Michael Corcho of Foga Road High School displays some of his art at the Liguanea Art Festival in Jamaica.
Photo by Kevin Williams

For the love of art, more than 110 artists participated in the 12th Liguanea Arts Festival held at the Liguanea Plaza, Kingston, Jamaica on Sunday, Dec. 4.

This premier event attracted top Jamaican artists to display their best works in fine art and photography. Alethia Barker served as coordinator for the event.

Graphic artist Mark Weinberger, a member of the management team who has been with the Liguanea Arts Festival for 11 years, produced the art catalog with all the artists represented in the book. “It is a great souvenir, keepsake and reference for people if they want to get in touch with an artist,” he said.

He explained that June and Tony Wong, owners of the Liguanea Plaza, created this event. “Tony was in a photography club and he wanted a place where the members could display their photography and where the community could come and talk to the photographers about their work,” he said.

Weinberger said Tony’s wife suggested “we have the plaza, why don’t we do something out here.” He said in the first year it was artists as well as photographers who participated. “It was a big hit and people said you must do it again. That second year they did it again and that is when I saw a supplement in the newspaper and I said the supplement is not doing the event justice even though the Gleaner newspaper is a great sponsor every year we have been here, but we should do our own catalog,” said the graphic artist.

The organizers had to find a way to pay for the catalog and they were able to garner support from the suppliers of the pharmacy and the general food supermarket located in the plaza.

“They all felt it was a great idea. So it became more of a food event, photography and fine art and we even had entertainment. We put on little shows and then we found that was distracting because the artist would say, ‘I have a tent here and I am trying to sell my art and you are distracting people by having shows,’” said Weinberger. He added, “So it kind of morphed. I always wanted it to be a juried show so the art would have been of good quality. We can say it has become an institution and it is the largest outdoor art show in the Caribbean.”

“Nobody does it the way we do it and nobody does it in the size. We have 120 artists this year. We do not have that many booths but we have double ups and clubs. And we also have young people sponsored by the Institute of Jamaica, one of the oldest established museum groups that help promote art,” said Weinberger.

Jezeel Martin who assisted the Festival Committee team in social media said, “We find that in Jamaica, and I think in the Caribbean at large, not much focus is placed on the visual arts, and our artists are left out.” He noted there were not many avenues where kids learning art could showcase their work. “Although it is something small, it is an effort to expose these artists, to connect them with their potential clients. One of the mandatory requirements is that no artist shall exhibit without being present at the event. It gives patrons an opportunity to speak one on one with the artist.”

Artist Paul Blackwood who has been practicing his craft for 34 years said he began his journey on June 20, 1982 on Trafalgar Road, New Kingston

He said he did not have any formal training but learned to paint at a cooperative which was formed in 1979 and became a member in 1982. “It has been a fantastic ride. That’s the best thing that have happened to me,” he said. “Career wise it’s fulfilling, gratifying and God is just good.”

Blackwood said he used to love art while in school. He said several of his friends in school wanted him to help them with their art and at times he was unable to finish his own work in class. He said his teacher recognised his potential and took the class on a trip from Westmoreland to Kingston to the National Gallery and the Olympiad Gallery. He said as a country boy he loves the country houses and landscapes that’s all around him.

Photographer Shawn Murray said although he has no formal training, he is a bit of a perfectionist and that he has an obsession for capturing landscapes as best as possible. “It is a bit painstaking at times but I like the results that I get from it despite the sleepless hours it puts me through,” he said.

“I have a passion for capturing Jamaican landscapes. I have a personal mission to capture Jamaica and inspire Jamaicans and foreigners alike to come to Jamaica.” He said he has been taking pictures for six years now. He explained that this was a side hobby but works in information technology full time. “I hope in the near future I will make the full switch.”

Gene Pearson’s work has for many years been admired by artists and collectors. His art has an elemental beauty causing many of his followers to collect more than one piece. The former Jamaica School of Art lecturer paints and sketches, but it is his signature Nubian masks and heads for which he has become known internationally.

Pearson’s creative career, spanning four decades, has seen his art placed in many of the fine homes and galleries of the world.

As a backdrop to the art exhibition, there was an entertainment package with soothing music and cultural performances from the Akwaaba Drummers and JCDC 2016 Gold Medalists… all spiced with tasty Jamaican food. A Silent Auction was held to support selected charities in the Liguanea community.

Jamaica Tourist Board sponsored the press trip to cover the event.

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