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Kingston Creative Transformation Agenda
Kingston Creative Transformation Agenda
Experience Jamaican interview with Andrea Dempster-Chung, a founding member of Kingston Creative.
With Kingston Creative's vision of strengthening the downtown Kingston economy, why did you choose the arts as a key sector to make that vision a reality?
Art really chose us! We are an artist-run organization. Almost everyone paints, photographs, dances, plays theater or works in the creative industry in some way. We started from a place where artists can be empowered and value can be created for themselves and their communities.
When we really thought about where most of the musical and creative talent in Jamaica came from; Reggae, dancehall, dance, fashion - the epicenter was Downtown Kingston. Music and creativity are trillion dollar industries.
Imagine the opportunities for Jamaica if the creative people in these marginalized communities could realize their potential and keep the income from their talents in Jamaica. This could be the key to sustainable national development.
We've seen how we've invested in the arts and developed a healthy creative ecosystem to grow the creative industries while transforming downtown Kingston.
What has Kingston Creative done for Jamaica's art scene since it started three years ago?
In 2017, Kingston Creative launched and we presented Kingston's vision as the creative capital of the Caribbean along with a 10 year plan at the Imagine Kingston conference on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies.
We consulted key stakeholders in the arts and entrepreneurship and began to mobilize the creative community and include creatives in the downtown community.
We started a networking event for the arts community called Creative Meetup, where people in the arts community can build trust and collaborate on projects.
Kingston Creative also created platforms for artists to earn on. namely the Artwalk and Market Street - an open-air craft market.
We are working on officially declaring an arts district in Downtown Kingston and opening a creative hub for the training and development of artists.
What are the signs that fine arts and artists benefit from Kingston Creative initiatives?
To date, downtown Kingston visual artists have created 47 murals, held over 20 art exhibitions, and received employment and sales through Kingston Creative initiatives.
Engaging in mural projects alone has generated millions of dollars in revenue for artists, and we believe there is also real value in showing the value of the arts and the potential of artists to transform Downtown Kingston.
We create this connection between culture and “cultural tourism”, between art and social change for communities. As a result, we've seen investments from companies like the European Union and the Jamaican Social Investment Fund, as well as the Department of Tourism, that are helping us make real impact.
Who are the visual artists who have contributed to Kingston Creative art projects?
So many artists have contributed over the past few years, but we have to highlight Bernard Hoyes, who painted the first mural in the Paint the City project right on Water Lane. He is from Kingston Gardens, a township in downtown Kingston.
Also noteworthy is the Kenyan-Jamaican artist Mazola Wa Mwashighadi, who staged an amazing exhibition called "Salah" (prayer) in Temple Lane, which incorporated aspects of performance art.
Others worth mentioning are Richard Nattoo, Inansi, Deon Simone, Alphanso Blake, Lifechild, Dan Thompson, Javier Dayes, Krystal Ball, Donnette Zacca, Stuart Reeves and Kianne Patrice (photographer).
Michael Ellis, a photorealistic artist who is launching an online exhibition entitled "Windrush" as part of our new Digital Commissions to support artists and mitigate the effects of Covid-19.
Are there any major developments?
Well, it's an interesting time and we've had to change a lot of plans to adapt to this "new normal". We can all see that people who are on "lockdown" really need the arts as a base, entertainment, and just an expression of our humanity - so the arts are really in the spotlight.
The big global development for creatives is the switch to digital. It can be scary, but it can also democratize the art world, making it easier for artists from small spaces to reach audiences around the world.
Our current role as an arts NGO is to digitalize this shift in our own operations and help our art community do the same.
We attended the monthly Art Walk Virtual in March and realized that there is no going back. We have to keep the digital version even if we get out of this “stay at home” phase.
In March, we also launched a new “Digital Commissions” grant to help local artists go live on their own platforms, submit articles about themselves and their work, and conduct online art activities.
In order to create a level playing field and enable more artists to find their way around the digital world, we will start a digital creative training course in May - three weeks of "boot camp" to increase capacities in the areas of e-commerce, digital marketing, online -Sales and technology within the US to build creative community.
We really want more artists to survive and thrive in this "new normal" - so that's where most of our efforts are focused right now.
When we finally get back from Covid-19 (hopefully soon!) We will move on with the Paint the City program to create more street art in Downtown Kingston and open up our shared workspace to the Kingston Creative Hub.
There is a lot to look forward to, and Kingston will still be an amazing cultural place for visitors to explore.
Link to Kingston Creative website: https://kingstoncreative.org/
Also visit our art gallery: https://www.experiencejamaique.com/de/product_gallery
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