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Irish Immigration Center of Greater Philadelphia

Arts, Photo Essays, Photos

“Straight Out of Ireland” Draws an Enthusiastic Audience

Between 600 and 700 art lovers eager to savor the best of the Emerald Isle’s contemporary works visited the “Straight Out of Ireland” exhibition last weekend in Bryn Mawr.

Organized by the Philadelphia Irish Immigration Center in an ornate mansion on the campus of Sacred Heart Academy and pulled together by a dedicated crew of volunteers and committee members, the display showcased the work of 20 artists from Ireland and another dozen artists from the United States who have been influenced by the culture of Ireland. “Straight Out of Ireland” featured a range of contemporary art, including ceramics, glass, drawings, lace, jewelry, photography, paintings, fashion and more.

The event began with a grand gala Friday night, followed by a day of exhibits and informative panel discussions the next day, and a special family day on Sunday.

Immigration Center organizers were expecting 500 or so visitors, so the event exceeded expectations, says Emily Norton Ashinhurst, executive director of the center. Continue Reading

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.” Continue Reading


Foróige: Raising the Next Generation of Leaders

Every Tuesday night at 7 p.m., a group of teenagers, 12 to 18 years old, meet at the Irish Immigration Center of Greater Philadelphia office in Upper Darby. There’s fun, of course—they’re teenagers—but they also have a serious mission: carving out a better future for themselves and for their community.

It’s the Foróige Youth Group, a local chapter of Ireland’s biggest and most successful youth development leadership program.

The Immigration Center chapter of Foróige (pronounced fo-ROY-guh) has about 30 members. It’s the first in the United States. Continue Reading


Ireland’s New Minister for the Diaspora Visits Philadelphia

Irish Minister for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan, talking to people at the Irish Center on Wednesday. Behind him: Immigration Center executive direct Siobhan Lyons.

Irish Minister for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan, talking to people at the Irish Center on Wednesday. Behind him: Immigration Center executive direct Siobhan Lyons.

The latest donor to Philadelphia’s Irish Center fundraising campaign is the Irish government.

Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan, an ex-Kerry footballer whose brand new cabinet post gives him responsibility over the some 70 million people of Irish descent living in every corner of the world, announced this week that the government was allocating $2.3 million to 37 Irish immigration centers across the US for their work in supporting vulnerable populations, including the elderly and the undocumented. That includes Philadelphia’s Irish Immigration Center, located in Upper Darby.

“But I was glad to see that there was a small grant in there of $12,000 for the Irish Center,” said the 62-year-old Fine Gael politician, who is a multiple All-Ireland Gaelic football winner, at a reception—like most Irish gatherings, with fresh baked scone and brown bread—in the center’s Fireside Room on Wednesday morning.

Later in the day, Deenihan met at Stotesbury Mansion near Rittenhouse Square in the city with leaders and members of many of the region’s Irish organizations, including the Irish American Business Chamber and Network, Irish Network-Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Gaelic Athletic Association, which presented Deenihan with a Philly GAA jersey. He was accompanied by New York-based Irish Consul General Barbara Jones and Vice Consul Anna McGillicuddy.

Deenihan is doing a lap around the globe (he started in the United Arab Emirates, where some 10,000 Irish-born live) in advance of announcing a new “diaspora strategy,” a way to maintain a connection with those who trace all or part of their lineage back to the Emerald Isle. He said he expects to have an action plan in place by January.

If his remarks were any indication, at the top of the list will be immigration reform in the US, particularly as it relates to the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish living and working in the US. Deenihan met with several local undocumented Irish immigrants in an upstairs room at Stotesbury on Wednesday afternoon, before visiting the Irish Memorial on Front Street.

“Now that the mid-term elections are over, I hope President Obama will look at the authority he has to bring about a fundamental change in immigration rules affecting the Irish,” said Deenihan, while speaking to the estimated 80 people at the Stotesbury event.

The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which raised quotas for immigrants from countries such as Latin America and Asia who had been previously disadvantaged, followed the law of unintended consequences. The mission of Boston’s favorite Irish son, Senator Ted Kennedy, the new immigration policy reduced the number of legal immigrants from Ireland. Prior to 1965, about 70,000 were coming to the US; in the decade after, only about 10,000 were permitted to come.

Many countries rely on their diaspora for support—for money, for tourism, and in the case of Israel, said Deenihan, “their survival.” Ireland isn’t the first country to establish a minister for the diaspora, but he said, no other country has the strong connection Ireland has with the US.

“Nearly every family in Ireland has relatives here in America,” he said in his address at The Irish Center. “I have lots of relatives around here. I should have, I suppose, told them I was coming,” he added, to laughter.

“Our connection to you is so strong that though we’re part of Europe,” he said, “we look to support from here in the US.”

Later, I asked him privately about what specifically that connection meant to Ireland. “The diaspora has been very good to Ireland. The recent business investment in Ireland came because of our connection here,” Deenihan said. “But I’m not just looking at what the diaspora can do for us. I’m looking to give back to the diaspora.”

For one thing, he said, he wants to make it easier for Irish Americans to trace their roots. Fewer Americans than ever now identify as Irish, which can erode the link between the two countries and is something, he believes, that a little bit of family history searching could help mitigate. In recent years, the National Archives of Ireland has made both the 1901 and 1911 Census records for all 32 counties available online for free. “I’d like to make more records available,” he said.

As minister for culture, he presided over the development of the website,, which gathers many of Ireland’s cultural assets under one virtual, searchable roof. For example, you can search by institution and see the portrait of famed playwright Lady Augusta Gregory that hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland or view a page from the transportation register of Cavan gaol (jail) that’s kept in the National Archives.

“I want to build on that site to make this kind of information readily and easily accessed,” he said. “If you give to people, they always give back.”