Building a strong foundation in the performing arts

The Cayman National Cultural Foundation has over the years helped shape Cayman’s cultural awareness via its plethora of programmes and initiatives, geared towards helping the community express themselves via the performing arts, and along the way furthering the dialogue that defines Caymanian culture, values and ideals. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull speaks to the CNCF’s Artistic Director, Henry Muttoo, to find out more about one current initiative which underpins all that the CNCF does.

According to Henry Muttoo, the Cayman National Cultural Foundation’s remit is twofold – to both promote education programmes which provide a vital addition to current arts programmes already embedded into the education curriculum; however the CNCF needs to simultaneously create productions themselves, “for without our own productions we have nothing to teach about” he confirms.

The CNCF’s Young At Arts programme was a clever way to interweave the Foundation’s two aims – by providing education in a fun and stimulating way for interested and motivated young people on all aspects of the performing arts, culminating in a working production of everything they had learnt during the year.

Unfortunately the Young At Arts programme came to an untimely end back in 2003, the last year that the Foundation was able to fund this vital project. Thankfully new vigour within the organisation has resulted in a renewed push to have this valuable programme up and running again for the upcoming school year.

“We invite young people between the ages of 12 and 17 who show aptitude and a drive to want to learn about the performing arts to apply,” Muttoo explains.

“From there each young person has to take part in an audition, perhaps singing or dancing in front of a panel. We then whittle the numbers down to 25 who we feel would benefit the most from our programme.”

He adds that only youngsters with the drive and interest in the subject will get a place on the programme and that the CNCF looks closely at the type of family support the young person is receiving, an important factor in how motivated the youngster is, according to Muttoo.

The Young At Arts programme teaches music, dance and theatre via tutored afterschool workshops, which run concurrently with school terms. Muttoo says it is a terrific way for young people to work on their performance skills, memorise lines, learn the disciplines involved with performing and combine all they have learnt into a production for an audience.

Although a great deal of discipline and concentration is required, Muttoo also says that the Foundation works hard to create a fun and dynamic environment for the youngsters involved.

The potential for such an arts programme is tremendous, as Muttoo confirms: “We are currently in talks with the University of the Cayman Islands to explore synergies between the two organisations. We would love to have an accreditation for those who complete the programme that would lay the foundation for them to take their studies much further.”

Unfortunately the Arts have seen their fair share of economic cuts this year, with public funding for the CNCF cut 17 per cent along with all other such partly government-funded organisations. The Foundation only received just over 60 per cent of its funds from government and so relies heavily on donors to make up the shortfall.

“To have our Young At Arts programme established for this school year we are looking at a shortfall of around CI$20,000 needed to fund tutors, school buses to pick the youngsters up after school and materials,” Muttoo states. “We welcome sponsorship from donors who appreciate the importance of keeping the performing arts alive in Cayman. Ensuring that our young people have the means to study these skills forms the basis for everything we do at the CNCF.”

If your youngster is interested in joining the Young At Arts programme or if you are a donor willing to participate in sponsorship, call Rita Estevanovich at the CNCF on 949 5477 for more information.

The Young At Arts programme is open to all young people resident on island between the ages of 12 to 17.

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Henry Muttoo, CNCF Artistic director

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