My Place In History-Anguilla

The First and longest running Art Gallery in Anguilla.

During the eighties I was hired as a ceramic consultant by a Canadian Overseas Aid program (CTAP); The job included scouting clay deposits, conducting training workshops,sourcing Canadian equipment,raw materials ,and preparing reports for handicraft development in the various Caribbean Islands.

One such assignment was to the Island of Anguilla, I know this is hard to fathom, but as a resident of the Caribbean Island of Barbados, I knew more about England than I did of little Anguilla.

My only recollection of Anguilla was reading the headlines in the various newspapers when I was still a student at Teachers College in England-“The Mouse That Roared”.

The first trip to Anguilla was a memorable one, there were no direct flights to Anguilla, There was a flight with multiple stops on the route to St.Maarten, then a five-minute flight in a small plane to Anguilla.

The pilot announced that the flight to St.Maarten will only take five minutes, but he never announced that there was one other stop. I had never experienced this part of the Caribbean before, so when the flight landed, I disembarked.

Behold when I reached immigration, the officer spoke French and little English, I could hear myself muttering; ”I thought Anguilla belong to the British”

By the time we discovered the mistake, the small plane was taxiing down the runway, “ for heaven’s sake, there were only nine passengers on board, he can see everyone, surely he knew how many passengers were going to Anguilla”

I argued with the immigration officer.

The long and short of the story, the welcoming crew from the National Council of Women collected my luggage and pondered my non- arrival.

In the meantime, there were no more scheduled flights to Anguilla, and I could not afford the rates the hotels were charging. Luckily there was a pilot who was on a charter to pick up passengers from Anguilla, his airline ticket was cheaper than the hotel rates, so I arrived in Anguilla on a charter flight from St. Barts.

The Immigration officers in Anguilla were prepared for my arrival, and made arrangements for me to be transported at the one and historic guest house- Lloyds – I can still remember my reaction at seeing the old time “icy hot” flasks on the dining tables.

My first reaction after spending a few days on the Island was, “where are the trees” There was a marked absence of large trees, just shrubs, except for a few mahogany and Tamarind trees; but there was an abundance of light pink flowering small white cedar trees.

I later learned that until the late sixties Anguilla had no electricity, they burnt coals for cooking, thus depleting the trees.

Anguilla had the most beautiful beaches, there were less than 15000 inhabitants, nearly all the businesses were locally owned, they owned the land, and the island was peaceful and not crowded like Barbados.

Move to Anguilla

As Cupid would have it, I fell in love twice, first with the Island, and then with One of my students from the National Council of Women.I am proud to say we produced a beautiful daughter,who just graduated from Birmingham UnIversity UK,with a PHD in Clinical Psychology.

We were married in Canada in 1988 and returned to Anguilla, and opened Anguilla’s first Art Gallery, The Devonish Art Gallery is the first and longest running gallery in Anguilla.

When I arrived on the Island there was mention of an old artist, who painted on substandard materials, Efforts to find him or some of his work were fruitless. I am not sure if any of his work survived; if it has, the Heritage museum should try to acquire them.

There were also stories of the carving brothers, who moved to St. Thomas. I did see samples of their work, but I am not surprised they gave it up. After 30 years in Anguilla, I don’t think I could survive one month on local sales.

One artist from that era is still on the scene, an excellent artist, but is embarking on other commercial interest to support himself. There is absolutely no effort on the part of the government to encourage a career in art for the youth.

We also operated the gallery from the oldest commercial building on the Island, that once housed the historic Cotton Gin, which is now housed at the Heritage Museum; hence the name- Devonish Cotton Gin gallery.

The Devonish Cotton Gin Art Gallery

The Devonish Cotton Gin Gallery operated from a building owned by two different owners separated only by a partition; on a point of interest, part of the lease agreement included a clause that I was responsible for the insurance of the building.

No company would insure the building, until after a debating argument with one insurance company.

“Which is the oldest building on the Island, how many hurricanes did it withstand; were it ever destroyed by a hurricane?” I argued.

“ Come to think of it, you are right” said the manager of the insurance company; at which point he did insure the building.

There were some unforeseen circumstances that forced me to sell the lease to another gallery owner.

The building is still standing after the worst hurricane in the history of Anguilla. The building did suffer some damage due to the weakening of the building by one occupant; but it was still easy to repair and is still occupied as the oldest standing building in Anguilla. It was a crime to remove the cotton gin from the building, but grateful that it was saved from the Dump.

Ceramic production on a limited scale is still carried on by students from the first ceramic training workshop; ceramics is now taught in schools and the local community college.

Unfortunately, lack of interest, foresight and poor planning, the craft shop,and ceramic workshop with equipment was demolished by the then Government, with a promise to rebuild on another site.The premises was built by the Canadians as a gift to the National Council Of Women.

A decade has passed and the promise has not been kept; It is time the National Council of women demand that the Government keep its promise, and carry out one of my recommendations from the report-a report financed by the Canadians and cannot be found.

The report suggested that the government strongly encourage every hotel on Island provide a small retail space for the sale of local arts and crafts, in the interest and well-being of the generations of school-leavers to come.

What are your leaders doing to encourage a sustainable career in Art?

20 Comments


  1. Anguilla sounds like a beautiful place, I hope I am lucky enought to visit some day. 

    Congratulations on your marriage and family! Every parent wants their children to grow up to be Doctors! You are very lucky.

    I was sad to hear that the workshop was demolished without being rebuilt. A decade is far too long to wait.

    Reply

    1. Governments promises? they must be worth more than a pinch of salt. yes my daughter is a wonderful person, am proud of her.

      Best wishes.

      Reply

  2. What a wonderful story of your way to Anguilla and the two loves of your life….I am sure your wonderful daughter is your third love.  This is such a beautiful island.  Do you know if it has been rebuilt to it’s natural beauty from before the hurricane?  It is pretty sad that the promises made have not been kept.  It is time for them to honer this!

    Reply

    1. I agree, I am sad my work was destroyed.

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  3. Waoo!!! So amazing to come across this again after many years. Back in school days have heard a lot about Anguilla. In know it to be one of the best Art gallery so far. I remember a time like that my friend’s dad travelled back from there showing us a lot of photographs of most colourful art works..since then it has been a crave within me to be there with my kids most especially Jimmy who primarily has a great love for Art.I must say this article is simply an awakening to pursue my crave for Anguilla

    Reply

    1. Thanks for visiting, do come visit, do let me know might help you to plan.You will love Anguilla. Don’t believe the stories that it is only for the rich and the famous, there are many mid-range properties and Airbnb.

      Happy planning.

      Reply

  4. Thank you for sharing with us your wonderful life story at Anguilla.I am very inspired with the way you fell in love with that beautiful student and the way your love arrived to a great result of getting married and produce a baby.

    I understand that you can’t forget Anguilla because it is the place which has much significance to you.

    Reply

    1. I love this place, but politicians has a way of messing up. The people must stay focus.

       Best wishes.

      Reply

  5. Hello there. Loved reading your post. It was really informative and well written. I consider myself an artist, although I did not graduated art. I am also interested in African heritage and art. I have never travelled to Caribbean but this summer I will. I will also visit Cuba and Dominican Republic.

    Your story is awesome. You went on a business trip and got back with a wife. Not everyone can say they had that experience. Also, it is really a surprise that Devonish Art Gallery is still running after all it went through. Too bad there is not enough will to invest in such place of culture.

    Is situation better for arriving to Anguilla right now? Are the roads and transportation better?

    Thank you.

    Strahinja

    Reply

    1. It is still a bit of a challenge travelling to Anguilla, especially since hurricane Irma, Anguilla has bounced back nicely,but the St. Maarten airport has not been rebuilt yet. Anguilla roads are much better. Come see.

      Best wishes.

      Reply

  6. Anguilla seems to have its own issues with the government not fulfilling their promises. This is something that is experienced by a lot of countries. Artworks can act as a center for tourism which can attract foreigners staying outside that vicinity.

    It’s a gradual process but from where I am from the government do little in encouraging arts as a career path. What I can say is that non governmental organizations take more interest in arts than the government and they are also the people that encourage people to pursue arts as a career path even providing funding for them.

    Reply

    1. The only time I have seen real interest from a Government was when the politician had  a very  a forceful wife who was an Artist, we have to keep lobbying. Thank you for visiting.

      Reply

  7. Good evening Courtney and Carrolle,

    When I was small I did a lot of different art expressions like drawing, painting, clay, making and writing music and some more. Luckily I had parents who supported all these things. Later on in life I got creative on my Spanish farm with designing and building.

    I love your love story, the world is a lot smaller than hundreds of years ago. I met my Michael from the U.S. on internet and he moved to Spain in 2016. 

    How good to hear that your building stood the worst hurricane to ever hit Anguilla. I visited 8 Caribbean islands in 2011 but have not been back. Michael has dreams to sail the world and you never know if we might dock in Anguilla one day. If yes I will visit your art gallery for sure. 

    Art reflects the soul, I hope you will have many more happy years creating.

    Regards, Taetske

    Reply

    1. Oh how lovely, I will be happy to welcome you to Anguilla, My happiest times are carving outside the studio with the butterflies and ground lizards for company.

      Best wishes.

      Reply

  8. Wow, what a story you have, and how beautiful Anguilla sounds!

    It’s always heartbreaking to hear of the devastation that follows a hurricane’s path. As an “in-lander” I have never had to witness such a tragedy first hand, and can’t even imagine. 

    It’s great to hear that through all of that, the gallery building has survived, but unfortunate that the ceramic workshop was demolished and left with broken promises. I hope the Council you speak of is successful in righting this situation.

    Reply

    1. They complain, but not strong enough, I would involve the Donors,let them see how their money was wasted, and I have seen a lot of it throughout the Caribbean. Sad. It was a strong concrete block building. Sewing machines and expensive ceramic equipment unaccounted for.

      Best wishes.

      Reply

  9. Wonderful story – I loved the description of your flight(s) to get there..!

    I spent around 3 weeks on Grand Cayman many years ago and loved the place. For a long while I seriously thought about buying a house there, but then life moved on as it so often does. Your description of Anguilla brought back memories of Grand Cayman (the places outside of George Town, that is!).

    I do hope the local hotels are now displaying the work of Anguillan artists – not just a retail spot for the sale of art, but placing local artists’ work on the walls of bedrooms, hallways and so on. I’m amazed that they weren’t before!

    Cheers,

    Martin

    Reply

    1. There are 2 small hotels on Island where the owners are regular patrons of the gallery, and paintings are on the wall, I guess Sculpture is a little different, but I will keep trying; almost all the art in the major hotels are non-local or caribbean for that matter- a sad shame- Governments can do better. I love the Canadians policy on public art.

      We may get there one day.

      Reply

  10. Good day, Courtney and Carroll! Without a doubt, your destiny and your artistic art will occupy a place in history. The 48-year history of the art gallery in Anguilla and your sculptural works are known all over the world. Many from different countries come to view and purchase your unique works. In the Internet about you very much information and feedback.We see all your work and appreciate them. Now in Moscow, an exhibition of works of my brother. I can tell you the name of this exhibition. You will be taken to the future. Thank you for your work. Mark.

    Reply

    1. Thank You, Nice to know my work is seen in many countries, I would love to see your brother’s work. send me some details.

      Best wishes.

      Reply

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