Information was disseminated at Tilting Axis as to how those present could work together to improve the careers and opportunities for the Visual Artists of the region. I share weekly emails to local/regional artists and curators as well as post on Facebook to alert the art community to international opportunities. The Tilting Axis encounter fed into this activity as there were persons present such as the British Council Representative for the Caribbean, the heads of Videobrasil, Res Artis, China Residencies and many others.

The meeting brought home to me how invisible the Caribbean is in the wider world of art, despite individual artists being seen in the international arena. Many of the international representatives of institutions confirmed a lack of interest from their institutions in discovering more about the Caribbean. In contrast there was a concern about the validity of exhibitions on Caribbean Art, which tended to be superficial surveys. It was suggested that such exhibitions exhibiting the work of Caribbean artists would be more meaningful if united by a theme. However, Tobias Ostrander of the Pérez Museum pointed out that the growing Caribbean communities in the US would cause institutions to look for projects from the region. The idea of the region is becoming stronger than individual island identities

The value of CARIFESTA as one of the few events which brings together artists from the Caribbean, was underestimated by some of those present; most of the participants were unfamiliar with CARIFESTA. Although it is often poorly organized, it provides an opportunity for the Artists of the region in multiple disciplines to meet each other and understand the region better. The CARIFESTA Symposium provides an outlet for the sharing of ideas and experiences, but of course depends on the skill and dedication of the organizers as to the quality of the event. One of the dangers we face as regional Artists is the speed with which we dismiss existing institutions as opposed to working with them to raise standards. This has contributed to the multiple cliques in the Visual Arts in Barbados, which is not healthy.

Although the lives of the majority of the presenters were very different from my own in the breadth of their international experience, there were some suggestions that I could adapt to suit the needs of the community. Here are some possibilities:

  • Local peer review sessions at different Artist’s studios or at QPG where everyone brings a drink or snack and we discuss the work in a critical, yet supportive way. A Guest who may be a stranger is invited to share their views. This activity could take place once a month.
  • I could add to my budget an honorarium for writers to write on exhibitions at Queens Park Gallery for local press and make an effort to have the work published elsewhere to access an international audience.
  • Contact publications abroad that do not have information on the region.
  • When independent researchers visit the region they should conduct workshops on writing on art and ideally write on art in the region.
  • Continue to broaden the local market as well support artists penetrating markets abroad. This could possibly occur through exhibiting in unconventional spaces.
  • To educate government officials such as the Minister of Culture about Art, it would be a great idea as suggested by Amanda Coulson, to have government ministers visit biennials, accompanied by a local curator as part of their education about art.

There were many other ideas that came out of Tilting Axis. I hope that it will continue to impact on the thinking of those who participated. It provided a wonderful networking opportunity that has already borne fruit.

Janice Whittle, Curator
Queens Park Gallery & The National Cultural Foundation