Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer
The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMC) will host its second Rex Nettleford International Arts Conference over three days next week. The theme is 'The Creative Industries: Sustainability and Social Transformation'.
Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips will be the conference's keynote speaker at the official opening ceremony. That will be held on the evening of Thursday, October 17, in the EMC's Vera Moody Concert Hall, 1 Arthur Wint Drive, St Andrew. Delegates from more than a dozen countries have been registered for the conference, which closes the following day.
According to EMC Vice-principal Carol 'Annie' Hamilton, a co-chair (along with Keino Senior) of the $3-million conference, "the importance of the creative industry in the context of sustainability and social transformation in the 21st century cannot be overemphasised."
She told me that a large proportion of the new economy will depend on how well leaders succeed in supporting and unlocking people's creative energies and capacity. The conference aims to be a catalyst for this, as it will provide both a space and an opportunity for discussions among practitioners, writers, researchers, educators, and policymakers in the creative industries.
"New situations require novel solutions and creativity, and innovation will be important to overcoming economic and social challenges," Hamilton emphasised. Jamaica's traditional sources of foreign exchange such as sugar, bauxite and tourism, won't serve us adequately in the 21st century, Hamilton said. Therefore, the creative industries as a new wealth creation avenue which should be explored.
She said that the EMC, as the only performing arts academy in the English-speaking Caribbean, feels "compelled" to lead the discourse.
The conference's international and interdisciplinary participants include educators and practitioners in dance, drama, visual arts and music, among other art forms. Conference organisers hope and expect that the network of researchers will be strengthened and research encouraged.
Asked what presentations among the dozens of papers, exhibitions and lecture-demonstrations offered over the conference's two working days would be of particular interest, Hamilton named the main panel examining the theme 'Cultural Policy: Towards Transformation and Sustainable Creative Industries' as an important one.
To be chaired by EMC principal Nicholeen DeGrasse Johnson, the panel will include Margaret Wyszomirski, professor in the Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy at Ohio State University and chair of the Research Task Force of the Centre for Arts and Culture in Washington, DC. Also on the panel is Deborah Hickling, a specialist in the socio-culture of the creative industries, and David Brown of the African-Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank, who was instrumental in the development of the draft Cultural Policy document. Amina Blackwood Meeks, director of culture in the Ministry of Education and an arts practitioner, is also a panellist. The session begins at 9 a.m. on October 17.
Hamilton also identified three other panels. New Philosophies: Towards Development of the Creative Industries, takes place on October 17 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Navigating Intellectual Property in the Creative Industries is on the same day, from 1:45-3:15 p.m., and Building the Foundation for the Creative Industries is scheduled for October 18, from 9-10:30 a.m.
Stated Hamilton: "These four key panels are relevant because they cover the important elements to be explored as approaches to be considered towards helping emerging economies."
Searching through the published programme, I found a number of other promising titles for those with particular interest in education, dance, drama and music. In her paper Learning Through the Arts, Andrea Douglas, of Children & Youth Dance Theatre, Toronto, Canada, will speak on the arts as a catalyst for the creative components in all fields and pivotal to the "right-brain" learners. She will also explore recent innovations in educational programming and curriculum delivery.
Keneil Grey of the University of the West Indies, Mona, will present a paper titled Engaging the Arts for Sustainable Economic Development: An Assessment of the Jamaica Entertainment Industry. In it, he points out that the creative and cultural industries have a global value of $2.2 trillion and a projected annual growth rate of five per cent.
Theatre lovers won't want to miss Kelli Melson's session, 'In Search of a Distinctive and Indigenous Theatrical Process and Product with a Clear Jamaican/Caribbean Identity'. Melson will have her acting students give practical demonstrations of both their training and the work being done on an examination piece, Derek Walcott's Ti-Jean and His Brothers.
In her paper, Contending for Creativity: Critical Considerations for Educational Development in the 21st Century Caribbean Context, Juliet Jones, curriculum officer in the Ministry of Education, Trinidad & Tobago, argues for a new focus on creative education as "an integrative construct that incorporates creative, critical and transformative approaches to the practice of a pedagogy for creativity".
And music lovers will surely want to attend what promises to be an intriguing presentation by Gregory Freeland from Lutheran University, USA, on 'Orchestral Epistemology: Music and Politics in Jamaica'. The topic, he explains in his abstract to the paper, "consists of questions having to do with music and equal access of people to and participation in the political and cultural processes through which cultural nationalism and political knowledge are formed and dispersed throughout Jamaica and the Caribbean".
Conference delegates come from the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales, United States of America, Canada, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Barbados, and Jamaica, among other countries.
The closing ceremony from 6-7 p.m. on October 18 will be followed by a performance in the Dance School's studio from 7:30-9 p.m. The next conference in the series is scheduled for October 2015.
The conference website is www.emcartsconference.org.