Competition to mark Harquail anniversary draws in youngsters

Local musician Jason Gilbert (back row left), Grammy award-winning musician Dana Leong (front row left) and CNCF’s Artistic Director Henry Muttoo (front row right) with the Young At Arts Collective.

Budding young artists from both government and private schools were asked to call on their creative muse and submit up to two of their best visual arts pieces for selection in a recent nationwide competition for 6 to 18 year-olds.

Held by the Cayman National Cultural Foundation (CNCF), the contest is being held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Harquail Theatre.

Working in a variety of mediums ranging from charcoal and acrylic to watercolor and crayons, pictures from more than 200 students were entered which covered diverse subjects including landscapes, portraiture, animals and still life. Organizers welcoming the large number of entrants noticed that the competition attracted a surprisingly big percentage of anime-inspired cartoon images.


Pictures by 30 students were subsequently selected by a CNCF-appointed panel of judges. Having passed the first round of the competition, the entrants were rewarded by being asked to each reproduce a key moment, symbol or figure from the theater’s history on canvas.

They were then given 10 days to interpret and recreate a specific image by the competition organizers, according to each child’s skill level and the complexity of the pictures, a spokesperson confirmed.

The 30 weatherproof canvases are being stitched together to make three sail murals for display on the side of the Harquail Theatre on May 19.

One of the chosen contestants, Raven Hillard, 10, said: “I entered the competition because I love art … I chose an oil pastel picture I did of the patterns and colors on a turtle shell and a watercolor of the Taj Mahal from our class work on India.”

“I was very excited when I found out that I had been chosen to be one of the 30 children in the YAA and couldn’t wait to see the image I was going to paint,” she added. “I have never been chosen for anything like this before … I can’t wait to see the final mural when [our] images are put together.”

Dana Leong and Jason Gilbert

The group was invited to an exclusive breakfast meet-and-greet at the Harquail with Grammy award-winning musician Dana Leong. After breakfast, the celebrated electro-jazz cellist performed for winners, parents and teachers before inviting the students to take part in an interactive session.

The collective also took part in a panel discussion that morning on the local arts scene with CNCF’s Artistic Director, Henry Muttoo; Nancy Bernard from the Ministry of Health and Culture; and Caymanian hip hop record producer, song writer and recording star Jason Gilbert a.k.a. JG.

The YAA were given a private tour of the En Mas exhibition at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands and VIP passes to CNCF’s annual Red Sky at Night festival.
Later this month, the overall winner will be chosen to receive not only $250 in arts supplies and a workshop scholarship worth over $200 from the National Gallery, but also a $750 grant for their school’s art program.

The CNCF’s Programmes Manager, Patrice Beersingh, said: “The YAA Collective was developed to showcase a unification of artistic excellence in the Cayman Islands. I was proud to see each child, different in their background and unique life experiences, work together in such different ways.”

“Once the collective is complete, my wish is that each of these amazing kids will realize how their individual contributions were necessary to complete the whole project. Driving the point of collaboration and celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Harquail in a very special way,” she added.

Young At Art Round 1 winners

Bodden Town Primary: Daniella Watson and Alyssa Bush;

Cayman International School: Marissa Towell;

Cayman Prep: Raven Hillard;

Clifton Hunter High School: Mia Ebanks, Chrisella Connor, Sarafina Mitchell, Kinsey Miller and Jordan Scott;

Edna Moyle Primary School: Jasmine Rankin;

First Baptist: Iona Nicol and Chesskamea Daniels;

Grace Christian Academy: Olivia Zimmer, Gayle Taylor and Arianna Dinall;

John Gray High School: Ciara Henriques;

St. Ignatius: Jacob Whewell, Stephanie Gunby, Ebunae McBean, Hayley Willhelm, Paulann McLean, Halle Manderson, Daniella Grandos, Samruddhi Tagalpallewar, Shaniah Kelly and Sarah Harrison;

Savannah Primary: Gabrielle Best and Michael Moncrieffe;

Spot Bay Primary: Abbey Walton

Wesleyan Christian Academy: Veko Ramgeet.