A brush with the law

Top cop and wildlife painter donates to crisis center

Chief Superintendent Robbie Graham poses alongside his painting of a sea turtle and the Amphitrite mermaid statue, with Ania Milanowska, executive director of the Crisis Centre, and Julie Hughes, organizer of the Crisis Center gala, right. - PHOTO: ALVARO SEREY

As one of Cayman’s most senior police officers, Robbie Graham is responsible for helping keep the streets safe. But once he is off duty, the chief superintendent changes out of his uniform and dons his overalls to play a very different role.

Mr. Graham gained a reputation in the U.K. as one of the country’s most accomplished wildlife artists, painting stunning, lifelike pictures of everything from big cats and orangutans to magpies and peacocks.

Now in Cayman, he has picked up the paintbrush once again. His first major work, of a turtle drifting past Amphitrite, the famous underwater mermaid statue off Sunset House, will be auctioned at the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre’s gala next month. The proceeds will go to the charity, which runs a help-line and shelter for victims of domestic abuse.

Mr. Graham said he had painted professionally in the U.K. during the interlude from retiring from the police in Kent and taking up the job in Cayman.

He has sold work all over the world and raised money for nonprofits dealing with diverse organizations, including human trafficking and tiger conservation.

He wants his work in Cayman to have a similar impact and will donate his next work, a pair of ballerinas, to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Mr. Graham said he first picked up a brush 15 years ago as a way to relax between shifts. Now it provides a release and a contrast to the world of policing.

“I started painting purely as a means of relaxation,” he said. “It is the one chance you have to switch off and drift away as you immerse yourself in something.

“If I don’t get my paint brushes out and have the smell of paint, I get these withdrawal symptoms. I have to do it.”

Julie Hughes, one of the organizers of the Crisis Centre’s Greek-themed gala on Sept. 16, said the organization is thrilled to have the painting as part of its auction.

She said guests are being asked to don togas or dress as Greek gods for the event, under the theme “Opa! My Big Fat Greek Gala” at Ristorante Pappagallo in West Bay. It will also included plate-smashing and Greek dancing as part of the night of fundraising.

She hopes to raise around $30,000 for the organization.

Executive Director of the Crisis Centre Ania Milanowska said the shelter relies on fundraising for much of its operating costs.

“We are a charitable organization and we need all the help we can get,” he said. “We have a shelter which helps women and children coming from abusive relationships to find a safe haven with us and work towards a life free of violence through all the services and help we provide for them.”

She said the charity has a new office off Eastern Avenue in George Town, where it also offers a drop-in center for young people and advocacy and support for people in abusive relationships.

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