There is always hope
Two years ago I was invited to contribute a weekly column to this newspaper. At the time of the invitation I had just completed my undergrad studies abroad and had no real idea what my life back home would look like or how I would begin to use the knowledge I had gained to make a life for myself. In a nutshell, I had no idea where my “place” was. And although I could’ve allowed myself to be overwhelmed by the uncertainties that surfaced I chose instead to remain hopeful in spite of it all. For me, the invitation to share this platform with so many respected journalists was the reassurance I needed that, perhaps, I was heading in the right direction.
While there was an element of nervousness that threatened to overshadow that new development in my career, the development itself was hardly unfamiliar. In fact, it was six years earlier that I had a rather impulsive start to my writing “career” at a different newspaper company. It was almost a year after graduating from the E.R. Burrowes School of Art in 2007 that I was offered a job as a Layout Artist at the newspaper. On the surface it didn’t seem a fit that made great use of the Diploma I had just received, but I was grateful because it allowed me to continue making art during my down time. It was there that I got my first real albeit shaky introduction to graphic design software. And fortunately for me, I had the help of a few incredibly patient colleagues who took me under their wing, making my transition from student to working professional so much easier.
In a lot of ways my focus at the time was squarely on mastering the job I was paid to do. But it wasn’t long until that dynamic shifted. Fast-forward to a year later (2009) and I had relaxed into a new normal, gradually paying closer attention to the content I was in charge of arranging on each page. One of the things that stood out was the lack of coverage of the arts, particularly visual arts. Sure the public was aware of our local veterans including Stanley Greaves and the late Philip Moore (to mention a few), but hardly anyone could name our younger contemporary practitioners. And that was not to say that those practitioners were few in number. It was quite the opposite actually. The art school alone was producing on average about 10-20 Diploma and Certificate graduates every year. The problem was the general public had no idea. After recognizing the disconnect that existed between the two, I saw an opportunity to bridge the gap so that emerging artists got their time in the spotlight.
Following the success of my pitch to the editor at the time, I began reaching out to as many young artists as possible, in an attempt to rekindle the fire that was practically extinguished by the usual post-art school depression. It’s a horrible rollercoaster ride that no one ever quite prepares you for as an art student, particularly a student far removed from the cities typically considered the art hubs of the world. Students here spend years developing their skills just to exhibit their best work for a few days to a handful of visitors. With such limited exposure and lack of critical response, it is hardly any surprise that most of our young creative practitioners are either driven into isolation or completely unrelated fields of work. This is where, in my opinion, the media could/should step in to play its role in preventing any further hemorrhaging of our local talents.
Of course it’s equally important to recognize that the media is merely a singular component in a complex system that is in dire need of reconfiguration should we hope to see any real change. In the past I have spoken about the need for the inclusion of arts writing as a separate course in all tertiary institutions that offer a fine art program. My decision to start writing was largely fueled by the hope that those institutions would eventually place just as much emphasis on training persons to write about art as they place on training persons to make art. In this way there wouldn’t be such a severe shortage of trained writers, curators and critics to analyze the works of our growing artist population and we could avoid a tricky kind of catch 22 situation (where artists stop making work because no one is writing about it and journalists stop writing about art because artists are no longer making work).
And so just as I focused mainly on featuring emerging artists during my first writing stint, I continued in a similar vein for my weekly columns here in the Pepperpot Magazine. This time around I was a little less daunted by the title “columnist” and much more aware of the many ways the page I was privileged to have, could function. My intention for this column was to create a space that facilitated the growth of persons from all walks of life, whether student, teacher, enthusiast, collector etc. I wanted to share information I wish I had access to when I first started my creative journey and I also wanted to make room for the persons who loved art but couldn’t tell head from tail about it.
I will always be extremely grateful to the editors who took a chance on me (a fine art graduate with absolutely no training in Journalism), allowing me to cultivate this space and trusting me to follow through every week. And of course to my faithful readers, I always make the disclaimer that I am not a writer but rather an artist above all else. Nevertheless, I held myself to the same standard and I sincerely hope that was evident during the last two years.
If there’s anything I hope you take away from my final column here is that your journey will never look the way you imagined it. The sooner you learn this and embrace it, the better off you’ll be. Regardless of your field, your journey will lead you in many odd directions and if there’s one thing above all else you should be equipped with, it’s discernment. With this, you’ll always be exactly where you were meant to be, doing the work you were meant to do, surrounded by the people who were meant to be in your life.
So as we prepare for the New Year ahead, my wish for you is that you remain relentless in the pursuit of your dreams. But remember to make time for your loved ones and, more importantly, to take breaks for the indulgence of self-care practices. Working hard is great but not at the expense of your health. Spend as much time as you need recharging without feel guilty about it. Eleanor Brownn said it best, “Self care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on December 31, 2017.