Cill Rialaig village (c.1790), set high on a cliff at the very edge of Western Europe was Phase One of a self-helped three part economic and social plan for the much neglected Gaeltacht area of Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, Ireland. It involved the rescue and redevelopment of the pre-famine village of Cill Rialaig as a retreat for artists, poets, writers, film makers and composers of national and international repute.

The Cill Rialaig Project founded by Dr. Noelle Campbell Sharp is a voluntary body (a company limited by guarantee) whose main aim is to develop and maintain a retreat for artists and writers from Ireland and abroad. Seven studios, a meeting house and library and a utility house have been completed at the village. Over 4,900 artists from Ireland, the UK, Europe, Russia, the US, Mexico, South America, Canada, China, Japan. Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand have enjoyed the experience which they claim has impacted on their work and careers. Thousands of paintings inspired by the area have been consequently shown all over the world in galleries and museums attracting a significant number of arts interested visitors to Ireland. Accommodation for artists is free of charge in self-catering individual house-studios.

The communal house (Tig an Comhra – conversation house) where visiting artists can meet one another and the local people, their language, music and culture was in 2008 dedicated by President McAleese to the memory of the village’s most famous early inhabitant, seannachai (story teller) Sean O’Connaill. The Project has received thousands of enquiries and applications from all over the world since its inception in 1991. Open all year round, the retreat does not have a website in view of its special location and its unique ethos of isolation and eremitic-like living and working space.

An Taoiseach (Prime Minister) visited in Aug 2013 where he launched a book by Swed- ish land artist, Karl Chilcott which pictured the extraordinary landscape that surrounds the village of CIll Rialaig located on Bolus Head.

The retreat is partly funded through Government support including grants from the Arts Council and the Department of Arts. (With the help of Culture Ireland the story of Cill Rialaig was told to artists and foundations in New York in 2011.) However, it is still mainly funded by its founding patrons, fundraising events and philanthropic grants. A celebration of the 21st anniversary of the founding of Cill Rialaig Project (1991) took place on September 21st , 2012 in Kerry which by sheer serendipity happened to be CULTURE NIGHT all over Ireland that year.

If you are an artist and interested in learning more about residencies at the Cill Rialaig Retreat, please contact us.