit from November 15th through the 17th at Sacred Heart Academy (480 South Bryn Mawr Ave, in Bryn Mawr. Many types of art will be showcased, including exquisite paintings, glassware, needlework, sculpture, fabrics, and much more. You’ll also have a chance to meet the artists.

“We really wanted to showcase contemporary Ireland,” explains Emily Norton Ashinhurst, executive director of the Immigration Center, who hopes that “Straight Out of Ireland” will become the Center’s signature fund-raiser. “I think that while we all love the traditional Celtic art we’ve grown up with, I think sometimes we tend to forget that there is a great deal of work being done currently. Ireland has such a rich history, but I don’t want to forget that it has a very rich current art scene. There’s a real mix of media—and that’s one of the cool things. We have some knitwear, we have some textiles, we have jewelers, we have painters, sculptures, photography and ceramics. We have a lace artist. It’s some really cool stuff. And from the local people, we have a furniture maker, somebody who does wooden bowls, and more. It’s just a wonderful showcase of work that is coming out of Ireland and inspired by Ireland.”

It was tough deciding which work to present. The Immigration Center issued an open call for submissions and received more than 70 applications from Ireland. Selection of artists from the United States came a bit later. The overseas selections were made by a committee, which issued invitations. The committee included Yvonne Hanrahan and Karen Gilmartin, with help from Una McDaid. Denise Foley led the effort on the United States side.

The artists from Ireland are coming from everywhere on the island, says Nicola Bell, community programs and communications director for the Immigration Center.

“We have a contingency coming from Donegal, we have people coming from Mayo, and there are people coming from Galway, Clare, Limerick, Sligo, Cork, Dublin, Meath, Wicklow, Derry, and Louth,” Bell says. “The largest contingency is probably from Mayo, which you would expect, given the nature of our demographics here.”

Bell, together with her father, had an art business, which she now continues as a sideline. As someone who has been exposed to art all her life, Bell has a good sense of how the art of Ireland has progressed over the years. “I’ve often had conversations with Emily about art, and contemporary Irish art in particular,” she says. “Ireland is a very diverse and multicultural country now. It’s very much a European country. If you go to Dublin, for example, you’ll see that—there are people from all walks of life. We thought it would be interesting to see how the next generation of artists are reflected because they’re still coming up through the ranks.”

“Straight Out of Ireland” promises to deliver a jam-packed weekend, says Ashinhurst.

Friday night, there’s an opening gala. “It’s a reception and party, a chance to preview the work and mingle with the artists. It will be a cocktail attire style event, guests will mix and mingle with the artists, and there will be a silent auction.”

Saturday, she says, is a day to settle in and celebrate the art, including panel discussions focused on the state of art in Ireland. “There will be an international flair to it,” she adds. “We’re really focused on that day being more about art enthusiasts and people who want to come in and hear about it, who maybe want to hear about an artist’s inspiration. The lace artist might be doing a demonstration on lace-making … things like that.”

Sunday is more of a family day. Artists will make presentations, but the local Gaelic Athletic Association will also be on hand to offer demonstrations, and there will be an Irish dance clinic.

“We also have a puppeteer coming over from Ireland,” Ashinhurst says, “who’s going to do two different shows, telling Irish stories through puppetry.”

Food will be available on both Saturday and Sunday, and artwork will be available for purchase.

As with so many endeavors in the Philadelphia Irish community, this one takes a village of volunteers, says Ashinhurst. Local contractors are building gallery walls, others are painting them, and electricians are doing the lighting. There are also many, many local sponsors. And, of course, none of it would be happening without the involvement of committee members. “This project has really involved so many people from our community to come together and showcase Ireland,” she says. “This is an undertaking that has really grown legs at this point. It’s become much bigger than anybody on the committee ever thought, but it’s really become a passion project for us. We’re really excited to see it succeed this year, and then  just become more and more successful each year.”

For more information about “Straight Out of Ireland,” visit the website.

Here’s who’s coming:

Garavan, Pauline Mayo Fine Art
O’Connor, Clare Meath painting and scarves
Roberts, Sara Cork ceramics
Guerin, Phyl Limerick Fine Art
Walsh, Dee Louth Fine Art
Harrington, Fiona Cork lace
Brown, Mike Cork photography
Longwill, Sophie Cork glass
O’Byrne, Shay Wicklow paintings
Austin, Alice PA book artist
Bank, Cynthia PA Fine Art
Brewster, David PA Fine Art
Conway, Bette PA jewelry
Conway, Danny PA furniture
Curran, Joan Wadleigh PA Fine Art
Drennan, Mike PA wooden bowls
Eckel, Jonathan PA Fine Art
Enright, Mary Clare jewelry
MacBride, Edel Donegal knitwear
McGrath, Jody PA Fine Art
McGuiness, Hannah Donegal jewelry
Mi Chelle Donegal knitwear
Murphy, Bernie Donegal knitwear
Murphy, Dierdre PA Fine Art
Rumford, Ron PA Fine Art
Taylor Yates Derry handbags
White, Rita scarves
Wilson, Linda Limerick knitwear
Meskell, Tom Mayo lantern sculpture and painting
Foley, Phill Galway photography
Lunney, David Dublin photography
Mc Nevin, Dermot Meath Fine Art
Burns, Breda Mayo mixed media
Hamilton, Martina Sligo jewelry
Duffy, Mags Mayo Fine Art
Sweeney, Tracy Mayo Fine Art


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