President Michael D. Higgins has paid special tribute to those Irish citizens “gifted with artistic and creative minds” who have helped to enhance Ireland’s reputation around the world as a country “of creativity and imagination”.
Speaking at a ‘Family Day’ Garden Party at Áras an Uachtaráin to celebrate Creative Arts and Craft, the president singled out painters, sculptors, crafters and designers for mention, for the profound effect their work has on Irish society.
People from all over Ireland were invited as guests of honour to the event, held to pay tribute to the love, friendship and solidarity that binds us together as people and as a nation.
“Not only do we benefit from the pleasing aesthetic of your work; but also from your manifestation of the role of art and artistic craft in assisting us to understand the nature of our society, its wonder and possibilities, and our own role within that society,” said the president.
“I believe economies and societies are created within cultures. It is culture that will save economy, not economy that will make culture possible.
“While artistic works may reflect the society and time in which they were created; they also, in the here and now, help to shape and shade the world in which we live challenging us to look at that world in different ways, calling on us to have the courage to push the boundaries and defy and critique the norms of the societies and age into which we have been born.
“So therefore we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to citizens such as yourselves who enable us to view our world in ways that are new and emancipatory.
“The work of innovative and imaginative Irish craftspeople is receiving wide acclaim on both the national and international stage, reminding us that Irish creativity and our country’s reputation as a world class source for quality and craftsmanship is something in which we all can celebrate and take pride.”
The president went on to highlight the role played by commemorate public art in ensuring that the public, including future generations, remember defining historic moments such as the Easter Rising, the Great Lockout of 1913, the outbreak of the First World War, the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.
“……through statues, monuments and sculptures designed as representations of aspects of that event that will engage and inform and allow for a real understanding of how such seminal events have profoundly influenced the contemporary moment,” he said.
Áras an Uachtaráin Sabina will feature Dearcán na nDaoine – the People’s Acorn – which is a tribute to the men and women whose effort and sacrifice contributed so much to Irish freedom.
The acorn will contain a time capsule which will ensure this commemorative work will hold within it a living representation of the present time, formed by the past, and already crafting the future to come.
The president also spoke about the power of art in bringing nations and their people together citing the response in 1847 to Ireland’s humanitarian and economic plight during the Great Famine by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, who sent “whatever funds they would manage to raise”.
That gesture was honoured recently by the dedication of a sculpture – ‘Kindred Spirits’ by Alex Pentek – in Midleton Co Cork to the Choctaw Nation.
“It reminds us of how strongly art speaks to us across oceans and generations; and of the important imprint and legacy of great craftsmen and designers,” said the president.
“………may I thank all our talented designers and craftspeople who make possible, through their imagination, skill and patient work – their creativity, so much of beauty, endurance and joy.
“I thank also those who provide the opportunities, the insight, the help and encouragement.
“Without those who value performance, access and the importance of culture in our lives, not as residual but as an essential structure, nothing would be possible. All of you allies in culture, performance, and appreciation.”
This was the third of eight such events this summer organised by President Higgins and his wife Sabina, welcoming some 4,000 people into Áras an Uachtaráin where they were entertained by David O’Connor, Cian McBride, Ruairí Ó hArgáin, Barry Ryan, Cormac Keegan, Tara Viscardi, Meadhbh O’Rourke, Setanta Strings, Randolf and the Crokers, Beoga, Duke Special and The Strypes.
The annual Garden Parties at Áras an Uachtaráin continue a tradition which began during Douglas Hyde’s presidency.