An international body has recognised Mind’s Eye as one of the globe’s threatened cultural-heritage sites.
Supporters say the distinction demonstrates the South Sound property, also known as Miss Lassie’s House, is worth saving, not only for its importance to Cayman, but the world. At the same time, Minister of Culture Mark Scotland said the government is prepared to commit up to about $500,000 during the next four years for continued preservation efforts of the National Trust-designated site of national historic interest.
The property is owned by the Cayman Islands government and vested to the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, which owns 124 paintings by Miss Lassie, whose real name was Gladwyn K. Bush, in addition to being charged with the preservation of the roughly 130-year old house, whose windows, walls and ceilings served as the intuitive artist’s first canvases.
“This woman was more than almost anybody thinks she was,” said Henry Muttoo, foundation artistic director. “This is why I will continue to throw a fit or three if necessary, and I’m not going to let anything stand in my way because what we’re dealing with here is the creation of the mythology of this country. No country can survive without a sustaining mythology; none.”
‘A call to action’
The inclusion of Mind’s Eye on the World Monuments Fund’s 2012 World Monuments Watch – along with 66 other sites in 40 other countries and territories – is meant to draw attention to the cultural significance of the site and the potential jeopardy it faces due to natural or man-made causes. Natural threats to Mind’s Eye include earthquakes and hurricanes, exacerbated by its proximity to the beach.
Fund President Bonnie Burnham said, “The World Monuments Watch is a call to action on behalf of endangered cultural-heritage sites across the globe. And while these sites are historic, they are also very much of the present-integral parts of the lives of the people who come into contact with them every day. Indeed, the Watch reminds us of our collective role as stewards of the earth and of its human heritage.”
Miss Lassie began painting when she was 62 and remained active until shortly before her death in 2003 at the age of 89. The Government bought the property for US$1 million following the deaths of Miss Lassie and her son, Richard. The Foundation purchased 102 paintings from Miss Lassie for $275,000, plus $10,000 for all incidents of absolute ownership. The other 22 paintings were rescued by Mr. Muttoo following Hurricane Ivan, which landed in September 2004, and bought from Richard Bush for $13,000.
Benefits of inclusion
Mr. Muttoo said the Fund’s designation will make it more likely for experts to render assistance to the Mind’s Eye project, and additionally the Foundation has applied for monetary assistance from the Fund, but that is not guaranteed. Most importantly, the recognition is an international ‘seal of approval’ that gives the Foundation leverage when seeking assistance from public and private sources locally for efforts related to Mind’s Eye.
“If people can say and tell us that these things are important, it is even much more important for us to acknowledge it,” he said. “It’s almost a shame to me when somebody else has to tell us that our children are very beautiful when we don’t acknowledge it.”
In May, the Foundation had raised about $275,000 to develop the Mind’s Eye site.
At the time, Mr. Muttoo said that while the three-year business plan called for raising $900,000, Foundation officials felt that $500,000 would allow them to complete the project, including finishing conservation work on all the paintings, stock and open the gift shop/tea room, prepare the beach for visitors and ‘dress’ the house as it was in Miss Lassie’s time. He said if that level of funding was made available soon, then it is possible the full opening of the site could be fast-tracked to mid-2012.
The projects on the most recent biennial Watch range from the famous Nasca lines and geoglyphs in Peru to the little-known Cour Royale at Tiébélé, Burkina Faso, Africa, and from Charleston, S.C., to the floating fishing villages of Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam. Other Caribbean sites on the 2012 Watch include the Parish Church of San Juan Bautista de los Remedios, Villa Clara Province, in Cuba; the Parish Church of San Dionisio, Higüey, La Altagracia Province, in Dominican Republic; Gingerbread Neighbourhood, Port-au-Prince, in Haiti; Jacmel Historic District in Haiti; and Palace of Sans Souci, Milot, in Haiti.