Thursday, 24 October 2019

Peter Quinn - Eugene O'Neill Lifetime Achievement Award

Irish American Writers & Artists was formed back in 2008 when it was suggested that Irish-Americans were unlikely to vote for an African-American presidential candidate.

Although a gripping question at the time it pales in comparison with some of the issues that have arisen in the three years of Mr. Trump’s unorthodox presidency.

Be that as it may, IAW&A has thrived in its eleven years of existence. 

We’ve raised money for various causes, granted scholarships, and each month we provide two salons where members can perform their work before large audiences. There is no admission charge – all are welcome.

The level of creativity and performance has continued to improve as word has spread about a unique opportunity to present original material to a discerning and attentive audience.

And yet for me the real thrill is watching someone take the first daring step that transforms him or her from audience member to performing artist.

All of this comes at a price however, and to keep IAW&A functioning we hold one annual fundraiser where we present the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award to a deserving artist.

How fitting that it should go this year to our first president, Peter Quinn. Irish Echo readers need little introduction to this handsome, erudite figure. He is a best selling novelist for his marvelous Banished Children of Eve among other works, and was a political and corporate speechwriter – ever wonder who put a touch of the poet into the oratory of Governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo?

I was privileged to catch a particularly close look at Peter while serving on the board of the IAW&A during his presidency. 

Though we operated close to the edge financially, and otherwise, in the early years of the organization Peter radiated a sense of graciousness and quiet confidence that got us over many the hump. 

Of course, he’s from The Bronx, and like many who hail from the only borough on the mainland he’d already overcome much before ascending to the presidency of a non-profit arts outfit.

What is it about those who emerge from those storied concrete fields above Manhattan? In small ways I’ve benefitted too from spending so many nights playing in Bronx saloons and dancehalls.

You gain a wry acceptance of the slings and arrows that attend life but also a feeling that if you keep a weather eye open you just might upset the odds and beat the spread.

Peter has done that time and again and has provided a quiet inspiration to others who have observed his many victories, hard won and otherwise.

When someone is needed who can wring poetry from the reeling march of New York’s immigrant Irish out of the Five Points slums – Quinn is your man.

It’s never easy for an Irish person to become a successful artist – we’re constantly haunted by the shanty whisper: “What makes you think you’re so special?”

Eugene O’Neill did it – beat the drink and forsook the hobo West Village life to become the dominant playwright, and artist, so many of us look up to.

Peter Quinn did it too. He once told me how he used to rise every day at an ungodly hour and arrive at his desk early enough to put in at least a couple of hours of writing before his corporate toiling began.

Becoming one of the best is never easy – the hours are long, the sacrifices many, but that’s the gig.  

At IAW&A salons we provide a springboard for entry into that life. Somewhere along the line Eugene O’Neill and Peter Quinn grasped their opportunity and ran with it.

If you want your shot find out more about Irish American Writers and Artists at

We have new leadership, Mary Pat Kelly, an author from Chicago’s South Side is President, and New York’s Maria Deasy, actor and producer, is Vice President.

Join us on Monday, Oct. 21st for one of Irish-America’s premier social evenings when we bestow the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award on Peter O’Neill, artist and gentleman.  See you there.

Mon, October 21, 2019  6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Manhattan Manor, Upstairs at Rosie O'Grady's
800 7th Avenue, NYC
For tickets and information visit

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome short comments on Belfast Media Group blog postings but you should be aware that, since we've put our names to our articles, we encourage you to do so also. Preference in publication will be given to those who provide an authenticated full name — as is already the case in our newspapers. Comments should be short and relate to the subject matter and, of course, shouldn't be libelous. And remember, if you find that there isn't enough space on our blogs for your views, you can always start your own. There are over two million blogs out there, another one can only benefit the blogosphere.