2nd conference: Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean
Annalee Davis, Beyond economic vulnerability: How can we move towards healthy cultural eco-systems?
Beyond economic vulnerability: How can we move towards healthy cultural eco-systems? The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. is a Caribbean non-profit, artist-led,inter-disciplinary organization that supports creativity and promotes wise social, economic and environmental stewardship through creative engagement with society and by cultivating excellence in the arts. After more than two years of programming and activities, Fresh Milk is at a significant juncture, pondering what sustainability looks like in a region whose creative economy is nascent. As a process-led, social practice entity with a vision larger than its bank account, Fresh Milk is seeking an alternative model which acknowledges the specificity of the local and regional context that we inhabit. Fresh Milk wants to assert itself in a way that is not driven solely by market forces or by the requirements of funding entities that are not in sync with our own agenda, in order to contribute meaningfully to the expansion of a critical space. Some of the questions we are currently asking include the following: How are small artist-led initiatives to find the resources to compete with professional grant writers and acquire the numerous skills required to function in a highly competitive, market-driven space? How do we contend, literally with the world, when applying for a grant with 1,500 other applicants, when less than ten grants are disbursed to countries that have economic constraints greater than ours? While we may not be in as dire a financial situation as others, we are still struggling to develop the infrastructure needed to effectively realize our goals. First World funding entities are being stretched by the needs of developing countries whose local governments are not interested in, or cannot afford to support the creative sector, and where philanthropy for the arts is severely underdeveloped. What does sustainability look like for a small artist-led initiative run by two people, one of whom is paid a meager wage, buttressed by a small number of volunteers? How sustainable are informal platforms in a region which is yet to pass cultural industry legislation not supported by robust creative policies? How does sustainability function when the informal sector’s vision (to support art production, create visibility for that production, and enhance mobility for artists to be included in global critical conversations) is not in keeping with market forces shaped by imperialistic thinking? What might collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships look like between the Caribbean and Europe, given their deep and complex historical ties? A new model is required which would allow spaces like Fresh Milk to maintain their intellectual and creative independence while being less vulnerable economically. What is that model? Biography: Annalee Davis is a visual artist living and working in Barbados. She received a BFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Art and an MFA. from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. She has been making and showing her work regionally and internationally since the nineteen nineties. Her commitment as an artist is demonstrated through a body of work including installation, video, sound, printmaking, drawing and painting. Her explorations of home, longing and belonging question parameters that define who belongs (and who doesn’t) in contemporary Caribbean society, exposing tensions within the larger context of a post-colonial history while observing the nature of post-independent Caribbean nation-states. The impact of tourism on small island nation-states and the shifting landscapes of the archipelago are also areas of concern. Since 2011, Annalee has been the founding director of the artist-led initiative The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. An experiment, a cultural lab and an act of resistance, Fresh Milk supports excellence among emerging contemporary creatives locally, as well as throughout the Caribbean, in its diaspora and internationally. Located on a working dairy farm and a former sugarcane plantation, Fresh Milk is a nurturing entity; transforming a once exclusive space into a freely accessible platform with a programme that is supportive of new modes of thinking, making and interfacing. Annalee is a part-time tutor in the BFA programme at the Barbados Community College. www.annaleedavis.com www.freshmilkbarbados.com