National Gallery of Jamaica at 40 (Part II)
Jamaica's premier art collection is housed at the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ), and offers visitors a comprehensive look at the island's artistic heritage - from Taino Indian artefacts, to Spanish and English colonial art, from the early pioneers to the very latest contemporary works by Jamaican artists.
While there is much to be proud of, especially in terms of the quality of the collections and exhibitions, the gallery must constantly re-evaluate and reinvent itself to ensure that it meets the changing needs of its audiences and other stakeholders.
"The programmes we will be presenting to mark the 40th anniversary are presented in this spirit. Our first major event will be the exhibition, 'In Retrospect', scheduled to open on August 31, which will present a review of the NGJ's history in terms of the main exhibitions, acquisitions, other key events and the personalities that have shaped our development," said Dr Veerle Poupeye, executive director.
Dr Poupeye also said the second major exhibition will be the expanded Biennial, rebranded as the Jamaica Biennial scheduled to open later this year. She noted that this exhibition will have a greater international focus than the previous Biennials.
"There will also be other events, such as a special fundraiser on November 14 - our actual anniversary day - and a public awareness campaign, designed to expand our reach to our various audiences," Dr Poupeye added.
While it was not presented as an anniversary event, the recent opening of National Gallery West at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre is perhaps the best birthday gift for NGJ at this time. Funded by the Tourism Enhancement Fund, National Gallery West is in keeping with the organisation's drive to reach new audiences, in this case, the population of western Jamaica and visitors to that part of the island.
The gallery is placing more emphasis on removing the social barriers that have caused the gallery to be seen as an elitist institution. "Our active social media presence through Facebook and Twitter is one of the strategies, as well as new programmes such as our increasingly popular Last Sundays, with free admission, free tours and children's activities and special events like concerts or dance and drama performances," said Dr Poupeye.
The gallery is also seeking to reach members of the Jamaican diaspora and to have a more visible presence in the Caribbean region. This has been achieved by several overseas exhibitions, such as the Circa1962/Circa 2012 exhibition at the Mississauga Art Gallery in Canada, on the occasion of Jamaica 50 in 2012, and the more recent Jamaican Art from the 1960s and '70s exhibition at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands.
There are guided tours and research assistance available for visitors as well as special programmes such as lectures, film screenings and panel discussions. There is also the Saturday Art Time programme, funded by CHASE (Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education), which is a free, gallery-based Saturday art workshop for children, held during the school year.
The gallery is the main research and publication institution regarding Jamaican art and visual culture and publishes print publications including exhibition catalogues and contributions to journals and online publications such as its widely read blog, at nationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com.
FACTS ABOUT THE GALLERY
- The National Gallery of Jamaica is located at 12 Ocean Boulevard, Block C, Kingston Mall - entrance on Orange Street. Parking is available at the adjoining UDC parking lot.
- Gallery hours are: Tuesdays-Thursdays: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Fridays: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and every last Sunday of the month: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed on Sundays, Mondays and Public Holidays.
- Admission: adults $400, teachers accompanying students and senior citizens $200, school children and students with ID enter free. Guided tours: $3,000 (general) and schools $2,000 (schools). Free admission and tours on last Sundays.