Irish Arts Center (IAC), based in New York City and renowned for presenting dynamic, inspiring, collaborative experiences of the evolving arts and culture of Ireland and Irish America in an environment of warm Irish hospitality, announces its 50th Anniversary Spirit of Ireland Gala, launching the organization into the next half century after a successful year of ambitious programming in its state-of-the-art new home. Four-time Grammy-winning, multiple record-breaking, internationally celebrated musician Ed Sheeran headlines the gala as its artistic honoree. The evening will pay tribute to his countless achievements, and feature the artist—currently in the midst of his “+ – = ÷ x” (pronounced “mathematics”) stadium tour in Europe. The gala takes place at Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers, on Thursday, October 20. Other guests and further details will soon be announced.
Ed Sheeran and his music connects deeply with people across the globe, evidenced by more than 60 billion streams and over 50 million albums sold worldwide. The artist has on numerous occasions spoken about his love of Ireland, the influence of Irish music on him at an early age, and the importance of his Irish heritage, having told RTÉ in an interview earlier this year, “[Ireland] is such a special part of the world. It’s one of those things like you know when you go to America and people are so in tune with their culture, even if they are, like, one sixteenth something…I never ever want to lose that. It’s such an integral part of my family.”
Having navigated the unimaginable challenges of COVID, Irish Arts Center opened its new building, a 21,700 square foot hub for the arts, at 726 11th Avenue in December 2021: the culmination of a more than a decade-long transformation into one of New York’s most beloved multidisciplinary cultural institutions. The organization launched into an opening season of groundbreaking and energizing work, including its pre-opening Gratitude Sessions with Martin Hayes; the electrifying grand opening with Camille O’Sullivan; the sold out U.S. premieres of Oona Doherty’s Hard to be Soft and Enda Walsh’s The Same; Mufutau Yusuf’s acclaimed full-length NYC debut, Òwe; Branar’s magical family show How to Catch a Star; the recent 100th performance celebration with Declan O’Rourke; and so much more.
The opening season continues in fall with a thrilling residency with the skyrocketing Irish indie-pop band Pillow Queens (September 13–17); the presentation of two new works commissioned by Irish Arts Center—Céilí, a collaboration of Irish American choreographers Seán Curran and Darrah Carr (September 29–October 2), and Chekhov’s First Play, a “pure, theatrical thrill ride” from the Obie-winning Irish theatre company Dead Centre (October 19–November 6); Utsav Lal’s genre-colliding and collaborative (here, with composer Linda Buckley, flute, whistle and sax player Sam Comerford, vocalist Ganavya, tabla player Nitin Mitta, and poet Sahar Romani) Ragas to Reels (November 17–19); the 13th annual PoetryFest (December 2–4); the continuation of Maud Cotter’s solo visual art exhibition questioning the nature of form and physical reality; more than 40 classes in Irish language, music, and dance; and, always, ample space to sit and converse in IAC’s welcoming ground floor café.
Designed by New York-based architects Davis Brody Bond (National September 11 Museum, the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center), with consultation and support from Ireland’s Office of Public Works, the new Irish Arts Center is an historic collaboration between the people of Ireland and New York, signifying a new era in the cultural life of the global Irish diaspora, and providing an important new canvas for the development and presentation of the performing arts in New York City.
Surrounding its opening, the New York Times called the new Irish Arts Center “a home as big as its aspirations…a major technological upgrade for the center.” American Theatre magazine lauded the Center’s “…bold, forward-looking vision, embodied in a space that marks a welcome addition to the New York cultural landscape.” Time Out New York wrote, “Now, with an extra 21,700 square feet just around the corner on 11th Avenue, Irish hospitality, culture and festivity can blossom.” The new café at Irish Arts Center, with food and beverage service by Hell’s Kitchen wine bar Ardesia, provides a constant sense of warmth and community. As Time Out New York described, “It’s so welcoming that you may want to sit for a couple of hours, but that’s the point.”
With IAC having completed and fully funded this $60 million new building with no mortgage or debt, funds raised from the gala will support the expanded programming and operations in the building, to help fortify the building and institution and ensure its enduring success and sustainability for the next 50 years.