Aosdána is a unique Irish artistic institution with the objective of supporting artists and their creativity. It is funded by the State through the Arts Council.

'Arts Express' attends a meeting of Aosdána chaired by Ulick O'Connor and talks to Anthony Cronin about the organisation.  

Aosdána takes its name from the ancient Irish meaning 'Men of Art'. Poet and novelist Anthony Cronin is a member of Aosdána and as former arts advisor to Taoiseach Charles Haughey was in a unique position to witness the beginnings of the organisation. He tells Mary O'Sullivan how Aosdána came about.

In 1973 Taoiseach Charles Haughey was invited to Harvard to talk about arts policies for modern states. Cronin and Haughey found during early discussions that,

There was a peculiarity about the way that state bodies looked at the arts ... they preferred to concern themselves with performance and distribution .... rather than with the actual creative process.

As Ireland is a small country it doesn't have the same economy of size as a large country where artists could live off the earnings from their works.

Cronin says that,

The relationship of artists to Ireland in the first decades after independence was a pretty poor one. There had been a lot of ill will on both sides. 

The Arts Council established Aosdána in 1981 to honour artists whose work has made an outstanding contribution to the creative arts in Ireland, and to encourage and assist members in devoting their energies fully to their art.  

This report features paintings by fellow Aosdána member and artist Michael O Kane.
This episode of 'Arts Express' was broadcast on 12 April 1991.