by Susan Mains
I have written many articles about art in Grenada over the past almost 30 years, but never have I put myself at its centre, writing in the first person tense.
Many who knew me in my teenage years growing up in Grenada, knew that I always had a fascination for art and for creativity. My university education took me in another direction, but while living in Dominica in the 80s, the passion was ignited and I began my life-long pursuit of study for art. I have learned from artists, from reading, from museum and gallery visits, from the internet, and from my own practice.
When I returned to Grenada to live in 1992, I did not consider myself a professional artist. I felt intimidated by the fact that I had not gone to art school. There were others who I considered to be much better than me. Beverly Steele bought the first painting that I sold then, shown at a Grenada Arts Council Annual show — it was such an encouragement. Nonetheless, I painted, and wrote and advocated for others to highlight the importance of visual art to culture. My long association with the Grenada Arts Council in many roles gave opportunity for volunteer work.
My experience in organisational aspects of the art world grew. I participated in organising Grenada’s artists to be shown in Barbados, Trinidad, Aruba, Dominican Republic, the United States, Germany, Brazil, Columbia, Switzerland, China, Australia, Colombia, and ultimately in Italy at the Biennale di Venezia, the world’s most prestigious art event. Everywhere our art went, the Grenada flag flew and represented us as a nation. This organisation also included bringing groups of artist to Grenada, to interact with our artists. Notably, Rosie Gordon-Wallace of Diaspora Vibe in Miami came 3 times with groups, one including a visit to Carriacou to the late Canute Caliste.
In 2002, I opened my own art gallery at Spiceland Mall, Art and Soul. A bookstore is part of this, because where would we be without the opportunity to read, research, and expand our horizons in a book.
Mentorship of young artist has also been an important part of service activities in art. It gives me great satisfaction that my own son, Artist, Asher Mains, after his education in the United States and Europe has chosen to return to Grenada to teach and continue this legacy of visual art rising to hold its own in the realm of culture and contribution to economy. Together we have established Art House 473, an art space in Calliste opened in 2018 that has already hosted international exchanges of Contemporary Art.
Most impactful though has been the process of raising of visual art culture in Grenada. Homage must be given to the late hoteliers who insisted on local art for their hotels. Royston Hopkin of Spice Island Beach Resort; Lawrence Lambert of Flamboyant, and Andre Cherman of Coyaba, were insistent that their hotels must reflect Grenada in its choice of art. These are our patron saints of art, and may their legacy live on.
Continuing to carry that torch for local art are Arnold Hopkin at Blue Horizons Garden Resort, the Meranskis of LaSagesse Nature Centre, Russ and Magdalena Fielding at True Blue Resort, the Clifts at Petit Anse, Sea Breeze and Grooms Beach. When he came to Grenada, Peter de Savary sent his designers around, and filled Mount Cinnamon with local art. Bernardo and Wendy Bertucci have made it their mission to support when Grenada goes to Italy to the Biennale, and they have made a whole garden of art at their hotel. When Richard Nixon outfitted his new apartments, Hideaway, he put local art in each apartment, and continues to collect. Yvonne Edmund followed suit when she refurbished Bougainvillia Apartments. Many villa owners have made it a priority to support the local art scene.
When Republic Bank built their new headquarters in St George’s, a percentage of budget was allotted to visual art, and they now have an enviable collection of some of Grenada’s finest art. Grenlec also has made a large collection of local art displayed in their headquarters and branches. Local companies have also supported to collect art for a permanent collection for Grenada Arts Council — the Quinn Company, Insurance Consultants, and many others. Now a National Museum for Visual Art in Grenada is a must. It must be a centre to preserve the past and enliven the future.
These Covid times are very difficult for visual artists, small makers, craft people, and agro-producers. Our visitors are often our primary clients, and with no income, we still have to meet our obligations, just like everyone else. There has been time for reflection, for quiet work, for words of encouragement to others. There has been sharing of materials, anonymous giving and receiving. It is filled with anxiety yet abundant grace. Family and art become generational, and thank God for both.
With new investment in mega-hotels promised by government, we all should have hope for those who work in the creative sector producing paintings, sculptures, installations for the interiors and grounds. However, it is sadly noted that the new international brand hotels have so far demonstrated that they have no compunction or desire to honour Grenada in their decor. This is something upon which our government should insist — that a percentage of the interior decoration of these foreign hotels must include the work of Grenada’s visual artists and crafts people. Art is an economic driver, and the investment for growth must start from within.
For me personally, the award of the British Empire Medal (BEM) from Queen Elizabeth is an important milestone as a marker of service. It does not mean I am the best artist. It means that the work of moving our culture forward in terms of the inclusion of visual art has just begun. I couldn’t be more thrilled; with great thanks to our Governor General, Dame Cecile la Grenade. If you have been to the GG’s residence you have seen that it is filled with Grenada’s art. She understands the importance of the need for us as a people to see ourselves, and to elevate us to the highest levels.
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