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Monday 19th August 2019

By Joanne C. Hillhouse

Pulsating the liberty

I spotted the sign for ‘The Music and Art Annex’ on Nevis Street in St. John’s City one rainy day and decided to dip inside for much more than shelter. What I found was a place, still taking shape, but with art on the walls. Taking up one room was music sheets and instruments, and another room was the active art studio of Edison Liburd. Liburd opened this space in July of 2019 with former student Joel George.

The well-known local visual artist and musician offers art lessons in this space while George tutors in music. The space is also a gallery and, Liburd hopes, a place where people will find inspiration.

Specifically, he said, he hopes The Music and Art Annex will “inspire a generation by equipping them with a practical education for usefulness and for service … (drawing) from my experience.”

Edison has had a series of art spaces around the city in the time I’ve come to know his art but this one, backed by the Seventh Day Adventist church, could potentially be more permanent. The arrangement came about when the churches he plays for asked him about doing classes. “I said I’ll do it, just find me a space in town.” This space is upstairs one of the presumably Adventist-owned-or-leased buildings across from the church. It is not limited to church members, however. In fact, after our interview, Edison emailed to clarify: “it’s not sponsored by the church. It’s totally private. It’s supported strictly by donations and from the products and services that we offer from the annex. In addition to my new Sense of freedom as it pertains to art, it’s mainly because I’ve come to accept myself more as an artist than musician. You see in college I studied both, but my gift as an artist way exceeded my ability as a pianist. Even my music professor noticed that. Now after all these years I’ve truly come to accept that…. it’s quite liberating.”

More on Edison’s new sense of liberation later. As for the Annex, his clarification reinforces, at least in part, his assertion that he sees it as a community project; something that will add to nation building.

He seems delighted to be working with his student (a 2006 graduate). Separately, together, they have (or had at this writing) eight students of their own in the month since their opening. They offer paid classes – including piano (by sight-reading and ear-training), vocal training, art (including drawing, painting, still-life, nature, sceneries, and portraits), and craft painting (on fabric, tiles, wood, glass etc.).

I decided to write about The Music and Art Annex because, well, I’ve always been a fan of Edison’s art – more on that in a minute, but because in July when I was conducting my Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project one of the lacks that I lamented was a national art gallery in the city (not to mention the lack of much in the way of public art); somewhere where I could take the participants to engage with art in a public/public-ish space. So I was sure to ask Edison if I could bring participants by next time – his response was an enthusiastic, yes. Which should also answer your question as to how receptive the space is to the wider community.

String Serenade

Now, to Edison’s art. It’s evolving, which is always interesting to observe. “I’m more confident with my brand,” he said, “and much more excited about trying new approaches but still not losing my fluidity, my fluidic style.”

That fluidity has been his signature and it’s still there as he said, but there’s also an aesthetic that’s at once wilder, freer, and more detailed, more specific peeping through. And perhaps more of Edison peeping through in the process.

“I was hesitant,” he said. “You do paint for people because you want to inspire people but you want to show them who you are.”
How this affects his approach to the work is with a loosening up of his engagement with his canvas and a deepening of his engagement with his subject. “It’s less outlined and I’m building (in) more texture and patterns, and the experience is more about how I fuse the colours, opening up more, and adding more detail. (While) still not losing the fluidity.”

Edison Liburd is one of our distinctive and undervalued artists here in Antigua and Barbuda. He produces art for collectors but also art keepsakes (one of which I own) for the more casual or economical shopper.  He also has a series of delightful art/inspiration books.

Check him out.

This opportunity-to-sponsor post is part of the online edition of the culture-and-arts-focused CREATIVE SPACE series which gives local businesses an opportunity to boost their brand while boosting local art and culture. The original is posted at Jhohadli – blog of author/creative writer and journalist Joanne C. Hillhouse.

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