A celebration of imagination

This programme of events is a celebration of the Irish imagination. But it’s a challenge too. Imagine Ireland. Imagine.

The Irish have answered that challenge in many different ways, imagining in stone, in words, in music, on film and on the stage.  In the process they have enriched the world around us – our art, our writing and music, our theatre and our film. 

The creative Irish mind has always found some of its richest inspiration in America – think today of the music of U2 or the writing of Colum McCann.  Think too of the plays of Eugene O’Neill and the films of John Ford, whose film “The Quiet Man” is one of the most memorable and influential responses by an Irish American to the challenge to “imagine Ireland”. 

John Lennon, the grandson of Irish emigrants to Liverpool, reminded us how the imagination can interpret and reshape the world around us.  That audacity is common to many of Ireland’s finest artists. William Butler Yeats founded the Abbey Theatre with the aim of re-imagining Ireland for the twentieth century. James Joyce’s objective in his writing was nothing less than to “forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race”.

That work has been picked up by each succeeding generation and it continues today. This programme is an opportunity to encounter some of that creative daring. 

So take up the challenge. Imagine Ireland for yourself.

Gabriel Byrne
Cultural Ambassador for Ireland



Culture is the means by which most Americans now encounter Ireland. It connects with the deep sense of pride and belonging of more than 40 million Irish-Americans, and also with the many millions of Americans with no Irish ancestry who love great art. 

The Government has invested in this initiative because arts and culture are vital to Ireland’s recovery, and to the relationship between our two countries. Imagine Ireland celebrates and renews that unique relationship, bringing Irish culture to new audiences across America and connecting with new generations. 

Bliain iontach ealaíona agus cultúir atá romhainn. Tá súil agam go mbainfidh sibh taitneamh as cuid de na sár-imeachtaí atá beartaithe againn ar fud Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá.

Mary Hanafin
Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport Ireland


In the five years since our establishment as the national agency for promoting Irish arts worldwide, Culture Ireland has developed relationships with festivals, venues and cultural institutions across the United States.  At the same time, we have been working closely with Irish artists and companies across all disciplines to advance their US plans and ambitions.

Now, with Imagine Ireland, we want to build on these relationships and take Ireland’s contemporary cultural presence in America to the next level.  We hope that this programme, presenting renowned artists and ensembles alongside some of our most exciting emerging voices, will seed relationships with new audiences and with presenters which will grow in the coming years. 

We hope you can join us on this journey of art and imagination.

Eugene Downes
Chief Executive, Culture Ireland


How Imagine Ireland came about

In March 2009, in his speech in New York launching the Ireland-US Strategic Policy Review, Taoiseach Brian Cowen requested that Culture Ireland mount a series of strategic events in the United States. At the White House in March 2010, he announced that this season of Irish arts, Imagine Ireland, would take place in 2011.

Also in 2010, the Irish Government created the new position of Cultural Ambassador for Ireland, and during his visit to Washington DC for St Patrick’s Day, the Taoiseach announced award-winning actor Gabriel Byrne as the first appointee to this innovative role. Mr Byrne has been centrally involved in the development of Imagine Ireland, personally curating a retrospective of Irish film at MoMA and working closely on major projects at the New York Public Library and the Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts, amongst others.

These initiatives followed on the Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh, Dublin, in September 2009, which placed a new strategic priority on culture as a unique long-term strength for Ireland, a vital door-opener for Irish business, and the most effective means of strengthening links with the global Irish community. 

Since its establishment in 2005, Culture Ireland has developed projects and relationships with a range of cultural institutions, festivals, venues and promoters across the US, providing a strong foundation on which the proposed programme has taken shape. The Department of Foreign Affairs, with the Irish Embassy in Washington and Consulates-General in the US, are working closely with Culture Ireland as key partners in the delivery of the project.