In a week when the phrase “alternative facts” slithered into the public discourse in the land of my birth, imagine my gratitude to know that Ireland, the land of my ancestry, is committed to building an “alternative wall.”
This wall has a name: “Creative Ireland.” And, like any good wall, it is built upon solid pillars that mark its strength.
The difference is that this structure is designed to embrace and include and inspire. Ireland’s ambitious five-year initiative will support, encourage and empower the worlds of the arts, education and commerce. It will be for all Ireland’s children, on the island and in all its vast global diaspora. And listen to this: Ireland has pledged to invest its own taxpayers’ Euros into achieving its success. Putting its money where its mouth is, so to speak, the country tells its friends across the globe that it believes that Ireland has always been great and that its people’s gifts of creativity are the key to make it even more so.
Creative Ireland kick-off event
The first outlines of Creative Ireland became known in December. It was at the culmination of a remarkable centennial celebration year that inspired members of Ireland’s global diaspora to mount more than 3000 commemorations and celebrations across the globe.
By the time Barbara Jones, Ireland’s dynamic Consul General gathered a broad cross section of Ireland’s friends and extended family in her New York constituency to announce details of Creative Ireland, the concept of wall-building had begun to dominate conversations. So, it was with a touch of gallows humor that they learned that Ireland’s “alternative wall” would be built upon five solid “pillars.” An Taoiseach (the Irish for Prime Minister) had put forward this description of what was announced here in midtown New York. This is how its inclusive architecture was described.
Creative Ireland is built around five pillars:
- Enabling the Creative Potential of Every Child
- Enabling Creativity in Every Community
- Investing in our Creative and Cultural Infrastructure
- Ireland as a Center of Excellence in Media Production
- Unifying our Global Reputation
At the January 13 event, Consul General Jones welcomed Ireland’s Minster for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys who addressed a gathering that included pioneers whose daring has been responsible for an increasingly varied, honored and ambitious outpouring of cultural and commercial enterprises in this New York Consular area (and indeed across the US). These super-achievers and their audiences symbolized the values that have come to our country via immigration.
They “got it” when Minister Humphreys said, “Creative Ireland, as an Ireland 2016 legacy project, is inspired by the extraordinary public response to the Centenary Program. During the year. thousands of cultural events were held around the country, bringing people together in shared reflections on identity, culture and citizenship that combined history, arts, heritage and language. We now want to build on the success of the commemorations and plan ambitiously for our arts and culture sectors for the years ahead.”
Minister Heather Humphreys
Consul General Jones stated that Creative Ireland was simply the best thing that had come from Ireland’s diaspora in the US in a very long time.
The Irish Times coverage of the new program noted that the Irish government has allocated some one million Euros to promoting Ireland’s arts and culture in the US. These are broadly defined as including the creative infrastructure and its industries, including media, architecture, design, digital technology, fashion, food and crafts.
Audience members included luminaries of the much-honored Irish Repertory Theater, the expanding Irish Arts Center, NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House, American Irish Historical Society and voices of Ireland’s film, music and graphic arts enterprises. The rest of the launch event included statements and performances by champions of creativity and culture from Aidan Connelly of the Irish Arts Center who reminded the audience that Shelley honored creatives as “the unacknowledged legislators of the world”; and Garry Hynes, the founder of the Druid Theater whose production of a 20th Anniversary revival of Martin McDonagh’s Tony Award winning The Beauty Queen of Leenane is currently running in New York at BAM. She called culture and creativity “nothing less and nothing more than the weather of our souls.” Ireland has issued an invitation to the country and its friends to “make an important statement to ourselves and to the world about the interdependency of culture, identity and citizenship.”
The mission statement of Creative Ireland defines creativity as a set of innate abilities and learned skills: the capacity of individuals and organizations to transcend accepted ideas and norms and by drawing on imagination to create new ideas that bring additional value to human activity. Those are the building blocks for an “alternative wall.”
Noting that, “Creative Ireland puts culture and creativity at the center of public policy,” the country’s leader lends encouragement to all who are considering walls, to seek ones that expand to match the scope of people’s dreams. Now that sounds like a wall worth building.
All photos James Higgins. Opening photo is of Barbara Jones, Consul General of Ireland.