Columbus Irish: A Night at Columbus Museum of Art

Columbus Irish – A Night at Columbus Museum of Art
By: Maureen Ginley

Back at the end of November, I was lucky enough to be invited to an art exhibit dedication and cocktail gathering at the Columbus Museum of Art. The Greater Columbus Irish Cultural Foundation awarded the museum a grant to bring Irish American Sculptor John Bernard Flannagan’s Sitting Figure sculpture to the area, adding to the vast collection enjoyed by hundreds of visitors each month.

Having been in Columbus for over a year at this point, I jumped at the chance to attend this event. I had been wanting to visit the museum since moving to Central Ohio, and getting to share in the experience with so many members of the Columbus Irish community was the cherry on top of the unexpected – and very welcome – invitation.

I arrived to the museum and was shown to where the event was taking place. I sat down, chatted with fellow Shamrock Club members, and waited for the presentation to begin. While I was looking forward to hearing more about John Bernard Flannagan and his artistic process, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the people who I had been seeing at meetings/reading about in the Seanachai (the Shamrock Club’s monthly newsletter). As with every Columbus Irish event, I was made to feel as if I had known these people forever – they expressed genuine interest in my work, what brought me to Columbus, and my writing.

The presentation soon began, and I was hooked from the first few sentences and slides. I learned that John Bernard Flannagan attended the Minneapolis School of Art (now the Minneapolis College of Art and Design). He painted, dabbled in woodworking, and eventually turned to stone carving. In the early 1930s, he lived in Ireland, where he honed his stone carving technique; he practiced on rocks and material he found in the countryside, creating pieces that connected to – or resembled – those of 18th Century stone cutters.

Eventually, the museum curator giving the presentation clicked to a slide that listed Flannagan’s credo:

“A thing should never be finished – should rather always be in a state of ‘becoming’… completed each according to his own psyche by whoever has eyes to see. Use the apparently accidental to avoid formal hardness, and the spontaneous to avoid emotional hardness.”

What struck me about this quote was how easily this quote could be applied to our daily lives. The idea of “becoming” and growth has always been fascinating to me. Every day, we’re presented with opportunities to learn – from our work, our interactions, even the somewhat-quiet of our morning commutes. What Flannagan did with his work – he looked at each piece as constantly growing, malleable.

After the presentation and the unveiling of the Sitting Figure, I left the museum with a big smile on my face – and words I was ready to write. I am so grateful that the Columbus Irish included me in on this event, and I am looking forward to all the events (and opportunities to grow within this group of people) to come.

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