A dedicated group of hard working art instructors, led by the National Gallery’s Education Officer Jessica Wallace and includes Lorna Reid and Aston Ebanks, seek to bring out the artistic talents of a cross-section of ‘high risk’ individuals and, in doing so quite possibly change lives for the better in the process.
The National Gallery runs six outreach programmes – Inside Art for the women of Fairbanks Prison; Art Unbound for the men in Northward Prison; Art Magnet for the residents of The Pines Retirement Home; Art Haven, for the men of Caribbean Haven; Art Unlimited for the girls of the Francis Bodden Home and Art Sisters, a course offered to women referred by the Women’s Resource Centre or the CI Crisis Centre.
Dorinda Wilson is a teacher at Savannah Primary and she says she needed a certain amount of persuading before joining Art Sisters.
“I knew the instructor, Lorna Reid, and she kept bugging me to join, saying that I’d really enjoy the benefits of hanging out and painting and at the same time get rid of stress,” she says.
Dorinda finally gave in to the cajoling and was very glad that she did.
“Aside from the painting I’ve made some new friends as well!” she confirms.
Dorinda says art has been a great stress release and that has been a big draw for the ladies of Art Sisters.
“It really is a great way of getting rid of tension that builds up during the day,” she confirms.
Dorinda says her passion is watercolours: “I love the way the colours fall into one another” but chose acrylics as her medium for the art exhibition. A beautiful butterfly is delicately observed, vivid against a stark white background, illuminating the colourful insect.
Kizzie Codlin is a resident of the Francis Bodden Home for girls and as well as exhibiting at Art Beat, Kizzie is also the National Gallery’s intern, helping out with programmes and generally learning the trade.
Kizzie’s artwork is created in conjunction with her friends Claudia Smith, Brianna Whittaker, Shamka Levy, Sama Saint Ville and Sharelle Jackson, and is a vibrant display of youth, with brightly coloured negative images of cool guys and girls sporting the ubiquitous sunglasses of youth.
Kizzie explains the process of her art creation: “We took photos of our friends then cut out details to create a stencil. Then we spray painted a canvas and placed the stencil over the top and spray painted again. Jessica suggested that we choose our favourite colours for this process.”
The end result is stylish and youthful.
Kizzie says she loves working at the National Gallery and is studying at UCCI. She says she’d love to pursue an associate’s degree in criminology.
Vanessa Wind, a security guard at John Gray High School says she was inspired by instructor Lorna Reid to put brush to canvas.
“I had never painted before joining Art Sisters and now I just paint what pops into my head.”
Vanessa submitted 10 paintings for the exhibition, a dazzling array of tranquil seascapes and shimmering landscapes. She says she was incredibly nervous the first time she began painting.
“I just felt like I couldn’t do it,” she states. Now, with 10 paintings on display, Vanessa says she feels free. “I get so much peace from painting,” she confirms.
Martha Fiors, an established mural artist, has been with Art Sisters for three and a half years. Originally from Nicaragua, Martha displays some serious talent with her vivid landscapes and fiery colours and concentrated on a theme of the four elements for her exhibition paintings.
Lorna Reid, a teacher at the Clifton Hunter School, says people should not be fazed by art.
“I tell the ladies not to worry. Just draw, if that’s what you like to do. Then I help them get a feel for colour by mixing paints,” she explains. “I tell them to relax, feel free to explore and make mistakes, then learn and go on.”
Jim Lammers from the Dart Foundation, a huge sponsor of the outreach programmes says the Foundation, which was started around 25 years ago, has traditionally always supported maths and science, but is happy to support a wider variety of programmes in the Cayman Islands.
“We have a great deal of confidence in the National Gallery staff who run very good programmes,” he confirms. “The hope is that as people get exposed to such positive activities these positive hobbies could turn into a vocation.”
Lammers says a measure of the health and vitality of a community is the strength in its arts and culture and in the Cayman Islands it’s all happening, whether it’s music, the arts or drama. All of which, he says, is very positive for the Islands.
Sponsors of the National Gallery’s outreach programmes are the Dart Foundation, State Street and the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman.