I’ve become president!
“Oh, no!” Says Your Man up in Pearl River, “Nightmares do come true!”
Not to worry, comrade. I inhaled and enjoyed it, so no fear of me moving to new digs on Pennsylvania Avenue.
As regards my recent elevation, I am merely following in the hallowed footsteps of Peter Quinn and TJ English as president of the Irish-American Writers and Artists, a group forged back during the 2008 election when it was suggested that working class Irish would be too prejudiced to vote for Barack Obama.
We are non-sectarian, inclusive, proudly progressive and our main goal is to represent and further the aspirations of artists and writers. In case you hadn’t noticed, this is not a good time for workers in general, and is particularly dismal for those laboring in the arts; in fact, when asked about a career in music, theatre or literature my advice is don’t even dream of it without a thorough psychiatric evaluation and a skill that will net you $200 a day.
That being said the IAW&A is an organization of realists and dreamers who love what they do and support each other. I urge you to come to one of the bi-monthly salons held in Manhattan at The Thalia (95th/Broadway) on the first Tuesday of the month and on the third Tuesday at The Cell (23rd/8th Avenue).
You’ll witness a minor miracle. Artists of the stature of founding director, Malachy McCourt, read or perform regularly and are often followed by someone making their first public appearance. Both receive rapt attention from full houses. Only members of the organization may present but admission is free to all.
Membership is less than a buck a week – half that for students - and comes with other benefits, but anyone may receive the weekly newsletter that lists the doings of members, details of opportunities, along with a roundup of artistic happenings in Irish America and beyond.
Our salons regularly hit the road and have recently visited Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Fairfield, CT while we are in the process of forming chapters in Kansas City and Chicago.
As regards philanthropy: this year we created the Frank McCourt Literary Prize that went to three students at the Frank McCourt High School of Writing, Journalism and Literature, and we have raised money and awareness for causes as disparate as earthquake relief in Haiti and support for the preservation of St. Brigid’s Lower East Side Church.
Each October we give the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award at one of Irish-America’s top social event where well-known and aspiring artists rub shoulders with supporters and admirers.
Previous awardees have included William Kennedy, Brian Dennehy, The Irish Rep’s Charlotte Moore & Ciaran O’Reilly, Judy Collins and John Patrick Shanley. On Oct. 20th at The Manhattan Club/Rosie O’Grady’s we will be honoring Pete Hamill, the great journalist and writer, and a seanchaí to many of us.
The IAW&A speaks for artists at a time when the arts are being marginalized, unions and community groups derided, and we are encouraged to view life solely through the prism of financial gain. We provide a forum for people who usually toil alone, while at the same time offering the public a chance to experience new work in a lively social setting at no cost.
For those with a yearning to express themselves through poetry, prose, music, dance, you name it – we’re there for you. My own goal is to encourage the carpenter in Queens who could be the next O’Casey, the nurse in Brooklyn who might be a budding Edna O’Brien, or the late starter in The Bronx with a tale as riveting as Frank McCourt.’s, to realize your potential and help create a community
Hey, come to think of it, Your Man up in Pearl River shows much of the edge of Bob Geldof. Come on down some Tuesday night, man, time for you to strut your stuff in The Thalia or The Cell!
And if you can, let’s get together on Oct. 20th and honor Pete Hamill, reflect on his work and times, and the remarkable influence he’s had on so many of us and our city.
For details of membership, salons and the Eugene O’Neill Award go to http://i-am-wa.org