Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Kingston Creative to raise JMD $20 million for Art District Development

Published:Monday | August 27, 2018 | 12:06 AMKimberley Small
Famed guitarist of the King of Reggae Bob Marley Earl 'Chinna' Smith.
Co-founder of Kingston Creative, Andrea Dempster Chung.
Kingston Creative co-founder Dr Jennifer Bailey, a specialist in innovation and entrepreneurship from Vassar University in Boston, speaking to the gathering.
Dennis Howard (left) in discussion with E. Wayne McDonald.
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It takes a lot of energy and resources to turn a hashtag into a movement. It takes even more to turn that into an economically viable, culturally contributing entity. For Kingston Creative, the wheels have been oiled and the sails hoisted, and they are well on their way. As the well-meaning group of art lovers, makers and purveyors move into the next phase of their journey, they have announced a 'hairy audacious' goal -- to raise JMD $20 million.

"When we look at what it takes to really run an organisation, to roll out mural projects, to establish a creative hub -- that takes cash. We're declaring that we will be raising this in partnership with corporate companies, organisations and other multinationals," said co-founder Andrea Dempster-Chung. She began strategising the development of Kingston Creative since February 2017, and kicked off monthly, community-based meetings six months ago.

On the last Friday of each month, Kingston Creative hosts a meet-up at F&B Swiss Stores, to network and share their ideas for artistic development. Last week, the meet-up invited a spectrum of personalities and professionals, including; photography and fine artist Craig Phang Sang, founder of LifeYard Phillip Watson, photographer Phillip Reid, veteran broadcaster Dennis Howard, curator of the Jamaica Music Museum and Institute of Jamaica's musical director Herbie Miller, and world famous guitarist Earl 'Chinna' Smith.

A Vicious Loop

Formed from Dr Bailey's expertise, is the idea to develop an accelerated space -- an incubator which is designated to take the seedling of downtown Kingston's art district and have it blossom into an internationally attractive hot-spot, akin to Wynwood, Miami. According to Dr Bailey, who is co-founder of Kingston Creative and specialist in innovation and entrepreneurship from Babson College in Boston, the intention is to move to the point where people can see the value in creativity, to create a cycle which accelerates creative entrepreneurs, and encourage more people to become artists.

"I want to unleash the creative capital of the Caribbean. In Jamaica, a lot of time we think about only financial capital. Social capital is real. We have done studies in the United States, on how you can generate cash from leveraging your social capital," she said.

"One of the many tenets of Kingston Creative is to get to the point where as a region and a society, we value creative capital. The only way we can see the value of creative capital is to accelerate creative entrepreneurship to the point where they have growth impact. How can you ask people to value creativity, if they haven't seen the value of creativity? Right now, nobody values creativity, so nobody finances creativity, which means of course, you never see the value of creativity. So, we're in the vicious loop," Dr Bailey explained.

Connecting Communities

"The way we work is in pods -- art district pod; art events pod; community pod; co-working and business pod; digital pod; brand pod and a real estate pod. We work in these seven groups. The community pod is the one that makes sure the community is at the centre of everything we do," Dempster-Chung added.

"So if we're doing a mural project, it's not about importing artists painting a pretty wall. It's about how do we engage artists who live and work downtown, to ensure they are part of the dialogue of what it should look like. We're seeking to include the community," she said.

In the midst of a lively, passionate exchange and declarations, Herbie Miller's voice rose to dominate the group. "Yes we are creative people," he agreed, before expressing the driving concern among those who have seen a movements start and stop short.

"How are we going to reform cities that have been rundown for decades? How do you plan -- because you're not the first one -- to monetise the cultural creative industries?" Miller queried.

In response Dr Bailey suggests a shift in perspective." The world has already demonstrated that they think we're valuable. What we haven't done yet is figure out a way to take that momentum of how much the world values us, and roll that into our own sense of self-value. But I do think collectively, we have creative, committed people. Together we can come up with new ideas and we have to intentionally think -- what have we never tried? I think we have to be committed to thinking about things differently. Let's start somewhere else."