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Irish Cultural Center - Mary McTigue looks back at her first six months as executive director

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Executive director, Mary McTigue
Changing leadership in an organization provides for a new perspective in addition to a new face. For Mary McTigue, these first six months as the Executive Director of the Irish Cultural Center (ICC) have given her plenty of chances to look out over the 46 acres of gorgeous property in Canton and reflect on how it came to life, literally, in the hands of a group of men and women who cleared the land, envisioned the site as a cultural campus, built the fields, constructed the members’ building and laid a foundation upon which the Center could flourish as a legacy for future generations. In talking with her, it’s clear that Mary understands that the vision of the ICC founders was to build a home away from home where Irish and Irish Americans of all ages could come for a neighborly hello and a chance to learn about or to carry on Irish traditions and history. It is this vision that leads Mary to view the daily efforts of running the facilities, programs and outreach of the ICC as a privilege and a great opportunity to carry on the work of an amazingly passionate group of people.

With a look to the future, Mary speaks of her priorities to help the Center build its main building on campus which will house a 500-person performing space, additional function and classroom space, as well as a library suitable for the ICC’s collection and members needs. “Having the chance to work in and enhance a learning environment that helps someone discover a topic of interest or learn about a tradition comes natural to me,” reflects Mary.

Her background and career in education serve her well whether she is helping a new visitor to the Center sort through the many classes from cooking to speaking Irish, or to meeting a “regular” in the stands who provides others with basic instruction in Irish football. Providing the resources so that Irish hospitality and cultural experience can flourish is what a day at the ICC is all about for Mary. Spreading the word beyond the South Shore about all that the ICC has to offer in terms of special events, the Irish Festival, field games, Children’s Summer Celtic Camp, language instruction and more is her other keen priority.

Mary already knows she is not alone in her efforts. There is “such a mix of people contributing to expanding the Irish culture at the Center.” Some volunteers come to paint, to replace light bulbs, to repair floors, to weed; “they tend to the ICC as they do their own home.” Other volunteers generate program ideas and are always wondering “what more can we be doing to help connect to Irish roots, to traditions of being Irish and Irish American?” She smiles to think how lucky she is to have such an outpouring of input and suggestions. As one volunteer suggested, “just be glad we don’t have a real suggestion box out there, it would be running over with ideas.” Mary welcomes each and every idea and knows they are the key to the appeal of the Center for the members.

Mary takes a long look out the window of her office over the Main Pitch in Canton where GAA games are played every weekend during the summer. She describes the ICC as a place lucky enough to have the capacity to offer something for everyone. She recounts seeing 800 people of all ages show up on the Sunday afternoon for Irish football and hurling games, others who come for music in the tent as part of the Summer Concert Series, and talks with anticipation about the children who will be attending the Centre for summer camp. “That’s part of the excitement about the Centre and about the job – from the moment I arrived, there’s always something happening. St. Patrick’s day celebrations, the Boston Irish Festival, reaching out to the ICC Lifetime Members, and the ICC Car Raffle, are just a few of the activities that has taken Mary’s focus in her first few months. “I see it each and every day and evening”, Mary emphasizes, “the Irish Cultural Center is the place that spans the Irish experience.” In 2014, the Irish Cultural Center will celebrate its 25th anniversary, and, to be sure, Mary is already looking ahead and thinking about how to make it a special homecoming celebration with a true ICC Irish welcome.

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