Cultural Ireland’s artful tourism



One hears rather less about Culture Ireland (CI) these days since it was gobbled back into the Department of the Arts and Eugene Downes, its gifted director, moved on to become Director of the Kilkenny Arts Festival. But CI continues to distribute up to €5 million annually in support of various Irish arts initiatives abroad particularly if they are connected to trade and tourism.

CI has now become the principal conduit for supporting politically related arts events like those associated in 2013 with our EU Presidency (€1.9m), the Imagine Ireland promotion in the US (€3.5m) and the Ceiliuradh in London to coincide with President Higgins’s state visit last year (€131,000). Also last year, CI supported the Cultural Centre in Paris (€150,000) and the Irish Centre in New York (€130,000) and something called the Ireland Literature Exchange in Germany (€242,000). But in 2014, as in previous years, the Visual Arts were allocated only a very modest total of €150,000 from CI’s total budget.

All of the individual CI grants to artists are below the 10k level. Indeed the majority are below the 5k level with galleries which organize joint exhibitions abroad like the Kerlin, Green on Red and Kevin Kavanagh taking the lions share. In 2014, Richard Mosse got a modest 7k for a show in the Congo, Sean Lynch exhibiting A Blow by Blow account of Stone Carving in Oxford got 6k and about 50 other artists like Janet Pierce, Vivienne Griffin, Ian Joyce, Eilis O’Connell and Mark Garry got even lesser amounts.

CI has now become the principal conduit for supporting politically related arts events

This year CI’s major emphasis will be on its cultural programme to be presented in the Irish Pavilion at the Expo Milan which runs from 1 May to 31 October with a special focus on Bloomsday on 16 June which is to be called ‘Ireland’s National Day’ at the Expo. But lest there should be any doubt, CI stresses that ‘the culture programme events should influence visitors’ perception of Ireland and its culture, recognising that culture is a link to developing trade and tourism connections’. Molly Bloom and Tourism? Now there’s an artful concept! JM


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