Celtic Junction Arts Review

Adapting to challenging times with the global Irish community

Natalie O'Shea, Executive Director

In this article: CJAC’s Recent Programs and Activities · Midwest (MICCA) and National Associations (NICCoNA) of Irish Cultural Centers · A Message from the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers · Irish Community Services SUPPORT AVAILABLE · Cultural resources shared by the Irish Consulate & Embassy · New Hibernia Review

Collection and Food Drive
CJAC’s five-day goods collection at The Celtic Junction in support of the Hamline Midway Food & Empowerment Project
Some of the many volunteers during the Hamline Midway Food & Enpowerment Project

It is said that our greatest power as human beings lies in our capacity to adapt. In March 2020 the world changed, isolating us from each other and shaking us to our core, altering how we are able to connect to one another and to the world. Again on May 25th (the week this edition was initially to have been published) we awoke to experience yet another reality, one which reveals deep divisions and discrimination, demanding that our eyes open, systems change, and institutions evolve.

George Floyd
George Floyd by Niamh (O’Connor) Johnson

Facing tremendous uncertainty and upheaval, and peering into an uncertain future, the comfort and camaraderie people seek within the arts remains universal. Art possesses the transformative power to reflect us at our deepest and most soulful nature. Through every medium, art reveals the human experience. It has morphed and changed over centuries with, by, and for us. Art has been able to share and communicate our joys and fears, cultures and histories at their deepest levels. Now is no exception.

There is an enormous responsibility to use the power of the arts to connect us all as a human race. Celtic Junction Arts Center stands firmly against racism and the violence that it precipitates. We are committed to equality and justice and will work and evolve toward that goal, beginning here at home as we mourn the loss of George Floyd and support our ravaged Midway neighborhood (see Hamline Midway Empowerment Project, above.) CJAC will engage its programs with our Community Partners and with Irish leaders and institutions both in this country and abroad for diversity and inclusion. We will reflect on our own identity and our responsibilities toward Human Rights — as Ireland itself faces new questions about who they are as their population changes and develops (see interview with a Kerry footballer, as Gaeilge, below.) We are committed to moving toward a more fair and just society, and encourage and welcome input and ideas to help us reach those goals.

Child of immigrants, Kerry footballer speaks of racism
in his native Irish.

Upon the arrival of the pandemic, Celtic Junction Arts Center suddenly became ephemeral, ebbing and flowing into new, virtual forms.  An unexpected side-effect of our online experience is that we have had students able to attend our programming from states across the country, and even from Ireland. We intend to continue this online accessibility, as we also calculate how to safely return together to our physical home. With phase three of the governmental restrictions about to come into play we will begin opening for small groups, according to the guidelines. Travel restrictions and social distancing requirements will continue to limit our physical offerings for some time to come.  Watch for an exciting announcement about August!

As part of our mission as the Irish cultural center of Minnesota, we recently attended special “emergency” sessions of the Midwest and National Irish Cultural Centers Associations. Two particular points of interest for our Junction community are, one; a statement from the welfare offices regarding social support for Irish immigrants with Irish Community Services and two; Irish arts and entertainment resources shared through Culture Ireland and more. Meanwhile, we have been reaching across continents and oceans to our partnerships abroad and across the nation. Please read on to see:

  1. Celtic Junction Arts Center’s Recent Programs and Activities
  2. Updates from the Regional and National Irish Cultural Centers meetings
  3. A message of solidarity with the Black community from the Irish Government’s Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers
  4. Resources from the Irish Community Services, Chicago
  5. Irish Cultural resources from the Consulate and Embassy

Celtic Junction Arts Center’s Recent Programs and Activities


Celtic Junction’s Concert Serieswent virtual and produced seven concerts, raising money for our local artists who lost work in March, hosting a special performance to support our neighborhood food shelf, and ramping up our technical production capacities for a socially-distant stage as sponsor of CIM’s Minnesota Irish Music weekend. Their Saturday night Master Artists concert was the first music that has been in the building since the stay at home orders went into effect, and while it was only three musicians and three technical staff attending, it was exhilarating to feel the vibration of the live music and to have the Junction walls soaking it all up once again. Catch the concert here!

Irish language weekend at ICM

Our Irish College of Minnesota is entirely available online. All three departments of Irish Language, History/Literature, and Creative Arts are offering an inaugural summer season. Our free Shelter-in-Place Writing Circle had over 50 attendees from places as far as California, Georgia, Maryland, Washington State, and even Ireland. The summer session is just beginning with a new Irish Language Beginners Class with Connemara local, Lavinia Finnerty, as well as a special session of Irish Blessings and Curses. You can enjoy the comedic social satire of the great Dublin playwright, Sean O’Casey or the caustic and witty sociological fiction of the great George Moore or learn the ancient lore and symbolism around drawing Celtic knotwork or mythology. Register now!


CJAC’s Eoin McKiernan Library has remained a quiet, beautiful sanctuary for our librarian alone, but most of its treasures are digital! The catalogues can be found online and appointments can now be made to access the library. Our latest exhibition features Conradh na Gaeilge’s beautiful bilingual travelling exhibition celebrating 125 years of Irish language revival, alongside exhibitions of music and history. Peruse our growing archival collection of recordings, photos and oral community histories – or just stop in for our virtual storyhour. Don’t miss our librarian Brian Miller’s update. You can visit the library website here.


Lastly, our Outreach Program launched a Food Collection with our neighborhood partners, Hamline Midway Coalition to support the hardest hit communities in the Midway area. CJAC has also been collaborating with and promoting our friends and partners within the Celtic Junction building (Irish Fair of Minnesota, Center for Irish Music and O’Shea Irish Dance) and launching our international partnership with Aonach Mhaca in Armagh, Ireland. We are so grateful for their generous gift of the Gael Linn music collection. Watch for special opportunities ahead with its Director Réamonn Ó Ciaráin. Our goals to launch a Social Justice Forum in order to reflect on how Ireland’s troubled history, immigration experience and discrimination can help us to reflect on our responsibility for action facing our current state of affairs are in their earliest stages. We welcome this challenge and seek the voices who can speak to our community and beyond – contact us at info@celticjunction.org.

Midwest (MICCA) and National Associations (NICCoNA) of Irish Cultural Centers

The Midwest meeting of Cultural Centers, held on May 7th convened under the leadership of the Irish Consulate of the Midwest. Consul General Brian O’Brien, hosted a twelve-state-wide Zoom call for Irish organizations with Ambassador Dan Mulhall and Senator Billy Lawless. CJAC was in the joyful company of over twenty other organizations who brainstormed solutions to hosting live events, connecting communities and working together. 

May 7 Zoom Meeting
Irish Consulate Instagram Image from May 7 Zoom meeting.

Twenty days later, on May 27th, the Network of Irish Cultural Centers of North America met under the direction of Ciaran Madden, Consul General of New York, Christine Sisk of Culture Ireland, Ragnar Almquist of the Irish American Embassy and Eugene Downs, of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  Together they brought thirty leading organizations from around the continent to discuss where Irish Centers are collectively:  

  • How has the pandemic impacted Irish Arts?
  • How have we responded successfully so far?
  • What is our outlook for the immediate year ahead?
  • How can we forge ways of working together?
  • What measures can we take to promote and support Irish Culture for the future?

As you might suspect, we came away with more questions than answers, but the comfort of all the myriad voices and faces together, united for the same cause was a blessing.  We recognized similar struggles: concerns for keeping our community together and connected; making the transition to digital arts (which vary greatly in each individual application); maintaining an income stream whether by programming income, membership dues, donations or fundraising; and seeking safety nets for our brick and mortar homes so we can all still be here for folks to come to not just in small groups of 10, or even 50, but well into the future.

Daniel Mulhall, Irish Ambassador to the US
Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhall

Ambassador Dan Mulhall stated that cultural centers play a vital role in bringing everyone together during this uncertain time, and provide hope for what we will return to. They noted the resilience from organizations and recognized the exceptional work done by Irish centres as people are being innovative and connecting together. As stay-at-home orders begin to morph across the country and around the globe, we are all emerging slowly, and coming to terms with a very different outlook to what we had gone in with. Please stay tuned for further developments from home and abroad.

A Message from the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers

Artwork by @ohhappydani

The Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers believes in a welcoming society where all members are respected and valued, and where cultural diversity and humanity are prioritized. 

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the ongoing protests to highlight systemic injustice, the Coalition is compelled to speak out against racism. We stand in solidarity with our friends and colleagues in the Black community, and all those who seek to alleviate cultural oppression and inequality by supporting concrete, measurable changes to create a more just society.

The Coalition commits to strengthening relationships with organizations that support diverse communities. Further, we will continue to facilitate learning opportunities and the sharing of resources for our membership that highlight multicultural perspectives, underscore commonalities and celebrate the diversity of our Global Irish family.

Irish Community Services logo

Irish Community Services SUPPORT AVAILABLE

  • WELFARE: Irish Community Services (Chicago & the Midwest) 
    • Resources for Irish citizens in distress anywhere in the Midwest, including:
      • Elderly, sick or isolated Irish community members
      • Unemployed immigrants (due to disruption in the hospitality and construction sectors)
      • Undocumented Irish immigrants
        • Undocumented immigrants and many spouses of US citizens may not be eligible for stimulus checks or unemployment/social assistance payments. Permanent Residents must have held their card for 5 years to be eligible
    • Citizenship support and training
      • ICS is releasing informational pieces online – available at www.irishchicago.org
      • US Citizenship classes are continuing online – next class is scheduled for June
      • Free legal clinics are continuing through phone consultations
    • Programming for Youth and Elderly:
      • ICS – virtual programming does not rely on proximity to Chicago
      • Upcoming mental health webinars

Irish Community Services survey
Irish Community Services physical and mental health webinar
Irish community services website
Email – info@irishchicago.org

Cultural resources shared by the Irish Consulate & Embassy

Ambassador Dan Mulhall’s daily readings of poems that resonate during the crisis are available online, with choices that express hope, the joys of normal life, and the wonders of nature, like Derek Mahon’s ‘Kinsale’, that speaks of ‘a future forbidden to no one’. Viewers are also enjoying poems they learned at school, such as Austin Clarke’s ‘The Lost Heifer’ and Patrick Kavanagh’s ‘Epic’.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has outlined the range of Covid-19 supports for artists and for people working in the arts sector in detail here.

The Irish Music Industry Covid-19 Relief Fund has been set up by the Irish Music Rights Organisation, the Irish Recorded Music Association and First Music Contact, with donations from Spotify.

In its first three weeks, 50 performances supported by Culture Ireland’s online performance platform have reached a global audience of over 325,000.  50 more artists are performing over the coming weeks. Events have included Cormac Begley’s concertina performance in a campervan on the Dingle peninsula and Diane Cannon’s trad singing on a sun-soaked Donegal beach. Catch up or check out upcoming performances here and watch a highlights video of the first 50 artists here

Abbey Theatre Logo

What should Ireland write on a postcard to itself? The Abbey Theatre commissioned writers from Ireland, the USA, China and Italy to write monologues in response to this question, to be performed by 50 actors. Accompanying artwork is by Maser, and musical score is by composer Ray Harman. Dear Ireland premiered online in four parts from Tuesday 28 April to Friday 1 May. Watch it here.

Cúirt International Festival of Literature took place as a digital event on 20-25 April. Catch up on the readings and interviews on the festival’s YouTube channel.

Image from the National Library of Ireland’s
Flickr photostream

The National Library of Ireland’s Flickr photostream is a fascinating record of Irish social life. Search by place and enjoy the local knowledge in the comments!

The Dictionary of Irish Biography has launched #LockdownReading, a new series of ‘Favourite DIB lives’, showcasing many fascinating figures like Mike Butt, the man who brought curry to Ireland, and John Philip Holland, inventor of the submarine. Find out more on the DIB project page.

Eavan Boland in 1996 /CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Eavan Boland, 1944-2020 was one of Ireland’s most distinguished poets. Her early life was shaped by her artist mother, Frances Kelly, and her father Frederick Boland’s role as Ambassador to London in 1950-55 and Ireland’s first permanent representative to the UN in 1956-64. She is fondly remembered as a dedicated teacher, a supporter of emerging poets, and a voice for Irish women. In 2018, she was commissioned by DFAT and the Royal Irish Academy to commemorate the centenary of partial women’s suffrage. ‘Our Future Will Become the Past of Other Women’ is available in seven languages. Hear Eavan read the poem at its launch in the UN here (from 22:50) and listen to a reading by Fiona Shaw, produced for the RIA, here.

Viral Sessions began as a virtual Irish folk music session across Poland, organised by musicians Jan Gałczewski (Krakow) and Jakub Szczygieł (Wąbrzeźno) in response to the cancellation of St Patrick’s Day events. The success of the original initiative led to a second, global virtual session featuring 141 musicians of 32 nationalities, across 6 continents. This spontaneous, collaborative community-led initiative shows the universal relatability of music and the potential of affinity diaspora-led initiatives.  One Polish participant commented, “In these times and circumstances this music is no longer only [an] Irish traditional legacy – it’s the world’s common treasure.” Thanks to Embassy Warsaw for sharing details of the project.

If that isn’t enough content for you, take a look at the latest newsletter from the Embassy of Ireland. It is chock full of more opportunities!

New Hibernia Review

Celtic Junction would like to share the following announcement from our colleagues at the University of St. Thomas:

New Hibernian Review cover

The New Hibernia Review is a multidisciplinary journal of Irish Studies that presents plainly argued scholarship on all aspects of Irish civilization. It seeks to address a wide readership as it examines, without political agenda, the cultures of the whole of Ireland. In addition to fully annotated articles, it presents new Irish poetry and book reviews, as well as occasional memoirs and informal essays. The journal is published quarterly by the Center for Irish Studies at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota.

Subscriptions to the New Hibernia Review are now managed by the Philosophy Documentation Center. Online access for individuals is available on this site. Access for institutions is provided via Project MUSE.