Leary: E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival good stepping-stone to promote authentic Bahamian artistry

ON DISPLAY – Craft work on display for the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival Division of Arts and Craft. (PHOTO: TFN)

Persevering and promoting the authentic culture of Bahamian artistry is one of several important goals of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and thankfully, E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival Division of Arts and Crafts assists in doing just that declared Cultural Affairs Officer Monique Leary.

For the first time, adjudicators from the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas have traveled to Grand Bahama to evaluate the artwork submitted by students participating in the competition.

Many schools exceeded the expectations of both Leary and National Art Gallery of The Bahamas Community Outreach Officer Abby Smith, who noted that Grand Bahama endured a trying period this past October when Hurricane Matthew tore through the island leaving untold destruction in its wake.

While it seemed impossible for students to be able to produce proper artwork for the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival after enduring Hurricane Matthew then, being placed in the throes of a General Election season submission were made in the Primary School division and Leary spoke to the significance of it all particularly being able to promote, preserve and advance the Bahamian artistry.

According to the Cultural Affairs Officer, “Despite being challenged by Hurricane Matthew this past October and entering into a General Election year, Grand Bahama students were still able to produce a number of unique pieces of artwork.

“Yes, school is out on summer break; however, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is elated to have the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas adjudicators travel to Grand Bahama to evaluate the artwork submitted in the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival Division of Arts and Crafts.
“Of course this is the first year we are able to have an official adjudicator come here and personally I must say I am very proud of the work submitted by both the public and private schools.

“Definitely it is imperative that we keep the artists and artisan portion of the festival alive and growing as well as exhausting our best efforts to get children into producing authentically, hand-made Bahamian pieces of artwork that can be sold as souvenirs to tourists, utilized in our homes and businesses domestically and assist in improving the quality and longevity of this cultural marker.”

Unfortunately not a lot of focus is placed on arts and crafts except when it comes down to End of Year/Term Examinations whereby artwork is sent off through the Ministry of Education, Science & Technology for evaluation and grading, revealed Leary, who went on to note that the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival has that structural component that allows not only students to submit pieces to be adjudicated but also the average citizen; many of whom have pursued a career in artistry.

Furthermore, Leary revealed that once the art pieces are adjudicated they are placed in a National Cultural Exhibition in Nassau, New Providence for the public to enjoy.

“The Arts and Crafts Division of the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival serves as a good stepping-stone for our young people to display their artistic talents and skill set, hence I am so excited to view the artwork submitted all of which are of top quality especially considering all we have gone through on Grand Bahama within the past 10 months.

“We are certainly looking forward to hosting a few art shows, which would allow the work of other students as well as those in the community to display their pieces in the various art categories that piqued their interest whether or not it is in crochet textiles, painting, sketching, portrait designs, straw work, fashion design etcetera.

“Art can be anything, it just takes a creative eye and diligent mindset to develop it into beautiful works that are hand-crafted and authentically Bahamian,” said Leary.

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