An Alternative to the same old, same old

Posted in Debate, Opinion by Adele Todd on September 3, 2008

              CARIFESTA X took place in Guyana, South America this year, and it fell just in the middle of The Olympic Games in Beijing. However, the Guyanese Prime Minister did his best to draw as much excitement to and from it, that he could, and Guyanese people seemed genuinely roused by the festivities. After all, Guyana has gone through much economic and social hardship for decades. Yet some say that Guyana is on the rise, and I certainly hope so.

           Meanwhile, in Trinidad and Tobago, the building of the Centre for the Arts is under heated debate, and leads me to ask the question, what can artists do to help themselves become more relevant to society? I ask this because, on the one hand, there are events that prompt the average person in society to say that artists need support. Yet, when a building is finally being erected to support those said artists, there are new issues.

          On the one hand you have the gallery system, where artists show their work. You have private buyers, you have corporate buyers of work and you have the artists. I am quite loathe to say that in society today, many people have one of two views of artists. They either think that artists make a great deal of money or do not make money at all.  This attitude leads me to conclude that artists need to make the public much more aware of why they are relevant to society. A doctor for example would not have to proove this, but an artist, sadly, does have to do so today.

       I say this because I think that alternative art shows are needed in Trinidad and Tobago. A prize like the Hugo Boss Prize in America or an award for excellence in Art would be a great start to making artists relevant to themselves for a start.

I would also suggest prizes for different categories of art and a special type of prize for art that helps society.  In Canada, there is the Nuet Blanche, a full on insomniac festival devoted to art. Yes, we have carnival, but carnival is not necessarily art!

      One cannot help but feel that art is held as a fringe. That artists are at the edges of society, almost invisible, except for moments when society is engaged with it and comments on talent. It is always the same trite comment at that, that there is so much talent in Trinidad and Tobago…and? What are we doing about it?

      The Trinidad Art Society continues to have its November show because it remains as the single most important suggestion of regard for art in Trinidad and Tobago. But the society is a tiny space, and can only do so much.

      The corporate world is in need of a presence beyond big buildings with no art inside them to soften or bring a point of view across about itself and the country at large. Yet, what is being done with collections for many of these companies? Are there shows of these collections? Not often! Art always seems to be side lined. However ever so often, when art becomes a focal point, as the CLICO calendar shows, the prize money and the choice of works always cause pause.

       So I am going around in circles with my point. The public need to be educated about what is happening in the arts locally and regionally. The corporate world needs to get more involved in the arts and make it much more relevant to their own business mandates, and the artists themselves must start to hold themselves to the highest standards, look at their profession as deserving of much more than handouts and government support and we need to be very loud and clear about just how much we mean to our society by having alternative spaces to show our work and encourage the society to see that we mean business and that it isn’t business as usual.


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