The historical and artistic communities are mourning the loss of Citizens for Conservation co-founder and patron of the arts Christine Millar, who died on Monday, at the age of 90.
Millar was well-known and loved in the spheres where she moved.
David Boothman, in a profile of Millar in June in the Newsday, said, “Millar knew most of the artists in TT and was very instrumental in arts in education in schools, the Art Society, and arts and environmental programmes all over the country. She was also one of my early art collectors, with an enormous collection of local and regional art.”
At the news of her death, the Art Society of TT’s Clayton De Freitas said Millar’s contribution to the arts was outstanding.
“She was the owner at one time of the art supply store Deltex on Pembroke Street, Port of Spain. She was an avid art collector and helped many artists along their way.”
He said Millar was a long-standing member and board member of the Art Society and was made a patron in 2015 to honour her outstanding zeal and contribution to the arts in TT.
“A one-time beauty queen, she was gifted with a passion for beauty. She brought many persons to the Society who purchased art over the years. Her dedication to the Art Society was amazing as she visited all members’ shows and any other shows that the society hosted.
“Upon her visits Christine would many times purchase various pieces of artwork. She had a deep belief in our arts and wanted to help emerging artists in any way that she could over the years. She was once a very valued benefactor giving to various projects when called upon, and she supported the boards in any way possible.
“The art world in TT has indeed been blessed with her constant presence and the Art Society will miss her positive guidance and radiance at its many openings.”
Millar was born Christine Gordon, and lived in Maracas, on the north coast, until her family moved to Fort George, St James when she was a child, where she lived all her life. She attended the Bishop Anstey High School and the Ursuline Convent in Barbados.
Millar was a founding member of the heritage preservation group Citizens for Conservation (CfC), and was instrumental in the creation of the National Trust. CfC founder Rudylynn DeFour-Roberts said without Millar, both organisations would probably not have existed.
“At the very beginning when we had the George Brown protests in 1985, she was front and centre for that whole riot, and co-ordinated
everything afterwards to establish Citizens for Conservation. She was always there for us, she offered her home for meetings, she was part of the committee that drafted all our guidelines, all our wishes and dreams, she was there fighting for the National Trust alongside us.
"Everything that was central to Citizens for Conservation revolved around Christine. She was the backbone of the organisation, really.”
George Brown was Trinidad’s great 19th century architect. He redesigned Independence Square and lower Frederick Street following the great Port of Spain fire in 1891. The George Brown protests occurred when plans were announced to demolish a house built by him in 1887 at 6 Queen's Park West to make way for an office complex.
DeFour-Roberts said Millar was a delight to work with and took pleasure in embracing the culture of TT.
“She had no airs for anything, she was very down to earth. She loved to dance, she used to dance with Beryl McBurnie, she loved to play mas, she was an admirer of Minshall – we all played with Minshall together.
"Country first, that’s the kind of person she was. She wanted to see the built heritage of TT preserved, she worked very hard and she put her money where her mouth is, all the time. Anything we ever needed, Christine was there to sponsor.”
DeFour-Roberts said Millar’s death has been quite a lot for her to absorb and comes to terms with.
“It feels like someone ripped off my arm, her not being around any more.
"She was loved by everybody, you were never too small for her to take an interest in. We had the children of members, she was always there to support them in anything they were doing, scholarships, anything like that. Christine was just an absolutely amazing person, she really was and we’re going to really miss her.”
DeFour-Roberts said education was important to Millar, and her wish was that young people would take over the mantle of CfC and the National Trust for future generations.
In his profile, Boothman interviewed Millar’s close friend Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, who said Millar was more than a single person.
“She was a beautiful woman on one level and on another she was a force of nature, a competent businesswoman, a gracious hostess and a fierce mother, strong, stubborn creative and indomitable.
"Her love of art, of history, of form and structure was never theoretical: it developed into the establishment of supporting organisations such as Citizens for Conservation, developed the Art Society of TT, started a book club and habit-forming discussions on political and social controversies that could cut to the bone. Her generosity to friends and family was legendary. A woman of substance.”
Her daughter-in-law, the award-winning writer Sharon Millar, said Millar devoted her life to TT’s art, culture, and the conservation movement.
“I learned much from my mother-in-law and feel very blessed to have seen her tireless efforts to draw attention to the arts and culture of Trinidad.
"Her most outstanding contribution was her work in championing the preservation of our unique architecture and beautiful old buildings which are constantly under threat of demolition.
"She has left a remarkable legacy and a life well lived. A true loss.”