Business and arts need each other
Listeners may not have agreed with
everything Distinguished Lecturer Sheree Ebanks had to say earlier this month,
but they are not likely to forget it.
Now, thanks to a suggestion from Martyn
Bould, chairman of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, people who were unable
to get to the Cayfest event will soon see what they missed.
Mrs. Ebanks has agreed to let her
address be published on the Foundation’s website. Of course, the posted version
will not include the spirited question-and-answer session that followed her
lecture, but the discussion is one that should continue throughout Cayman’s
business and artistic communities for a long time to come.
With 30 years experience in the offshore
financial industry, her personal interests in photography, theatre and music, plus
involvement in the Cayman Drama Society and arts festival, Mrs. Ebanks is well-qualified
to speak on the relationship between business and the arts.
She challenged her audience from
the very beginning of her well-structured and thoroughly researched speech. The
business world is critical to keeping the arts alive, she said, but the arts
are also critical to keeping the business world alive.
That might sound like just a catchy
play on words, but Mrs. Ebanks backed it up.
The arts contribute to Cayman’s
total social environment and quality of life, she noted. From an economic
perspective, the cultural landscape can
help attract overseas business and people needed in the various professions.
Acknowledging concern about crime,
Mrs. Ebanks said the arts provide opportunities for expression and outlets for
energy — both especially important in working with young people or at-risk
groups. “Our future is being shaped by our youth,” she said.
She cited examples from other
countries and studies that show how participation in the arts increases
children’s academic achievement, maturity in social relationships, creative
thinking and social tolerance. Other by-products are discipline and a healthy
In Cayman, people involved in the
visual arts are quite fortunate, she said, with an increasing number of
businesses hosting art exhibits. But what about the people who pursue the
performing arts? “We have denied them the chance to reach for the stars in
their own country,” Mrs. Ebanks asserted.
She described the success of a
small town in Wisconsin
that built an all-purpose performing arts centre that has become an important
revenue earner for the town through employment and patronage of surrounding
She challenged local organisations
to work together – co-operation, not competition. An excellent example, she
said, is the Cultural Foundation and the National Gallery working together on
the development of facilities at the home of Cayman’s celebrated intuitive
artist, the late Gladwyn “Miss Lassie” Bush.
And while businesses may need to be more receptive
to the needs of the arts, artists themselves may need to be more appreciative
of the business culture, Mrs. Ebanks urged. Being on time for appointments is
one business value that more people could adopt.
Cayfest, the annual festival of the
arts, comes to an end for 2010 in another few days. But what Mrs. Ebanks refers
to as the “symbiotic relationship” between the arts and business continues.
Her lecture is a thought-provoking
vehicle for getting individuals, non-profit groups and corporations to examine their
own place in that relationship.
By allowing her ideas
and research to be accessed through the CNCF website, Mrs. Ebanks has made another
valuable contribution to the Cayfest legacy.