With the new budget due in a few days, Sunday’s panel discussion on the arts was a timely reminder of how much still needs to be done.
Though each segment of the creative sector faces unique challenges, one conclusion can be drawn from the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) discussion that took place at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain. It is time to stop paying lip service. Let us build our creative industry.
In a time when diversification is the key principle that should be shaping the future economy, this is an area that must be harnessed. It is potentially a source of great revenue and employment.
For this to happen, however, the state and private sector – especially banks – must be willing to invest. No doubt agencies like the IDB can help redefine our economic approach to the creative industry.
But bolstering the arts economy is not just a matter of capital. It is also about the efficient use of resources. One key criticism levied by filmmaker Yao Ramesar relates to our untapped talent pool.
Ramesar argued too much of the local creative sector exists in cliques of friends – largely based on geography and class – to the exclusion of others.
Saying film-making is not the exclusive preserve of the young, he said one of Trinidad and Tobago’s current emerging film-makers is a retired public servant.
“If you want to get the best film and stories that are out there, you’ve got to spread your net wide,” he said. Yet, it is one thing to confront the exclusivity of an industry, it is another to identify and nurture talent. Gains in the sector are rendered transient if both issues are not addressed.
Though the arts clearly have a role to play in offering employment and providing GDP, art itself cannot be limited to mercenary functions. Art is inherently a social thing. It can help open doors for people with special needs, giving them opportunities to learn and assert their place in society. And it is an agent of renewal, relief and change.
Animation pioneer Camille Selvon Abraham noted animation is not only potentially a new industry but also a social tool, helping children with special needs, like those who are autistic.
No matter our views as to its function, we must stop seeing arts and culture as secondary to development. It is pivotal.
This is why it is also essential that as a society we not only hail talent but also require artists to think about the business aspect of things that is required to sustain creative industries.
Costa Rica Ambassador LillyEdgerton Picado also said TT’s abundance of talent is mind-blowing but creative personalities must also face up to the realities of business, such as crafting a business plan and properly pitching the price of their works.
Phase II pannist Yohan Chuckaree spoke of the irony that few know where to buy a steel pan, a sign that we have more to do when it comes to distribution of the national instrument. At the same time, technology is making it possible to market steel pan music to the recording industry all over the world.
Sunday’s panel discussion coincided with the TT Film Festival which, though still in infancy, points us in the right direction.
We cannot afford to approach the arts sector with short-sighted plans. Through sustained development initiatives, we must build it. And make it stronger.