Kingston Creative Transforms Kingston Jamaica’s Business District with Murals

Daughters of Oshun by Errol Keane

Daughters of Oshun by Errol Keane

by Howard Campbell

[KINGSTON, Jamaica] – The birthplace of Jamaica’s modern political movement and popular music, downtown Kingston was once the go-to location for Caribbean progressives. That was before crime and urban decay transformed it into a haven for undesirables and the homeless.

Kingston Creative, a non-profit organization founded in 2017, stepped in three years ago to stop the rot. They have gradually changed the face of what was once the country’s business district, through a series of colorful murals by local artists.

Eye-Catching Murals

Kingston Creative Mural - Rebecca Levy

Artist, Rebecca Levy

The murals adorn facades and buildings in the Water Lane area. They are part of Kingston Creative’s Paint The City series, similar to the eye-catching paintings in Wynwood, Miami.

“We believe the development of an Art District and a Creative Hub will build on some of downtown Kingston’s most under-utilized assets — the history, architecture, the waterfront and the creative people that live there,” said Kingston Creative co-founder and executive director Andrea Dempster-Chung.

She added that, “Water Lane is a central East-West pathway that connects the National Gallery of Jamaica on Orange Street to the museums on East Street and is also the site for the Kingston Creative Artwalk and the Kingston Creative Hub co-working space, so Water Lane is a natural focal point for cultural and community tourism.”

Dempster-Chung noted that 63 murals have been developed since 2018, three years after the UNESCO designated Kingston a creative city for music. 

With financial support from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (part of the ministry of tourism), European Union and Sherwin Williams Paints, murals were commissioned for communities such as Rae Town, Tivoli Gardens, Trench Town and Parade Gardens.

Most of the paintings are done by artists from these neighborhoods, which, like Wynwood, have experienced years of gang violence.

Dempster-Chung says they have given a much-needed lift to an area where the Jamaican independence movement began in the 1930s. Downtown Kingston is also the birthplace of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) as well as Ska, rock steady and reggae.

“The response has been positive from the community and the creatives alike. People intuitively understand Jamaica’s creative potential and its position as a cultural powerhouse across the globe,” she stated. “Creatives are excited to see the visitors coming in, the events and video shoots taking place, the increased patronage of the restaurants and bars in the area and the overall improvement in the infrastructure and look of the area.”



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