Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Art meets Charity

Published:Friday | January 29, 2016 | 1:00 AMJanelle Oswald
Michelle Cook shows off her creation.
Cheryl Soltau gets inspiration from her surroundings to paint.
From left: Annette Cooper, Diane Edwards and Diane Grant show off their painting following lessons from master painter Alexander Cooper at his Cooper’s Hill home and studio.
Karen Smith is proud of her finished painting.
From left: Marcia Gallow and Fayval Williams seemed to have made it a team efort.
From left: Norma Harrack, Alexander Cooper, Annette Cooper and Claudja Barry smile for the camera.
Not many people are as fortunate to get painting lessons from Alexander Cooper as Trefina Asiedu.
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Members of the American Women's Group (AWG) visited acclaimed artist Alexander Cooper for lessons at his gallery and mini-museum in cool Coopers Hill for their monthly meeting last Thursday.

It was a day filled with inspiring moments, including traditional drumming and flute music. AWG president Claudja Barry, told The Gleaner, "Painting with Alexander Cooper is a way of rewarding our members and allowing them to have fun. They give their time, money and energy, but it cannot be only fundraising and scholarships, so this wonderful opportunity was about doing something different and building memories," she said.

Barry, who is a former international singer/songwriter added, "Cooper is in his 80s, but he has achieved a lot, and we wanted to honour and appreciate him, especially for his art which showcases Jamaica."

Staying true to the desire to help marginalised children, this year's project will help some of Jamaica's most deserving children at the St Martin De Porres Basic School.

"The AWG wants to make a difference by building a homework/study pavilion. We are almost there, needing just another $450,000 to put the roof on. We have received donations in cash and kind, but we would welcome more. The pavilion is going to benefit 394 children, so I want to make it happen," said Barry.

Barry is using her position at the helm of the AWG as a catalyst for change and cites three goals: "I would like to see the children of the school in a structure where they feel comfortable knowing they are going to get help with their homework and feel safe knowing there is somebody who cares about their learning.

"Secondly, I want to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential; and thirdly, I want parents to understand the need to get involved in Parent-Teacher-Association meetings and fundraising ventures. When the child is struggling, help them, get involved and make a difference," she said.

 

NO BARRIERS FOR WOMEN

 

As the membership settled down to paint, Alexander Cooper told The Gleaner, "Women have the same gift as any good male artist, so they should feel free to express themselves. The same way an artist like myself will go out and paint, it is the same for women, there are no barriers for women once they unleash their potential."

Cooper said he was honoured to welcome the AWG to his home because "the Bible says helping others in need is crucial once you have achieved. Giving back is imperative. You should share with others, especially those who are less fortunate."

Dispelling the notion that the AWG is out of touch with the community, Barry said the women do a lot of work within the community, including granting scholarships, and assisting various charities, including children with disabilities.

The American Women's Group of Jamaica was established in 1985 by a small number of expatriates with ties to the embassy of the United States of America. The group, which began as a social organisation, later expanded to include charitable works to benefit children. The AWG now includes Jamaicans, other nationals and diplomats. The AWG is a non-profit, non-

governmental organisation.

Janelle.oswald@gleanerjm.com