Solas Nua means ‘new light’ in Irish. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit and the only organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to contemporary Irish arts. Our mission to bring the best new Irish artistic talent to American audiences began in 2005 with the smash hit play Disco Pigs by Enda Walsh. Since then we have presented theater, music, visual arts, film, and literary events including the Capital Irish Film Festival and Irish Book Day.
Based in Washington, D.C., we host a bi-monthly free film series, Irish Popcorn!, regular play readings, and a monthly Book Club. Each year we run Irish Book Day, which dispenses Irish literature throughout the city on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), and the Capital Irish Film Festival. We also program author readings, visual arts presentations and musical performances. Solas Nua in Boston currently produces play readings.
We have partnered with a variety of Irish and US arts organizations including Ireland’s Performance Corporation, The Stinging Fly literary magazine, Liberties Press, Belfast's Tinderbox Theatre and Bethesda’s Writer’s Center. We have also held joint exhibitions with Transformer Gallery, Flashpoint Gallery, and The Fridge.
Our organization has been nominated for numerous awards. The Mayor's Arts Award for Innovation in the Arts was conferred on us in 2011. Solas Nua events have received coverage in national and regional media outlets in Ireland and the US. The Washington Post called Irish Book Day 'a literary pot of gold' and named it one of the top ten things to do on St. Patrick's Day in 2014.
We enjoy support from an expanding arts audience, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Culture Ireland, the Irish Film Institute, the Irish Film Board, the Embassy of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Bureau. Managed by a Board of Directors, Solas Nua relies on specialist curators and a dedicated cadre of and volunteers to produce its artistic events.
Solas Nua Vision 2020
In 2020, Solas Nua is acknowledged as the leading contemporary Irish arts organization in the USA by the arts communities in Ireland and the United States. We are known for commissioning, producing and presenting thought-provoking, ground-breaking and vibrant work in all the arts. Solas Nua is the “go to” source of information and insight in the United States into the contemporary Irish artistic world.
We are celebrated in Ireland for our award-winning work that nurtures emerging talent and provides Irish artists with a supportive, warm and compelling forum in the United States. We are recognized in Washington, D.C. and beyond for being dynamic and innovative and for making a substantial and unique contribution to the artistic and cultural richness of each city, within and outside the Irish-American communities.
Solas Nua has a growing and increasingly diverse audience for its programming. While the Irish diaspora remains at the core of that audience, Solas Nua, in bringing Irish arts to people not connected to Ireland through heritage, is a leader among arts organizations in reaching out beyond traditional audiences to new communities and groups.
Solas Nua has a stable board and the managerial, artistic, volunteer and financial resources to sustain a strong organization and enable a full range of high-quality Irish-arts programming that conveys the vibrancy of the contemporary Irish arts scene.
Solas Nua's Board
Paddy Meskell, Chairman
Brought up and educated in Ireland, Paddy came to the U.S. in 1988 and has lived most of the time in Washington D.C. He started two software companies in Ireland, worked on Wall Street and with Sallie Mae and has recently retired as Executive Vice President and member of the Board of Silver Diner. He has a BA in European Studies and an honorary Masters in Philosophy from University of Limerick. He currently works as an independent consultant specializing in helping small entrepreneurial companies grow successfully.
Dennis Houlihan, President
Dennis is a policy analyst for a national public sector trade union, where his work involves advising members and leaders on labor relations, public finance and public service provision. He has also worked for the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. House of Representatives and served as consultant on city planning, fiscal and government organization issues in San Francisco. He received a Certificate of Honor from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and was selected as the Alumni of the Year by the San Francisco State University Department of Urban Studies and Planning. He earned a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from San Francisco State University.
Don Drach, Vice President - Operations and Interim Secretary
Don is an independent consultant, trainer and volunteer with over 35 years experience in international relations and capacity building. Don completed federal service in January 2009, serving most recently as director of international relations in the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s Strategic Planning and External Liaison office. He was also a founding member of the Board of Directors of the INTOSAI Development Initiative, an international training organization. Don was an Adjunct Faculty member in GAO’s Learning Center and now conducts training seminars and workshops domestically and internationally. From 1971-73, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer elementary teacher in Liberia. Don holds a Bachelors Degree in political science and international relations from the Pennsylvania State University and a Masters Degree in education from Boston. In addition to his work with Solas Nua, he serves on the board of Friends of Liberia.
Kate Meenan-Waugh, Treasurer
Kate is an educator who has worked in secondary schools for more than 30 years, most recently at the Washington International School. She has taught and developed global education and community service programs which have included extensive, purposeful travel for both students and teachers. She is also an interviewer, mentor and organizer for the ASSIST student exchange program, as well as a teacher of ESL to recent adult immigrants in the Washington DC area.
Born in New York City, Kate is a first-generation Irish-American, with deep roots in Donegal, Tyrone and Belfast. She holds a BSFS from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and has done extensive graduate work at New York University in international education and counseling.
Solas Nua's Program Staff
Rex Daugherty, Artistic Director, Theater
Daugherty, a native of Oklahoma City, has been a company member with Solas Nua since 2008. He has worked with many theaters in the D.C. Metro area, including The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, The Warner Theatre, Signature Theatre, Round House Theatre, Folger Theatre, No Rules Theatre Company, 1st Stage, Adventure Theatre, Imagination Stage, Rorschach Theatre, Arts on the Horizon, Charter Theatre, Source Festival, Capital Fringe, WSC Avant Bard, Forum Theatre, and Constellation Theatre Company.
Daugherty has received three Helen Hayes nominations as part of Outstanding Ensembles. He is also a member of Actors’ Equity Association. Daugherty’s work with Solas Nua includes an Off-Broadway run at 59E59 Theatres of Enda Walsh’s play “Disco Pigs” and was praised by N.Y. Times critic Charles Isherwood as “exciting” and “talented” with “Mr. Daugherty in particular finding all sorts of robust comedy…” Rex also directed and choreographed Wild Sky, which Washington Post critic Peter Marks said "Solas Nua...has a new artistic director, Rex Daugherty, a Washington actor who appeared on Solas Nua’s stages. He’s restoring theater to the group’s menu, and, if his first entry is any indication, there’s hope for this group to re-plant its imaginative flag forcefully on the city’s theater map."
During the past two seasons, Daugherty has produced play-development workshops and a play- reading series for Solas Nua, most recently partnering with Fishamble: The New Play Company of Dublin, Ireland, to introduce emerging Irish playwrights to Washington audiences.
“I am thrilled and humbled to step into this leadership position with Solas Nua. My history with the company has included some of the most rewarding experiences of my artistic career, and I’ve always been passionate about the mission and the inspiring work Solas Nua has done,” Daugherty said. “Solas Nua has challenged and deepened my vision as an artist, and I’m looking forward to creating enriching opportunities for other Irish and American artists.”
Pat Reilly, Director, Capital Irish Film Festival
Pat, who serves as publicist for Solas Nua, has extensive experience running a non-profit, Friends of Liberia, which has done international development work in Liberia for more than 20 years. She was a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years, at The Washington Post, New York Newsday and other regional newspapers. She has been a spokesperson and web content manager for enforcement units at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Pat has a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio University and a bachelor’s in education from Truman University. She is a former chairman of the board of the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), the alumni organization for the U.S. Peace Corps, in which she was a volunteer teacher in Liberia. Both parents were born in Killybegs, County Donegal, and immigrated to the New York City area. She grew up within 40 minutes of Broadway and got there every chance she had.
Jackie Hoysted, Director, Visual Arts
Jackie is a native of Ireland, currently residing in Bethesda, Maryland. She has a degree in computer science from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland and a fine arts degree from the Corcoran College of Arts & Design, Washington DC., USA.
She has had multiple solo shows of her artwork throughout the US, including Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, Nevada and Illinois and has been featured in several notable publications, including: the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the Express, the Gazette, the Washington City Paper, The Pittsburgh Review and the Richmond and Baltimore Examiners’. The digital media author Scott Ligon selected her work for inclusion in his book The Digital Art Revolution.