Art imitates life, life imitates art; its beauty, mystery, and value all depends on the perspective of the viewer. Art appreciation and its dedicated spaces have spread over the last few years in Kingston, with more events and murals emerging throughout the UNESCO Creative City. Its swelling love affair with artistry has been boosted by Kingston Creative‘s FREE Art Walk, whose main mission is to transform Downtown Kingston into a vibrant culture hub for creatives and creative entrepreneurship in the Caribbean. It’s actually one of my favourite places to visit, and top recommended activities in Kingston!
I made a few stops during their Art Walk with the Love Not Likes collaborative blogger experience. The monthly art series includes a variety of activities at multiple venues in the area, but some remain staple. Keep up with their website and social pages for upcoming schedules.
Art Walk Meet Up and Lunch at F&B Downtown
Ahead of the Kingston Creative Art Walk, a meetup is held on the last Friday at F&B Swiss Stores. You may notice the Swiss Stores sign before you do the F&B Downtown sign, this is because it’s a restaurant located within a jewellery store. There are a few reasons why I think it is a great meeting spot for the Art Walk:
- It’s conveniently located in Downtown Kingston
- Its slogan is befitting – ‘Eat and drink. Meet and shop.’
- There’s an art gallery inside (and space for more artists to add to it)!
The meetups are comprised of panel discussions, networking, and sharing of news and ideas for artistic development in Jamaica. We didn’t attend the Friday meetup this time around, but made our first stop here to grab lunch.
A cheerful melody drummed up by a steel pan band drew a sizeable crowd outside the entrance. Its calypso beat was a warm welcome just before stepping inside F&B Downtown. Patrons sat inside the lunch spot around the conversation-oriented narrow table stretches. While awaiting our meals we had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with the venue’s resident photographer and artist, Craig Phang Sang, whose work is on display throughout the space.
Thumbs up for the chosen meals of the day by our blogger group: oxtail, alfredo pasta, ratatouille, burgers and fries. Clinked glasses of summer-perfect mint lemonade signaled the start of the Art Walk events. Stepping out of F&B Downtown into the sunlit street with Those Creative People totes in hand, we strolled pass a composition of abandoned and refurbished old structures which gives the regenerating area much of its flair.
Resonances: Edna Manley College Final Year Exhibition 2019
You think I’m exaggerating about the Downtown flair? We ended up at what seems like an abandoned garage space, which was the venue for the Resonances art exhibition by Edna Manley School of Arts’ final year students. It is one of the few art exhibitions I’ve attended previously, along with the Jamaica Biennial. The space’s simplistic grungy interior complemented the art pieces well and vice versa. Unpolished finishes of the venue as well as many of the artworks created an effortless cohesion, instead of feeling like the creative pieces were just on display there. There were 3 sections with larger than life expressions on display: the lower floor, upper floor, and an outer section around the back.
Being able to meet some of the student artists was a great highlight of the experience! They were more than happy to share the inspiration of their works and some photo ops with admirers and observers. Conversing with the people behind the artworks really reveals their passion; it speaks through their body language, the sparkle in their eyes, and octaves of their voice when sharing their heART work.
Art Walk Market Street
After Resonances, we returned to a lane just beside F&B Downtown which transformed into the Art Walk Market Street. Its walls have been spruced up with painted murals by local artists and volunteers, adding extra vibrancy. The narrow lane is lined by small tents overflowing with creatives and their quality products.
Market Street is by no means limited to a single road, oh no! The creative goodness spills over into what seems to be an abandoned open space between buildings lined with growing greenery. Not only are there artisan items for viewing and sale but also child-friendly activities, such as face painting and craft projects. If you’re lucky you might buck up an artist you recognize… a mural painter whose work you’ve posed beside, a photographer whose images connect with you, a jewellery maker whose accessories you already own, or a dub poet whose words move you.
If the handful of Art Walk murals on Market Street leave you craving more, head over to the art district of Fleet Street in Parade Gardens. Vibrant murals cover the street’s recreation area and extend to buildings along a stretch of 2 roads. Community residents going about their daily lives are ready to welcome visitors to their colourful neighbourhood, some willing to offer you a tour. It’s refreshing to see children outside playing in the recreation area, usually showing off tricks on a bicycle or kicking a football barefoot without a care in the world.
Take a stroll through the community transformed into an attraction by the beauty of art. Through Paint Jamaica’s #openyourwalls campaign dozens of local artists collaborated to create the enhanced pride and photogenic space that Parade Gardens celebrates today. Depictions of our people, our symbols, and our lifestyle proudly flow from structure to structure along Fleet Street. In the midst of all the artistry there’s a small, almost-concealed entrance to a haven that provides even greater value to the community: Life Yard 360.
Life Yard 360
It’s easy to miss Life Yard while absorbing all the other beauty surrounding you, but it is definitely not somewhere you want to overlook. This special spot is the kind that we need more of, everywhere, built on developing youth through volunteering hands. Here are a few of the many positive offerings provided to its residents:
- A breakfast feeding program for students
- Nutritious lunch and beverages
- Homework program and volunteer lessons
- Creative writing workshops
- Live performances and showcases
- Counseling sessions
The Love Not Likes crew got to preview some productions of the young creatives. As we sat on the handmade furniture created in-house from wooden pallets, we turned the pages of illustrated books written and conceptualized by the children of Fleet Street. Needless to say we were blown away by the talent and purity exhibited at such tender ages! The vision and nurturing that the founders of this community-based organization spreads are nothing short of inspirational. So great, that its impact has literally touched various parts of the world, evident through awards, tokens, and international endorsements.
Kingston Creative Art Walk
This movement founded by Andrea Dempster-Chung and Dr. Jennifer Bailey is one worth investing in just ask the First 50 corporate investors, a testament to the vision continuing to grow. The Kingston Creative Art Walk as its name suggests is a walking city art tour through the streets of Downtown Kingston. It includes lively spots, historic locations, and national sites showcasing exhibits or performances at each stop.
Follow them on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with upcoming art walk and events you can not only attend, but also participate in. Help build the dream and #PaintTheCity in Downtown Kingston’s growing art district!
Where do you go to admire or create art in your area?
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