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Jamaica’s Tourism Minister: Use art for community renewal

Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, has challenged the local art community to take art out of the educational institutions and art galleries and into Jamaica’s inner city communities as a vehicle of social and economic renewal.

“We need to consider new and innovative approaches to bring art out of Edna Manley into the wider community and bring art out of the Nation Gallery into Trench Town and into Barret Town and Granville and some of the harsher inner city areas,” Minister Bartlett said.

He was speaking at the closing ceremony for internationally acclaimed Jamaican artist Bryan McFarlane’s “New Beginnings” exhibition and the official launch of the Gene Pearson Gallery at The R Hotel, New Kingston, on the weekend.

Internationally acclaimed Jamaican artist Professor Bryan McFarlane (2nd left) discusses his abstract “Like The Weather When It’s Gray” with (l-r) Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, Her Excellency Laurie Peters; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Jennifer Griffith; R Hotel owner Evan Williams; and Head of Chancery, Nigerian High Commission in Jamaica, Mrs. Anthonia Akunne. The occasion was the closing ceremony for Professor Bryan’s “New Beginnings” exhibition and the opening of the Gene Pearson Gallery at The R Hotel, New Kingston, on Saturday, April 13.

Reiterating a commitment given earlier this month to disburse J$300 million to 63 communities across the country to boost Community Tourism, Minister Bartlett encouraged Jamaica’s artists to use some of the money to develop creative placements in these communities.

Expanding on the idea, he said, “The concept of creative placement might be something that we can borrow. The United States does it quite well by utilizing relic buildings, underused and abandoned playing fields and almost every facility that seems lacking in its asset value within communities to become creative placement centers. It gives a sense of pride and creates a feeling of cultural connection.”

Minister Bartlett said he would like to see the transforming effect that art and culture has on the lives of people demonstrated. “While we reflect on the beauty of this exhibition and the aesthetics that will fill our hearts as we move around, I want us to use this opportunity to think beyond the art. Let us think development, let us think transformation, let us think innovation and see if there is another remedy for the social disruptions that we are having in our communities across Jamaica,” he concluded.

Paraphrasing French poet Gaston Bachelard, Professor Bryan McFarlane said there is immensity in minuteness and “Jamaica, the place where I have most been inspired throughout my life, is immense.”

He encouraged patrons to look at his art and see the “immense kind of spaces and ideas and metaphors and images that are there and try to read them with your heart and institution.”

Professor McFarlane teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth in the United States. He has exhibited his work at numerous museums and lectured as a visiting artist at universities throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and has won numerous awards.

The 14 pieces exhibited, constituting watercolors and oil on linen, were from McFarlane’s collections and touched on themes when he lived in China, Turkey and Africa.

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