THE ANNUAL election for new members to the ranks of Aosdána was overshadowed this year by the more pressing issue of the Arts Council’s controversial new proposals for ‘the overall governance and administration of Aosdána’. Nevertheless the elections resulted in a few surprises not least in the election of a third choreographer to their ranks Fiona Quilligan, who was proposed by Fergus Johnston and seconded by David Bolger. The other surprise was that no musicians were elected this year although they got more than their share last year with the election of Colman Pearce and Bill Whelan. This year the visual artists did well with the election of Niamh O’Malley, Anne Tallentire and Eddie Kennedy, and film-maker Trish McAdam – who incidentally is currently directing a new feature on the life of Maud Gonne and WB Yeats. Two writers, Rosaleen McDonagh and the poet Gerry Murphy were also elected.
If the Arts Council gets its way with the new proposals, the 2018 election for new Aosdána members will be very different indeed. Fundamentally the arts council wants to introduce an external panel including ‘high profile national and international individuals‘ from outside Aosdána to review all new member nomination proposals. And significantly it is proposed that this panel may also nominate artists through some agreed process. In other words the current membership of Aosdána would no longer enjoy the exclusive right to nominate artists for future membership of their organisation – as does, for instance, the Royal Hibernian Academy and the Royal Irish Academy which now has about 500 members.
Fundamentally the arts council wants to introduce an external panel including ‘high profile national and international individuals’ from outside Aosdána
During September and October last, the Arts Council discussed a range of proposals with Aosdána most of which were agreed – according to the council. But there was no agreement noted under the discussion heading of ‘Revision of entry procedures for new members of Aosdána’. Implicit, of course, in this obviously fundamental proposal is that the council has reason to be unhappy with the present nominating process. But the council has offered no explanation for their position. Many members of Aosdána (which from its inception has been ‘an affiliation of creative artists in Ireland’) suspect that the AC wants to widen the eligibility for Aosdána membership to include performing artists like singers and actors. But that fundamental departure from the current ‘creative’ qualification for membership is a Rubicon, the crossing of which is likely to be fiercely resisted. JM
Image: Anne Tallentire