JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The National Youth Service (NYS) has partnered with the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA) on a unique project, which aims to use the visual arts to heighten public awareness about persons with disabilities in Jamaica.
  • Dubbed ‘Movements’, the initiative will see the NYS awarding six art fellowships totalling $9 million to graduates of Edna Manley, to undertake work with persons with disabilities over a 12-month period, beginning September this year.
  • Each fellowship recipient will receive $1.5 million.

The National Youth Service (NYS) has partnered with the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA) on a unique project, which aims to use the visual arts to heighten public awareness about persons with disabilities in Jamaica.

Dubbed ‘Movements’, the initiative will see the NYS awarding six art fellowships totalling $9 million to graduates of Edna Manley, to undertake work with persons with disabilities over a 12-month period, beginning September this year.  Each fellowship recipient will receive $1.5 million.

The work should reflect the recipients’ interpretation of the realities experienced by persons with disabilities, whether physical or intellectual.

The aim is to get the student to have a better understanding of the world of the disabled, and then depict that reality through art. The hope is that the connection between the non-disabled and the disabled will allow for increased inclusion of people with disability.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) formalising the arrangement was signed today (May 11), during a brief ceremony at the EMCVPA Arthur Wint Drive campus in St. Andrew.

Youth and Culture Minister, Hon. Lisa Hanna, who has responsibility for the NYS, and Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, under whose portfolio the college falls, headed the list of signatories.

NYS Chairperson, Maureen Webber; and EMCVPA Board Chairman, Paul Issa, also signed the MoU.

Ms. Hanna welcomed the initiative, and expressed the hope that “this programme will grow.”

“I think it not only has tremendous ramifications for young people locally, but also internationally…when a young person is able to reach into other (persons’) spaces…where they are showing what is happening in the Jamaican landscape,” she said.

Minister Hanna noted further that “using Edna Manley to do this kind of work, it really augers well for what our young people are doing and for what we are doing as a Government, in terms of connecting those, sometimes, incongruent realities.”

For his part, Rev. Thwaites said his Ministry welcomes the opportunity to enter into a collaboration, which facilitates the commencement, continuation, and development of “a real process of change.”

“We know that about 20 per cent of our young people have some challenge, physical or intellectual… and many seek to express themselves. Where the words can’t flow, the fingers can draw, and so, the connection with art for the upliftment of those who are weakest, is a sacred one,” he contended.

Ms. Webber noted that ‘Movements’ will seek to build awareness between the student recipients and persons with disabilities, as well as to the wider public through creative art forms.

She indicated the project will remain a fixture in the NYS’ programme offerings, with the initial implementation serving as a pilot, to guide future engagements.

For his part, Mr. Issa said the Edna Manley fraternity is “excited” and “motivated” about the project and collaboration.

“I think that we, as artists, can, hopefully, best identify, address, and create programmes to raise awareness in the society, and to acknowledge this fairly large segment of our society, or should I say this hitherto, ignored segment of our society, especially our young people, who can be valuable members of the society,” he noted.

Speaking with JIS News, College Principal, Dr. Nicholeen DeGrasse-Johnson, in welcoming the collaboration, said “it will also allow for the social statements that are necessary and the engagement to educate our public about disabilities and how we can possible empower these individuals.”

The fellowship awardees will be selected from members of EMCVPA’s 2014/15 graduating class, to whom the programme will be promoted, in upcoming weeks.

They will be invited to develop and submit concept notes to a special selection panel, comprising representatives of the NYS and the college for their consideration, detailing their work over the year.

This should include stipulated field work, entailing their interaction with persons with disabilities, which will inform their presentations at the end of the fellowship.

The NYS will, at that time, seek to initiate arrangements with the graduates to incorporate their material in various public education engagements focusing on the disabled community, and targeting the wider society.