The Irish Stew Podcast continues to explore the theme of the global Irish and in the latest episode, the conversation dives into the Irish community in the Midwest.
Hosts of the 'Irish Stew Podcast', John Lee and Martin Nutty, sit down with Natalie Nugent O'Shea, founder of the Celtic Junction Arts Center in Minnesota to discuss the importance of Irish cultural centers for the diaspora and the greater community.
Natalie founded the Celtic Junction Arts Center in St Paul, Minnesota in 2016 alongside her husband, Cormac O’Sé.
The name for the center was inspired by the strength of the rivers and railroads in Minestota and Natalie and her husband wanted the center to reflect this. "We wanted to make sure it was a crossroads where everyone can contribute and meet."
Today the vibrant shared space has become one of the leading Irish centers in America and provides Irish dance, music and theatre, Irish literature and language, an Irish heritage library, and cross-cultural performances.
In 2018 it celebrated the huge success of being named the Best Cultural Center by Irish Central.
The logo of the center is the St Brigid's Cross and Natalie explains how the ancient Celtic symbol reflects the values the Celtic Junction Arts Center holds.
"Each one of those strands of reeds or straw [from the cross] comes together to hold the center in and then the pieces that project out... it's an ordinary item and when wrapped together can transform into something greater and become a symbol of community," she said.
According to Natalie, Irish cultural centers are not just important for the communities where they are based but are a foundational block for increasing Ireland's global footprint.
"As beautiful as the Irish arts and the Irish traditions are, they are not meant to be put in a glass case. They are not meant to stay still, they are energy [and] they are evolving. We let them cross and sometimes they emerge into something else."
"Cultural centers connect with other cultures, traditions, and races- that is what the energy of America is all about"