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© Kathleen Bitetti/Medicine Wheel Productions
© Kathleen Bitetti/Medicine Wheel Productions

Irish Folklore Comes To The Fens, Boston In New Exhibit

Picture of Casey Campbell
Updated: 31 August 2016
If you plan to visit the Back Bay Fens anytime soon, you’ll find a pleasant surprise in the form of a new art installation. The exhibit Tír na nÓg is currently on display, presented by Medicine Wheel Productions in partnership with the Fenway Alliance 2016 ‘Public by Design’ Initiative. It is a two-part series that features the work of artists Caoimhghin Ó Fraithile and Michael Dowling.

The inspiration for Tír na nÓg is multifaceted. The title refers to a supernatural realm or ‘otherworld’ in Irish folklore, an overarching theme seen in the work of both artists. Not only does Tír na nÓg celebrate Irish folklore, but it also commemorates Ireland’s 2016 Centennial. In 1916, the Easter Rising rebellion set Ireland on track for independence from Great Britain. Here in the United States, 2016 also marks the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service. In celebration of this, Tír na nÓg is located in the Fens, one of the largest sections of Boston’s Emerald Necklace.

© Kathleen Bitetti/Medicine Wheel Productions

Irish artist Caoimhghin Ó Fraithile’s piece, ‘South of Hy-Brasil,’ takes influence from Irish mythology. According to traditional stories, Hy-Brasil is a mythical land, located off the coast of Ireland. Legend has it that the island disappears and is only visible once every seven years. ‘South of Hy-Brasil’ is fully installed now, and you can find it in the lagoon behind the Museum of Fine Arts.

The second piece in Tír na nÓg is by Irish-American artist Michael Dowling, entitled ‘Well House.’ His piece was inspired by the Emly Shrine, which dates back to early medieval times in Ireland. Housed in the MFA, the Emly Shrine was carved from a single block of wood, with bronze moldings and intricate decoration. According to the MFA, these types of shrines were made to hold sacred relics of saints. ‘Well House’ is planned for installation next week and will sit on the Fens side of the MFA. The piece is centered around the theme of water being a blessing.

Tír na nÓg is serving as the kickoff for the Fenway Alliance’s Opening Our Doors celebration, taking place in the fall and called the largest free cultural event in Boston. The exhibit will be on display through the festival, until October 2016.