Institute of Jamaica Research Symposium

On Friday, November 3, 2017, the Researchers and Curators Committee of the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) will be hosting the Annual IOJ Research Symposium 2017, to be held at the IOJ’s Lecture Theatre, 10 – 16 East Street, Kingston. Registration will begin at 9:30 am and is open to the public at no charge. The symposium features a series of presentations from IOJ divisional representatives on a variety of research areas pertinent to the work of the Institute as well as the wider local cultural landscape and infrastructure. The National Gallery of Jamaica will be represented by Mr. Dwayne Lyttle, Curatorial Assistant in the NGJ’s Education Department.

For this year’s symposium, the presentations will be made under the theme Research, Museum Education and Outreach. In today’s world, museums make important interventions in the field of education and community development, though this is not generally recognized by the wider community in Jamaica. Given the current focus on financial sustainability, research (especially within the museum space) is dismissed as being academic and not contributing to the overall wellbeing of society. Within the institutional structure of the IOJ, research and education outreach is integral to the IOJ fulfilling its mandate as cultural and educational space. Presentations will focus on the ways in which research and education outreach contributes to and enriches the conceptualization of IOJ exhibitions and displays, and educational programming associated with the national collection.

The IOJ Researchers and Curators Committee cordially invites the public to attend the symposium to listen and our presenters, as well as to enliven the follow-up discussion segments.



Kingston: Institutions and Collections

Phannel Toussiant - National gallery of Jamaica, Devon House (rgb)

Phannel Toussaint – National gallery Ballroom, Devon House (1980), Collection: NGJ

Here is another feature on the Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition:

As we speak of “crossroads” and opportunities, we have to recognize that Kingston is also the centre of cultural infrastructure in Jamaica. This includes the two main visual arts institutions, the Edna Manley College and the National Gallery of Jamaica, and several major corporate art collections. Jamaica’s main private art collections are also located in Kingston. This Kingston-centeredness is slowly changing as governmental and corporate authorities as well as other private interests have been employing strategies to de-centralize the infrastructural dominance of Kingston. The 2014 establishment of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, which houses the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Montego Bay branch National Gallery West, is one such example. That being said, this section of the exhibition acknowledges a selection of those Kingston-based entities that have been key pillars for the development of visual art practice and promotion in Jamaica, and have also contributed to urban development and renewal.

Devon House

Sidney McLaren – Devon House (1979), Collection: NGJ

The Institute of Jamaica, which was established in 1879, is the oldest cultural institution in Jamaica and has been pivotal in the development of national art exhibition programming and art educational opportunities, especially from the 1930s to the present. The National Gallery of Jamaica has its origins in the pioneering art collecting and exhibition programmes of the Institute and presently operates as one of its divisions. Established in 1974 at Devon House on Hope Road and then relocated to the Roy West Building on the Kingston Waterfront in 1982, the National Gallery of Jamaica functions as the custodian of carefully developed collections of Jamaican art, representing more than ten centuries of artistic history in our country. Other Institute of Jamaica divisions that have been involved in the visual arts are the Junior Centre and the National Library of Jamaica, before the latter attained autonomy. The Junior Centre hosted Edna Manley’s seminal free adult art classes that started in 1939 and served as a meeting place for the members of the emerging nationalist school, and it continues to offer children’s art programmes today.

Whitney Miller - Little North Street (rgb)

Whitney Miller – Little North Street (1963), Collection: Edna Manley College

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In Retrospect – Section 1: FOUNDATIONS

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We continue the publication of the text panels in In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica, with the text panel for the first section of the exhibition, which looks at the earliest beginnings of our collection:

When the National Gallery opened its doors in 1974, a significant part of the Institute of Jamaica’s art collection was transferred to the new organization. According to our records, this comprised 237 paintings and drawings and 25 sculptures which thus became the Gallery’s foundational collection.The initial transfer consisted of modern Jamaican art only, starting with Edna Manley’s Negro Aroused (1935), but a group of pre-twentieth century works was later also transferred, in 1976, which now forms the core of the National Gallery’s historical collection.

The artworks that were transferred to the National Gallery in 1974 not only says a lot about how the Institute of Jamaica went about its exhibitions and acquisitions—and most acquisitions were from exhibitions that were held at the Institute—but also helps to explain how the early National Gallery was conceptualized. Negro Aroused (1935) had been acquired by public subscription in 1937 as the first modern work of art to enter the Institute’s collection—its acquisition can be seen as the symbolic beginning of what later became the National Gallery. Before that, the Institute had acquired art mainly for its historical value, for instance for their portrait gallery, and furthermore made those decisions from a decidedly colonial perspective. This was challenged by the nationalist intelligentsia in the late 1930s, who pressured the Institute of Jamaica to become receptive to the emerging modern Jamaican school, and it is the resulting change in policy direction which generated the art collection that was eventually transferred to the National Gallery. The articles of association of the National Gallery mandated it to exhibit and collect the art that had come out of the 1938 uprising, which was a narrow and ultimately untenable mandate that was, as we will see in the next section, quickly challenged and expanded by its Director/Curator David Boxer, but it was consistent with the context in which its core collection had come about.

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2010 National Biennial: Silver Musgrave Medalist Gaston Tabois

The Jamaican Intuitive painter Gaston Tabois in 2010 received a Silver Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica, the NGJ’s parent organization. As has become customary for artists who have been awarded Musgrave medals, the 2010 National Biennial includes a special tribute exhibition of his work. Below is the citation for Gaston Tabois’ Silver Musgrave medal.

Gaston Tabois – Road Menders (1956), Collection: NGJ

The Institute of Jamaica recognizes Gaston Tabois for outstanding merit in the field of Art.

Born in Trout Hall, Clarendon in 1924, Tabois’ early years were spent on his parents small farm in the village of Rock River, a few miles from Chapelton, where as an only child he received the full attention of a doting mother who instilled in him a sense of order, discipline and of pride in completing every set task with a maximum of constructive effort. The late Gloria Escoffery, author of a memorable account of Tabois’ journey as an artist, adds other early lessons from his mother:

Today Tabois has his mother to thank not only for the moral
standards she set for him…, but also for the example of those nimble
fingers as they brought to life the intricate designs she embroidered
on the bridal gowns of Rock River belles (…) without realizing that
he was learning, Tabois came to understand the importance of
planning, of careful craftsmanship, of giving thought to the
materials, or ground on which one worked, the tools and medium
one selects for a particular job.

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2010 National Biennial: Silver Musgrave Medalist Gene Pearson

The Jamaican ceramicist Gene Pearson in 2010 received a Silver Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica, the NGJ’s parent organization. As has become customary for artists who have been awarded Musgrave medals, the 2010 National Biennial includes a special tribute exhibition of his work. Below is the citation for Gene Pearson’s Silver Musgrave medal.

Installation view - Gene Pearson exhibition in 2010 National Biennial

The Institute of Jamaica recognizes Gene Pearson, O.D., for outstanding merit in the field of Art.

Ceramicist and sculptor Gene Hendricks Pearson was born in 1946 in St. Catherine, Jamaica. He attended the Jamaica School of Art; now the Edna College of the Visual and Performing Arts, where he studied under Jamaica’s Master Potter Cecil Baugh and was one of the School’s first graduates with a diploma in ceramics in 1965. He subsequently taught at the Jamaica School of Art, for some eighteen years, and has also taught ceramics at the Calabar and Vere Technical High schools. At present, he works exclusively as a studio artist and divides his time between Jamaica and California. A keen cultural entrepreneur, he recently opened a gallery in New Kingston – the Gene Pearson Gallery – where he sells his ceramic and sculptural work.

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