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The Arts Village – An Education, Outreach and Social Rescue Model

Image: Workmen getting The Arts Village ready.

SLJAF… Beyond The News Soundbite.

Image: Workmen getting The Arts Village ready.
Workmen getting The Arts Village ready.

THE Arts Village, the newest edition to the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival experience, articulates a mission that is clear on exactly who and what it is about. With its stated intention to “create a dynamic cultural environment that ensures artistic excellence, creative expression, art enterprise, art education and public participation”, the Arts Village is about development of artists and the creative sector, social equity and the appreciation of Art – as Art, as a liberating force, as enterprise.

Conceptualised as the meeting place for all forms of artistic expression with either a foothold or a following in Saint Lucia, its address, at Massav Park, Choc is envisaged as a dynamic cultural eco-system, with Art and the artist at centre-stage. Its people are eclectic and range from international consultants and savants in Film, Visual and Literary Arts , to Saint Lucia’s most celebrated names from the field, to regional performing Arts exponents, to those currently (or aspiring to) make a living from creative enterprise, to youth at risk.

Such an eco-system is ideal to inspire the demographics targeted by the Arts Village educational component, which includes primary and secondary school students who have opted to study the Arts, and Arts majors at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and University of the West Indies Open Campus.

Every day in the Arts Village a set of easels, chairs and paints will be set up. Arts students and the public will be invited between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. pm to “Paint the Village” (their interpretation of the Village). Home for the popular Blu Session conducted by Headphunk, the Village will also offer classes on Spoken Word. Contributing to these workshops will be Freetown Collective of Trinidad and Tobago. This trio of poets, lyricists, musicians, seek to continue the great heritage left to them by calypsonians, storytellers, poets and chantwelles on whose shoulders they stand; and to share the stories of a generation.

Village Talk, a series of conversations about the industry, the trends, opportunities and the potential to build networks will feature daily from May 2 – 4 , no doubt greatly enriched with the presence and participation of Saint Lucia’s creative community and educators, as well as Ludlow Bailey, CEO of Contemporary African Diaspora ArtsMedia and curator of Global African Diaspora Art and Art Basel, Gwendolyn Black , a curator, producer and lecturer with the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and Peter Rudge, Associate Professor Staffordshire University, whose specialisms include screenwriting, Producing, Financial Models for Film Production, Film Marketing and Distribution.

Perhaps one of the most transformational elements of the Arts Village is the “Palette Project” with the Boys Training Centre (BTC) for at-risk adolescent males as partner and beneficiary. Capitalizing on the high profile advocacy platform the festival offers, the Arts Village fused the issue of the environment and green living with that of youth rehabilitation and social equity, to achieve a successful outreach initiative.

The BTC has been co-opted to produce all the furniture for the venue out of recycled wood. BTC is receiving training and a non-returnable gift of tools to output lines of furniture that can be monetized, such that this can be an avenue to service some of the Centre’s future capacity building and rehabilitation programmes.

The Director of the Centre says this remains one of the most encouraging and thoughtful outreach interventions extended to the BTC to date.

“This project epitomizes caring and involvement for the boys, who cannot be at the Centre all their lives. So being involved in the Festival demonstrates that the society cares and believes they have what it takes to be rehabilitated and become contributing members of society, and young men of worth and marketable skills” he told the media launch of the Arts Village, on Monday.

The Saint Lucia Tourist Board (SLTB) and the event producers of the Arts Village hope this could be start of something great. In the words the SLTB Director “This was what we dared to imagine, when we rebranded the Festival in 2013. This is what development looks like.”

If one was to ascribe core values to the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival Arts Village, a clear sustainable development ethos would emerge. Its pillars would be creative expression, validation, appreciation, empowerment, pride and legacy.

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