It is no doubt in everyone’s mind that children are artistic. We see it in the dances they invent, the things they do with colour, and the theatrical expressions that they display. If you give them a crayon they will draw you a figure; if you play them some music they will put on a show; but if you give them a book don’t expect them to read it, for they will rip it apart. Especially if they’re young! What these children are demonstrating to us is that art serves as the foundation for teaching all the academic subjects which will come later on.
Art education has been proven to foster positive attitudes, behaviours and habits in children. As a matter of fact, artistic expression in the forms of music and dance has been proven to help children learn mathematics. But sadly enough, art education is still being treated as a luxury in spite of all its benefits. Art accessories can be costly, and struggling parents who think that the violins or the paints and canvases are too expensive, encourage their children to pursue the careers which they think are more practical.
Regardless of the difficulties, some do strive for a life in the arts, but it is not an easy life as the majority of St. Lucian artists express the hopelessness they often feel about earning a living through their art. Theatre arts are part of the CXC curriculum, but where are the avenues for students to express their creative talents? And what are the efforts of governments past and present to promote the arts? Many artists have had to give up on their art, and their advice to young aspiring artists often is, “St. Lucia too small for you. If you stay here your talent will be wasted.”
Indeed, many young and aspiring artists are following the advice. So far, a lot of St. Lucia’s young talents have been exported overseas while we have spent millions to import foreign artistes to perform for jazz festivals. Perhaps it is time, for a little fraction of what’s been spent on foreign art to be invested in local art and the creative industry. More art commissions can be given to visual artists to display their portraits at government ministries and public houses; theatrical performances by past theatre arts student can be hosted at the hotels for guests’ entertainment; and more local music festivals can be hosted throughout the year to give a little bit of encouragement to young musical artists.
Art is important and must be treated as such. We should not only satisfy ourselves with what we have achieved thus far, but should look upon these things as a sign of what is to come. The late Derek Walcott and the late Dunstan St. Omer are examples of what St. Lucia could continue to produce if only enough emphasis is placed on the arts. Great talent like Ronald ‘Boo’ Hinkson is a melodious example of what St. Lucia could continue to produce, if only enough emphasis is placed on the arts. — Allen Alexander