On Wednesday, President Michael D. Higgins brought the 18 artists who are the recipients of the Arts Council 16 x 16 Next Generation Bursary Awards for emerging artists into his home, Áras an Uachtaráin.
As they stood, waiting to meet this poet President, they were to those of us looking on, full of promise and of the unknown. They are film makers, poets, circus artists, theatre makers, visual artists, performance artists, dancers and musicians.
They have each received an award of €12,500 and in April they will come together in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annamakerrig for a week-long residency.
We know they are rigorous, serious, funny and full of care for their work. We know they are of Donegal and of India, of Ireland and of the world.
What we don’t know, as we politely pretend not to eavesdrop as they talk, one artist to another, to the President, is what they are going to create. What will we see, hear, feel and think because of these people
These bursaries are an act of confidence and of faith. In 2016, one hundred years on from when artists played a critical role in the future of this county, the state has given the freedom of time to these artists.
This moment of celebration and recognition has been earned by them, and their happiness is charming. Moreover, now they have our collective support. Now they have the chance to make work and we will have the opportunity to experience what they create.
As we contemplate what has been achieved in this place in the one hundred years since 1916, these are among of the moments we should mark. We value and recognise art and artists. We choose to celebrate and support them.
And finally, as we stand and chat, and enjoy a lovely cup of presidential tea, we take a moment to think, that we can’t wait to see where they go from here.