For the Irish Arts Center, a New Home to Expand

 
March 16, 2014

Though the center's larger theater will accommodate more ambitious productions, its management remains committed to maintaining a sense of intimacy. "No matter where you are in the space, you're still going to feel like you're in your living room," Mr. Connolly said.

The project's design architect is Ciaran O'Connor, the chief state architect for Ireland's Office of Public Works; Davis Brody Bond is the architect of record; Jonathan Rose Companies is the project manager.

Originally, neighborhood residents complained that the building was too tall. The height was reduced by consolidating activities: Instead of having a dedicated entertainment area, for example, the new dance studio will also be an event space. In addition, the new building will connect to the current one, which will continue to be used for classes and other functions.

Founded as a grass-roots organization, the center was professionalized by Jim Sheridan and Terence George, who served as directors in the 1980s, before their successful film careers (Mr. Sheridan directed "In the Name of the Father"; Mr. George, known as Terry, wrote the screenplay).

To some extent, the Irish Arts Center is just looking to keep doing what it does but in a better environment, like offer classes in language, music, dance and history. The organization does not market its classes because it cannot accommodate more people. And moving large instruments upstairs to the third-floor classroom is its own headache.

"The harp is challenging," said Pauline Turley, the center's vice chairwoman.

The center has raised $37.5 million so far: $30 million from the city, $3.5 million from board gifts, $3.4 million from the Irish government and $600,000 from the state.

Mr. Byrne, who with the actor Liam Neeson has helped attract donations to the center, said the new home would be important not only as a place to generate artistic activity but also as a place to bring Irish people together and cement their ethnic identity. "Identity is connected to memory," he said. "We remember our history, we remember our politics, and we bring it with us.

The New York TImes
by Robin Pogrebin