In University, the first book I was assigned was The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich. This book presented me with two challenges, the first, that the edition which we were assigned was in Spanish, the second was that Gombrich stated that there was a difference between Art (Fine Art) and art (handicraft).
In Belize, it is my belief that that line of distinction is less defined, maybe, it would be possible to say that it may not even exist. We experience in Belize a rich environment where art envelops both handicraft and the highly revered Fine Art.
Thankfully the international contemporary art scene has become a rich mixture of craft as art or art as craft. For example visual artists have begun to utilize 'craft forms' to create fine art. I say this considering several artists who participated in the Landings project. The Landings project featured a series of exhibits with participation of visual artists from Belize, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
One Landings artist, from Mérida, México who works in a similar fashion is Vanessa Rivero. This artist utilized basic concepts of handicraft, with drawing elements, i.e composition, scale, negative space etc. She generally does large installation pieces where she combines the elements of drawing with media that are not always identified with Fine Art like sewing or tiling.
It is not a rare or strange thing. The word art defined by Oxford dictionary states, "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power." It states further "a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice."
Based on the second definition we can see why we say the art of cooking, or the art of public speaking.
From these definitions, two things can be established that art, be it Fine Art or Handicraft requires skill, expression and creativity. And if this is the case, then I dare to say that the only distinction then may be their consumption. In the case of Fine Art it is generally exhibited and sold to museums or collectors, whereas handicraft may or may not be exhibited and has a wider purchase base, or may even be geared solely towards enriching the tourist experience.
In the Belizean context, I'd like to highlight two artists who work diligently at their craft. Delisiah and Jaime "Jimmy Jam" Medina are new installments to the art scene of North Front Street in Belize City. These artists create chains, earrings and bracelets right on the spot using all natural materials including conch and wilk shells, corals, that have washed up on the beach, beads, cohune seeds and coconut shells.
The couple had first been working and living in Caye Caulker village, where they said they were inspired by the beautiful beach and friendly island vibes to create excellent pieces. There, Delisiah said, they had a steady income because the tourists were very supportive and constantly looking for exotic-looking jewelry for themselves, and to carry home as gifts.
Definitely the market for their artwork here in Belize City is much smaller than on the island.
Still, Jam and Delisiah arrive religiously early to 91 North Front Street every morning, from Monday to Friday, and set up their table with the all-natural treasures. Most times they end up selling their priceless pieces at a minimum to Primary School students who have saved up their lunch money or to the locals.
This does not stop Jimmy Jam, he can be seen Monday to Friday beading chains with his wife on North Front Street.
He has a need to create, so he creates despite the fact that the market is meager.
An artist does after all create because he needs to, not because there is a market or not. For as long as there is something to express and discuss, art will be created.
This brings me to the point I've harped on for almost the entire year of 2012. Artists need support. Punto final! Artists, Artisans, Musicians, Dancers, Poets and Dramatists!
NICH make it happen for 2013. I'm calling you out, because this should be your primary concern. Try to aspire to a pre-2008 NICH curriculum.