A year-long celebration of Irish arts events in the United States has been launched in New York.

The celebration, called Imagine Ireland, will include 400 Irish arts events taking place across the United States.

The initiative, set up by Culture Ireland, will showcase the creative talent from Ireland in partnership with leading festivals, venues and institutions across the United States.

The events will take place across 40 states in the U.S. and will be supported by a $5.3 million investment from Ireland.

Included in the years event will be an operatic version of “The Importance of Being Earnest”, national tours by the Abbey Theater and the Druid Theater Company and an Irish film series curated by Gabriel Byrne at the Museum of Modern Art. The series will also include a literature program featuring Irish writers such Colum McCann, Colm Toíbín and Paul Muldoon, dance groups Rex Levitates and the Irish Modern Dance Theater, and a tour by Paddy Moloney and the Chieftains.

Launching the event in New York this morning, Ireland’s cultural ambassador Gabriel Byrne praised the Irish imagination.

“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 recognizes kinship of reality and imagination.”

Ireland’s Minister for Culture Mary Hanafin told the crowd gathered that the initiative was “the good news story of Ireland”.

“Culture is the means by which most Americans encounter Ireland,” said Ms Hanafin.

“It connects with the deep sense of pride and belonging of more than 40 million Irish-Americans and also with the many millions of Americans who love real art.”

The speaker of New York City Council, Christine Quinn described the Irish arts as an important “economic engine” and encouraged Americans to partake in the upcoming events.

“New York City is the center of culture and arts in the United States, and especially for Irish culture outside of Ireland,” she added.
“I encourage all New Yorkers to take advantage of Imagine Ireland’s wide array of upcoming events and enjoy the richness of Irish culture all year long.”

The launch of year long arts program, at the Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, included the debut of a video featuring Irish poetry read by Ellen Barkin, Stockard Channing, Colin Farrell, Aidan Quinn, Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne along with a performance by the fiddler Martin Hayes.