“I want to be a singer but I don’t think I can do it in Cayman because there are not enough opportunities. I have tried everything.”says Veronic St-Cyr
This is just one of the views shared by youth at the Young at Arts programme, run by the National Cultural Foundation. What was common with all the young people that spoke to the Observer on Sunday but one, was that they did not feel there was a future for them in the Cayman Islands and this is what the majority of young people are up against, a feeling of not being able to be who they want to be that affects their drive, focus and determination and ultimately leads to disillusionment.“What seems to be needed is a national strategy to develop all areas of life in the Cayman Islands to a degree, where people are empowered for the skills they do have as opposed to being herded into specific areas based on what we have failed to create for them,” said Cayman National Cultural Foundation Programmes Manager Rita Estevanovich.
The Cayman National Cultural Foundation does have some programmes in place such as the Youth at Arts after school programme, which seeks to empower youngsters with an affinity to the arts and help them to cultivate an attitude that will drive them to collectively create an industry for musicians, actors and artists of all kinds.
The programme is now in its fifteenth year, and although it has assisted talented Caymanians such as Frank Flowers, Rita Estevanovich, Quincy Brown and Serlena Bodden, Estevanovich said much more needs to be done for artists and with the job market dwindling, we need to pay more attention to this segment of our national wealth.
“Look at what is happening in the legal profession right now, with lawyers around the world practicing Cayman law and Caymanian lawyers being told there is no work. That is a failure of our legislators. And if this is happening to highly educated people at that level, then what do you think the reality for artists looks like?” She adds,“Until the society places value on the arts, then it is a fleeting illusion that we will be able to offer anything substantive in this area. Support is when you include arts in the curriculum.”
Estevanovich also thinks more needs to be done in helping talented youngster make the transition from school into the arts as a career, she asks.“Why are the talented musicians in school not progressing to join the scene on the Island, which should be thriving with vibrant new musicians fresh from school, instead of the current scenario, where kids leave their musical talent behind when they leave school because they are told and conceptualize for themselves, many times rightly so, that there is no nurturing of these kind of people in the society. “This is a tragedy, because these youngsters have a talent that can put food on the table that they are afraid to use in the current societal model,” she lamented.
Another set back for young artists is that there are not many examples of the possibilities that could help shape their view of the arts as a means of enriching their community.
“There is no national theatre company or no national dance company. Dance unlimited do receive some funding but it is nominal. It takes $20,000 a semester just to run the young at arts programme every semester and in a country that is considered the pearl of the Caribbean, this is concerning,” said the programmes manager.
However leaders in the entertainment community are optimistic that given the slower economy, it might re-galvanize society to re-evaluate the importance of the arts.