When Seamus Heaney wrote, “Walk on air, against your better judgement,” he could have been writing about Pauline Turley.
From Newry to New York, Pauline has paired hard work with serendipity to arrive at her pivotal role charting the impressive trajectory on New York’s Irish Arts Center from a cramped tenement building to its expansive new home.
She tells of how winning the Green Card lottery led this Trinity College Drama and Theatre Studies grad to depart for New York on something of a lark, of hustling her way into work in bars and restaurants, and of picking up the telephone book to discover the Irish Arts Center, where two weeks after starting work she’d find herself in charge of the whole thing as its executive director.
And the IAC would be her professional and spiritual home for the next 26 years and counting, first as its executive director and for the past 16 years its vice chair with Aidan Connolly bringing his government and non-profit management chops to the executive director role.
Imagine the patience, ingenuity, energy, collaboration, and cajoling that went into conceiving and then realizing the dream for a new home for Irish arts in New York. And as opening day approached, Pauline had another major project in gestation, her daughter Lily who conveniently held off her arrival until after Pauline had wrapped up the year’s IAC Gala.
The migration from its old home has opened new possibilities for Irish arts in New York, with bigger venues for music and dance, spaces for visual arts, and new ways to play a growing role in the multicultural vitality of the city. IAC is a place where you could find the punk rock musical Good Vibrations from Belfast’s Lyric Theatre on the main stage, while in a studio space around the corner a decidedly non-punk crowd is having good craic with traditional Irish set dancing.
From The Troubles in Northern Ireland to the triumph of the Irish Arts Center in New York—join us in our conversation with the “Muse of Irish Arts in New York,” here on Irish Stew.
For Tickets to “Good Vibrations: A Punk Rock Musical” (June 14-July 16, 2023) go to: https://irishartscenter.org/event/good-vibrations-a-punk-rock-musical
Irish Arts Center
Vice Chair at Irish Arts Center
Born in Co. Down, Northern Ireland Pauline graduated with a B.A. Honors degree in Drama and Theater Studies from Trinity College, Dublin. Pauline was appointed Executive Director of the Irish Arts Center in New York in 1998, a position she held until April 2006 when she was appointed Vice Chair of the Board of Directors.
Founded in 1972, Irish Arts Center is a New York-based arts and cultural center dedicated to projecting a dynamic image of Ireland and Irish America for the 21st century, building community with artists and audiences of all backgrounds, forging and strengthening cross-cultural partnerships, and celebrating the evolving stories and traditions of Irish culture for generations to come.
In October 2018, Irish Arts Center broke ground for its new location which, after Covid delays, opened in December 2021. In 2008 Pauline was selected as one of the Irish American Magazine’s Top 100 Irish Americans, the Irish Echo Newspaper’s Top 40 Under 40, and one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Irish America by the Irish Voice Newspaper. In 2009 Pauline was one of the youngest ever recipients of the Michael Smurfit Leadership Award, presented by the Irish Chamber of Commerce USA (ICCUSA), and was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2009 for her work in preserving and promoting Irish culture in the U.S.
In 2016 Pauline was recognized as one of the Top 50 Power Women in Irish America by Irish America Magazine. In 2020 Pauline was selecte… Read More