BY OLIVE VASSELL
When a Caribbean-based collection of international contemporary art comes to Cologne in April, organizers hope the exhibition will create an opportunity for cultural and artistic exchange, as well as allow the public to have a unique creative experience.
"Issues relating from the Far East to Western society are addressed, using everything from realistic to abstract approaches. The works chosen from the collection for this exhibition explore the use of space and culture, " says visual artist GA Gardner, whose non-profit organization, GETHRU is behind the event.
Gardner formed GETHRU in 2014 in his Trinidad and Tobago birthplace to use the arts as a way to educate.
"After being in the USA for over 25 years and working as a professor, publisher, artist and education consultant to various universities, I wanted to continue to use art as a tool that can help educate and bridge economic gaps. I wanted to be involved with art activism in developing countries, so I founded GETTHRU," said Gardner.
GETHRU’s first project, Thru Contemporary Arts, is sponsoring the Cologne exhibition. The project was made possible in part by a grant obtained through the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, and is designed to give developing nations greater access to contemporary art by managing and curating exhibitions of a public collection of international work.
“This is an international organization with affiliations with various countries including the USA, Asia, and Europe. However its message is one that will best benefit the people of developing regions such as the Caribbean, where access to an international body of contemporary art is limited. More is needed to educate these communities about the depth of contemporary art,” Gardner explained.
In addition to reaching underserved communities, Gardner saw the importance of connecting with other contemporary artists and their audiences. He says that while in talks for a solo show of his mixed media art in Cologne, he realized that he could use the opportunity to bring contemporary artists from Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, and other nations together. He worked on the idea with Judith Ganz, a contemporary artist and curator in Germany, who he said was very instrumental in facilitating the change in direction and in planning the exhibition.
Over 10 artists from Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and the U.S. will participate in the show, which is titled, “People Textures Environments,” and runs from April 11-19. The event will feature a wide body of work, including photography, installation art, paintings, collage, embroidery, sculpture and other mediums from the collection.
Among them are Gardner’s mixed media work, which discuss today’s media saturation and uses material that he collected on the streets of Berlin in 2014; Adele Todd, who uses embroidery to examine crime in Trinidad and Tobago; Ganz who paints surreal environments and Clary Estes’s photography, which is a visual dialog of the health care system in China.
Following the show, Thru Contemporary Arts will quickly be back on the road again. First up is an exhibition close to home in St. Croix, the U.S. Virgin Islands and then serving as host for the first Thru Contemporary Arts Week in partnership with the Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago. Further exhibitions in Europe are also being planned for this year. And, of course, the organization will remain focused on its mission.
“We continue to seek out new contemporary art for our permanent collection. This is the sauce as they say, the art. The quality and diversity in the permanent art collection will be our tool for providing an in-depth holistic contemporary art experience."
For information about GETHRU and the exhibition in Cologne, Germany visit GETRHU.org