Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Irish Eyes


That about describes our Friday Morning Group meeting last week for me. For those of you who weren't there, well you can follow along below.

Peter Kagayama brought us a very special guest indeed last Friday. Roisin McDonough is the Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the equivalent of our National Endowment for the Arts. Boy did we get an earful about what respect for artists looks like there.

Peter and Roisin had been touring some of the cultural hot spots in our country. They had been to Washington, DC, Austin, Texas, and of course here in the Tampa Bay area. Roisin is in this country to help promote an Irish arts exposition at the Smithsonian and on the Mall in late June and early July.

Roisin regaled us with some of the things the government of Northern Ireland is doing to demonstrate respect for artists there. The Northern Ireland Arts Council provides an apartment in New York City for a Resident program. There is a similar program in Banf in Canada. Perhaps the most telling sentiment espoused by Roisin is that these programs allow artists "Time and Space" to explore their art without being tied to a specific output. WOW!!!

There is also an artists colony that is supported by both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland governments. The only requirement for these artists is that they have dinner with their fellow artists every evening. Cross-pollination don't you know.

Roisin indicated to us that the single most important thing that we could do to advance the conversation about valuing artists would be to survey the community regarding their attitudes towards artists and the arts. Perhaps we could get the Pinellas County Cultural Council to spearhead that effort?

Another valuable tool would be an artists survey. Northern Ireland did one of these about five years ago and is preparing to update this study. Not surprisingly, the two key findings from this prior survey are:

  • Artists do not feel valued;
  • Most artists live in abject poverty at about 20% of the average income in Northern Ireland.

I could ramble on for quite some time about this fantastic FMG meeting. However, I am going to stop here. If you would like more context and to hear different viewpoints, I am providing a list of the participants below. If you want to learn more about Roisin, Peter has provided her CV which is also posted below.

I look forward to seeing you all next Friday.

Partial ist of participants last week:

  • Peter Kagayama
  • Michelle Teagle
  • Bob Devin Jones
  • Bob Barancik
  • Bill Moriarty
  • Cindy McFerrin
  • Patrice Pucci
  • Grace-Ann Alfiero (and her sidekick Jenny)

Roisin McDonough

Roisin McDonough is the Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland which is the government body charged with supporting artists and arts organisations across the region. It distributes public subsidy to both artists and arts organisations and is the main agency in Northern Ireland for the arts. It advocates the value of the arts to wider society; it seeks to build audiences and participation in the arts and to strengthen the capacity of arts organisations and artists to pursue their objectives.

It supports projects in hospitals, schools, youth centres, local communities and internationally. The current Rediscover Northern Ireland Programme which is being rolled out in the run up to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on Washington’s Mall, where Northern Ireland’s folklife culture is being presented, is but one example.

Roisin has extensive experience in local government, central government regeneration initiatives and in community development as well as the arts.

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