After 14 years, the annual [email protected] weekend on the front lawn of the Governor’s House is dead, canceled due to budget and space pressures, according to National Gallery Director Natalie Urquhart.
In a Dec. 17 letter to exhibitors, Ms Urquhart wrote that administrators had been “reviewing all of our [National Gallery Cayman Islands] programmes and events in order to better streamline these, to ensure best use of our limited funds, and to maximise the opportunities created by the new NGCI building on the Easterly Tibbets Highway.”
As a result, and because of the rapid growth of the festival, she wrote, “significant pressures” had been brought to bear on gallery resources. Because of “annual budget cuts over the past few years, and the logistical challenges the festival presents … we are no longer able to sustain [email protected] in its present format.”
While moving off the lawn of Governor’s House, however, the event, staged annually on the first Saturday of February, is not finished, but will move to the Esterley Tibbetts Highway home of the National Gallery in 2015, occupying the indoor space, the Sculpture Garden and even its long driveway.
“[email protected] is dead, but it’s changing, rebranding, getting a new face,” said Kaitlyn Elphinstone, communications manager at the gallery and herself an artist. “It’s only the 2014 event that is actually canceled, and in 2015, it will be a whole new fair. We will combine with the Cayman National Cultural Foundation for a new arts fair.
“The National Gallery typically does visual and fine
arts, and [the Cultural Foundation] do more performance arts. I’m excited,” she
“We will be developing a new annual fine art fair in the National Gallery’s gardens, which will be held in conjunction with CNCF’s wonderful ‘Red Sky at Night’ festival,” wrote Ms Urquhart to exhibitors. “The inaugural fine art fair will be held in 2015, coinciding with CNCF’s festival. We look forward to working with you on this new initiative.”
The event has expanded in recent years, and now encompasses more than 100 artists and exhibitors, crossing the street into Governor’s Square, where art courses, demonstrations and commercial transactions took place.
“We have possession of a brand-new, awesome, slick facility for art,” Ms Elphinstone said. “We have developed a huge strategic plan, and want to focus on the fine arts, the gallery and this great building. “So we thought we’d take a break and get things going properly and then have a quality event for people,” she said.
She was unable to name the costs of mounting [email protected], but described escalating bills for the event, adding that even corporate sponsorship was proving harder to gain.
“Costs are quite high these days and it’s getting harder to find corporate donors. It’s getting a lot more competitive,” Ms Elphinstone said. The cut comes despite a nearly $10,000 boost in government subsidies to the gallery. In fiscal year 2012/13, legislators budgeted $48,333 for the institution, increasing that to $58,214 this year.
“[email protected] was originally envisioned to raise the profile of local artists, and art in general, at a time when there were few other opportunities for exhibitions,” Ms Urquhart wrote on Tuesday.
“Given the logistical restrictions presented by the previous NGCI location,” – six rented rooms in central George Town’s Harbour Place – “partnering with Government House was a wonderful way of achieving this goal. It has undoubtedly been a great success over the past 14 years, helping to expose the community to the visual arts and crafts of the Cayman Islands.”
The Office of the Governor offered its regrets at the passing of the annual event. “It was a nice feature, but it will be a nice change,” said Jacquline Hennings, social secretary to the governor, referring to the future venue at the National Gallery.
“I’m sure we will have an announcement soon about a new event,” she said, hinting at a replacement gathering for the community at the West Bay Road mansion.