The Dominica Institute for the Arts in partnership with the Cultural Division has played and will continue to play a pivotal role in the development of Visual and Performing Arts in Dominica.
The Institute operates under the Division of Culture and the National Cultural Council with a joint aim to preserve and promote the traditional and contemporary expressions of Dominica’s culture.
GIS News in an exclusive interview spoke with Director of the Dominica Institute for the Arts, Athlene Douglas-Murdock during a recently held teacher’s workshop.
The workshop focused on training educators to promote Art in schools, as well as the general public.
Douglas-Murdock expressed, that the Cultural Division is taking initiatives to raise the value of the Arts in Dominica.
One such initiative is a Visual and Performing Art Programme which she says caters to over one hundred and fifty students and adults.
“This is not an isolated workshop; we are hoping to make the group have a drive towards training teachers in the Arts, not only short term training like this one but continuing to train.We would like to see more persons go overseas to study professionally for two, three or four years in the Arts.”
The Visual and Performing Art courses are held from 4pm to 7pm, however, Douglas-Murdock says the Institute at some point would like do more; perhaps be positioned to offer an Associate Degree.
“We are moving towards raising the value of Arts in the country, making it more accessible to persons who would like to do it and generally promoting the Arts in a big way in Dominica. I think it would help us in many ways.”
Murdock believes that parents and members of society play a major role in the continued development of culture on the island.
“Generally, maybe it’s not Dominica alone; we tend to de-value the Arts. If a child comes to you and says, Mom I want to be an artist, we are more inclined to say you are joking. You would want them to be a lawyer or doctor as if to say that these are the only professions that have value. There are so many professions in the Arts now that it’s unfair to discourage a child who has that as a passion for the Arts because we think it doesn’t have much worth; people don’t look up to artists… .we have to change the mindset and attitudes of the whole country towards the Arts. We have to raise the level of the Arts in the country.”
According to the Director, Dominica has a lot of raw talent. She says, “We just haven’t gotten the opportunity to get the training to grab it and this is what the Institute is all about, to promote the Arts, promote the Artists. We want to see our art work being sold in the other islands and internationally.”
The Director mentioned the schools art festival headed by the Cultural Division, stating its necessity as an avenue to allow students the opportunity to showcase their talents.
“It’s a great opportunity to have the schools awaken themselves about the Arts and to see the talents of school children.”
Douglas- Murdock recognized the efforts of individuals she considers iconic and who sometimes go un-noticed in pushing the arts.
She voiced, that though not able to list all, she is thrilled by every individual’s contribution.
“Many artists do a lot of unpaid work, we don’t really appreciate them enough for the kind of work they do without pay. I want to thank persons who have come before, like Mr. Oliver Le Blanc who raised awareness in the Arts, Cissie Caudieron and even more recent persons like Dr. Alwin Bully, Mr. Raymond Lawrence, Aunty Pearle Christian, these are icons in our own time and I think we have to cherish them, appreciate and thank them for bringing us where we are in the arts in Dominica today.”
The Waitukubuli Dance Theatre directed by Chief Cultural Officer, Raymond Lawrence and the Sixth Form Sisserou Singers Choir under the direction of the Senior Cultural Officer, Pearle Christian, are also projects undertaken by the Cultural Division in drawing awareness to the Arts in Dominica and to create an understanding and appreciation of cultures of the region and the wider world.