Creative Spaces in Trinidad

Alice Yard is currently undergoing construction. Somehow the small space in a tiny backyard will be expanded to accommodate a variety of artists.

Being around the creators of Alice Yard, a space for imaginative and creative people, I keep hearing over and over how Trinidad lacks "artsy" spaces. It's as if the whole island is indirectly trying to neglect the local artists. The establishments created to promote creative expression in Trinidad do little to motivate and support local artists. Andre Bagoo comments in his blog about some of the ways in which Trinidad is trying to improve their creative centers (to read more click here). In some ways people believe that Trinidad does not encourage creative expression, even though this country is famous for their whimsical two-day costumed Carnival. Somehow I was still shocked when my newly-made Trinidadian friend told me via facebook chat that this place doesn’t have the market for photographers. And I wondered what that meant? What place has a market for photographers?

In my opinion, artists always struggle to find a market for their work. Sure an add may be placed in the Newspaper for a studio or wedding photographers, but it's rare to see an art gallery searching for art work. The market for photographers, or any form of art, needs to be created by the artist. It doesn't matter where one goes, the market for art will always be a tough area to penetrate, but the options which help to create the demand is the key component, not the market itself.

Options for increasing creativity among the public include having buildings such as museums, art galleries, organizations geared towards inspiring young or old artists, even institutionalized programs, etc. But for some reason, I was under the impression that there are no museums in Trinidad, no art galleries, no option to express and showcase imagination. Interestingly enough, the more I research (online) and venture out the more I find that it is just not so. For example The National Museum and Art Gallery is in Port of Spain, which has two smaller branches of museums. There are other small art galleries throughout the island so it's not that the art world is non-existent, but there just aren't many outlets. However, the options are still available and seemingly expanding.

So far I have been taken to three art galleries, three more than I expected to visit in Trinidad, honestly. I was taken to In2Art, a gallery in St. Ann's, which is basically a hole in the wall. When we pulled up to the building, I thought it was just the entrance to an apartment building. Granted it looked freshly painted and the door seemed brand new, I couldn’t believe this was a gallery. However, when I walked into the space there was a refreshing cleanliness reminiscent of a typical gallery. The walls were stark white, fluorescent lights brightened the space and detached walls separated areas of the room. According to the curator there were three rooms and I thought to myself, "how could they possibly fit three rooms in this small building," but it was well done. At the time The Tallman Foundation, an organization that promotes artistic expression in young adults and teenagers throughout Trinidad, had their work on display. These adolecent artists had photographs depicting Hope, Love and Faith on every wall of the gallery; there was even a video recording of the purpose and drive for the work showing in the back room for anyone interested.

Horizons Art Gallery was another place I visited that seemed spaciously small. Comprised of two buildings, side by side, where one was the gallery and the other was a sort of gallery shop, Horizons displayed beautiful oil paintings by Harry Bryden. Although the images highlight an overly romanticized past, the creations are still very pleasing to the eye. The artist is of Trinidadian ancestry, which (similar to In2Art) was another example of Trinidadian art displayed in a Trinidadian gallery. A part of me expected to see non-Trinidadian art at these galleries, so it was nice to see Bryden's work on display in a somewhat nostalgic looking building. The outside of the building had fretwork, however the inside lacked the past characteristics so elegantly portrayed in the paintings and exterior design.

Soft Box Art Gallery "Hallway for Display" shows how paintings are on showcased on the walls similar to family pictures in a home.

Located in St. Clair, the restored old house turned art gallery seemed too small for the amount of paintings on display. Dispite the limitations of the building, the curators have done a wonderful job of making the space feel bigger than it looks. Artwork was displayed in nearly every room including the kitchen and a small sitting area. The only areas I did not see artwork were in the storage room and photo studio. A small commercial photography studio is run in the same building, so even though there was no art on display the rooms still had an arty vibe. I thought it was an interesting use of space because it examplifies one way Trinidad could invest in supporting their local artists while preserving architectural history.

The building was renovated but still had many of the old characteristics. The fretwork was still very visible on the exterior, however glass covered the inside fretwork so that cool air wouldn’t escape through the old ventilation system. There was still old tile work on the floor in one of the gallery rooms, which gave it a different feel from the dark hard wood floor at the entrance and in the hall. Even though the building is a gutted and repacked version of a house, it still felt homely to some extent.

All of this is to say that, while I am not very versed or experienced with Trinidadian art, from an outsiders perspective the place seems to promote artistic expression. Whether that comes from a national level, private organization or instigated by the community is not a huge concern. The fact is that there are some very nice spaces willing to display local artwork.

For more images of art spaces in Trinidad, click here.


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