Burrowes School of Art tutors indulge their passion
By Linda Rutherford
February 15, 2004
‘A Voice of Our Own’, a tribute from Sean Thomas to the hearing-impaired, with whom he works in his spare time as interpreter.
AN ART exhibition, featuring the works of ten tutors of the Burrowes School of Art, opened here Wednesday at the National Art Gallery, Castellani House.
Among those whose works are on exhibit are doyen of the local art community, the internationally acclaimed sculptor/painter, Mr. Philip Moore, who has more than 130 pieces in the National Collection and whose current portfolio is that of Artist-in-Residence at the Burrowes School of Art; Cuban-born artist and sculptor, Ms. Josefa Tamayo, herself a National Collection artist; and Mr. Chekama Skeete, another National Collection artist.
Two other works of note are those of Ms. Volda Ramsammy, and young Sean Thomas, whose entire collection can be said to be a tribute to his late father, Mr. Bernell Thomas, also known as ‘Acku’, whose contribution to the Creative Arts was phenomenal and spanned decades.
That of Ramsammy, a trained agriculturalist turned artist, has entirely to do with textile, which is one of the disciplines in which she majored while studying at Burrowes.
Curator of the Castellani House, Ms. Elfrieda Bissember made the point at the opening ceremony that as often happens in the business of teaching, the work of the tutors themselves gets neglected since they do have as much time as they would like to indulge their passion.
Sean Thomas’s idea of ‘Fostering the Caribbean Culture’.
She said it was for this reason the Castellani House Management Committee, of which for President Ms. Janet Jagan is a member, was more than happy to comply with a request to hold an exhibition of this nature from the school’s Director of Studies, Mr. Robert Cummings, whose works are also on display.
Giving a background to how the school got started, she recalled the pivotal role played by Barbadian-born Mr. E.R. Burrowes, after whom the school was named, in the development of the Visual Arts here as far back as the early 20th Century, when it was he first set foot on these shores.
He not only decided to settle here, she said, but also became the centre of a nucleus of bright, energetic, eager young people who showed an interest in the Visual Arts.
“He was the first real figurehead who gathered around him people and gave that kind of moral support that was needed ….at a time when we were still a colony, and there was no thought that an art school could be in existence,” she said
And in her Curator’s notes in a catalogue prepared by the Gallery just for the exhibition, she also pays tribute to another stalwart, this time around the late Dr. Dennis Williams, who was renowned, not only for his exploits in the Creative Arts, but in the fields of archaeology and anthropology as well.
It was Williams, the polymath, she says in her notes, who founded the school in 1975 and decided to name it after Burrowes. At the time, Bissember said, it was the second of its kind in the Caribbean. Its predecessor, she said, was the Edna Manley School of the Visual Arts in Jamaica, which was named after the wife and mother respectively of two of Jamaica’s Prime Ministers, a woman who was an esteemed artist herself.
The handiwork of Ms Kathleen Thompson, Director of Studies at the Burrowes School of Art. They are among the few pen-an-ink pieces at the exhibition.
Clothes Galore: The works of the textile designer in their midst, Ms Volda Ramsammy.
At the time of its establishment, she said, Williams had intended that the Burrowes School of Art be a tertiary institution and should be patterned after the English art school system with which he was more familiar, having studied and taught at some of the leading Fine Art schools in London.
Founded in the aftermath of the highly-successful first Caribbean Festival of Creative Arts (CARIFESTA) held here in 1972, Bissember says it was intended that the Burrowes School of Art should provide a range of artistic disciplines and technical skills to talented Guyanese who might, on graduating, contribute, through art and culture, to that building of the national self that was such an urgent preoccupation after Guyana gained independence in 1966.
She says that though the social, political and economic conditions of Guyanese history in the intervening years have tested the resources of the school, yet it remains in existence as an institution, providing an important focal point and meeting place for Guyanese with skills in the Visual Arts, who are able to envisage, thanks to its existence, a life and a profession as visual artists.
She named as one of the outstanding contemporary artists to have come out of this fine institution the late Maylene Duncan, who, at the time of her death after a brief illness last May, was the President of the Guyana Women Artists’ Association. She was just 42.
The exhibition runs until March 2.