Signal honour for Mind’s Eye

Cayman’s national cultural treasure known as the Mind’s Eye, aka Miss Lassie’s House, has been selected as one of 67 sites for the biennial Watch List of the World Monuments Fund.

The 2012 designation brings the local cultural heritage site to the attention of all other agencies internationally that do similar things, and gives the local foundation leverage in seeking funding, said Henry Muttoo, artistic director of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation.

The listing was announced by the World Monuments Fund last Friday at its headquarters in the Empire State Building in New York City. A local press conference was held on Wednesday, 12 October.

Saving the world’s treasured places

“Since 1996, the biennial Watch has drawn international attention to cultural-heritage sites in need of assistance, helping to save some of the world’s most treasured places,” says the announcement. “The 67 sites vividly illustrate the ever-more pressing need to create a balance between heritage concerns and the social, economic, and environmental interests of communities around the world,” said Fund president Bonnie Burnham.

“Moreover, in addition to promoting community cohesion and pride, heritage preservation can have an especially positive impact on local populations in times of economic distress, for example through employment and the development of well-managed tourism.”

Watch listing provides an opportunity for sites and their nominators to raise public awareness, foster local participation, advance innovation and collaboration, and demonstrate effective solutions, the press release states.

The process also serves as a vehicle for requesting World Monuments Fund assistance for select projects. Founding sponsor American Express granted US$5 million to support the programme for the next five years.

Local support needed

Muttoo said this week that local support for Mind’s Eye, which was unveiled during Cayfest on 29 April, “has not really been forthcoming.”

He added, “The longer you take to get the place going, the more work is needed,” referring to the painstaking work involved in restoring paintings, replanting the garden and other efforts to maintain and preserve the property.

Previously known as Miss Lassie’s, the site is where visionary artist Gladwyn “Lassie” Bush lived her entire life. Extensive work has been undertaken to restore and preserve both the buildings and the paintings.

Miss Lassie, a fourth-generation Caymanian, had never painted before the age of 62. It was only when she began to have religious visions that she picked up a paint brush. From then until her death in 2003, she painted prolifically with any kind of paint she could lay her hands on. She painted not only on canvas, but also on the walls, windows and ceilings of her house.

‘A signal honour’

The listing by the World Monuments Fund “is a signal honour,” said Muttoo. “You’re in the company of some huge, major properties.”

Among them:

the ruins of the former Cathedral Church of St. Michael, Coventry, West Midlands, UK; Haydarpasa Railway Station, Istanbul, Turkey; the first cemetery of Athens, Greece; the Gingerbread Neighbourhood of Port au Prince, Haiti; the Parish Church of San Juan Bautista de los Remedios, Villa Clara Province, Cuba; the Walpi Village, Navajo County, Arizona, USA; and the mosque and hammam al-Mudhaffar, Ta’izz

, Yemen.

Staff writer Natasha Were contributed to this article.

2012 watch sites highlights

Found in every type of environment, from the Central Asian steppe to New York City, the 2012 sites range from prehistoric to modern, and include religious structures, cemeteries, houses, palaces, bridges, cultural landscapes, archaeological remains, gardens, train stations, and entire villages and neighbourhoods.

In some cases the Watch supports an existing plan to address challenges, in others it advocates for the development of one.

Detailed descriptions of all 67 sites may be found at

www.wmf.org/watch

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