It’s fact. The Irish have a reputation and a knack for telling stories. Stop into the new Art of Ireland Gallery and experience the stories behind the art, the artists, and its owners in this unusual new offering on Palm Avenue in Sarasota.
“People today want more than just a pretty piece,” says owner Maura McCabe. “They want something with providence… something that has a story behind it.”
“We want people in Sarasota to feel as if they’re in Ireland when they walk in,” says owner Dennis McCabe, Maura’s husband, speaking to the enlarged photograph of Eyeres in Cork County, Ireland behind the counter. Framed by repurposed wood barn doors and an original iron barn door railing, this design emits and Old World Irish rustic feel that is carried to most of the gallery fixtures and displays fashioned from repurposed wood.
“That piece of wood is 100-year-old white oak found in a river,” Dennis said, pointing to the window display shelf.
On display in the gallery is an eclectic assortment of painting, architectural pencil sketches, pen and ink prints, pottery, wood cutting boards, jewelry, fabric, linens, framed original paintings and unusual, whimsical gifts. All imported from Ireland and promising a story from the owners.
Ireland’s government is promoting its country’s art worldwide. And even offering tax breaks to the artists. Interest in collecting Irish art has grown rapidly with the economic expansion of the country, primarily focusing on investment in early twentieth century painters.
The most notable Irish painter according to Maura – Theo Harley – is showcased in a variety of sea-themed paintings featured in the gallery. Pencil drawings and prints from assorted artists are framed and available matted, as are pen and inks with inspirational quotes . The latter is an extensive collection taking up two walls of the store.
Another artist, who lives in the country and has a propensity for animals, renders and paints animals on canvas then offers the prints and complimentary pieces printed on tea towels, trivets and coasters (a nice way to coordinate a kitchen theme).
Purchase a Bunbury cutting board handcrafted from the finest hardwood sourced from Ireland woodlands. It comes with a story and photo of the actual tree it was cut from and where the tree was located.
For art- to- wear enthusiasts, a nice assortment of unusual jewelry is featured from three different artists. Dublin-based Tracy Gilbert created original designs that reflect Ireland’s rich artistic and mythological traditions featuring a contemporary twist on traditional Celtic symbolism.
“:Irish jewelry is often designed around the myths and legends of Ireland,”: Maura said.
Award-winning Blaitin Ennis crafts incredible, lightweight versions of the bulky jewelry popular today minus the weight. She combines delicate and robust metals, crystals, and soft shell mesh for truly avant-garde, ethnic expression for your accessory wardrobe.
Whether you’re looking for a unique gift with a story behind it, or just want to explore a bit of Ireland’s burgeoning art world, a trip to the Art of Ireland may leave you feeling as if you’ve traveled to Ireland and kissed the Blarney stone.
“We love to talk to people about Ireland, travel and art,” Maura said, “and we encourage people to come in and just browse. I know every artist and the process or inspiration behind their work.”
Why not add a bit of Irish art to your collection this holiday season? Or give a unique gift to a loved one. It’s certain to provide fodder for conversation and maybe a little luck o’ the Irish to boot.
Art of Ireland is closed Mondays. Call 366-1900 for more information.