Dylan O’Neill looks at the prestigious and exclusive Aosdána Association and its selection process for potential members.
Aosdána was established by the Arts Council in 1981 to recognize the achievements of Irish artists in many different mediums, such as Visual Arts, Literature, Music, Architecture, and Choreography. The association houses the top 250 living artists in Ireland and is decided upon by a general assembly of the membership.
At this assembly, the members decide on the policy going forward, discuss the financing of the association, and review the current artists in Ireland. To be accepted into the association, potential members must be nominated and elected by current sitting members. According to the electoral procedures detailed on the Aosdána website, the potential member must have produced a “significant body of work, and be a resident for at least five years in Ireland.”
According to the electoral procedures detailed on the Aosdána website, the potential member must have produced a “significant body of work, and be a resident for at least five years in Ireland.”
After these pre-requisites are met, and the candidate has received a nomination and a strong recommendation by a current member which has been seconded, the toscairí of Aosdána compile a list of nominated candidates and bring them forward to a ballot. The members of the candidate’s discipline vote to determine the candidate’s fate, taking into account their work and the influence it has had on society. If 50% plus 1 of the ballots votes in their respective disciplines, then the quota has been reached and the candidates are informed of the outcome, moving forward to the final stage.
The final stage involves a list of potential candidates being voted upon by the General Assembly of the Aosdána. The candidate with the most votes is elected into the first available seat on the association, and so on until all remaining seats are filled. Finally, when the potential member has been elected, they remain a member of the Aosdána until they submit their written resignation to the toscairí, or in the event of their death.
They remain a member of the Aosdána until they submit their written resignation to the toscairí, or in the event of their death.
The last General Assembly met on the 25th April 2017 and saw the election of visual artist Eddie Kennedy, visual artist Trish McAdam, writer Rosaleen McDonagh, writer Gerry Murphy, visual artist Niamh O’Malley, choreographer Fiona Quilligan and visual artist Anne Tallentire to the Aosdána.
These new members are now eligible to apply for a “Cnuas,” a financial aid amounting to €17,180, which allows the artists to concentrate their time and efforts on their art. To apply for this aid, members must outline their creative work and provide proof that their income doesn’t exceed “one and a half times the value of the Cnuas” to the Arts Council. The Arts Council also provides members of the Aosdána with a contribution pension scheme. A notable Cnuas recipient is Eugene McCabe, author of the contemporary classic Death and Nightingales.
A select few members of Aosdána are fortunate enough to receive the title of Saoi. This title is awarded to members that have proven themselves and shown distinction in their work, and is held by no more than seven members at any one time. Similar to the process of electing candidates, the members of the Aosdána elect a Saoi. After the Saoi had been elected, the President of Ireland then confers the recipient with a golden Torc, the symbol of the office.
Among the seven highly respected recipients of the Saoi title is former associate Professor of Music in UCD, Seóirse Bodley. Bodley accepted the title in 2008 and is a founding member of the Aosdána Association.
From its inception in 1981, the Aosdána Association has provided a safeguard for the works of Irish artists and ensured the protection of the arts in society in today’s world.