Sheila Pratschke grew up in Limerick and attended University College Dublin. She worked as a teacher in Ireland and Africa where she taught in both primary and secondary sectors. She later developed and delivered training courses for women and was active in the Waterford Rape Crisis Centre. Having pursued studies as a mature student in fine art and arts management, she worked in the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Kerlin Gallery and UCD before being appointed Director of the Irish Film Institute in 1994. She held this post for seven years during the period when Temple Bar developed as a cultural quarter. She moved to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig in 2001 where she was Director until 2007. She was then appointed Director of the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, a flagship cultural institution supported by the French and Irish governments. Its Old Library is a unique resource for scholars and researchers; Sheila Pratschke was awarded the Ordre nationale du merite by the French state in recognition of her contribution to Franco-Irish cultural relations. She was made an Honorary Member of the RHA in 2013.