Hats off to National Gallery

Bowler hats worn in creative variations were the hit of the evening at the fifth annual fundraising ball last month in aid of the National Gallery’s education programmes.

The theme of the night was inspired by the painting Son Of Man – a ‘self-portrait’ by René Magritte, who was very fond of bowler hats – so everyone was offered a bowler hat, and it seemed there was no end to the variations on how to wear them.

Surprisingly, they looked very fetching with ball gowns.

Another creative touch was having artist John Broad on hand to create his interpretation of the evening. His painting was then included in the auction. The decor was inspired by other Magritte symbols, such as apples artfully placed in clear vases and branches hung with question marks. A very clever centrepiece and a talking point at each table was a cut-out in a jigsaw shape depicting a part of a famous painting. Looking around at the different pieces made one think about the vast amount of different styles of art in the world and how important the visual arts are in challenging, enlightening and beautifying our surroundings.  

Visual arts

One of the reasons for the annual fundraiser centres on education, which is key to the Gallery’s mission of promoting the appreciation and practice of the visual arts of the Cayman Islands and beyond.

Natalie Urquhart, director of the Gallery, in her speech gave some more information about some of the programmes. “Since 1997, when the Gallery opened its doors to the public, our education department has grown exponentially, now offering 25+ education and outreach programmes monthly, across all three islands, and accounting for 70 per cent of the organisation’s annual output and budget.”

She explained that the programmes aim to capture every age group in the community and the weekly programmes reflect this. The programmes are meant “to combine arts education with enriching creative experiences; to provide an effective and invaluable exploration of culture and self; to build self-esteem and to foster creativity, while developing healthier communities within the Cayman Islands.” she said.

She also mentioned that when the National Gallery moves to its new home currently under construction on the Esterly Tibbetts bypass, it will consolidate its programmes under one roof for the first time.

“It is our hope,” said Ms Urquhart, “that the new National Gallery and Education Centre will be a creative hub that is accessible to, and frequented by, the entire community. A place that artists can exhibit the very best of our cultural production; where students can learn about the arts and culture of their islands first-hand.”

After a very enjoyable dinner it was time for the fundraising auction with lots of different options for the eager bidders, including a “sponsor-a-scholar programme,” a $100 donation for art tuition for a student for a semester.

As Ms Urquhart had pointed out, the aim is to encourage and foster creativity in young people so that the Cayman Islands can continue to produce artists and people who appreciate art. But if the musical performances by Michael Testori, 2008 Young Musician of the Year, and the Sax Ensemble, are anything to go by, the arts in Cayman are in very capable and talented hands.