Where do we find the First 50? Who are the pioneering organizations that are supporting the pioneers?
Kingston Creative is an ambitious vision. The goal is to build, steadily build, an art district downtown. After all, Kingston is a UNESCO Creative City – with a focus on music, but there is much more besides to honour and celebrate: architecture, craft, dance, design, fashion, theatre, the arts in general – and the vibrancy of technology hand in hand with it all. All photos by Stuart Reeves, courtesy of Kingston Creative.
It’s not a short term, flash-in-the-pan project. Oh, but even the word “project” is not quite right. “Project” suggests that it is finite; there is really no limit in time (or space) to such a vision of transformation. I prefer to call it a movement. The group explains on its Facebook page:
In 5 – 10 years we envision a vibrant art district that can rival any cultural district in the world. We see creatives thriving and a cluster of businesses (fashion, visual art, music, dance, theatre, literature, culinary, gaming, architecture & design) that have sprung up around the Kingston Creative Coworking Hub. We see successful creative entrepreneurs who have been trained in the incubator and given the tools to take their products global.
To those cynics who say “Well, it takes more than a mural to change downtown Kingston,” I would reply that murals are a very good starting point. They bring life. They bring color. And sadly, downtown Kingston has been neglected, worn and faded for so very long, as Kingston dwellers moved uptown to a kind of semi-suburbia with the rather unattractive “New Kingston” patched into it as a business district.
Doris Gross, Coordinator for the mural project on behalf of Kingston Creative, notes:
Working with Jamaica’s creative talents alongside downtown residents to bring a seed of an idea to fruition was more than rewarding.
A shining example of how to uplift our environment, our communities, our urban spaces from the roots up. We are grateful to the sponsors, without whom this creative venture would not have been possible.
Also, a key pillar of Kingston Creative’s purpose is to encourage businesses (mostly small and micro-) to flourish downtown, involving those who live and work there and working it into the fabric of the area. So it is far more than “prettying up” – it’s about dollars and cents.
Back to downtown. Kingston Creative is not happening in a vacuum. Mayor Delroy Williams has been on board with the vision for some time now – in fact, vision is one of his favorite words and #stillbelieving is his ever-optimistic hashtag. The sure and steady renovation of the historic Ward Theatre and tentative efforts to improve the waterfront ambience are testament to this. Downtown now has two large new high-rise buildings, and the occupant of one of them – GraceKennedy – has just received a major grant through its Foundation to work on cleaning up the polluted Kingston Harbour.
This is all very encouraging. Although the challenges appear overwhelming, there is a Jamaican saying for all this: One one cocoa, full basket. There is really no other way of looking at it. We are nowhere near the city of Rome, but that wasn’t built in a day either.
The Kingston and St. Andrew Municipal Corporation, which Mayor Williams heads, is not only a cheerleader for Kingston Creative, but one of its supporters in a practical sense. In other words, it is one of the first First 50 sponsors of the movement. We cannot transform a city district by waving a magic wand! And Kingston Creative was overjoyed to welcome the lovely Spanish Court Hotel as its newest sponsor.
See the list of (and links to) all the sponsors below.
An early sponsor, Paperboy JA (they print flyers for the events) sees their involvement as an investment:
Paperboy JA is always looking for both creative and community-based projects that will uplift young people socially and economically.
We believe that, working with Kingston Creative on this initiative, we will achieve this mission.
We see it as both an investment in the arts and the community, and we encourage other businesses to join us in taking part in this initiative.
So we need to “big up” the KSAMC and the other thirteen sponsors who have already come on board. They are (drum roll, please!)
So, doing the Math – fifty minus fourteen equals… Well, fourteen down – thirty-six to go. This is the goal – thirty-six more sponsors, to really put fire under the pot and “tun it up.”
We know the Jamaican energy is there, and the entrepreneurial spirit and the imagination. Let’s make it happen.