Actor Byrne launches US arts event
Ireland's traditional and contemporary arts will be celebrated across the United States this year with more than 400 events in 40 states.
Actor Gabriel Byrne, Ireland's cultural ambassador, unveiled the largest ever programme of Irish film, theatre, music, dance and literature to entertain American audiences.
Imagine Ireland is an unprecedented celebration of Irish arts that will see more than 1,000 artists and producers stage works in 200 cities including New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
Speaking at the launch in New York, Byrne praised the Irish imagination and encouraged Americans of all generations to imagine Ireland for themselves.
"Ireland's culture has been consistently evolving: only a culture which changes remains alive; its breath and influence is universal," he said. "Consider the stark beauty of early monastic poetry, the subversive ballads and love songs of a repressed Gaelic culture, or the monumental reimagining of an enforced language.
"Irish artists such as Joyce, Beckett and Yeats spoke from a native imagination to a universal audience. Subversion in art and thus reality was their ambition. In their work they held a mirror up to nature.
"Today's artists draw upon that massive inheritance, yet speak with a new voice that is of today, yesterday and tomorrow. Theirs is an inevitable, ever changing voice that recognises kinship of reality and imagination."
Highlights of the spring and summer Imagine Ireland programme include Irish Film Festivals in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, San Francisco and Seattle; tours by the Abbey Theatre, Druid Theatre Company and Gate Theatre; and the world premiere of Gerald Barry's opera The Importance Of Being Earnest with the LA Philharmonic.
Elsewhere Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains will hold a month-long, 19-venue tour.
The Irish Government has invested four million euro in Imagine Ireland - an initiative of Culture Ireland - to strengthen the bonds between the countries, to generate new relationships with key partners, and to build new audiences and interest in Ireland across the cultural, business and heritage sectors. Culture Minister Mary Hanafin said the arts and culture was vital to Ireland's recovery.