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Public support for the arts

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Tue, Feb 17, 2015

by Camille Saunders Musser

Some of you might know that the Youlou Arts Foundation has run an art programme for the children of St Vincent and the Grenadines during the July/August holidays for the past 16 years, but I am sharing our manifesto with you now, so that you can learn what the foundation is all about.{{more}}

First, I will start with a brief history of Youlou Arts Foundation.

The idea of forming an art organization started in January of 1999, after I had my very first solo art exhibition in Kingstown and to my surprise and good fortune sold a few paintings. It was then that I decided to do something to promote the visual, performing and literary arts in SVG.

The big question was how to go about doing so?

By 2000 it was clear to me there were not many art programmes for primary school children, so I decided that that was something I could do easily and have fun at the same time. I knew I loved working with children and I had experience being a Brownie and Girl Guide leader. In 2000, we launched the Youlou Arts Foundation.

In 2001, with great assistance from Camille Crichton of Professional Secretarial & Consultancy Services Inc, the first Youlou Arts Foundation summer session took place. We called the programme “Growing Young SVG Artists.” Though it started with 15 children, it was a “hit” from the start and we now provide a three-week art programme in four locations: Kingstown, Barrouallie, Georgetown and Spring Village.

In 2005, we started offering a one-week art training workshop to primary school teachers. During this workshop, we invite local practising artists, as well as a “visiting artist,” often from the USA, to help facilitate the teachers’ training workshop, which is held before the start of the children’s programme.

In the 15 years since we have run the summer programme, many children have participated and I am proud to say we have come a very long way. It has been a steep learning curve and also a great deal of fun and hard work. I would love to hear feedback from former participants of the programme; so, if you are an alum, please be in touch.

Our Mission

Our official statement of purpose names some lofty goals: Youlou Arts Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization. The sole purpose is to promote excellence in the visual, performing, and literary arts in St Vincent and the Grenadines. It seeks to educate children in the arts, to create situations where economic self-sufficiency is promoted among artists, and to develop a scholarship fund to provide further education to local artists and artisans.

For years, we have survived by relying on donations from friends, family, and businesses in St Vincent and the Grenadines. I can truly say the “Growing Young SVG Artists” programme has had a fair amount of funding from the generosity of the people of SVG. I am very grateful and very appreciative of that fact.

Now, we are beginning to dream a bit bigger. We would like to focus on the second clause of our mission statement: “to create situations where economic self sufficiency is promoted among artists.” With that in mind, in 2010 the organization decided to focus on fund-raising towards getting an art centre, because there are not many venues in St Vincent and the Grenadines dedicated to visual arts. This centre would offer art classes to children and adults throughout the year and, very importantly, serve as a space to display and sell the work of local artists.

Raising funds towards this goal is back-breaking; the road is long and arduous; it requires patience, deep commitment, and most of all courage. This challenge is compounded because we know that it is easy to see the arts as an unnecessary frill in a developing nation. In order to make clear why the arts are important for SVG, I am publishing the Youlou Arts Foundation manifesto. We declare and believe the following:

Art is vital.

We need art in our daily life. It is the driving force which keeps us all sane and human.

To quote Picasso “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Art is powerful.

It has the capacity to bring about action and awareness. Art has the ability to bring people to together. It encourages curiosity, willingness and responsibility.

Art is inclusive.

It is for everyone.

Art can drive economic gain. Arts and cultural activities can draw crowds from within the community and around the region.

Increasing the number of visitors as well as enhancing resident participation helps build economic and social good. Here in St Vincent we all notice the impact carnival has on the economy.

We need to recognize and market the arts and cultural assets of our community. Creatively acknowledging and marketing community assets can attract a strong and skilled workforce as well as help sustain a positive quality of life.

It is for these reasons Youlou Arts Foundation has a vested interest in organizing art programmes for children. We know by getting the youth involved in art making we are making an investment in the future of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Youlou Arts Foundation has spent the past 16 years ensuring the continuation of the children’s art programme because we operate under the notion that “every child is an artist.” By dedicating time and energy to providing art activities to the children, we are promoting a culture where children will be inspired, motivated and become model citizens.

We know children have an enthusiasm for life, a spark of creativity, and vivid imaginations that need training. There is convincing evidence that children learn best when they are given rich and meaningful projects. Art projects encourage self-expression, exploration of materials, collaboration with peers, and opportunities to reflect on their progress and themselves. Such activities teach children what it means to carry out a significant undertaking. They get the opportunity to observe their own development and growth, and see their own personal contribution to the world. Creating well prepared art activities are the perfect tools to get children engaged. Art activities encourage children to learn to use their hands by manipulating materials; this develops motor skills in young children and gives older children technical skills and strategies. These activities also teach concentration and allow children to tap into their imagination and confidence. Giving children an early start in art activities is highly recommended. Young children who are given this opportunity, gain enormous insight into the process of art making. Most importantly, they get a taste of creating and self- reflecting. Once they learn these skills they will continue to grow throughout their life, as long as they remain actively involved in artistic activities. In addition to helping children develop valuable skills, these projects also teach children to express themselves, be observant, open, tolerant, and self disciplined. These are important facets of learning how to find creative solutions to problems, in this constantly changing world.

Youlou Arts Foundation is currently focused on fund-raising towards obtaining an art centre. We are counting on the public to give us their full support. On February 28th, we will be having a fund-raiser at the Curator’s House at the Botanic Gardens. We welcome the public’s support. Please check our facebook page: Youlou Arts Foundation for more details about the February 28th event. Tickets can be bought at the Theo Saunders Shop.

Youlou Arts is run by Vincies for Vincies.

I would like to get comments about this article; please contact me at camille.musser@gmail.com

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