Hozier performing at the Irish Arts Center's 2016 Spirit of Ireland gala. Erin Baiano

New York City cultural institution the Irish Arts Center brought together a diversity of luminaries from Ireland and Irish America and projected a dynamic notion of Irishness for the 21st century during its Spirit of Ireland gala held last week at Cipriani’s 42nd Street.

The event, which featured performances by Hozier and the musical duo Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, raised a record $1.25 million towards the IAC’s annual programming and included a major announcement about the Almost Home campaign, which is nearing completion. The Center has now raised $53 million towards the $62 million in capital required for the construction of a brand new, vastly expanded home for the Irish arts and culture in New York City, at 726 11th Avenue, adjoining the Center’s existing building at 553 West 51st Street. They expect to complete fundraising by the close of the year and break ground in 2017.

Honoree Hozier (aka Andrew Hozier-Byrne), whose debut single, “Take Me to Church,” reached quintuple-platinum status and was nominated for the 2015 Grammy for Song of the Year, attended with his parents and extended family and performed two songs: “Angel of Small Death” and “Take Me to Church,” accompanying himself on guitar.

Gabriel Byrne, an Honorary Co-Chair of the gala, presented IAC’s Spirit of Ireland Award to Jean Butler, recognizing her historic role in Riverdance, “a show that meant so much for the evolution of our culture and the confidence of our country,” but adding, “it is where she has gone from there as an artist that I find so compelling.”

Jean Butler, Ambassador David Donoghue, Helen Henderson, Hozier, Jill Donoghue

Jean Butler, Ambassador David Donoghue, Helen Henderson, Hozier, Jill Donoghue

Ursula Burns, the groundbreaking Chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation spoke of her deep love of Ireland, which has grown over years of visiting her best friend, whom she formed a bond with at the start of her remarkable career and who later moved to Ireland.

Catherine Cronin, Ursula Burns, Colum McCann, Terri Christina Burns, Melissa Bean

Catherine Cronin, Ursula Burns, Colum McCann, Terri Christina Burns, Melissa Bean

Paul Muldoon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish poet and New Yorker Poetry Editor and pop music lyricist, wrote a song for the occasion, “Our Name in the Song”—placing key figures in the Irish Arts Center community into the larger landscape of Irish cultural history—and performed it live with his band Rogue Oliphant. The evening also featured a performance from the extraordinary Irish duo fiddler Martin Hayes and guitarist Dennis Cahill, who just last night began a run of shows at the Irish Arts Center.

The IAC’s Executive Director Aidan Connolly announced that they had received an anonymous challenge grant from one of the founders of the Almost Home campaign; the donor has agreed to increase her pledge by an additional $100,000 as a challenge for IAC to secure four additional pledges at the $100,000 Centenary level. 

Connolly also announced a new array of $250,000 Founders of the Almost Home campaign including Eileen Murray, Patricia and John Nallen, the Patrick J. Donaghy family, John Duffy, Shaun and Mary Kelly, the Covillo-Lynch Foundation, Shane Naughton and Diane and James E. Quinn and paid tribute to some of the earliest supporters including departing board member James Houlihan, managing partner of Houlihan-Parnes/iCap Realty Advisors, LLC.

Colum-McCann-Consul-General-Barbara-Jones-Gabriel-Byrne-Loretta-Brennan-Glucksman

Colum-McCann-Consul-General-Barbara-Jones-Gabriel-Byrne-Loretta-Brennan-Glucksman

The New Irish Arts Center will contain a purpose-built, state-of-the-art contemporary performance space for music, dance and theatre seating up to 160, while a second, intimate performance space – the renovated historic Irish Arts Center theatre – will be optimized for live music, literature, film, talks, large classes and special events; classrooms and studio space for community education programs in Irish music, dance, language, history, and the humanities, and for master classes and workshops by visiting and resident artists.

Visit irishartscenter.org for more.