Ford Foundation, Terra Kulture... in love with visual arts(First published Tuesday, September 09, 2008)
By Tajudeen Sowole
By Tajudeen Sowole
EFFORTS at creating opportunities in the visual art sub-sector of the economy may have found the right formula in a bilateral mission involving two organisations.
In their second outing, Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos and Ford Foundation are currently exhibiting the products of a grant project at the former's art gallery.
The exhibition titled Streams of Thoughts showed works of 18 artists who are beneficiaries of the 2007/2008 Ford Foundation Grant Art Project.
In August 2006, the two organisations launched the talent support programme which had close to 100 entries from artists across the country, leading to a art exhibition of 22 artists titled Celebration of Talents.
During the presentation of the new set of artists and opening of their exhibition on Saturday, September 6, 2008, Program Officer of Ford Foundation, Margie Reese said that part of the organisation's mission "is to get artists beyond their creative shells."
The project, she added, expects that the artists will use the opportunity to improve on their client relationships.
Reese advised the artists: "Your creativity is not good enough if the works are not available to the public. This should be the beginning for you; to confirm your creativity."
In her remarks at the event, the Managing Director of Terra Kulture, Bolanle Austen-Peters said the initiative is not any strange as there are models in the developed countries which help artists to improve on their skills.
Earlier at the preview of the exhibition, Austen-Peters, while recalling how the project took off said, "the art grant initiative came as a pilot project having met certain conditions of Ford Foundation."
And the criteria for selecting participant artists, she added, were well known to the public through the media.
Entrepreneurship is an apparent missing link of the art in this part of the world. Younger artists must not fall into this pitch, the organisers of the grant must have thought.
This much was made clear from the start as the eligibility for participation included "skilled artists and craftsmen wishing to develop and market original creative and productive artwork."
The project, which took off in December 2007, had each artist worked with grant sum ranging from N250, 000 to as much as N350, 000, depending on the nature of proposal submitted by the artist, the organisers explained.
For the beneficiaries, the project, some of them said, offered an opportunity to either start off a pending experiment or strengthened one or two other ideas already embarked on.
One of the lucky artists, Kazeem Olojo Kosoko, who was the last of the 100 entrants that went through the preliminary stage, said the grant has given him an opportunity to perfect on his current experiment of pastel, ink and water colour.
Noting that established visual artists do not give opportunity for bigger and younger artists to interact as performance artists do acting in a play or recording music together, Olojo, a graduate of University of Benin, UNIBEN, said the grant project is like a rescue mission for up and coming artists.
If painting wet and rainy scenery had been a challenge for Badejo Abiodun, the grant, he said, "offered me a chance to perfect my skills." This much was noticed in two of his works, A Night in June, Rainy Time Experiment and Quiet Time.
Home boy, Imesi Imhonigie, who flouted passion for his native town in Edo State disclosed that the grant has brought another life into his work, beyond the usual green colour dominance of his work. "I like nature, and to show how rich my town is, I am documenting the environment in the works for this show," the Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi Edo State graduate explained.
Textile and craft artist, Esther Adekunle who started as a self-taught artist had the opportunity to prove that crafts can stand its own in the family of diverse art genres.
Uncommon statements of stone artist, Moses Afenso noticed at several previous shows continued as the artist's skills with his choice of medium was a boost to the exhibition.
Diverse focus of the artists was also felt in another promising artist, Dolapo Ogunsi, who took a palette trip to Abeokuta, Ogun State and rendered two aerial views in the works, Onikolobo and Owu with cold blue and warm earth colours respectively.
Others whose works justified the effort of the grant projects were emerging impasto artist, Simeon Akhirebu; Joy Ezeka; Richard Izege; Raji Olanrewaju; Richard Ighere; Ojo Maduewesi; Amuche Nnabueze; Rotimi Akinnire; Hapiness Ikusika; Toyin Omolowo and Prince Samiriye.
The maiden edition had two young artists, Titus Agbara and Tayo Olayode emerged as winners from the short list of 22. The artists were given residency opportunity to Ghana for an experience with renowned Ghanaian painter, Ablade Glover.
But the 2007/2008 grant project, Austen-Peters said does not include any residency due to inability to meet the required funding needed.
As an organisation whose recent activities are geared towards making the art sector as competitive and vibrant, one wondered the nexus between Terra Kulture's involvement in the on-going project and its broader vision of being a corporate council for arts and culture.
The council, an initiative, which involves Guaranty Trust Bank, GTB, with the support of Ford Foundation, was presented in October 2007.
At the event, Austen-Peters had noted that talents are abound in the country, but lack of enabling environment is a clog in the wheels of progress for the art.
Headed by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Guaranty Trust Bank, Tayo Aderinokun, the council, according to its conveners, has identified that the arts are essential to the quality of life in the country. Artists and scholars in this part of the world, it noted, have used the art to solve various challenges of their immediate environment, celebrate achievement as well as express the uniqueness of our diverse customs and traditions.
Stakeholders in the art and corporate setting joined Austen Peters and Aderinokun at the presentation. Industrialist and art patron, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, leading art collectors, Engineer Yemisi Shyllon and Sammy Olagbaju, veteran artist, Bruce Onabrakpeya, art writer and editor of The Guardian on Sunday, Jahman Anikulapo, House of Assembly member, Honourable Kehinde Keshinro and Chief Frank Okonta were among the stakeholders at the forum.
Revisiting the council few days ago, Austen-Peters said the grant project would not continue as a separate project as soon as the Council becomes operational.
She explained: "Initiative like the Corporate Council for Art and Culture is a matter of urgency in Nigeria. We have fine-tuned the feasibility study, which we hope to present to Ford Foundation before October this year. And it is expected that the council will take up a project like the grant for artists as part of the feasibility study."
During the presentation, the council stated that the overall goal of the initiative is to develop and advance partnership between the corporate community and arts and culture practitioners. The platform to achieve this, it added, is a proposed board to be made up of active and committed art supporters across the country.
Enhancement of academic performance to equip children to face the challenges of the future in a world where technology is fast overtaking cultural values as well as strengthening customer relationship in international business to attract foreign investments were among the values of the art listed by the council.
In addition, it noted that preservation of national identity through museums, theatre, music and festivals as integral part of business have been successfully used in developed countries around the world.