The Bluefields Villas Foundation has supported a new exhibition by the Fine Art Printmakers Association (FAPJ), which opened at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Regional Headquarters on June 15.
Dubbed “Di Times Change: Artists Respond to Climate Change & Environmental Challenges”, the exhibition was presented by the FAPJ and will continue until July 15.
The Bluefields Villas Foundation (BVF) is one of several organisations supporting the environmental showcase, having donated a total of US$2,500 toward the cost of the exhibition venue for the four-week event. BVF’s contribution has also been used towards the mounting and hanging of exhibits as well as for the designing and printing of catalogues.
The exhibition included over 60 works from 23 artists. The works ran the gamut from the early 19th-century prints of J B Kidd and James Hakewill, through to Jamaican art pioneers such as Albert Huie and Vernal Reuben, through to present-day practitioners Bryton Brown, Sophia McCarthy and Judith Campbell-Jones.
McCarthy put up pieces, “Staghorn Stalwart” and “Dreamscape Deferred” that depicted, in typically vibrant hues, the degradation of coral reefs.
Artist Andy Jefferson offered a giant dragon over the Earth, with its flames enveloping the planet. Bryton Brown utilised the medium to explore other consequences of climate change -devastating floods that submerged buildings – some of which still spew harmful fumes.
Adding a welcome musical element to the programme was multi-talented creative M’Bala (musician, poet and visual artist, with a piece in the show) along with Andre France and Hugh Pape, who provided stirring improvisations on drums, flute and saxophone respectively.
The power of creative voices on the environment
Diana McCaulay, former CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) and dedicated environmental activist, who was guest speaker at the opening show, said the voice of the creative community was vital in bringing attention, and ultimately action, to what she termed an “unprecedented climate breakdown.”
McCaulay remarked that the power of the arts to move individuals as well as officialdom to respond to the crisis was more important than ever.
She referred to several early warners on the effects of greenhouse gases, including Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius, and American Eunice Newton Foote, the latter who theorised as early as 1856, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, that changes in the quantum of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere would lead to a global rise in temperatures.
While Foote’s work was published, she was generally shunned and ignored because, as a woman, she was considered “inexperienced” and untrustworthy.
In declaring the show open, McCaulay, herself a novelist, said that the work of activism was “well begun” by the artists and urged everyone present to add their own voices of response to the cause.
She noted that positive change had come over the years but, while welcome, it in no way diminished the urgency required to combat the crisis.
‘Environment paying dearly’
The words and the findings of the early pioneers having gone unheeded, McCaulay added, the world was now paying a terrible price.
She outlined a number of such unprecedented climate hazards that have occurred even over the last two years: the continuing rapid melt of polar sea ice; the catastrophic Australian fire season of 2019-2020, which, according to reports, claimed the lives of 33 people and some three billion animals, with more than 45 million acres (equivalent to roughly 70,000 square miles) scorched; the ongoing drought in the American Southwest; the more recent floods, primarily in the state of Montana, which was hit by what is described as “a 500-year flood event.”
Here at home, McCaulay said, global warming has been and will be no less damaging.
“Farmers can expect to lurch between periods of extreme drought and deluge and some crops which we take for granted may no longer be feasible to grow in the future.”
She added that storm seasons, such as the one currently underway, would continue to be more active and yield even more intense storms.
Strengthening youth engagement
Coordinator of the FAPJ Arts Exhibition, Margaret Bernal, who is also a board member of the Bluefields Villas Foundation, said that her team at the FAPJ has an aim to begin printmaking workshops in schools locally.
All of this is with a view to offering young people a viable option to bypass anti-social behaviours that spring from the general lack of such practical outlets for creative expression. The prospects for this initiative being piloted in Westmoreland – the home parish of BVF, is currently being discussed with the wider FAPJ and BVF team.
Houston Moncure of Bluefields Villas Foundation stated, “Our two major drivers are people and planet, so we have consistently sought to streamline our projects towards improving the quality of life of the community while also protecting the physical surroundings, which are a gift to us all. The initiative of the FAPJ aligns perfectly with our charitable mission and we would willingly support the efforts to expand the programme to our nation’s students.”
He said the organisation’s support for the exhibition reflected both the value placed on environmental action, and also the consistent promotion of the work and worth of Jamaican artists.
“At Bluefields, we strive to preserve the heritage of excellence of our Jamaican visual artists and creatives, and we actively work to preserve and enhance the physical environment, so this partnership with the Fine Art Printmakers is ideal for us, and we’re pleased to support such a timely and important show,” Moncure explained further.
Other sponsors of the exhibition include the CHASE Fund, Lashings Hotels and Villas, UWI, Boothe Foundation, Island Dairies, JMMB Group, General Foods and Olympia Art Gallery, among several individual contributors.
Moncure disclosed that the Bluefields Villas Foundation was looking for ways to further its support of progressive community development initiatives, particularly with educational and artistic interest groups.
Formed in 2009, the Foundation has been providing assistance to citizens of the seaside community of Bluefields Bay and adjoining towns.