108. Irish Art

Irish Art: Music and the arts in general are taken very seriously in Ireland. Not serious like a train wreck is serious but serious like our needs for oxygen and water are serious. In fact if you are an artist of any kind you do not have to pay taxes on income generated making your art. Bono pays no taxes in Ireland.

I’ve made every effort to experience as much art in Ireland as I can with live music topping my list. I’ve been to several “traditional sessions” around the country. Sessions are basically an open mic night for musicians who play traditional Irish music spontaneously together. Whoever shows up wanting to play or sing is welcome to join in and those smart enough to turn up are guaranteed great entertainment. Johnny Joe McCollam’s Public House in Cushendall has become a steady favorite. Joe has a webcam in the parlour room and plays the sessions live on the internet. Their tiny music room looks like a staged set from a one-act play with no space between audience and performer. Everyone is a part of the show. His daughter will even come in and sing a few bars with the players while she picks up empty glasses and cans. The John Hewitt in Belfast is a very hip university district pub that has a string of great musicians come through regularly. An Bodrahn in Cork has fantastic musicians as well as a interesting crew of dedicated local followers and my favorite pub in Dublin, The Celt, offers music every night of the week and they never fail to impress. One sunny weekend day in Galway I stumbled upon a street performer playing guitar who just blew my mind. I listened to him play three songs before I could pull myself away. I’ve also never seen another street performer of any kind with so much money in his case. (I left him a fiver, by the way.)

All of the museums in Dublin are free and I spent one day busing from one to the next. The Gallery of Photography were having a special Masters Graduate show where guests could look through a recent photography gradates entire portfolio. I was entranced for hours by some incredible work. I was also really impressed by the Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. It’s a bit out of the center but it’s on these magnificent estate grounds with a hedge maze straight out of The Shining.

Ireland’s literary legacy is enormous and since arriving in Ireland I’ve read nothing but one Irish author after another. I’ve done a few literary tours, some organized and some spontaneous. I’ve been to Yeats grave site and the home of James Joyce and a reading by Frank McCourt. While in Dublin I took a tour called the Literary Pub Crawl where they took us around to 6 pubs, gave us just enough time to get knackered while actors do scenes from famous Irish works at the location that inspired it. I also keep stumbling across some of the most fantastic graffiti around Ireland and the political murals in the North are as much about art as they are about politics. Since reading Yeats famous epitaph in person, Sloan and I have had several conversations about it’s dark and twisted meaning and also about why more people don’t leave epitaphs. Wouldn’t graveyards be that much more interesting if everyone left us their final message to contemplate?


  1. Anonymous says:

    that guitar player was awesome.

    thanks for sharing


  2. I did the literary pub crawl back in ’99. Got sloshed. There was a “trivia ” quiz at the end where the actors tried to see if we actually learned something. My compatriots and I took 1st and 2nd place despite our drunkenness. Our prize? One small bottle of Jameson “aftershave” and another bottle of Jameson “mouthwash”. I love actors.