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Jamaica’s Got Talent. (Bring Art Supplies, Please!)

Jamaica is celebrated for its music and sports stars but its visual artists? Not so much. You can help change that. Here’s how…

t. Elizabeth Parish has the kind of landscape that inspires artists—rocky coasts, winding country roads, red soil, blue sea and black sand. These vistas are among the charms that have drawn artists here—and to Jakes.

A short drive from Jakes, you’ll find Newell High School. Newell is known for a few things: It’s agriculture department. It’s welding department. And, it’s award-winning art department.

Mr. Duran Chambers runs the art department. A charming man, and himself a talented artist, Mr Chambers has been teaching grades 6-11 for the past five years, the time during which Newell has really made a name for itself as a place where young artists flourish.

Mr. Chambers teaches about 250-300 kids a year and, he says, one thing’s certain—in each class he sees kids with outstanding ability. Those are the children he takes under wing.

“Last term I met a student who showed tremendous ability and I sought to get her involved in external competitions, just to get her exposure,” he says. “It was during preparation of the piece for that competition that I saw exactly what she could produce.”

That student, Coleen Powell, placed second in the competition, which brought together over 60 schools from all over the island.

And Coleen is just one of the outstanding students that Newell has produced. There’s also Jamela and Donardo and O’Neal—all of whom have won awards and accolades.

If Mr. Chambers could do anything to help his students advance, what could it be?

“Well,” he says, “I tend to push my students beyond what they know, like stencils and paiting, and introduce them to new things. If I could, I’d introduce them to ceramics and leathercraft and acrylic paints. And easels, where they could have their work properly tended. Then I’d push them very far.”

Of course, when pushed on what he’d like visitors to bring, Mr. Chambers smiles and says, “We’d be happy for any art supplies people would like to drop by. We can make them go a very long way.”

Note: If you’re a fan of the arts, and your wondering what you can bring down on your next trip to Jamaica, bring supplies! We’ll take them to Newell High School for you or, even better, you can visit yourself. Mr. Chambers will be very happy to show you what his students have been up to!

We are proud members of Pack for a Purpose, an initiative that allows travelers like you to make a lasting impact in the community at your travel destination. If you save just a few kilos of space in your suitcase and take supplies for the projects we support in need, you’ll make a priceless impact in the lives of our local children and families. Please click here to see what supplies are needed for our project/projects.

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