Assuming the directorship of a national non-profit organisation in the midst of an economic downturn requires creative thinking, resourcefulness and old fashioned hard work. Fortunately, by their very nature arts agencies are a hotbed of creative activity and when you work daily with artists you can’t help but carry the same creative energy into management and administration.
These current challenges are a further stimulus for creative thinking, forcing us to revisit the way that we do things and to ask ourselves how best to serve our artists, students and the wider community.
The management board and staff of the NGCI have embarked on a full organisational review to streamline programming, review expenditure, strengthen partnerships, increase efficiency and avoid duplication of effort with other agencies. Ultimately we plan to emerge out of this climate as a more efficient organisation that provides relevant and accessible programming to the widest possible audience.
Central to this philosophy is the desire to be more prudent and cautious with our funding, which comes from a combination of public financing and private resources. We’ve become increasingly transparent with funding to reassure existing stakeholders that their donations are being spent wisely.
We are privileged to enjoy a long established relationship with the local business community and private patrons and are optimistic that these relationships will weather this period. So far we are fortunate that the impact has been slightly less harsh here than in the United States where many non-profit institutions, heavily reliant on endowments, are struggling.
In the effort to reduce larger exhibition costs we have been collaborating with local collectors and revisiting works from our permanent collection.
There are many important collections here that trace the development of art history within our region and beyond. These are invaluable resources which we hope to bring into the public arena. Innovative re-workings of the National Collection will also be a priority. The first of these is a stunning selection of rare 19th century prints from the collection of Hugh and Pam Hart which will be followed by 21st Century Cayman, an exhibition that pairs traditional craftspersons with contemporary artists to re-envision our traditional crafts forms for the present day.
Perhaps illustrative of the times, turnout for Gallery events has been much larger in recent months and as a result there are no plans to retrench public programmes, many of which are free and must be privately funded. Instead we are investigating ways to further connect to the arts community and to provide arenas for dialogue without incurring increased costs.
Late Night at the Gallery invites visitors to view the current exhibition outside of traditional opening hours and to enjoy live entertainment.
Art Forum provides a debate platform for artists and cultural administrators to discuss topics relating to art and culture in the Cayman Islands. To date topics have included ‘Funding the arts in a recession’, ‘Censorship’, ‘Commercial art versus Art for Art’s sake’ and ‘The artist and the institution: Friend or Foe?’.
Art Papers is a bi-monthly e-journal that aims to reflect the full range of scholarly research undertaken by artists, curators and writers in the Cayman Islands, and to publish material that will be of value to, and provoke discussion within, the arts community; and Take a Look is the Caymanian art history project for local schools that provides cross curricular activities based on works from the gallery’s collection.
To increase programme visibility and engage audiences, we are exploring creative marketing techniques that include social networking and blogging sites on the internet and introducing a new membership tier aimed at differing age groups with different incentives schemes, including free membership for all students.
In addition to our regular programming, the NGCI will host a series of seminars and workshops over the next few months to provide artists with business and marketing acumen and new collectors with information on how to break into the art market.
We are also developing a scheme to help emerging artists secure exhibition space. It is these types of programmes that directly assist the development of the local arts community by providing education and opportunities for artists that will be central to the Galley’s future.