Gabriel Byrne has launched the second phase of events for Culture Ireland's Imagine Ireland, a 12-month program of Irish arts in the United States.

The actor, who was appointed Ireland's first cultural ambassador in January, said of the program: “It’s a process of building bricks, building awareness. Each thing leads to the next. The process is inevitable and it’s going to grow and grow."

By the end of this year over a 1,000 Irish artists will have been showcased across 40 states, according to the Irish Times.

The second half of the 2011 program will see artists of all kinds, such as the National Chamber Choir and the Irish Chamber Orchestra, writers Séamus Heaney, Anne Enright and Emma Donoghue, traditional musicians Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, dancer Colin Dunne, as well as theatre performances of Samuel Beckett's 'Endgame' and 'Watt' from the Gate Theatre and Seán O’Casey’s 'The Silver Tassie' from the Druid Theatre. The Science Gallery at TCD will bring its Biorhythms exhibition to the World Science Festival at the Eyebeam Gallery in New York.

On the topic of Culture Ireland's funding, Byrne said: “I think it was very interesting that the Greek government, after six months of debate about economic regeneration, placed arts and culture at the centre of their economic revival."

“This Government – Enda Kenny, Jimmy Deenihan and Eamon Gilmore – understand that they have a huge asset, and that asset is culture, arts and heritage.”

While Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan said that there was “a major onus on the arts to repair the damage” done to Ireland’s reputation by the recent economic fallout, Byrne put it this way: “Imagine is a provocative word. It’s a call to action,” he says. “There has never been a better time to imagine a new Ireland. Our time is now.”