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A ROKTOWA for artists in downtown Kingston

Published:Friday | September 14, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Derval Johnson (left) and Dion Palmer stand by the entrance to ROKTOWA. photos by Ian Allen/Photographer
Derval Johnson is busy applying the finishing touches to his wooden sculpture of a bird.
Melinda Brown gives her perspective on the pieces of work done by Derval Johnson.
Dion Palmer stands before his artwork that depicts the events that took place in Haiti subsequent to the 2010 earthquake.

Alessandro Boyd, Gleaner Writer

Forty-one-year-old Dion Palmer of Church Street was elated as he explained Melinda Brown's intervention in his life and how it inspired him to become an artist.

Brown founded ROKTOWA in 2005 with the sole purpose of developing the artistic talents of the people living in the surrounding communities in mind. These talents include sculpting, painting and carpentry, among many others. ROKTOWA is situated on Pechon Street in downtown Kingston.

"The concept is based around artistes who take up residence in the surrounding communities. We have about 50 carpentry workshops within a one-mile radius of ROKTOWA for example. This is about broadcasting downtown's potential to the world and letting people living in poverty know the possibilities that are available to them," Brown told The Gleaner.

"Downtown probably has more philosophers per square mile than anywhere else, which of course is the attraction because out of pressure comes diamonds. There are energy and visual dynamism that are being lost throughout the world but for Jamaica, you have street energy, a vibe and extraordinary people that can create work like no other," she added

Palmer, who goes by his artist name 'Sand', met Brown in 2005 as she took up residence on Church Street after leaving Australia.

"I grew up always seeing art but I never put pencil to paper until I saw Melinda in the studio," Palmer told The Gleaner. "I saw her with the big screen and asked if she can help teach me. After I started, she say mi a nuh normal artist and we continued from that, that was seven years ago."

Works on display

Palmer currently has pieces of his artwork on display at the National Art Gallery in Kingston. He will also have his first solo art show on November 18 at ROKTOWA.

"Now private collectors will just come and pick up two pieces of my work, some of my work even reach inna New York and deh a show. It deh everywhere in the world and that just feel good. I always give thanks and thing. Where we live have a powerful energy, some people don't know how to control this energy or choose between right and wrong, mi nuh care how much wrong roun' mi, I just going keep drawing because it give me the right feeling," Palmer said.

"Some people around me will criticise me but if you have a piece of artwork and it eediat, it nahh go kill nobody or do nothing; but if you have a pistol then it will do people things, so I jus say gwaan and continue my thing, draw two piece of artwork and work towards my future," he added.