THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON VISITS TORTOLA IN WHAT COULD BE A PERMANENT PROGRAM OF STUDY BY THE SEA - Article for the BVI Beacon 2002
By Nancy Terrell
I recently had the opportunity to visit the School of the Museum of Fine Arts' (SMFA, Boston) International Art Program at the "Purple Palace" in Tortola recently. What an opportunity this is for students of art, worldwide, to expand their knowledge in the applied arts. I was most impressed by what I saw - lovers of art consumed by the artistic process in an atmosphere that totally lent itself to creativity. And weren't they lucky to have the opportunity to "sketch by the sea" in the BVI.
The workshop "Painting in Paradise" was organized three years ago by BVI/International artist Martha Tattersall, coordinator of the SMAF Tortola Program and founder of the Tortola Pottery. Twenty-four art students from Boston and the BVI gathered at the 8 day workshop held at the Bougainvillea Gallery, fondly named The Purple Palace because of it's Venetian architecture and lavish color, on March 18th - 26th. The workshop emphasized a rigorous, hands-on approach to making art stressing creativity 100%. Students were given the opportunity to work in both the Purple Palace studio and the tropical and sea environment of different islands located within the BVI. Tattersall is devoted to offering the best creative surroundings possible for the artists and they were having a ball. Quite honestly, it was the most positive and creative atmosphere I have seen in a while.
Julie Graham was the major instructor for the workshop. Graham, a member of the SMFAs painting faculty, holds a BA from Hood College and an MFA from Central School of Art, London. She has taught at Harvard University and the University of Mass, Boston, as well as Art New England Summer Workshops. She tells me that the focus of the workshop is on "individual concepts and processes. Through drawing, painting, and/or collage, students work, in journals and/or sketchbooks, to record, either abstractly or realistically, their experiences throughout the week. A combination of individual instruction and class discussions, along with critiques, also aid our students in exploring, with a deeper understanding, their individual conceptual and stylistic concerns." It was obvious to me that the students absorbed this instruction like Caribbean sponges. They were each intent in applying these ideas into their art. Graham was also a guest speaker at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College on the evening of March 21st where she presented a free lecture for the public on "Material Meaning: the Artistic Process.
The School of the Museum of Fine Arts is one of the oldest and most distinguished professional art schools in the United States and is in affiliation with Tufts University. The workshop, which is in its 2nd year, is so successful that Tattersall hopes that an alliance can be established between SMAF and the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, Tortola. "Dr. Tattersall and I both want the Purple Palace to be used as an arts resource center for the community," she tells me. "Several of the students who signed up for the workshop are students of the HLSCC. A program such as this can offer both beginning and advanced art techniques and studies for students, both locally and worldwide, who wish to enjoy the SMFA experience in a new and provocative artistic environment."
Students completed a self-directed project during the course of the week as well as enjoying field trips to Cooper and Jost Van Dyke islands. Their painting and sketching at these sites provided an opportunity for them to experience the beauty of the islands as well as interacting with the local people and learning about BVI culture. This interrelating produced some astounding artistic results. Cane Garden Bay resident Quito Rhymer, famed internationally for his musical ability, happily praised the program. "I am totally enjoying myself and feel privileged to share the creativity that is available through this workshop. I am seeing the world around me in a new light and am being exposed to aspects that I had never encountered before." Mr. Rhymer graciously hosted a luncheon for the entire class at his Quito's Gazebo Resturant on the North Shore of Tortola field trip day.
I also had the opportunity to meet with Tim Grinder, the Director of Continuing Education & Adjunct Programs at SMFA. He told me that the school offers a broad spectrum of courses, workshops and learning opportunities. All courses are geared towards a community of students characterized by diverse experiences, talents, needs, ideas and objectives. These courses are also open to the general public. Credits earned can also be applied towards a diploma or undergraduate degree program. "This year's workshop proved to be an incredible opportunity for those students from Boston, as well as from Tortola, in mixing cultures and unifying and sharing experiences," Grinder related.
What an opportunity this program could be for students throughout the Caribbean if it were to join with the BVI government and the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. All Caribbean communities should be so lucky. Our island students need to have the opportunity of expanding their resources for personal imagery and can only grow while improving their skills in painting, drawing, collage and other varied techniques through a program such as this.
I was very fortunate, while in the BVI, to belong to two excellent art groups with one meeting every Wednesday and the other every Thursday. In both groups we met either in people's homes, at excellent restaurants or at the Royal BVI Yacht Club during the mornings and then continue on through a critique and lunch. We had a lot of shows as the poster on the left indicates. Some of the best artists in the Caribbean are in these groups.
We have a fairly international art group. Here are some of the members of our Wednesday group. Starting directly above is Josie (UK), with the telescope behind her. Moving clocwise is Monique (Brazil), her daughter Amanda with members of the group, Nancy & Ros, who was from Spain. Below right is Paula (Ireland) and Alice (UK) and then Bonnie, on the right with her mother Millie (US), an active painter at 92.