Artistic Director Cian O’ Brien departs Project Art Centre after 13 years of artistic leadership

It has been announced today that Cian O’Brien will step down as Artistic Director of Project Arts Centre after 13 years, in June 2024. He is leaving to set up his own production, touring and consultancy company, COBA: Cian O’Brien Arts. 

“Running Project Arts Centre has been one of the great honours of my life,” O’Brien said. “I take with me countless incredible experiences, it has been such a joy to work here, and I’m proud to be passing on the baton of such a strong and thriving organisation as I step into my own next chapter.” 

During O’Brien’s tenure, Project has hosted over 7000 events, presenting work from all of Ireland’s major independent theatre companies, and presentations from the major Dublin arts festivals. Over 3000 multidisciplinary artists and arts workers from across the island and beyond have been employed. Over 700,000 audience members have attended events. 

Highlights of the past 13 years at Project Arts Centre have included: 

  • The success of Dublin Oldschool, by Emmet Kirwan. In 2014, Project invested in putting the show in the Space Upstairs, resulting in 4 sold out runs at Project, a national Irish tour, Edinburgh Fringe (2016) Canadian tour (2018) and a sold out run at the National Theatre, London (2017). 
  • Maser’s Repeal the 8th Mural on the building in 2016 & 2018. 
  • The Casement Project with Fearghus Ó Conchúir in Dublin, Belfast London and on Banna Strand as part of ART: 2016 and 1418NOW 
  • Project Open Days with the doors thrown open for public events, workshops and performances, building new audiences and community around Project. 
  • Navigating Covid, and the Recession. Sustaining the organisation safely through significant external challenges and keeping it thriving as a home for artists. 
  • Project 50, a season of work celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Project in 2017. 
  • Ireland at Venice, twice representing Ireland with the work of important Irish artists to the one of the world’s most prestigious art exhibitions, with Jesse Jones in 2017 and Eimear Walshe in 2024. 
  • In 2021, Project launched a new policy, Towards Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (TEDI), now used as a case study for collaborative policy development. 
  • Through Project’s pioneering Project Artists Initiative supporting the work of artists such as, Brokentalkers, Shaun Dunne, Junk Ensemble, Una McKevitt, OneTwoOneTwo and Louise White. 

Cian O’Brien’s Project story began in 2005 when he worked behind the Project bar. In July 2006 he produced his first Project show with “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, followed by serving on the board of the organisation from 2008 – 2010. He was appointed Artistic Director in 2011 aged 30. 

“I couldn’t have imagined the extraordinary adventures that lay ahead of me” Cian said. “The privilege of a Board, Staff and Membership that place artists and their work at the centre of the organisation allows for this. It is a precious thing and long may it continue. But what has sustained me most is the day-to-day joy of Project, seeing artists’ work come to life in the spaces and watching audiences encounter their stories and experiences in the big blue building. What a privilege.” 

Project’s Executive Director, Orla Moloney said: 

“It has been both exciting and rewarding to work with Cian O’Brien over the last seven years. It has been a period of change organisationally and societally and Cian’s steady hand and artistic vision has enabled us to respond in ways that have always put artists and audience to the fore. I have learned a lot from his in-depth knowledge and strong commitment to work that addresses the contemporary experience, whether through the imaginative programming of the spaces or his support for important new policies such as Towards Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. He will be sorely missed but he leaves Project in a wonderful position, which offers a thrilling adventure for a new Artistic Director.” 

Project’s Chairperson, Matthew Smyth said: 

“Cian has given over and above what is expected from any leader of an arts organisation in his 13 years at Project. The Board has been incredibly lucky to work alongside an Artistic Director who was so hardworking; thoughtful; skilled and courageous.  

Project will absolutely miss Cian, there is no doubt about that, but the board nonetheless wishes him the very, very best in his new endeavour. Thanks to him and his team, the organisation is in a strong and robust position to now go on and find an equally brilliant successor. Just as Project was lucky 13 years ago when Cian took over the role: the Irish Arts Industry is as lucky to have his new company as part of it and all the energy that will come with it.” 

Cian O’Brien leaves Project Arts Centre in excellent hands, with a strong Board, wonderful staff, and the exceptional leadership of Orla Moloney in the role of Executive Director. Many exciting projects lie ahead, including Ireland at Venice and Europe Beyond Access in 2024. 

The role of Artistic Director will be advertised in due course. 

Skip to content