Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Simon Bolivar Cultural Centre to open in a week

Published:Saturday | April 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM

JAMAICANS WILL get the opportunity to learn about and experience the culture of Venezuela, when the Simon Bolivar Cultural Centre in downtown Kingston opens its doors in another week.

The facility, which is a multipurpose centre for the performing and visual arts, was refurbished by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) at a cost of $4.13 million.

It will be managed and operated by the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) following Thursday's official handover by the UDC during a ceremony at the centre's location at 10 to 12 North Parade in downtown Kingston.

Speaking at the event, Chairman of the UDC, Senator K.D. Knight, said the renovation works are in keeping with the agency's redevelopment plan for downtown Kingston.

He noted that a key reason for its establishment was to "have an edifice in honour of Simon Bolivar, who is a national hero in Venezuela and who was exiled here in Jamaica".

"There was also the desire to expose our youth to the culture regionally so that there will be provisions here for that purpose, and we are very happy that we have come to this stage of the process that we can hand over the keys to the IOJ and they now will ensure that the vision and the concept will be implemented fully," Knight said.

Knight expressed the hope that the people of Jamaica will take advantage of facilities being provided for cultural education, performances, and exhibits.

"We hope that visitors to the shore, touring downtown, will see this is an important building for them to come to see the exhibitions and so on," he said.

He informed of plans to renovate the centre's environs "to see what kind of retrofitting can be done to those buildings to make the entire area more pleasant".

Executive director of the IOJ, Anne Marie Bonner, said the institute is pleased to be taking over the management of the centre.

She noted that the IOJ is looking forward to all the programmes that will be offered and all the activities leading up to the September bicentennial of the writing of the famous letter for which Simon Bolivar is well known.

Director of the programmes coordination division at the IOJ, Jacqueline Bushay, said she was excited about the centre and its contribution to the cultural enlightenment of Jamaicans.

"We really hope that this centre will be a buzz of activities and really help to broaden the scope in terms of persons accessing the facilities that are here and the programme that will be offered," she expressed.

Limited use

General manager of the UDC, Desmond Malcolm, advised that there will be limited use of the centre when it opens in a week's time. It is anticipated that the library will be up and running by then. An official opening ceremony will be held by the end of 2015.

The two-storey Georgian building, which is the former office of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, entails a library, an interpretation room, three multipurpose rooms, administrative offices, and a kitchenette.

It also features an exhibit space, the Simon Bolivar Exhibit Hall to commemorate the Venezuelan liberator's stay in Jamaica in 1815, and provides a link to the architectural period that existed at the time of his stay in Kingston.

It was during his stay of nine months, when he lived at 33 Princess Street in downtown Kingston, that he penned what is reputed to be his greatest written work, the Jamaica Letter, which is believed to contain his views on the independence movement in Venezuela.

The cultural centre is the brainchild of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.

The project, which began in 2009, was funded by the government of Venezuela's PetroCaribe Development Fund and the Government of Jamaica.

- JIS