Spectacular school combination
Last Thursday, the School of Art and the performing arts schools at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, 1 Arthur Wint Drive, St Andrew, did a joint presentation.
A Taste of the Arts featured the 2016 Final Year Exhibition of 26 artists and art educators, along with performances by students of the schools of Music, Drama and Dance. The backdrop was the opening of ArtStock, a gift shop stocked with art work by School of Art faculty and students.
A tour of that school's exhibition was top on the evening's agenda for most of the visitors. Many first encountered Kadeisha Page, a fourth year Arts Education student majoring in graphic design. At her station in a room of "cultural innovators" (Page's phrase), one learnt her goal is "to engender an appreciation of the ongoing relationship between digital technologies, holistic learning and the visual arts".
The Jamaican cultural aspect of her approach manifests in use of well-known folktale character River Mumma. It might seem incongruous that Page's station consisted of a table with a fancy computer in front of a multimedia artwork (oil, acrylic and paper on ply) of River Mumma on a rock in a river.
However, the curious juxtaposition of new and old is resolved by this sentence from Page's mission statement: "Participants are invited to re-imagine river mumma in a more contemporary context and subsequently to create alternative representations to the one offered through digital means."
LESSONS ON ANANSI
Beside Page's station was that of Krystal Gray. She told me her artwork is designed "to teach high-school students about Anansi - where he's from, how he came to Jamaica and his impact on enslaved Africans." This is in line with the cultural innovators' general mission, which states in part: "We are cognisant that knowledge of our past is critical to shaping our future, and so we seek to integrate traditional folklore with an array of visual arts disciplines and culturally responsive strategies to
preserve our histories, while making the learning of them more relevant to the contemporary landscape."
In another section of the exhibition, I encountered fourth-year visual communications student Diandra Snow at a marijuana cafÈ exhibit. In an earth-toned, sophisticated ambience, its wall menu offered several types of smokes and other products. Dreadlocks and bright colours were noticeably absent.
The performances on a specially built platform in the yard just beside the gift shop were under the headings A Taste of Music (which was done twice), A Taste of Drama, and A Taste of Dance.
The first musical presentation was four or five instrumental pieces by five students pursuing jazz and popular music. What might not have been expected was the fine quality, since the students were all in year one. Trumpeter Okeil McIntyre, who got pride of place in the line-up, was particularly good.
The drama presentation featured final year School of Drama student Monique Hill in her own one-woman play, Da, about the problems a girl growing up without a father might face.
For A Taste of Dance, we were served an excerpt from Dare to Be, choreographed by Richard Campbell, a BFA Performance and Choreography student. The 12-minute excerpt did not fully convey the theme of the dance, which one dancer told me is people finding their own individuality and eschewing the personality society might want to impose.
The performances climaxed with the most entertaining
presentation of the lot, songs by Bachelor of Music student Jamie Wilmott, a voice major with a rich, dynamic voice. He delighted with his jazz, reggae and pop songs, including She's A Bad Mama Jama, Putting Up Resistance and Can You Play Some More.
In a brief address EMCVPA principal, Dr Nicholeen DeGrasse-Johnson, encouraged guests to purchase gifts from ArtStock. The School of Art's truly imaginative exhibition closes on Monday.