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Monday 22 July 2019
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Moving the creative sector forward

Cultural enthusiast Rachael Collymore says the social arts is necessary for positive change in the country and she is calling for increased efforts to make the creative sector more equitable and less vulnerable to political influences.

Fresh off of a recent networking trip to Toronto, Canada, a few weeks ago, Collymore is back home and talking improved access to opportunities in the creative industry. She is also exploring ways of how to strengthen the business side of the sector.

Collymore spearheads a non-profit which she founded called, “Poetic Vibes Arts Foundation” which focuses on building up the arts industry through knowledge sharing and promoting various performers.

When the South-North Grio Summit 2015 was recently held in Canada, she represented Trinidad and Tobago, appearing at panel discussions and participating in the space with other cultural enthusiasts from across the world. The Northern Griots Network hosted the summit in collaboration with the Nia Centre for the Arts and Habourfront Centre – the forum included poetry, pan, showcases, video screenings, panels and keynotes.

“The summit was fantastic...I found the exchanges really interesting and there is a shared desire to move the creative sector forward across societies,” Collymore said during a recent sit-down at Newsday’s office, Chacon Street, Port-of-Spain.

Collymore said the discussions at the summit were important, but she observed the same conversations are happening here. “People are talking about using the arts for good, for change, but there is still work to be done in this area.” In her mind, the artist/performer is a messenger creating a balance in society and offering a window through which a lot of the ills are seen through different lens. The arts is important to development, Collymore said.

“If we remove the entertainment or arts component from society there is nothing...it’s crucial and it can be a lucrative industry but inroads have to be made and mechanisms have to be put in place to strengthen the sector.”

She continued, “The arts is a vehicle for change and it has a role to play in what is happening in the community. I believe the artist/performer must have something to say about politics or social issues and it doesn’t have to be contentious.”

Collymore decried the political influences in the sector saying access to grants are at times determined by “who you know.” She suggested that an Arts Council be formed in addition to creative hubs that support a business approach in the sector.

On the subject of using the arts as a business, she said the country lacks the supporting infrastructure but observed there are a few persons in the sector who have managed it working exclusively in the industry. She has had discussions with relevant government authorities on the issue, but to date there has been no real effort to bring about the necessary changes.

Collymore noted the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism also needs to play a more direct role in developing the sector. “There has been some overlap by various ministries, but the Ministry of Arts needs to have the power and the resources to be able to have a serious impact.”

While she clarified that the ministry is doing good work, Collymore noted increased action is needed to improve access to grants and other funding that is available to persons in the creative sector.

“There is a need for more knowledge sharing, and increased and equitable access to grants”, she said, adding that the private sector also has to do more for the sector to move it forward.

Further, Collymore underscored that literacy is an issue in the country, especially with the younger generation, and she stressed that the country can only progress if the people are literate and empowered to make their own decisions. In other words, an informed population is critical to Trinidad and Tobago’s advancement as a people.

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