Announcing the Norman Houston Project

Norman Houston
The late Norman Houston, Northern Ireland Bureau

The Norman Houston Project

The Norman Houston Project is a new project initiated by Solas Nua in Washington D.C., dedicated to the memory of Norman Houston, the former Director of the Northern Ireland Bureau (NIB), in the United States.  The project is comprised of two parts:

Part One: The Norman Houston Short Film Award

The Norman Houston Short Film Award is an annual honor for the best new short film created by a filmmaker based in or from Northern Ireland (NI) made within the previous two years. This award, which includes prize money of $2,500, will be presented in person at Solas Nua’s annual Capital Irish Film Festival (CIFF) at AFI, Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, Maryland, in March.  The filmmaker will also receive return travel to Washington D.C. with accommodation for three days. In 2022, Norman Houston’s daughter Chloe and son Connor will attend the presentation ceremony, joining Solas Nua in the celebration of the award-winner and to honor Norman’s life, career and distinguished contribution to the arts in Ireland.

Solas Nua's Capital Irish Film Festival has been showing Irish films, and films by Ireland-based filmmakers annually for 16 years. The four-day festival is based at the historic art deco American Film Institute's Silver Theatre & Cultural Center in Silver Spring MD. 

Part Two: The Norman Houston Multi-disciplinary Commissioning Award 

This Award is a bi-annual commission for a new work. This exciting opportunity is now open to artists working in any discipline on the island of Ireland. Individuals or small collectives are both eligible.

The commission will comprise of a six-week research and development residency in Washington D.C. on agreed dates between 01st April and 30th June 2022 with a studio at STABLE Arts, travel and private accommodation provided (in year one), followed by a presentation of the new work produced for the commission (in year two).  A presentation may include an exhibition, a performance, a staged reading, or a partial or full production. Expenses covered by the commission in year two will include production costs of up to $20,000, artists fees, travel, accommodation and shipping. Artists in residence may invite partners / families to visit for short periods of time, at their own expense.

Context for the award:

As an unwavering advocate for the arts in his beloved Northern Ireland and Ireland as a whole, Norman Houston, through his life and career, demonstrated his understanding that the artists who call Ireland home express the imagination, creativity, resilience and voice of the people of the island; beyond borders and across communities. Norman believed that it is through the arts that we see a reflection of our own lives in the lives of others, and that by engaging with the arts, we will build bridges of empathy and appreciation and hope for the future. He spent a significant part of his extraordinary life and career in promoting the importance and vitality that the role of the arts can play in all of our lives.  He mentored young people from across the island of Ireland and always strived for inclusivity in his tireless efforts to promote peace in his hometown of Belfast.

This award seeks to honor Norman and to ensure that his life, legacy, and love of the arts are remembered.

About Solas Nua:
Solas Nua - ‘new light’ in Irish, is a leading multidisciplinary arts organization that is dedicated exclusively to contemporary Irish arts. Based in Washington, D.C., our mission is to bring the best of contemporary Irish arts to U.S. audiences. Solas Nua is supported by the Government of Ireland’s Emigrant Support Programme, Culture Ireland and the DC Commission for the Arts & Humanities.

About STABLE Arts:
STABLE's mission is strengthening Washington DC's contemporary visual arts community by providing affordable and sustainable studio space, and collaborating with local, national, and international partners to provide programming and exhibition opportunities, fostering an engaged, diverse community in Washington, DC.

The Norman Houston Short Film Award is made possible with generous support from the Northern Ireland Bureau, the Embassy of Ireland and individual contributors.