Experience ‘cultural immersion’ with the National Gallery

The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands is hosting its annual fundraising gala on 7 March and, in true National Gallery style, the event looks to be one of the most creative and artistic evening on anyone’s social calendar this year.

National Gallery

From left, National Gallery Director Nancy Barnard, Communications and Marketing Manager Mona Lisa Tatum-Watler and Financial Administrator Lilly Williams-Smith show off their authentic Japanese kimonos in anticipation for the Gallerys 7 March Japanese-themed fundraising gala. Photo: Submitted

The ball will have a Japanese theme, referencing the popular book and film Memoirs of a Geisha, and the volunteer committee who are organising it have not let authenticity slip by the wayside, said Nancy Barnard, director of the National Gallery.

‘They have worked so hard! They’re amazing,’ Ms Barnard said. ‘When people come in, we will have Japanese instrumental music and a glass of sake for everyone.

‘People will be transported from a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean sea to a Japanese environment. We want to focus on the Japanese clothing and art, the minimalist art with the cherry blossoms, the origami,’ she said.

The committee, made up of volunteers Alison Lomax, Fiona Pimentel, Colette Byrne, Joanna Humphries, Marcia Milgate and Sally Allison, have also worked to incorporate artistic elements into the night. Origami and Zen gardens will be available at the tables and the Gallery even has kimono costumes for sale for $50.

‘Guests are strongly encouraged to come in costume,’ said Ms Barnard.

Local artists have produced works specifically for the event, which will be available via both live and silent auctions.

A gate prize of a round-trip for two to Miami on Cayman Airways, along with a two-night stay at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Miami and tickets to visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, will also be up for grabs.

The focus of the night, however, will certainly be on the recreation of genuine Japanese culture in Grand Cayman.

‘There will be lanterns everywhere, we’ll have a bridge, a teahouse, make-up, everything,’ said Ms Barnard. ‘Also, the prisoners, it’s very exciting – they are replicating three things that you see in the film, they’re building a little teahouse, the tall red archway and then an actual bridge and then we are auctioning all three items off.’

The prisoners’ efforts are thanks to the coordination of Richard Barton, a unit manager at the prison, who has organised the project on behalf of the Gallery. Although the National Gallery runs an outreach programme for prisoners, this project is separate and in addition to that programme.

The authenticity and creativity that goes into this kind of costumed event is representative of the work the National Gallery does as an institution that fosters art in the community.

‘I think the reason we do a costumed event is just to bring out the art element as opposed to just a sit-down dining and fundraising dinner,’ said Ms Barnard. ‘We do a ball every year and we want our themed events to be our mark. We’re an art gallery and we want to have fun with interpreting the theme.’

The event will even feature a five-course Japanese meal.

‘The chef is very excited because this is the first time for the Westin that he has had to do a proper Japanese meal, five courses, from start to finish,’ said Ms Barnard. Anyone who is vegetarian should let the Gallery know one week in advance, she added.

Other Japanese events include a dance, similar to the dance performed by the geishas in the film Memoirs of a Geisha, and a tea ceremony, performed in the traditional Japanese manner.

The event has three corporate sponsors, Butterfield Bank, Queensgate Bank and International Financial Planning (Cayman) Ltd. The corporate sponsorship ensures that as much of the ticket sales goes towards the National Gallery as possible, and not on the costs of the evening, explained Ms Barnard.

‘We rely on the money raised from this event to help fund our educational programmes and other programming,’ said Ms Barnard.

Tickets are selling fast and the event always sells out, she added.

‘We have sold 200 of the 300 tickets available already; tables are selling very well,’ Ms Barnard said. ‘People are encouraged to buy their tickets early to avoid disappointment.’

Tickets are available for $175 each from the National Gallery. Call 945-8111 or email Nancy Barnard at [email protected].