New National Gallery director

Along with Cayman’s art scene in general, the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands has grown tremendously in strength over the past ten years, finding its voice as a leading force among Cayman’s artistic community and beyond. Natalie Coleman, the Gallery’s former Deputy Director, took over as Director as from the first of this month. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull sits down with Natalie to find out how she intends to grow the Gallery even further, despite current challenging economic times. Second in a two-part series.

Benefits of residency programmes.

Given the success of the Gallery’s ‘Day in the Life” exhibition last year, which saw three local artists – Randy Chollette, Cecilia Urdanate and Aston Ebanks – transforming the Gallery into their working studios, the Gallery will be reintroducing the concept again this year. “In the middle of our more traditional exhibition schedule, we intend to host a similar event this year and have three very different artists lined up and raring to go,” Natalie confirms. “This ‘residency-style’ programme provides an important space in which these artists can develop their work away from commercially driven pressures. It also provides them with the opportunity to create alongside fellow artists in what – if last year is anything to go by – proves to be a vibrant and creative environment. At the same time the audience experience is invaluable because these ‘open studios’ promote interaction between artist and visitor offering the latter an insight into how the work is actually created.”

Strength in numbers

Also on the cards is a strengthening of ties with other cultural institutions on-island. The Gallery currently run events throughout the year with their sister organisations but she hopes to reinforce these relationships further. “This intention is not merely project-based, but on a deeper and more lasting level,” she explains. “I hope we will see increased dialogue and the pooling of expertise, and perhaps resources in certain areas, between the Gallery and entities such as the National Museum, the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, the Visual Arts Society, the National Trust and others. We can only benefit through increased collaboration.” With a slew of charities gaining momentum in terms of sophistication in fundraising adding to the increased pressure of resources, artistic entities in Cayman need to band together to create strength in numbers, Natalie says.

Schools get art education

After revamping their education department last year, the Gallery has launched a slew of new workshops and school initiatives. One exciting project on the agenda is the ‘Take a Look’ project which attempts to infuse the school curriculum with local art history.“At the moment we have no permanent exhibition space, and so have been looking at ways to make the National Collection accessible to students. Having worked on similar projects in London, I’ve devised a programme that will combine reproductions of the collection along with worksheets with fun activities, trivia quizzes etc and interesting snippets about the artist and the painting. It is designed to be a cross-curricular project, for instance – Caymanian history –  if a Caymanian house is depicted in the painting we can discuss wattle & daub techniques, Caymanian architecture, the changing social uses of the building and so on,” she confirms. At the culmination of each worksheet the students will experience the work first-hand. “We felt this would be a wonderful way to get images of Caymanian art into the classroom and to promote the importance of cross curricular visual learning within our school system,” she says.This education project is a precursor to a more in-depth publication, an overview of Caymanian Art History that Natalie is currently working on. But we shall save that for Journal articles in the months ahead.