On February 23rd, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Devonish Art Gallery, operating in Barbados for 18 years and in my current residence on the tiny Island of Anguilla for 31 years.
Carrolle and I would like to thank the many patrons, some old friends who were happy to be back after hurricane Irma and some new ones, who were visiting for the first time.
We must thank the few local supporters and encourage others to begin appreciating the visual arts. We hope the numbers will grow steadily. It took 15 years to grow the numbers in Barbados. Given the history of Anguilla, 31 years still seem a poor statement.
It was a wonderful evening, both with attendance and financial support. We were very thankful, considering 2018 was a total financial write-off due to the powerful Hurricane Irma.
As usual with the gallery exhibitions, the work never stops, new creations will be added as they are created during the coming months. The gallery is also featuring a new collection of giclees by Sheri Erickson, noted for their colorful depiction of life in the Caribbean.
The exhibition is also featuring a small collection of sculptures from the oldest existing mahogany wood in Anguilla. The last piece of the trunk was bought from a leading local businessman some 30 years ago for a hefty price. The bill to transport the trunk was also hefty, a crane and a flatbed truck was needed to transport the 6 foot diameter trunk.
Unfortunately, the mahogany tree must have died of old age, I was told that it fell. But some parts of the tree must have been still alive, considering the richness and beauty of some of the wood. Much of Anguilla’s history was associated with that mahogany tree. Two other tree trunks were subsequently bought and they were the offspring of the old tree. Wood from all three trees will continue to be featured in the coming days of the exhibition, as they are completed.
50 years in the life of an artist and entrepreneur was never easy, but there were memorable and incredible moments of success and some very sad and unforgettable moments of failure, but we got up every time, dust off the sand and dirt and continued. We will continue to do so. I would like to thank the many people who have accompanied us some of the way, along the journey, there are many, and I am afraid to mention names, in case I leave out anyone. Unfortunately some have gone on. Many of the Barbados Hotels featured greatly in my journey, offering opportunities to set up pop up shops at no cost. Most of the hotels were on the west coast but some of the south coast hotels played their part.
The Hotels must appreciate how big a part they play in the success of artist/craftsmen and continue to provide opportunities to showcase their work. There is one very important recommendation that was included in every report I wrote as a consultant for the Canadian Training Awards Project in the eighties, CTAP.
The reports were handed to different Caribbean Governments, but given the nature of politics, and election procedures, I am sure they are all lost and forgotten. They are crucial to the development of art in the Caribbean.
Every hotel should be mandated to provide retail space for the sale of local Art and Crafts.
A crucial time to implement this mandate is in the MOA for new projects.
It does not matter who owns the business, artists and craftspeople should not care about the retail prices, once they are paid their agreed price. They should not let the retail prices affect subsequent wholesale prices. It is very hard for a craftsperson to see his $10 creation sold for $50.This is one of the greatest stumbling blocks in the sale of local crafts.
The best solution is for the retail shop or gallery operate on a consignment basis with and agreed commission, be it 50/50, 60/40, or whatever. I am proud of Zemi Beach here in Anguilla who has adopted this practice. I am confident tourists prefer to see local products. I also learned that a USA university professor who played a major role my life as an artist, coincidentally and indirectly, might have played a role in the Hotel’s policy.
This system works for both parties, particularly since more than 70% of hotel guests never leave the properties to go shopping.
If you plan to visit Anguilla this year, please visit the Devonish Art Gallery or visit us online.