As President of Ireland it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to FRESH STREET#3.
Over the coming days, this important international seminar will bring together artists, programmers, researchers, pedagogues, journalists and policymakers from all over the globe, in celebration of street arts, in all their variety.
Surely this is a time when we need to celebrate the public world, public spaces, and public performance. A privatised world is a lesser world.
The people of Ireland take great pride in their arts and culture, and ours is a society where the work of the imagination is valued by members of the public and where the fruits of the imagination are appreciated and enjoyed. As a people, we are acutely aware of our cultural heritage, which is the bedrock of our identity, connecting us to our shared past and pointing the way to our future full of possibilities.
As President of Ireland, I have had the privilege of experiencing many expressions of our nation’s creativity first hand, and of meeting with artists and performers. The promotion of culture and creativity in our society is something that is made possible by the genius, creativity and generosity of performers. This is something we must never forget and as publics we owe them our solidarity.
By giving recognition to, and encouraging the development of, imagination (“samhlaíocht” in the Irish language) and creativity (“cruthaitheacht”) in all its forms, we create, too, the foundations for an inclusive citizenship; a citizenship built on a sense of shared meaning and heritage, and which must remain open to new questions and be enabled to offer critical examination of established assumptions and points of view.
In situating the arts as a glorious element in a living community, and by building a “meitheal”—the Irish word for mutual and reciprocal support—between artist and audience, we can contribute to a society in which every person can feel invited and empowered to take part.
I have no doubt that during your stay in Galway— designated as European Capital of Culture 2020—you will enjoy the special atmosphere and the breadth of talent that is on display here. As you gather to discuss the benefits and challenges associated with street art and outdoor performances, I hope it will assist you in situating your discussions in a context of inclusion and civic empowerment.
Street arts, taking place in the shared everyday spaces so familiar to us all, peopling the public world, can help ensure that art and creativity will also take their place in the other, intangible shared spaces of our societies.
Tréaslaím libh, is beir beannacht.
Michael D. Higgins
Uachtarán na hÉireann | President of Ireland