Remembering Josephine McNamara and Elsa Regan



In 2020, Irish Arts Center lost two major figures around which our education community orbited: longtime dance teacher Josephine McNamara (Jo Mac) and IAC ceíli bandleader Elsa Regan. For decades, they helped make the Center a hub for discovery, open to all regardless of age or skill level: Jo Mac through the boundless energy, talent, and generosity she brought to every lesson, and Elsa for holding together the large family—including IAC teachers and students—that is the ceíli band, and creating a welcoming environment where learning and enthusiasm were always prized above perfection.



Traditional Irish tunes and mariachi music were played at the wake of Elsa Armbruster Regan, who was neither Irish nor Mexican, but a woman who, in the last 30 years of her life, had found a community in the Irish Arts Center ceíli band, among people who play the type of music that bridges musicianship and kinship. As her large family commingled with the community she’d cultivated and brought into her life through IAC, the wake saw Elsa’s memory honored not with silence, but with the exuberant and expressive music to which she devoted so much of her time. Read on >



On a summer day in 1997, Irish Arts Center Vice Chair (at the time an intern) Pauline Turley rollerbladed up to the organization’s century-old 51st Street building, and began struggling with the old door that would swell with humidity in the summer months; it wouldn’t budge. A small, 81-year-old woman with flame-red hair spotted her, approached, withdrew a key-ring, opened the door to the boiler room next to the front door, and began merrily climbing over the building’s giant boiler to let them in, as though it were nothing. This small moment resonated, for Turley, as a fitting introduction to a woman who had become a legend of IAC—someone who never ceased to casually shatter expectations. Read on >

Our Supporters

Irish Arts Center programs are supported, in part, by government, foundation, and corporate partners including Culture Ireland, the agency for the promotion of Irish arts worldwide; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office and the New York City Council; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the National Endowment for the Arts; Howard Gilman Foundation; Jerome L. Greene Foundation; the Charina Endowment Fund; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; M&T Bank; The Ireland Funds; Northern Ireland Bureau; the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Consulate of Ireland in New York; Tourism Ireland; CIE Tours; Delta; and thousands of generous donors like you.

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