Arts can save at-risk youth

Baptiste was speaking at the media launch of this year’s Decibel conference, an annual entertainment conference and expo geared particularly at the nation’s youth, 15 to 25.

The three-day conference is scheduled to take place from April 30 to May 2 at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s.

At the launch held last Wednesday at Queen’s Hall, when asked if the creative industries had truly made inroads into the country’s economic diversification, Baptiste said, “There has been rapid growth. We can always argue and debate where it is coming from, is it coming from Government support or is it coming from the business sector or individuals who are just hungry, passionate and driven.

“I think everyone is trying to play their part. I do think we can all do a better job of coming together and really understanding the challenges that we face and work together.”

He said all groups were guilty of not understanding that the sector could have been further along if there was that collaboration between private, public and individual.

Baptiste said TT was a community of incredibly talented people in all arts and he felt challenges to the sector’s growth and development ranged from the economic to necessary support and resource systems.

“You have all these people with great aides and talent but they don’t necessarily have the finances to pursue what their dreams are...the second thing is that we don’t have the necessary support and resource systems. Meaning you may be a great artist but who are the managers, who is your team, your agent, your PR person. We don’t have a lot of support systems in place because we are not nurturing that young base to let them know you can do this...,” he said.

Another challenge faced, Baptiste said was the general lack of information. He added that a structure was not being built within the schools where it demonstrated that it was about more than simply, “picking up a recorder and playing it. It is the idea of knowing how you can take your craft and elevate it to a level where it could become a career.

During his opening address at the launch, Baptiste mentioned a young male artiste who, so frustrated with the system and trying to get his music played on air, took out a knife at his office and placed it on his desk.

When asked about at-risk youth and opportunities for them, Baptiste said while there are programmes for at-risk youth to look at the entertainment and creative industry as a viable profession, there were not enough programmes still.

“We need to think on a level where it is not always about programmes where they have to pay for. We have to develop workshops and school touring opportunities and programmes that are free because the reality is a lot of the talent comes from impoverished neighbourhoods and they simply don’t have that means but what if we started expanding and developing. There are programmes but they are still too few and far in between,” he said.

This year’s event, sponsored by Republic Bank, will also feature Zombie Island- a mini theme park experience set up at the expo. The mini theme park, put in by telecoms company blink/bmobile, is a 15-minute expedition that will feature and expose participants to zombies and the country’s folklore characters. The park will utilise the talents of writers, make-up artistes and other workers within the sector.

Decibel was originally launched in 2001 as a industry event aimed at fostering growth in the country’s music industry. Last year, however, it was rebranded as an entertainment expo. The event has seen contributions by artistes, local and international, such as actor Shia LaBeouf, local designer Anya Ayoung Chee, soca artistes Kerwin Du Bois and Kes among others.

The winners of the Question Mark Entertainment’s Dream Big winners, film-maker Oliver Milne and music producer of Precision Productions Kasey Phillips were on had to receive their awards. Both young men will travel to the US, Milne to Los Angeles where he will get an opportunity to view the making of actor Will Smith’s (with whom the company is closely aligned) movie Concussion. Milne also received TT $30,000 from the company to make his short film.

Phillips will intern at Smith’s recording studio Boom Boom Room, which would allow him to meet and greet with various players in the music industry. He also received TT $20,000.


"Arts can save at-risk youth"

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