Charting Changes: An NGJ Reggae Month Event

On Thursday, February 24, 2022, the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) will present an online Reggae Month event, entitled Charting Changes: A Reasoning about Narrative Styles and Directorship in Dancehall Music Videos of the 1980s and 1990s. The event will be a panel discussion, streamed live at 2:00pm, on the NGJ’s YouTube and Instagram Live channels. Charting Changes is being developed in association with the Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition, which is currently on view at the NGJ and will close to the public on February 28, 2021.

This discussion will be focused on music videos which related songs that articulated popular dance moves, advice, religious views, social criticism and expressions of admiration and sexual prowess. Moderated by Dr. Sonjah Stanley-Niaah, former Director at the Institute of Caribbean Studies UWI Mona, the panellists will be: video director and producer Llewellyn “Leo” O’Reggio, film director Ras Kassa, as well as video editor and director Garth Daley.

The Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition was originally launched in France, at the Philharmonie de Paris in 2017. After it closed in Paris, it was shown in São Paulo at the SESC in 2018 and then relaunched in Kingston Jamaica at the NGJ in February of 2020. Its run was interrupted after being on view for only six (6) weeks, when the NGJ was directed to close temporarily due to the COVID – 19 pandemic and the show later re-opened on 5th of October 2021. Memorabilia of the exhibition are still available for sale at the NGJ Gift Shop, including copies of its catalogue publication.

For further information on the Charting Changes online panel discussion, the Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition or any programming at the National Gallery of Jamaica, please call the Gallery at (876)922-1561 or (876)922-1563. Emails should be sent to info@natgalja.org.jm . Also remember to subscribe to the National Gallery of Jamaica’s social media platforms on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

#AskaConservatorDay 2021

The National Gallery of Jamaica participated in our second #askaconservatorday on November 4, 2021. This annual international event was created to highlight the conservation practice and give the public an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the profession’s contribution to cultural heritage management.   

Invitations to send in questions were posted on the NGJ’s social media platforms before the event and viewers were encouraged to ask questions during the live recording. Below are some of the questions the public asked for #Askaconservatorday answered by our conservator Ms. Joelle Salkey.

How does art conservation work?

Art conservation works through a series of deliberate actions aimed at ensuring the safety and longevity of art. These actions can be viewed in a scientific/ academic capacity or they can be as uncomplicated as good housekeeping. Once a conscious decision has been made to protect art and its surrounding environment, it’s considered a part of the conservation practice. 

Who handles art conservation?

Art conservators are trained heritage professionals.  They are really the only ones who should be executing art conservation techniques. 

What does the process involve?

Conservation incorporates a myriad of processes all executed with the end goal of preserving (to the best of our capability) the overall integrity of the art object. Some of these processes involve: observation, assessment and evaluation, research, testing/sampling, execution of treatment, monitoring and maintenance. 

When would a piece of art need to be conserved?

Once the artwork has been created and exists in a physical space it’s technically begun it’s conservation treatment. The safety and preservation of the artwork tends to be a continuous process and as menial as it may seem is a big part of the conservation process. Actual interventive or remedial conservation should only be carried out if the artwork shows obvious signs of deterioration and is in need of stabilization and restoration.

Does the gallery engage in conservation?

Yes, but only on works in the National Collection and that is conditionally based on the availability of resources at our disposal.

Are there a lot of conservators in the Caribbean?

Unfortunately, there are not enough conservators in the Caribbean. While I’m not certain of the exact number; in Jamaica I’m aware of 5 trained conservation professionals – myself included.

How long does it take to become a conservator?

It depends heavily on how far you are willing to pursue the profession and your background. Having a background in Art History, Art making and Chemistry is always an asset and will guarantee a smoother entry into the profession. Technically, a tertiary education in conservation can take you anywhere from 4 to 10 years depending on your areas of specialty and your academic aspirations. 

Why did you choose conservation as your specialty?

I, personally, have always had a love for art and art making. I love visiting museums and seeing art and artefacts made hundreds of years ago. When I realized a profession enabled me to merge my love for art and art history, as well as allowed me to physically touch these treasures, I jumped at the opportunity to become a conservator.

Are there ever pieces that you just can’t save? Give Examples.

Unfortunately, yes. On occasion conservators come across artworks or artefacts that have been so heavily damaged (whether by fire, pests, neglect or any extreme variation of the agents of deterioration) that our actions will have little to no beneficial effect. In these cases, we can document the current state of the piece and develop a maintenance plan for the remains (as we recognize that, even destroyed, it may contain valuable information to a researcher one day).  There are one or two works in the collection that exist as fragments (not caused by malicious intent, sometimes simply age and degradation of materials are a factor) but they are kept for posterity and still hold value to the national discussion on art. 

How would you conserve digital pieces? As you only deal with physical artworks.

Conservation is primarily concerned with the preservation of the original object’s tangible culture, meaning things that have a physical form. Digital art presents several challenges to the profession as in addition to lacking a physical form, there is the issue of originality. A file, once saved, exists as a copy or version of the original. Once transferred to another medium – whether by SD card or flash drive or cloud storage or even printed on a physical support – it is still recognized as a copy as multiple versions of the same file exist. If a printed poster is damaged by fire for example, the creator can simply print a new copy using the original file. There is practically nothing a conservator can do, outside of contacting a computer professional if the original file is lost or corrupted. By comparison, if a physical object is damaged by fire – not only can that damage be considered vital to the objects’ history (eg. The melted bottles of Hiroshima – which are significant because they show the damage caused by an atomic bomb), if minimal some of the aesthetical damage can be minimized through restoration. The damage should still be recorded as it will always represent a part of the object’s history and conservation treatment.

The conservation of intangible art is becoming a popular topic in modern conservation. With the rise of NFT’s and the popularity of digital art and social media platforms, we could look out for digital conservation professionals in the future.

What is the cost of conservation?

This depends on a variety of factors. If trying to establish a financial cost – it is dependent on the type of object, the age of the object, the value of the object, the composition of the object, the type of damage and the availability of resources necessary to stabilize and restore the object, and the time and expertise necessary to conserve the object. There’s no flat fee. 

A seemingly simple restoration procedure can run into the hundreds of thousands based on other factors not listed above. 

How much do you get paid to restore damaged artwork?

As mentioned above, a variety of factors can affect the cost of conservation and therefore the amount a conservator may charge.

What is the most difficult part of conserving paintings?

The preparatory work leading up to the treatment, including research and securing the relevant permissions to conduct a treatment. The amount of paperwork necessary to perform an ethical conservation exercise is very tedious. The treatment is the fun part.

Is it always necessary to remove varnish from a painting during treatment?

No. It is not always necessary to remove varnish from a painting to execute a treatment. This is heavily dependent on the use of the object and the extent of damage to the object. If the damage is minimal, some restoration can be done without removing the varnish layer. Varnish removal is extremely detrimental to the artwork and should be minimized where possible due to the use of harsh solvents.

What do you do if a painting is flaking?

Lie the painting flat, face up and take photographs of the areas of damage. Then call a conservation professional.

What does “re-touching” mean?

“Re-touching” and another term “in-painting” are used to describe the restoration process of matching a pigment or design on an artwork or artefact. This “re-touching” is done to enhance the aesthetic qualities of the object which can lead to its overall appreciation as a seemingly complete object rather than bring focus to the areas of damage. 

What’s the oldest artwork you’ve worked on?

To date, about 1000 years old – mechanical cleaning of a Taino Duho.

How do I know a conservator is qualified before I have them work on a piece?

This is quite a complicated question. There’s currently no existing framework of accreditation in the Caribbean that can assist with identifying a verified conservator. In the Jamaican context, our conservators have tertiary accreditation in Chemistry and or Art making or Conservation and have contributed to conservation awareness through teaching, workshops and articles. They also have years of verified experience in their chosen fields and follow an international code of ethics (ICOM) that is based on ensuring the inherent safety of the artworks in need of conservation above all else. Before you employ a conservator, you can ask about their training, their level of experience, area of specialty, and years in practice. You could also ask to see their portfolio and for verified references who could recommend their work. 

Will artists ever work with you on a treatment?

Occasionally, yes. The artist often supplies us information on the composition of the artwork which is beneficial to the long-term preservation and treatment of the object.

Are there many job opportunities as a conservator?

Unfortunately, because the profession is not well known in our region, it’s a little difficult to speak about the opportunities available. Internationally, conservation is a long-serving profession that once entered people tend to stay in the job position until retirement or longer. This tendency to be “long-serving” does tend to have an impact on job availability. There are greater opportunities internationally, but over time we hope to have increased awareness of the profession that leads to more full-time job opportunities.  

How does one become a conservator?

You can become a conservator by entering a conservation program at a recognized institution or university at the undergraduate, graduate or even postgraduate level. A beneficial asset is a background in any of three core subjects: Chemistry, Art History or Art practice. 

What do you love about your job as a conservator?

Personally, I truly enjoy being around and physically interacting with objects of heritage and art. I have a fascination about very old objects and I enjoy preserving these historical markers for future researchers and members of the public to enjoy. I really enjoy being a part of the reason these objects “survive time” and the fact that conservation grants me the opportunity is a blessing.

Are there any training programmes for conservation in Jamaica?

There are, though they are very rare. We encourage you to follow our social media pages as well as the social media pages of our National Museums Jamaica, the Institute of Jamaica as well as the Jamaica National Heritage Trust to see when announcements are sent out.

I hope I was able to answer your questions with clarity and if there are more please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below.

Thank you for participating in this years #AskaConservatorDay exercise. And thank you for your interest in conservation!

Teachers’ Webinar: Programme Schedule and Speakers

For the Education Department’s upcoming Teachers’ Webinar on Saturday, November 14, 2020, kindly see the event’s programme in addition to information about the moderator and presenters.

About the moderator:

Kirt Henry currently serves as Assistant Curator and head of the Education Department at the National Gallery of Jamaica. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Heritage Studies with a minor in Cultural Studies from The University of the West Indies, Mona. Presently, He is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree at the Institute of Caribbean Studies (UWI, Mona). Kirt’s research focuses on the production of meaning through dress forms in Revival rituals and ceremonies across postcolonial Jamaica. He has served as an adjunct lecturer at The UWI, Mona where he taught courses on African religious retentions, fashion and material culture in the Caribbean.  

About the presenters: 

Monique Barnett-Davidson is the acting Senior Curator at the National Gallery of Jamaica. She holds a B.F.A. in Painting from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (Kingston, Jamaica) and an M.A in Heritage Studies from the University of the West Indies (Mona). Since 2007, Monique has worked in various aspects of the visual arts in Jamaica including art education, exhibition programming and development, as well as art museum education and research. From 2006 to 2010, she also worked as an art teacher, mainly at the secondary school level. She has been a lead coordinator for several educational programmes at the NGJ including public forums, outreach initiatives and workshops. 

Cristal Clayton- Wallace has been employed to the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) as a Curatorial Assistant since 2014. She is a graduate of The Mico University College where she attained a B.A. in Visual Arts Education. In 2018 she represented the NGJ at the annual Museum Association of the Caribbean (MAC) Conference in Barbados after being awarded a MAC Fellowship to attend. Periodically, Cristal has worked as co-coordinator and coordinator for the Saturday Art Time Programme and the Multicare Summer Art on The Waterfront Programme respectively. In addition she also writes the NGJ’s contributions to the All about Sweet Jamaica section of the Observer’s Junior Study Centre.   

Dwayne Lyttle is a graduate of the St. Joseph’s Teachers’ College where he attained a Diploma in Primary Education. His professional focus includes the areas of cultural education, instructional communication and visual arts instruction. Currently, he is employed to the National Gallery of Jamaica as a Curatorial Assistant, in the Education Department. Within this department, Lyttle develops educational programmes, does research, conducts tours and periodically executes workshop training as well as visual arts classes for children. In 2016 he co-authored with Monique Barnett Davidson, a paper titled Adapt or Perish: An Assessment of Emerging Museum Educational Strategies at the National Gallery of Jamaica, published in the Museum Association of the Caribbean’s online Journal, Caribbean Museum.

NGJ Teachers’ Webinar: “Supporting Art, Experiences and Learners”

The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) will be hosting its Teachers’ Webinar, via the NGJ’s YouTube Channel, on Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 1:00 PM. The live-streamed event is being coordinated by the NGJ Education Department under the theme “Supporting Art, Experiences and Learners”

The Teachers’ Webinar is a special edition of NGJ’s annual Teachers’ Seminar series, which was initiated in 2014 and specifically designed to equip, train and support teachers and teachers-in-training, to effectively incorporate the museum as a resource space. This webinar is coordinated as an extension of the Art-Ed Support project, which was initiated by the NGJ Education Department in July 2020 and entails a series of online art educational initiatives, designed to provide informational resources for a variety of scholastic and academic activities associated with the study and application of visual arts. 

The management of NGJ believes that the webinar will create opportunities for the NGJ to connect with a wider audience of educational professionals, regardless of the discipline or grade level. Key objectives for the NGJ’s Teachers’ Webinar will be to delineate procedures, concerning research and accessing NGJ educational services, as well as providing participants with information on how to apply museum resources in lesson planning.

Moderated by Assistant Curator in Education, Mr. Kirt Henry, with opening remarks delivered by Chief Curator, Mr. O’Neil Lawrence; the webinar will feature presentations from Curatorial Assistants, Mr. Dwayne Lyttle and Mrs. Cristal Clayton-Wallace. A preview video for the Webinar, entitled, “Education through the Museum Experience”, presented by Senior Curator, Mrs. Monique Barnett-Davidson – will premiere on the NGJ’s YouTube Channel, on Saturday, November 7, 2020. 

There are no registration requirements or costs associated with the NGJ Teachers’ Webinar; however, the event will not have open access. To view the webinar simply enter, or click on the following video:

The link will also be posted on the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  For more information, email the NGJ Education Department at educate@natgalja.org.jm, or call at (876) 922-1561, (876) 922-1563 or (876) 618-0654. You can follow the National Gallery of Jamaica, on the above-mentioned platforms and at the NGJ Blog, https://nationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com.

Hurricane Preparedness and Your Art

The Atlantic hurricane season begins annually on June 1st and continues until November 30. To date, the 2020 season has set a new precedent in terms of having the earliest forming storms and occurrence of two active storms in the region simultaneously – and we haven’t reached the peak of the season yet! Hurricanes and tropical storms are comprised of winds rotating around a low pressure centre, and are formed over warm waters. In the Caribbean, extreme winds, flooding and lightning strikes are common and in many cases cause significant threat to human life, property, and major infrastructure. Based on this once a storm threat has been identified, governments and businesses put strategies in place to manage the effects of these natural phenomena on their operations and hasten recovery.

In addition, museums and heritage institutions housing important cultural items have also developed disaster management plans for this annual storm season, which is composed of conservation and risk management methodologies. With the understanding that hurricane winds can escalate to speeds of more than 119 km/h as well as, the volume of water can increase 0.6 inches/665km radius, heritage 2 professionals apply that knowledge to build effective disaster prevention plans for their collections. Many plans, regardless of the institution, contain similar or general rules such as “never store artwork on the floor” in case of flooding or “avoid placing artwork near exposed windows” in case of water and wind damage. Equally, museums and heritage institutions tailor their disaster plans to the specific challenges that they face.

These methodologies provide the necessary framework for protection and preservation of our priceless tangible assets, and ensure their longevity for future generations to enjoy. 

So what measures can we use to protect our tangible cultural heritage? 

While it is difficult to plan for every possible outcome, conducting risk management assessments can go a long way in mitigating the amount of damage our cherished valuables receive. Much of this mitigation involves practicing preventive measures in light of the many “what if’s” that may trouble the mind, once a tropical storm announcement is made. With an extremely active hurricane season predicted for the remainder of 2020, the National Gallery of Jamaica would like to share some of our tips to help protect your art and valuables during this hurricane season. To assist your preparations, we’ve separated our checklist into two sections for your benefit, these are: Before and After. We invite you to read through and prepare appropriate to your needs.

  • Develop a hurricane preparedness plan for your artwork.
    • If one already exists, review to ensure information is accurate and up to date.
    • Ensure that individual/employee responsibilities are outlined in a clear and concise manner. Eg. In the event of a power failure, who is responsible for the operation of the generator?
  • Photograph all of your artwork and store the photos safely.
    • Take photos of their placement in their current placement and up close photos of artwork itself.
    • Take photos of the painted image (the face) along with the reverse (verso) of the work for comparison.
    • Be sure to label each photo appropriately and upload them to an online storage platform like google or one drive for safekeeping. You can email the photos to yourself as well.
    • If you prefer or do not have access to an online storage platform, you can store your images on a secondary storage device like an SD card or flash drive and store the physical devices in a waterproof location.
    • You may also print the photographs, if you prefer, but be sure to label and store them in a ziplock bag or waterproof location.
  • Record the condition of your works.
    • This should involve documenting the artist name, dimensions, and current condition of the work (good, fair, poor). Document everything associated with the work to the best of your ability.
    • If you are not sure what to do, contact a heritage professional or a conservator for advice.
  • Get an appraisal of your artwork. In the case where your collection carries significant value, get a certified art appraiser to give you an estimated value. Secure this documentation as it will be crucial for your insurance at a later date.
  • Identify the safest room in your home or business to store your art:
    • Ensure windows are sealed and watertight, that there are no leaks or weakened areas of the roof.
  • Remove art from the walls and store elevated from the floor (at least 3 ft):
    • If possible, stack paintings vertically from largest to smallest, ensuring the frames of the preceding and succeeding works rest comfortably on each other. If unframed, place a sheet of acid free tissue paper where edges of the work touch to mitigate sticking and paint loss.
  • Cover your art stack with a plastic sheeting or tarp:
    • Secure edges of the plastic sheeting at the same time allowing some air to pass under the sheet. It is essential that you do not create a microclimate which will encourage mold growth and moisture damage.
  • If possible, consider crating your art:
    • Building specialized art storage will go a long way in ensuring the safety of your collection.
  • In the case of outdoor sculptures consider building a support or securely anchoring the work with rope to a concrete beam:
    • Where possible avoid anchoring to the ground as the earth could become waterlogged.
  • Consult your disaster management plan.
    • Contact all those involved according to the tasks delegated in the plan.
  • Remove plastic sheeting, and relocate collection to a safe but brightly lit and ventilated area and conduct an inspection.
    • Use photographs taken before the event to determine any condition changes to the artworks.
    • If damage is identified contact a conservation professional or depending on the extent of the damage you can carry the work to a local framer for advice.
    • Be on guard for water or moisture damage around the fame and on the matte or linen liner if present.
  • Conduct a condition report.
    • Using the same format as the condition report documented before the event, note the current condition of the artwork. Document any changes noted during your inspection. If no changes are noted secure your condition report for future reference – it will be needed in the event of another Hurricane or Natural disaster.
  • Contact your insurance company and inform them of damage if present.
    • The conservator will provide you with a condition report which along with the appraisal should be handed over to our insurance company with your claim documentation.
  • If damage is superficial ( only to the frame for exterior parts of the work), lightly dust the artwork with a soft brush or microfibre cloth and return to the hanging position on the wall.
    • If this is not possible, return the artworks to the storage stack or to the crate until it is safe to display them.

1 Matthew Cappucci. (2020) “ Tropical storm Nana forms in Caribbean, could make landfall as hurricane in Belize. Omar forms off East Coast.” The Washington Post. September 1, 2020. URL:https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/09/01/tropical-storm-nana-nears-formation-caribbean-atlantic-hurricane-season-stays-unusually-active/ [September 2, 2020]

2 According to Meteorologist William M. Gray, former head of the Tropical Meteorology Project.

Writivity Essentials #3: Art Analysis for the Reflective Journal (Pt. 2)

In Part One, we covered five key activities that you (the student) must do before you begin an Art Analysis. At the end of Part Two, you should be able to use an artwork to generate ‘analytical’ information for the following areas: 

  1. Description
  2. Analysis
  3. Evaluation

Please be reminded, that you must always seek guidance from your Teacher. She or He can give advice on how much to write, and help you to choose which pieces of information gathered from your observation, are the most important to write on.  Also remember, that an art analysis is your informed opinion, therefore you must avoid using someone else’s thoughts; rely on your own thoughts as well as use your own words.

The writings for a Description, an Analysis and an Evaluation of an artwork should be no more than one paragraph for each. Each section functions within your Reflective Journal in the following ways:

  1. DESCRIPTION

This section identifies the title of the artwork, who made it, when it was made and what materials were used to create it. The Description also gives information about the physical appearance of the artwork and the images that are depicted in it.

  1. ANALYSIS

This section explores the finer details of the artwork including the identification of techniques used in the artwork, evidence of art elements and principles and the effects that they produce in the overall composition.

  1. EVALUATION 

This section explores the value of the artwork to your chosen theme and your understanding of the associated expressive form. A key question to be answered in this section is: what makes this artwork important to your CSEC Visual Arts research and the development of your student work?

For a demonstration on how to generate information for each section, you can watch the video below:

So let us quickly recap the main points for making an Art Analysis for the Reflective Journal:

  1. An Art Analysis is a detailed examination of the qualities and features of an artwork, in order to know more about it.
  2. The key activities needed to prepare for doing an Art Analysis are:
    • Selecting the artwork
    • Setting time for observation
    • Choosing a method of documentation 
    • Refreshing your knowledge of art terms 
    • Using these words to draft sentences and paragraphs for the Reflective Journal
  1. You can organize and write the information you have collected from doing the Art Analysis into three sections:
    1. Description
    2. Analysis
    3. Evaluation

Each section only needs to be one (1) paragraph in length.

This brings us to the end of “Art Analysis for the Reflective Journal” and of the Writivity Essentials series. We sincerely hope that the information presented was beneficial to those teaching and pursuing studies for CSEC Visual Arts. Please remember to keep up with us by subscribing to all our platforms on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter and be sure to also activate the notification features so you will always be in the know when it comes to the NGJ.