As a child, whenever I pictured Ireland, it was the image of rolling, sheep-dotted hills and stone cottages, maybe a few cliffs crashing down into the Atlantic. This was the image that movies and television gave me of the country, and somehow the knowledge that my great-grandparents had immigrated from there led me to believe that time had somehow stopped when they left.
The first time I visited Ireland, I was already an adult, and knew that it was 2015 in Dublin as much as it was in Philadelphia, but seeing the city for the first time still awakened a disconnect in me, a realization that the images I’d had in childhood were just a fiction, filtered through a Hollywood lens.
The real world
I’m hardly alone in perceiving Ireland as a place rooted in the past, and rooting out that perception is at least part of the reason for Straight Out of Ireland, an inaugural exhibit hosted by the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia. Ireland is a country of rich heritage and tradition, but also a place that has been shaped by diversity, immigration, and innovation.
Dublin is considered a World City, a designation given to cities that heavily shape global trade and culture. Straight Out of Ireland hopes to celebrate the dynamic culture by showcasing 24 contemporary Irish artists, as well as ten local artists who are inspired by modern Ireland.
Straight Out of Ireland has a broad range of art, from paintings and photography to textiles and jewelry, all of which were created by artists who had previously exhibited in Ireland. All identifying details of the artists were removed prior to submission, so the work was chosen for merit alone.
Nicola Bell, the Communications and Community Programs Director, hopes that the exhibit will educate the public about the massive social changes that have taken place over the past twenty years. “We hope to showcase [the transformation]”, she says, “and give the audience an outline of the creative talent working in Ireland today.”
No place like home
Many members of that audience will be personally connected to the event. Philadelphia and the surrounding areas have some of the highest concentrations of Irish Americans in the US, and this event promises to help us get in touch with our culture.
The three-day event will also have panel discussions with Joseph Lennon from Villanova University and the Director of the Philadelphia Free Library, Siobhan Reardon. Sunday will be a family-friendly day, with an Irish puppet show, step dancing, and Gaelic sports demonstrations.
What, When, Where
Straight Out of Ireland is presented by the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia and will be displayed from November 15-17 at Sacred Heart Academy, 480 South Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bryn Mawr. The facility is wheelchair accessible and golf carts will be available to take guests from the parking lot to the entrance. More information can be found online.