Celtic Junction Arts Review

Issue 25, Beltane 2024

Archiving and Articulating Celtic Heritage
A quarterly publication of CJAC's Education Program

“We are having the best time in Ireland! Their culture is beautiful and strong! My kids are loved so much! We truly are forever grateful for this opportunity here and back home to make this happen,” enthused Krysten Sullivan on social media summing up the emotional bonds forged on their first Irish tour in March, 2024 between The Sullivan Squad (Niizhoo, Lenny, Michael Migizi, Krysten, Lexie, and Preston Sullivan), the amazing family of Ojibwe singers from Lac Courtes Oreilles Ojibwe reservation in Wisconsin and their welcoming audiences in Northern Ireland. They made a huge impact in their performances and media appearances from Belfast to South Armagh. As our friend Fergal O’Brien, who brilliantly orchestrated their visit, comments: “It was a week [in Northern Ireland] packed with intense memories, that will live long in the minds of thousands of people that the Sullivan family impacted either in person, or on social media during their Irish stay.”

The roots of this visit can be traced to the online artistic collaboration Kindred Spirits/Anamchairde in 2021 between Celtic Junction Arts Center, Aonach Mhacha (our sister cultural center in Armagh city), Center for Irish Music, the Traditional Arts Partnership (TAP) in South Armagh and Indigenous artists such as The Sullivan Squad. This collaboration explored friendship links and mutual concerns over language and heritage preservation between Irish and Indigenous cultures. These bonds were deepened in April 2022 when a seven person delegation from Armagh consisting of Elaine O’Sullivan, Des Murphy, Kenny Qua, Siobhan Downey and Fergal O’Brien from TAP, and Réamonn Ó Ciaráin and Patricia Vallely from Aonach Mhacha, flew to St. Paul for our Irish Arts Week and also visited the Ojibwe in Wisconsin. The links between Armagh and the Midwest and Irish and Indigenous cultures have been increasing on multiple levels of creative and intellectual energy ever since, culminating in this milestone visit to Northern Ireland.

Igniting worldwide interest in Irish dance and broadly symbolizing a renewed vitality and confidence in Irish culture, Riverdance burst on the world as an intermission act during the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin in 1994. Celtic Junction’s founders, Natalie (as a lighting designer) and Cormac  (a dancer in the touring show since he was 16 years old in that famous Eurovision opening) met in Minneapolis in 1997, toured the world with the show, and returned to settle in Minnesota in 2001. They opened the Junction in 2009 as a “beacon of hope and community spirit,” writes Carillon RoseMeadows. Indeed Celtic Junction is a bubbling confluence where the rivers of the longstanding communal Irish organizations in St. Paul and the vibrant and sophisticated international energy embodied by Riverdance meet. CJAC celebrated its fifteenth anniversary on Saturday, April 27, 2024 as part of the newly expanded Irish Arts Weeks (formerly Week) as Riverdance itself celebrated its 30th anniversary. Our future is unfolding with the invaluable support of our community and the next fifteen years offer many exciting opportunities for further growth.

“Regardless of how successful or uninterested in work a Galwegian is, it seems that they hold one thing to be far more valuable than money and that is: the craic.” Craic or fun (with a sprinkle of chaos) rules. I’m honored in this issue to publish my artist daughter Kate’s humorous reflections on living in Galway. Both of us fondly remember her school years and summers  living with her Irish grandma in Cabinteely in South Dublin during her childhood and youth, but she decided to “go into the West” and launch herself into an artist residency in Galway from October 2023 to February 2024 at the Watershed Studios. Previously a graduate of Cretin-Derham High School in St. Paul and the University of Manitoba, she had earlier completed an artist-in-residence from July-August 2022 at the Lighthouse Immersive Gallery in Minneapolis during its Van Gogh exhibit. She has now moved into Galway and has become a community catalyst in creating a very successful “Drink and Draw” series of events in the heart of the city. Always irreverent, Kate’s younger generation moving between Ireland and Minnesota presents us with new and witty perspectives to renew our heritage and culture.

Returning with an Irish language only version of an earlier article, our friend and colleague, Réamonn Ó Ciaráin, CEO of the esteemed Irish language agency Gael Linn, regular international contributor to our Arts Review, and a popular teacher in Celtic Junction Education program’s annual Deireadh Seachtaine Gaeilge/Irish Language Weekend (since 2022), offers us a celebratory account of the Oireachtas na Samhna/The Halloween Festival devoted to the Irish language. Starting in 1897 in Dublin’s Rotunda, it is today the “Mecca na nGael.” “Lasting five days it offers academic presentations, award ceremonies, comedy, dance, debate, information and launch events, literature, music, running, sketches, singing, radio and TV,” he writes. “The glue that holds it all together and happily so is the Irish language.”

The Celtic Junction Arts Review works to articulate and archive the myriad links and memories galvanizing the local, regional, national, and international phenomenon of Irish culture. 

Patrick O’Donnell – Editor, contributing writer, and founder of the Celtic Junction Arts Review; founder and co-director of the annual Irish Arts Week; and, Director of Education of CJAC’s education program.

Carillon RoseMeadows – Digital Curator and contributing writer of the Celtic Junction Arts Review, and architect of the Celtic Junction Arts Center’s web presence.