PRESTIGE INTERNATIONAL Arts Academy broke new ground on January 28 with its first exhibition at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, Tobago.
The exhibition, Expressions of the Heart, showcases the talents of its members, many of whom are primary and secondary school students. It ends on February 2.
Several schools participated in the exhibition: Bishops High School; Speyside High School; Signal Hill Secondary School; Scarborough Secondary; Signal Hill Government School; Scarborough Methodist; and Hope Anglican.
Prestige International’s artistic director Tomley Roberts told Newsday close to 80 pieces were on display.
“We had a mixture of realism, abstract and impressionistic pieces. We had a nice mix. The purpose of the exhibition mainly is to showcase the work of the students at Prestige Arts International Academy and also to invite others to join the academy so that they could learn basic artistic skills,” he said, adding the academy has always wanted to highlight the work of its students.
Asked about the title of the exhibition, which is a collaboration with the Office of the Chief Secretary, Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Roberts said, “We wanted to have a theme that encompasses everybody’s artwork, and we don’t limit persons in terms of their expressions. We may show you artistic techniques and fundamentals but it is important for you, as the creative person, to be able to freely express yourself.”
He said artists, generally, have the creative licence to pursue whatever project they desire while following the fundamental principles of art.
Established in 2012, Roberts said the academy, based in Sou Sou Lands, is a multi-disciplinary organisation.
“We focus on the production of art, educational opportunities, splash and dab, which is our signature event, curating and mentoring. So we provide artistic initiatives on a whole.”
He said apart from honing and expanding their artistic talents, members also visit the academy to simply relax.
“At Prestige International, we have doctors, lawyers. The academy is not just for children but anyone interested in developing their artistic abilities.”
Saying the academy’s membership fluctuates, Roberts said those who participate actively are committed to developing their craft and exploring new genres.
Evidence of this, he said, is the large body of work that was produced for the exhibition.
“The students have produced so much work that we are now planning to have another exhibition in April.”
Roberts, an art teacher at Speyside High School, said he was very pleased with the calibre of the students’ work.
“All of the proteges would have done exceptionally well. They would have demonstrated various artistic genres and techniques.
“I know I pressure them hard and make high demands, but they were able to fulfil those demands.”
He said the exhibition highlighted the talents of two specific artists: Mijanou Charles and Sapphire Bonas, a Scarborough RC School student.
“These two would have produced tonne-loads of work of very high quality. Sapphire is nine. I am very pleased with the high level of work that they would have exposed themselves to and demonstrated various artistic genres and techniques.
Roberts said several pieces stood out.
“There is a trapunto (a quilting technique that was developed in the 1970s) piece by Cindy Hackett that was very outstanding. There are two interesting pieces by Mijano Charles – Under The Sea and Water Lily. She also has a piece called Scarborough Port.”
Roberts, a former president of the Tobago Visual Arts Association, said Tobago has an arts culture.
He recalled the pioneering work of former Fort museum curator Eddie Hernandez and Wilcox Morris, both of whom were instrumental in developing an arts and legacy culture in Tobago.
“We do have a rich history in terms of art and we continue to push and develop that.”
Roberts said he too, even as a very young man, wanted to establish a facility where Tobagonians could showcase their talents.
He recalled when he was ten, his mother, Christina Fraser-Osmond, noticed his talent and enrolled him at what was known then as the fine arts centre at Orange Hill, under the auspices of the THA.
“I spent three years there and after that I decided I wanted to do something like this for children and eventually I got started with it. The rest is history.”
Roberts, who has amassed an impressive collection of artwork over the years, said his passion for creating beautiful pieces continues to grow.
He said he got his start in art at primary school, Scarborough SDA.
“My late grandmother Ethelene Fraser actually introduced me to making a top out of guava wood. Then she introduced me to something called hog plum bark and I started to do little carvings with it. So I initially started off as a sculptor from a very young age.”
Roberts said he later tried his hand at painting and other genres at his alma mater, Harmond School of the SDA.