Southside artist helping to bring life to downtown Kingston
Being part of a project that is helping to spruce up sections of downtown Kingston is a worthwhile feeling for Sheldon Blake, an artist who grew up in Southside, a tough inner-city community in the centre of the city's capital.
Blake, 42, shared his experience with THE STAR on Saturday during a tour along Water Lane, where an array of art impressions are being painted on the walls, much to the delight of the viewing public.
"I just got a lovely comment from someone who passes here every single morning, just to look at the vibration of the colours and the message that the artwork brings. The person told me that the images have life and takes his mind off life and its stresses," said Blake.
The city of downtown Kingston is going through a transformation process and a number of initiatives, including this one, has been undertaken to bring back the glory days of the once pulchritude capital.
Blake, a former arts teacher at St George's College and Haile Selassie High School, was working on his latest project, Indian Melodies, when THE STAR visited.
The mural-painting initiative in downtown is being undertaken by the Government, through its the 'Paint the City, Paint the Town' project, and Kingston Creative, a non-profit arts organisation. Blake said that he began working on the project in mid-December of last year.
"l know the power of art because I also teach it. It is something that connects intrinsic with me, but it is amazing to hear the comments from people who come here to do all sort of things, from taking pictures to shooting music videos, and so forth. It is a fantastic feeling.
"Art is life and that is a mantra we have. If you look at the television and the advertisement and how art has affected it, then you'll see how important art is. Art takes up everything and all the careers that you can think of. We can't get away from creative thinking and art is something that is central to that," he said.
The proud artist related the story of another man, whose journey into Water Lane helped him to get past a traumatic experience that took place at the very location when he was a youngster.
"This guy came along and he was in awe. He was saying that he remembers his experience when walking through here. [He said that he was] very young and some police stopped him and took him away. Someone saw him at the station and called his parents. He said it was a very traumatic experience, but when he came by the other day, he said he got his healing when he looked around and see the colours and how the place has transformed.
"He immediately called his friend overseas to tell him what is happening... People who say that they are lost and come here just stand in front of the work and say dem cyah move because they are stucked on the work on display," Blake said.
The artistic transformation of downtown Kingston fits into the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation's plan to transform it into a cultural district, dubbed a 'Kulture Key'. Last year, Mayor of Kingston Delroy Williams said that the Kulture Key would combine leisure and learning, through the mounting of murals along various sections of downtown that tell stories of the country's musical past.
Blake, who was bitten by the art bug since he was a youngster, said that he is happy to be part of the redevelopment of downtown Kingston.
"For me, l am really grateful. It is a privilege, a feeling of compliment. It is a situation where it is life-changing and bringing healing to the downtown space. The feeling is really hard to put in words, especially when you hear and see the reaction of persons who come and stop to watch what is being unfolded in front their eyes. Growing up, art has always been my passion. So, to have this opportunity is a very important moment in my life," Blake said.