Click here to print page

Virtual Artwalk on Sunday

Observer senior reporter

Thursday, September 24, 2020

KINGSTON Creative, the organisation spearheading development of an art district in the Jamaican capital, will host another Virtual Artwalk on Sunday.

Design takes centre stage this month, and activities begin tomorrow with the Virtual Meetup online — a conversation featuring the Jamaica Observer's Novia McDonald-Whyte as well as panelists including architect Lorie McIntosh, brand design and development strategist Phillip J Clayton, and graphic designer Narada Fearon.

The Virtual Artwalk itinerary includes the launch of the book Daylight Come by Diana McCaulay, a poetry session featuring Kalifa Campbell on how men deal with their emotions, and a dance performance by Mbuta Mwalimu. There will also be the artisan collective feature, Market Street, as well as a sneak peek at the progress of the Water Lane Mural Project.

The event — which began as a quarterly gathering of artistes, artists and artisans in April 2018 — quickly gained momentum and shifted to a monthly, bringing persons who were previously skeptical into downtown Kingston. The patrons take in festivities including sales of art, craft, food and performances.

In March, Kingston Creative faced its biggest hurdle yet. The COVID-19 pandemic threatened the event but the group's principals and volunteers were not phased and were determined to overcome the impending adversity.

What resulted was the virtual edition of 'Artwalk', and since then the creative community has taken their products to a wider, more diverse audience at home, and around the globe.

“When the pandemic hit in March we had to pivot and do it fast,” explained head of Kingston Creative Andrea Dempster Chung in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

“We only had two weeks before the next scheduled Artwalk. For a brief moment the thinking was all our efforts over the years are about to crumble. But that was only for a moment. As creatives we quickly shook off that thinking, hunkered down and looked towards adapting to find solutions,” she explained.

Virtual Artwalk was born out of this brainstorming, so too other solutions to assist creatives survive the new normal.

Among the initiatives Dempster Chung and her team are proud of is Digital Commission.

“We quickly realised that for many creatives online was a scary place. So, we asked our sponsors to fund a stipend so we could pay these persons to take their business online. It was a three-month programme valued at $2.7 million. We invited the artists to apply for this grant and 126 of them did. Based on the criteria, 107 were accepted. Of the successful applicants 27 were from the communities in downtown Kingston, which is something we are very proud of,” she said.

The success of the Digital Commission initiative only served to spur Kingston Creative to broaden its wings. This came in the form of Catapult, A Caribbean Arts Grant.

“For this, we partnered with Fresh Milk [an NGO from Barbados] and the American Friends of Jamaica to increase the visibility of creatives in 34 countries and four linguistic regions in the Caribbean. This has been possible through a grant of US$320,000 — the largest we have ever received — to assist with digital training in areas such as e-commerce and digital marketing to help the creative economy turn crisis into opportunity.”

“We really just could not allow the creative economy, which is already fragile, to die due to COVID-19. So, once the team said 'Let's do this' we just went ahead full steam — and these are some of the results,” continued Dempster Chung.