by Susan Mains
It was in 2014 that the Grenada Arts Council invited curator Jose Noceda to come to Grenada and have a critical look at the artists who were doing contemporary work.
Noceda is a chief curator at the Wifredo Lam Museum in Havana, one of Cuba’s museums of great distinction. His area of responsibility also includes regular surveys of contemporary Caribbean artists. At that time, he was scouting for art to be included in the Habana Bienal. Disappointingly, none of Grenada’s artists were chosen for that edition, but the investment was not wasted.
Some 8 years later, for the 2022 edition of the Habana Bienal, Asher Mains’ work has been chosen; a first-time appearance for Grenada. It is an honour for this work to be shown in the most prestigious Art Bienal in the Caribbean. The interaction with other artists and academics broadens the scope of the network available to Grenada, and will most certainly lead to more opportunities in the future.
Ambassador Claris Charles, Grenada’s representative in Cuba says “Sacrifice, love of and for country matters. Promoting our island through art captivates and motivates even the most reluctant visitor and raises national pride and dignity. It has been since 2007, so 15 years since the first exploratory foray to participate in this international event that attracts thousands of visitors to Cuba.” Persistence rewarded.
Mains is a full-time instructor at St George’s University (SGU) in the School of Arts and Sciences. Besides art, he teaches in the communications department. Having received a Bachelor’s degree from Calvin College in 2006, he then pursued studies in studio art — the practical part of learning to handle different mediums and techniques. A Master of Fine Art was completed from TransArt Institute, and now he is enrolled in the European Graduate School, finishing a PhD in Philosophy, Art and Critical Thought.
Mains will also participate in the Cypher Collective of Grenada at la Biennale di Venezia, presenting in the Grenada Pavilion from April through November of 2022. La Biennale carries with it a profound global significance. It enriches discourse, and articulates sophistication as a people — and country — both to Grenada and to the world at large. This oldest and most prestigious art exhibition in the world convenes every 2 years to call together the most brilliant minds to create a locus of thought and action to make an impact on the world. This year more than 80 countries will participate with national pavilions.
Another St George’s University professor, Dr Oliver Benoit, is also part of the Cypher Art Collective of Grenada. A sociologist with a PhD from Brandeis University, his classroom interaction very often informs his art. He is an abstract painter, and societal observations find their way into his work. He too has earned an MFA from TransArt Institute. Identity has been an underlying theme in all of his work, and he has also portrayed the Grenada Revolution in a sound installation, the effects of natural disasters, the bricks from our heritage buildings and others. In the paintings he has rendered for Venice, he delves deep into the Shakespeare Mas ritual of Carriacou, and studies the colonial effect on education, where the whip was used to “teach” children.
The students at SGU have also benefitted in the past from adjunct teachers Angus Martin and Susan Mains. Martin is a Caribbean historian, having published several books including the A to Z of Grenada Heritage. He is currently completing a PhD with Leiden University in the Netherlands. Susan Mains is an educator, artist, and arts organiser. This is her 5th edition of being the Commissioner of the Grenada Pavilion. Samuel Ogilvie, Ian Friday, and filmmaker Billy Gerrard Frank complete the team, each bringing a different set of skills and point of view to the process. The collective communicated over Zoom for more than a year to clarify and distill the presentation for the Grenada Pavilion.
All of this underlines the premise that the most important skill an artist can have is critical thinking. Grenada is indeed fortunate to have this level of scholarship and art to proudly present to the world.
The Grenada Pavilion is supported by StArt, an Italian Art and Publishing Company. The Grenada National Lottery Authority as well as individual donors have also contributed, to make this a success. You can visit the website grenadavenice.org to learn more.