by Howard Campbell
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Next March (2019) when Oniel Cunningham and his business partners launch CARICS international Fine Arts Festival in Montego Bay, they hope to expose budding artists in the tourist city and Caribbean.
An architect by profession, Cunningham has been an art lover for many years and toyed with the idea of staging a fine arts festival in his hometown. With the logistics settled, that event becomes reality in six months.
“The concept of developing a local international festival for the fine arts and artisans was birthed from the mid-2000s but was registered in January of 2010. Having been to Art Basel, I thought it prudent to have a local show as the Jamaican art scene though possessing talent, lacked vibrancy and major growth,” he said. “This event seeks to do that for the local market and the region. With several major cities having major international art shows, why not Jamaica?”
Cunningham did not disclose funding or cost to stage the festival, but is determined to promote young artisans from Montego Bay whose artistic talent is overlooked. Like many of them, he is from a tough area in the city but stayed clear of crime and became an architect and self-made businessman.
The CARICS international Fine Arts Festival is open to artists of all forms: painters, sculptors, dub poets, musicians and songwriters. According to Cunningham, he and his partners are indiscriminate.
“I am not just reaching out to youths in Montego Bay but wider Jamaica and by extension the Caribbean. They are all invited to be a part of this program,’ he said.
Jamaica has produced a number of outstanding artists, such as sculptors Edna Manley, Alvin Marriott and Christopher Gonzalez, and painters Albert Huie and Barrington Watson. Most of them are from rural areas but moved to Kingston where a vibrant exhibition scene exposed their work.