No right to speak but saying it nonetheless

Today I am moving away from speaking about my work and taking this chance to put forward my personal opinion. This comes after I was asked this week how I saw art in Gibraltar and what was good in it and how I would improve it?
It made me think, and unfortunately for the person asking I ended up writing an essay, which for sure they could never have used. Yet I had answered.
So I have decided that maybe, for once I shouldn’t just shelve my views but use them, after all this is my personal blog and it’s my personal views. And the truth is I am tired of reading others views, when I have my own.
Most people in the art scene in Gibraltar will say I have no real right to speak about it since I’m not actively involved in it, and they are not far wrong, since I am not. But since the 90’s I said public arts and installation art should have a bigger stage than what it was allowed, in effect no space or recognition until just a few years back. So I must have been saying something right at the time. I have always said Gibraltar has a real crop of creative minds who can offer much more than we are giving credit for.
Ultimately we have been slow, but I’m actually quite excited by prospects from the new mindset we are seeing with Culture. Seamus and his gang are providing a wider depth to the arts than we have seen before but the cultural heritage (baggage for another word) that comes with the past does slow us down. I’m not going to, any day soon or in the future, be among the ‘artists’ names people will know, my days are past and I missed the boat, stubbornness and circumstances made sure of that, and mediocrity in my part, but we cannot let the creative underworld that exists in Gibraltar pass us by.
We all look at Christian Hook as an example of where Gibraltarian artists can reach. Truth is Christian was always among the very best we have had even before we got to know his name through his climb to fame via a Sky Arts. Christian was already producing work which had some of us gasping. I was actually in awe to know he was producing commission works for people such as a Disney. Had he not won a sky Arts would we have known his existence other than the one time he won the `international `arts competition?
Gibraltar tends to stick to the same names and the same people coming out and being mentioned. And then we get this foreign artists who come to Gibraltar, sometimes yearly to exhibit and get media exposure, but when you look at their work there is nothing much more to say about them than was said the previous year or the year before that.
Yet we have a crop of artists who leave our shores every year to study, many stay in the UK, others travel and a few make it back home and end up working outside the arts. We also stick to similar events and mainly because they are run from the same organisations or because we rely heavily on the one organisation Culture to come up with ideas when whether we like it or not they have a limit to budgets and resources because the tax payer cannot pay for everything.
Which is why for decades I have been calling out for something like an arts council to be introduced into Gibraltar.
A national arts council would merge commercial, private investors and government funding and create a foundation base from which the arts can build a pathway. It can provide scope to create new events, to attract new sponsors, new funding, new events. It can develop ways to provide grants for projects, promote arts education, arts projects, even attract avenues through which commercial entities can co-operate with the arts. I remember a couple projects I was involved in at college where we had a number of empty retail outlets allow us the use of their space. This attracted people to see the works and at the same time provided a window for the real estate agents for prospective clients to see the space which was available. Many times giving new ideas on how the space could be used other than what it had been used in the past. For us it was a chance to exhibit.
We also had a chance to use a park as an exhibition area. Since we did no painting the public were treated to an array of sound arts, light shows, performances and more which had us filling column inches in the regional papers that week.
Now if you consider the number of students who go annually to study art in the UK, if we had a percentage of them staying in Gibraltar to study and at the same time attracted people from outside we could actually have our own small arts college.
Just a handful of talented people coming into the mix every year would provide a new and varied art scene because the influences would filter out.
If we had a modernised concept of the “arts council”, not a replica of the UK concept but one which fits our purpose, there would be a broader repertoire of creative opportunities. Add to that the great work Culture is already doing and Gibraltar could become a cultural hub which would inevitably bring a fusion of British and Hispanic arts together. If that doesn’t sound interesting then I don’t know what would.
And when I speak of artists I don’t mean just painters and sculptures. We have musicians, wordsmiths, digital artists, installations artists, performers, dancers you name it. We have already seen what Gibraltar’s talents can do with limited resources, add to their resources and let’s see what they do and let’s see who we attract.
So yes I see a bright future, I always have. I just see too much of the old baggage slowing us down, but that’s the arts world for you anyway. There has always been elitism in this world but the innovators jump over the elitism to create the new platforms before they themselves sometimes join the elite. In other societies it’s a perpetual movement as along comes new innovators to create new platforms. Gibraltar only has missing the chance for the new innovators to jump in to create the new platforms more often and more frequently. I will always use installation art as an example. In 1991 I produced my last installation piece in Gibraltar. But it was only five or six years ago it started to emerge within competitive shows locally. Now we have people like Alan Perez emerging with his works, someone whose work I have come to admire because I know how difficult it would have been to get to do it and accepted in Gibraltar. But the reality is we should have been there already.

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