Q&A: Jamaican MADE Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition

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March 15 sees the launch of this year’s Jamaican MADE visual arts competition and exhibition, so make sure to head to Kingston and join the fun as Jamaican MADE serves up three fun-filled days of activities that will encourage your kids’ creativity and give them a chance to play with local children.

Sana Rose-Savage from the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, who has been part of the visual arts competition and exhibition for the last nine years, talks about the appeal:

What was the inspiration for the competition and exhibition?

In 1963, the Queen came to visit for the commonwealth bicentennial anniversary, and the country decided to have a special celebration of the arts. After that, different parishes continued to have little festivals, and we eventually centralized it into the national festival we now have in the garden of the Jamaica Conference Center.

We created a day of art-making activities and performances that includes brunch, gift making, and creating a public mural. The activities, which are all free, are concentrated in the garden with a T-shaped pathway. Each quadrant is lined with lovely palm trees and dotted with music performances, discussions, exhibitions, and different activities. People can mill around, getting involved in different activities. There are multiple activities going on at the same time, so the atmosphere is electric.

What is the best part for you?

We set up manned areas around the garden that have pencils, charcoal, crayons, small squares of paper, and boards for the children to make their own drawings and display them. They only need to bring some creativity.

We arrange large canvases and paint for a mural. Visitors can just come along and paint their favorite things on it. Some people just put graffiti or signatures with “I was here.” Others add nature themes like mountains and trees. A lot of [adults and children] work on it at the same time, and they enjoy being able to participate. Normally, you just get to look at art; here, you get to make it.

We also have a handmade gift area called “Mek It An Share It.” We have cutouts of cars and trucks, so children can put wheels onto them and the paint them. We also have precut patterns for children to make stuffed toys. They just pick out different colored and patterned pieces to make a mix-n-match teddy and give it to the person on the sewing machine to sew. Then they can stuff it and paint on the face.

At the end of the day, we have giveaways and prizes for all the activities.

What places would children enjoy visiting after their art experience?

In downtown Kingston, the National Gallery is worth visiting. So are the vibrant 174 Studio and the Roktowa residency spaces, where they can watch artists working.

What do you love most about Jamaican art?

It’s colorful. It has is own voice. Artists struggle sometimes, but there is a story here, unique and different because of our language and environment as an island. It is the same voice that gave rise to reggae. [We explore] enduring themes like the land and the environment and the sea and religion. Art here manifests in contemporary interpretations of landscapes and seascapes.

What do you find most inspiring about Jamaica?

Its richness, the mountains, the natural scenery. Artists retreat to the hills to establish studios. There is a movement and rhythm to us as a people in how we speak and how we dance that isn’t readily expressed in words, but it’s reflected in the arts and performing arts.

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Jamaica Conference Center

Port Royal Street Kingston

(876) 922-9160

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