Last update: 07-Dec-2013 3:12 am
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Sarah Beckett Daring to ask
Artist Sarah Beckett sits at a sleek, smooth desk. Like the desk, the stools pulled up around it curve in odd and surprising ways, like ripples in sand; art you can sit on. The stark white walls of the Y Gallery in Woodbrook are being adorned with her bright, bold paintings. Her style would be instantly recognisable to anyone who has ever lingered around the Oval or down at the Hyatt Waterfront, where the oversized prints of the People’s Canvas initiative have been displayed. Beckett was preparing for her Saturday, June 11 launch of her newest exhibition which featured some of the country’s fresh new voices with their poetry and song. The British-born artist has made Trinidad her headquarters on and off since 1970, but has exhibited throughout Europe, the Far East, USA and the rest of the Caribbean.
Apart from her charcoals and paintings, she also uses the living canvas of cinema. She has directed two documentary films, Alabaster Moon and Like an Angel’s Wing, and is working on her third, to be shot in Trinidad and Spain. Beckett has worked closely with the Cotton Tree Foundation for education outreach projects. She also founded Trinidad Quartet Productions, an NGO that comes up with innovative ways to promote T&T’s music, poetry and visual art within the country and overseas. As an artist, she’s not alone in lamenting the gross underfunding and disregard for the arts, and the prevailing attitude in educational circles that art education is less important, less worthy of time and effort. “It’s been proven that having access to any of the arts is good for young people’s development, intellectually, emotionally and psychologically.”
The TQP has been hosting Educative Creative Workshops, or ECOs, particularly in rural areas in Trinidad, through which they bring art education to the hungry minds of young artists, musicians and writers. “It’s a kind of mentoring,” she explains. The group is trying to generate enough sponsorship to put the programmes into practice, for the good of children in less prestigious schools. “The art education in the top schools is very good. But young people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t have access to it. We just want to take off in a van, with our music and art supplies, and spend the day in a small village somewhere. Then we come back and do a follow up.” She remembers a project she ran at the Pamberi Panyard in Santa Cruz. “That was amazing. We took the paintings from an exhibition and hung them up in the pan yard. We had a workshop and interviewed the children. These young children had never been exposed to art like this before, abstract art. And they got it!”
The Pamberi captain backed up the visual art concepts by talking to the children about their music; in fact, Pamberi’s musical director, Brian Villafana, actually wrote a piece related to the paintings. The children received the kind of total immersion experience that the TQP wants to take to more and more villages throughout the country. Another ambitious project is the promotion of what she calls Rap Romance. Rap is the trendy way for young people to express themselves, she explains, but she deplores the prevalence of terms like ‘Ho’ and other derogatory language, especially that aimed at women. “I think a lot of rap is fabulous. I want to bring the romance into rap.” Among the performers scheduled to perform Rap Romance at her function last Saturday were Dennis Morgan and Alex Deverteuil. She’s sure the art form will catch on. “You have to start small and get it established. It literally has been step by step.” And considering that they’ve had such little funding, she thinks they’ve made a good start.
Next on Beckett’s agenda is a series of symposiums in late July/early August for poets and artists in their teens to early twenties, and she hopes to have her Outreach programmes up and running by October. To get these going, Beckett is not ashamed to ask for help. “We need corporate funding, or we’d like to hear from people who have ideas about who we could approach. If there are NGOs that work with children, we’d be happy to work with them.” She’s confident that, like many of her dazzling paintings, the visions she holds in her head for these programmes will one day become tangible. “Something will grow from the seeds…we just have to be brave and put it out there, and it will begin to grow.”
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