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I saw in the paper the other day a call for local artist/es to register with the Culture Department. I’ll admit I had mixed feelings when I saw this.
On the one hand, having a registry of artistes could potentially mean opportunities for artistes if the Culture Department means to be proactive about it and to use this registry as an active network and not names on a list in a rusted file cabinet somewhere. I wasn’t optimistic. There was a similar call some years ago and I went in and filled out the forms and, as far as I know, nothing has come of that. In fact, any opportunities I’ve accessed to travel and participate in literary events have either come at the invitation of the person or persons putting on the event or at my own initiative – sometimes both. My efforts to inform of my participation in such activities or to propose programmes which could put my skills as a writer and editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator to use have largely gone unanswered as if sucked into a black hole of nothingness. I’m not sitting on my hands waiting for things to happen, I continue to be proactive from Wadadli Pen to the Jhohadli Writing Programme to the arc of my own career as a writer – stumbling through the disappointments but *knock on wood* still standing. It would be nice though if there was more infrastructure to support the efforts of artistes or even just more assistance in accessing opportunities – that void is part of my reason for creating the Opportunities page on this blog; and this blog (dedicated to the Wadadli Pen programme in support of the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, and including in addition to news and views, and various literary treats, the only online bibliography that I’m aware of our literary arts in the 268) and my personal blog have been all about sharing what I continue to learn.
But if the Culture Department is stepping up in this way, that’s good, right?
So, on the optimistic side, I decided to reach out to the person listed in the newspaper ad, Mr. Gilbert Laudat, to find out their intentions. He explained to me that there are grant funding opportunities available through the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States but they want groups seeking to access these opportunities to be registered with the Culture Department. That information will be available to the OECS but also to the Culture Department locally (I think he’s saying as a physical book – of some 100 copies). “It will mean more support for artists,” Laudat said, in terms of accessing technical and financial grants. It will mean, he said, being in a position, as well, to request public funding from (or is that through) the Culture Department. He also touted the benefits of things like free movement with endorsement from the Culture Department as a registered artiste. He acknowledged the fractured nature of the relationship between the Department and the artistic community but was hopeful that this initiative marked a new beginning.
“Without cultural practitioners, we at the Culture Department cannot do our work,” he said.
Well, he’s saying the right things, and I suppose we will just have to see if the words are backed up by action. I plan to register both myself as a writer and the Wadadli Pen programme, and, well, we’ll see what happens.
Among the things I would like to see happen are …
- Something similar to the Opportunities data base on this page and some protocols for assisting members of the creative community access opportunities available especially through agencies with which the country has a partner relationship – the OAS, the UN, the OECS, etc.
- Training opportunities for artistes
- Commissioning of the skills in the wider artistic community to take programmes to the schools and communities on a consistent basis – put our artistes to work, there are skills here that are underutilized
- Assistance with sourcing funding for cultural products/productions – note I’m not saying dip into the Treasury but using their network to help artistes realize the production of more culturally relevant products and programming
- Support for artistes travelling to represent themselves and the country, and assisting them with networking with the Antiguan and Barbudan community in New York, London, or wherever they’re going
- Artiste showcases not just centrally but in communities throughout the island – and maybe taking some of those showcases on the road beyond our island – I’m reminded of when a group of us, Antiguan and Barbudan writers, applied for and received international funding to put in a showing at one of the top regional literary festivals, for us, a learning opportunity and an opportunity for Antigua and Barbuda to have a presence in spaces where we are too often absent
- A national gallery, an artist in residence and writer in residence programme through which ongoing initiatives to boost the arts in the community can be developed
- Someone asked me today after reviewing the Independence programme what about the lit arts comp – I’ve got no answers to that …or for that matter, a book fair (remember the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival? What happened to that?) … anyway since that question came up today, I’ll just rest that here
- Promotion of the arts using all of the platforms at their disposal – from an enewsletter to their mailing list at home and abroad to TV and web programmes, utilizing everything from ABS to youtube to social media to share and support the work of the local arts community and create connections that could result in all kinds of other opportunities opening up such as targeted tours such as the one organized by Fringe St. Lucia featuring Lucian artistes in the UK earlier this year
- A Cultural Policy – placed low on this list but really should be a priority on our national agenda and not just in the interest of the arts but in terms of visioning our future as a country
- As founder and coordinator of Wadadli Pen, support for programmes like mine and others wouldn’t go amiss – short of grant funding which we have yet to access, the programme exists solely on volunteer effort and has gone a-begging each year in order to reward the efforts of and encourage our future writers and artists
…and those are just off the top of my head.
To register, and presumably access the available opportunities, write a short bio of about 200 words and submit to email@example.com, subject line ‘Arts Registry’.
So far, the response has been very good, according to Laudat, with about 30 registered to date – primarily visual artists and craftspeople, a sprinkling of writers and musicians.
Here are the numbers you can call if you have questions of your own: 562-1723, 562-3586, 720-2431. Fingers crossed good things come of this.
I’ll end this post with some images (selected at random from the Wadadli Pen blog photo archives) of activities of our arts community: