Natalie Urquhart, the 2011 recipient of the Young Caymanian Leadership Award, knows she has quite a task ahead of her.
The YCLA committee picked a particularly busy year for Urquhart to become the latest young leader in Cayman. As director of the National Gallery, much of her time is already taken up with sorting out programmes and initiatives to promote arts and culture in Cayman, and this year also brings the construction of a new gallery and the launch of a new mentorship programme.
“It was really surreal,” says Urquhart of the moment her name was called towards the end of a live TV broadcast of the ceremony at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on Friday, 6 May. “It was really unexpected,” she says.
She had turned to one of her fellow finalists, Shari Whittaker, and said jokingly that there should be a drum roll. “And then the drumroll came on!”
She had been busy chatting and enjoying the evening so much that the moment when the final name was called came quickly and suddenly. “It came as a shock. This was such a great group of finalists,” she says.
What she did expect, though, was for the award itself to be heavy, since she had lifted the awards, which were on display throughout the ceremony. She had told last year’s recipient, Collin Anglin, he’d have to hold it while whoever became the new recipient made a speech because it was so heavy. He rose to the task and dutifully stood nearby holding the Caymanite sculpture, made by Horatio Estaban, until she had completed her speech.
“Everybody said that you get quite nervous beforehand, but we were enjoying ourselves and having a really good chat and it came quite quickly,” she says.
Help from Collin
As well as calling on Mr. Anglin to do some heavy lifting during her speech, she sa
ys she intends to also call on him to help her throughout the coming year.
“Collin has done an amazing job over the past year. We’re from the same [government] ministry. We have worked together in the past. I am hoping to get some advice and mentorship from him on how to go forward,” Urquhart says.
During his year as YCLA recipient, Anglin had more than 50 speaking engagements. By the Monday morning after Friday’s awards ceremony, Urquhart says she had already received two calls to book her for speaking engagements.
She says becoming the YCLA recipient has “energised” her, and through her new role she now has access to an even greater audience to which to bring arts and culture elements.
“It is thrilling for me to be able to get up and talk about what I love and share that with the community,” she says. “It’s an extension of what I do here at the National Gallery on a daily basis.”
She adds: “It’s an exciting time for me professionally with the new gallery being built and all the increased opportunities for arts and culture that that brings. It’s a great time for the community to get involved in that.”
In September, Urquhart plans to launch a specialised mentorship programme for young artists and performers with like-minded adults. The programme will involve all the local schools and will pair students ages 16 and 17 and other young talent with artists, musicians, dancers, choreographers, graphic designers and others in creative fields.
“It really will help expand the scope for a lot of young people choosing to enter creative careers,” she says, adding that she hopes it will encourage young talent to see that a career in the arts is a viable option for their future.