Breaking ground for the arts


    After an extensive capital campaign, the National Gallery has broken ground on its permanent home.

    The new National Gallery and Education Centre will be located on four acres adjacent to the Esterly Tibbetts Bypass, thanks to the donation of land by Helen Harquail.

    The new facility is anticipated to open to the public in early 2012.

    Then and now

    From humble beginnings in Alexandra Place in 1997, the National Gallery has grown dramatically, offering 30 programmes a month, eight exhibitions and six community festivals per year, along with extensive education resources.

    The new development will provide a new permanent gallery for the National Art Collection, increased exhibit space, a state-of-the-art learning centre and art studio, an auditorium, community gardens, and an administration area.

    The Gallery says the accessible facilities have been designed to enhance the visitor experience and increase access to Caymanian visual arts.

    A retail shop, cafe and multipurpose event space have also been incorporated into the design to broaden the uses of the site and to help generate revenue.

    Architecture and design

    The building, which was designed by local architect Danny Owens, principal of OA&D Architects, incorporates two freestanding buildings linked by a large, outdoor multi-use area covering 9,000 square feet.

    Mr. Owens won the initial design completion in 1999 and has since worked extensively with the Gallery’s building committee on the project.

    “Our proposal … was to provide a building fitting for our national art collection, as well as creating a series of flexible spaces to support the wide range of activities undertaken by the Gallery,” said Mr. Owen.

    The building will be complimented by native gardens created by landscape designers Margaret Barwick and Sandy Urquhart – their first collaboration in the Cayman Islands.

    The former designed the conceptual framework for the area, and the latter is working on the individual gardens, multipurpose area and Native Plant Trail.

    Plants will come from the Native Plant Nursery at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and from donations across the island.

    Gallery officials said they were delighted to be collaborating with K&M Ltd and Project Manager Jeremy Superfine from BCQS.

    Also, Gallery officials have consulted with artists, teachers and students, planning bodies, conservation groups and the wider local community, an effort that will continue throughout the construction period.

    The Department of the Environment and LEED consultant Kate Kandiah have been on board to ensure that the development is as energy efficient as possible.

    The resulting plan will be implemented in several phases, with the initial phase to include the use of recyclable steel, limited asphalt, green walling, native landscaping with natural irrigation and the use of LED bulbs in administrative and education areas.

    Future phases may include the installation of alternative power sources.

    The plan will form part of a wider strategy to reduce energy consumption and to remain environmentally responsible in all areas of Gallery operations.


    Funding for the project is nearing completion. as $2,2 million of the total has already been raised from the private sector and the Cayman Islands Government.

    With the support of the community, the Gallery is confident that it can raise the remaining funds to complete the project by mid-2011, officials said. Additional fundraising will be conducted as construction continues.

    Henry Harford, chairman of the National Gallery, said: “… This is a hugely significant project with multiple benefits for residents and visitors. On completion, the Gallery will have increased capacity to mount large exhibitions, provide appropriate space for its permanent exhibitions, while also creating an important education facility for the benefit of current and future generations. We are delighted to be moving forward.”

    Director’s note

    “The new National Gallery and Education Centre will be a wonderful resource for the entire community,” said NGCI Director Natalie Urquhart. “The accessible location and increased space will enable us to host a vibrant and diverse exhibition schedule that focuses on contemporary visual culture from the Cayman Islands and beyond.

    “With our … art studio, library and learning centre, we will continue our dynamic educational programme offering more learning opportunities than ever before.

    “From these new headquarters, the National Gallery will remain committed to operating programmes within each district and will strive to maintain a significant presence in all three of our islands,” she said.


    The ground breaking at the new National Gallery building site.
    Photo: Justin Uzzell


    1. This new space is a necessary addition to the arts scene in Cayman. Unfortunately for those dedicated to growing the art community here the laws regarding non-Caymanians working as artists are very prohibitive financially and this is detrimental to those hoping to work as artists or art instructors for the benefit of the community. Unless the government realises more artists would be a good thing for everyone I imagine the new gallery will have revolving exhibitions of the same dozen or so local artists for a long time.

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