Actor and IAC Honorary Chair Gabriel Byrne and Congressman Joseph Crowley had shovels at the ready for the groundbreaking of the center’s landmark new facility.
The beat of the bodhrán played by Hothouse House Flowers frontman Liam Ó Maonlaí was the call to action for the supporters and dignitaries who had gathered, as New York’s Irish Arts Center broke ground on its landmark new facility in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan.
Applauding the unprecedented partnership between the Irish and NYC governments in the realization of this milestone moment for Irish culture and the arts in the city, NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson also announced $5 million toward the second phase of the new Irish Arts Center; the renovation of IAC’s historic 51st Street Building, which will follow in 2020.
“Irish heritage is an integral part of New York City history, and the Irish Arts Center does so much to preserve that history and celebrate Irish and immigrant culture in the five boroughs,” Johnson said.
“The Council is proud to fund the New Irish Arts Center, a state-of-the-art cultural facility that will reflect the dynamism and energy of Irish arts and culture, as well as the immigrant experience as a whole. I am thrilled to be here at this groundbreaking today, and I can’t wait to visit the New Irish Arts Center when it’s open for everyone to enjoy.”
The Speaker was joined by actor and IAC Honorary Chair Gabriel Byrne; Congressman Joseph Crowley; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; New York City Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl; Ciarán Madden, Consul General of Ireland; and other City and State dignitaries as well as the Irish Arts Center board, staff, and supporters as they heralded in the start of construction on multidisciplinary center that will bring people of all backgrounds together through the excellence and dynamism of Irish arts and culture.
“The New Irish Arts Center is not just a new building, it’s a new understanding of who we are and how we relate to the world,” said Ireland’s first Cultural Ambassador and IAC Honorary Chair Gabriel Byrne, a longtime supporter of the project, who has advised the Irish government on how to actively support Irish culture in the United States.
.@NYCSpeakerCoJo and Council Members @Dromm25 @JimmyVanBramer @KeithPowersNYC @BobHoldenNYC join the @IrishArtsCenter for a groundbreaking on its new building in Hell’s Kitchen. pic.twitter.com/BQBilaWGlz— NYC Council (@NYCCouncil) October 12, 2018
“We need a place where the new voices of Ireland and Irish America can be nourished and celebrated and born. The New Irish Arts Center is that place.”
Aidan Connolly, Executive Director of the IAC and the organization’s chief executive since 2007, added: “There has never been a more important time to build cultural platforms that bring people of all backgrounds together to express our common humanity.
“Irish Arts Center is a home for global Irish artists to share the stories that both distinguish and bind us, and for a community of communities rallying in support and celebration of their excellence, dynamism, and innovation.”
#Groundbreaking ceremony abt to commence. The new bldg will house a flexible theatre for performance, installations, residencies & special events; classrooms/studio spaces for community edu; tech to stream/dist the IAC experience on the digital platform; and a vibrant café lobby. pic.twitter.com/avcphUDbWm— Irish Arts Center (@IrishArtsCenter) October 11, 2018
Designed by Ireland's Office of Public Works (Wexford Opera House) and the New York architects Davis Brody Bond (National September 11 Museum), the New Irish Arts Center culminates a dramatic transformation of the organization. Over the past decade, Irish Arts Center has grown from a beloved small Irish theatre in the Off-Off Broadway landscape to a vital, dynamic, inclusive multidisciplinary institution deeply integrated into the cultural ecosystems of Ireland and New York, offering a panoramic view of Irish and Irish-American arts and culture presented in a global context.
The conception and construction of the New Irish Arts Center mark the first time the New York City government has partnered so closely with a foreign government to build a cultural platform to serve its citizens. This support was powerfully illustrated in March 2018 with Mayor Bill de Blasio hosting Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the site of the new building.
The City of New York has contributed $36.75 million and city-owned land to the project’s transformative first phase, and the Irish government has contributed $8.3 million through the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht.