SIX prominent Irish artists short-listed to compete in the 2007 Irish American Arts Awards in New York have withdrawn their names from the competition. On Monday Noel Kelly, the director of Visual Artists Ireland in Dublin, stated that all six short-listed artists are no longer participating and are now seeking the return of their submissions.The six artists are Cecily Brennan, Noel Brennan, Mark Garry, Conor McFeely, Corban Walker and Lee Welch. Kelly stated that his organization, Visual Artists Ireland, is now committed to helping the artists who supplied the short-listed submissions to secure the return of their works.On Monday it was learned that not only do the six members seek the return of their submissions, they now wish to publicly disassociate themselves from the Irish American Arts Awards completely. All six artists were short listed for their entries in 2007. However they expected the final awards - which was to have included a top prize of $25,000 - to have been made by now and so they are requesting the works be returned without delay.The request for the return of the works is an unexpected development for the Irish American Arts Awards program, whose website includes banner sponsorship from companies and government agencies as well known as Samsung, Hennessy and Culture Ireland. Currently the website for the program also includes a strong message of support from the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese."The decision was taken by all six of the artists to withdraw. The artist simply lost confidence in the success of the awards and there have been significant delays between the announcement of the shortlist and the announcement of the winners, so the artists have chosen to remove themselves from it," said Kelly."The artists have been in communication trying to find out what the current situation is and if the awards are taking place. There is an undertaking that the awards will take place in the future, but the artists' willingness to wait had been stretched. They decided it was far better to disassociate themselves at this point."Simon Pereira Shorey, the main force behind the competition and the Arts Awards chief organizer, lists an impressive array of personal clients on the website that include British Gas, BP and the Duchy of Cornwall. He lists his current responsibilities as representing the family consultancy ZP & Associados throughout the U.S., for a group that is headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.Of Irish and Brazilian ancestry, Pereira Shorey, who lives in Jersey City, serves on the board of advisors of the Irish Business Organization (IBO) of New York, and on the board of the Northern Ireland's Women's Initiative and also on the New York board of Boys Hope, Girls Hope.On Tuesday Pereira Shorey told the Irish Voice, "That some individuals have been frustrated by delays caused by the funding shortfall is quite understandable. The tremendous volunteer team at the IAAA, that I have the honor to lead, all take time out of demanding careers to help Irish visual arts and they too have felt frustrations at times. "The art that was to be shipped to the U.S. by the currently short-listed artists never left Ireland and is being held by the shipper they decided to use to send it to the U.S. before the planned last event was postponed. There was some confusion about this but it is anticipated that it should be back in their hands very shortly."A source close to the awards stated that each of other Executive Board members listed on the Irish American Arts Awards website were acting in a voluntary capacity and that some of them had already requested their names and photographs to be taken off it, although this has not yet been done.The cash prize for the overall Irish American Arts Award winner was advertised as $25,000 and the second prize of $2,500 for the category winner. In 2006 the Irish artist Mary Kelly won the over 35-category prize of $2,500, although as noted in Ireland's arts magazine Circa, she has yet to be paid. Responding to this development Pereira Shorey said, "Mary Kelly too should soon be in receipt of her Award and we are most grateful to her in her patience for not pressing for it whilst the IAAA was reorganizing its funding."According to the Dublin based arts magazine Enrique Juncosa, director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) and chairman of the Panel of Judges, has also withdrawn from the Irish American Arts Awards panel.Despite the controversies and dramatic setbacks Pereira Shorey was philosophical."The IAAA, whose necessity was articulated by Consul General Niall Burgess as the "If it didn't exist we would have to invent it", and was described as "a superb platform for artists of Irish heritage" by Mary McAleese the President of Ireland, has always been limited not by the enthusiasm and long hard work of the artists, gallerists, academics and others who support the IAAA, and the team at the IAAA, but by the financial recourses made available to it to continue its mission. "We have faith that such recourses will soon be available and ask all involved to redouble their support for Irish contemporary visual art. Art crosses cultural, ethnic and religious boundaries as few things can. Art matters. Art is important."
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