Reggae Mill Bar's makeshift gallery hosts 'Art Wednesdays'
With a common notion that art is not valued and the industries maintained in a fashion which closes the gate on young, innovative creators, music producer and restaurateur Alexx Antaeus is working to change that.
Since February, he has maintained a static exhibition space at Reggae Mill Bar, located at Devon House, with the weekly instalment - Art Wednesdays. "We have been blessed with a great space - a historical site in the heart of Kingston. We want to utilise that space to support the arts," Antaeus told The Gleaner.
Home of popular party events such as Throwback Saturdays and Fridays at the Devon, Reggae Mill Bar opens up as a gallery to accommodate artists free of charge. "It's not about profit. It's strictly supporting the arts. In fact, we invest money trying to get people in for Art Wednesdays, to promote it - to expose the artists. This is what it's all about."
The entrepreneur was inspired by No Commission - a project conceptualised by American music producer Swizz Beatz. "He tries to find spaces for artists that can exhibit work without charging the artists. Anything the artist sells, they keep all the money. It's all about having a platform for them to showcase their work," Antaeus explained.
This week's Art Wednesdays featured artist was 20-year-old law student Kuruma Reid. His portrait work was also prominently on display during the last months of Market Street. "I want to be a prime example. Even though I am pursuing a legal career, people can still find the time to do what they truly desire, whether that be art or another field of expertise," he told The Gleaner.
Such events offer up-and-coming creators platforms to showcase their work, and potentially shortcut traditional avenues, like impressing a curator to mount an exhibit in a highly trafficked gallery. "I am only aware of three major galleries in Jamaica. They are well known, but the question is, can they make accommodation for artists such as myself? I don't think so. The only alternative would be to enter the JCDC Visual Arts Competition," Reid surmised.
As the young creator moves through Kingston's emerging art spaces, Reid has derived another means by which to attract attention. "Jamaicans are mainly familiar with entertainers, which is why I did and will continue to create portraits of entertainers," he said.
An artist network
Art Wednesdays has already given room to showcase photographers, sculptors, painters and other creatives. Though the event is moving into its eighth month, Antaeus says the event's potential and cultural impact is infantile. For his next move, the businessman will attempt to expand the movement by adding another philanthropic action.
"We want to do stuff with inner-city kids and bring artists from underprivileged neighbourhoods. We want to have them exhibit their work and see if the proceeds made from those exhibits can be injected back into school art programmes," he said.
Besides providing an exhibition space, Reggae Mill Bar has also become a primary spot for artists and artisans to network. "Patrons will come and mingle and meet the artists - which is great. A lot of artists who have exhibited there, or applied to exhibit in the future, have been hanging with us to meet new artists," Antaeus shared.
As Art Wednesdays carries on indefinitely, artists are invited to email samples of their work, or even visit the space and engage with the proprietor to have their work on show.