How can cultural attitudes change towards art on an island that is so inspiring to artists

When my cousin suggested to me about doing a Blog, I truly had no idea where to begin. The more we spoke about it, I realized that I probably should share my thoughts about art in Saint Lucia, because even in Paradise, not everything is perfect.

There are two things I have learned about being an artist in Saint Lucia. The first one is that the majority of the general population know very little, if anything about art, let alone its value. Secondly, art is not regarded as a worthwhile subject on the island. Some people might argue that this is not true, but I know this based on my own experience as an artist here. For example, one day, I was given permission to exhibit in a local school. The art teachers were very displeased that I had come to do an exhibition (free of charge) for the children. The Principal walked across to the exhibition and said: “This can’t do anything for them”. At this point, I began to think that if the school Principal himself is discouraging, then, it’s no wonder that the people know little about art. Feeling sad and very unhappy that day about the Principal’s remark, I did not request a second visit.

Then, on another occasion, the director of a tourism organization came to visit the gallery when we had just opened in 2011. He expressed his disapproval of us having the art gallery, stating that we should be selling food and drinks, instead of selling art and anything associated with it. I found this attitude quite shocking to say the least.

Art educators themselves need to have an appreciation of everything that encompasses art in order that it can be embraced in its entirety by their audience. Furthermore, “Art” cannot be assessed in the same way as say, science, law, mathematics, or technology. Of course, there is art history. But, it is the creative process that one sees. For example, a painting on canvas; a piece of sculpture. Art is a creative process of human thought. The creative process creates a feeling of happiness and peace to the creator of the art. This creative process allows the artist to explore their imagination and take them to a different sphere. It is therapeutic and can enable a person to discover themselves in their thought. It enables people to express themselves. It allows the artist to appreciate the environment in which the art is being created. Its importance in education cannot be undermined. Only education can change peoples attitude here about art. On the other hand, the natural beauty of the island will continue to be an inspiration for all artists.

Art has been a form of expression for many centuries by our ancestors. In Europe and other parts of the world, art has great benefits both culturally and educationally, as well as economically. So, it’s about time that this myth here that exists about Art not being important – disappears for the benefit of all of us who love art.

There are various organizations in Saint Lucia who are doing their best to help local artists with the meagre resources available to them. However, it is concerning that Saint Lucian artists struggle to work with each other in unity. There is an attitude on the island that if someone is doing something, then no one else should be doing the same thing. In my opinion, this does not work in reality, because the chances are that there will always be someone who shares the same passion as ourselves.

As a tourism destination, I think that Saint Lucia can benefit enormously from the Art industry.

The craft sector is a whole other topic for next time. But, it is worth mentioning at this stage, that if the creative people of Saint Lucia were nurtured in their skills, then great things could happen for the benefit of the island and the people themselves. Skilled crafts people in the Caribbean generally are slowing dying out, because of the lack of support and education.

H.Barnard

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