Hope Lives Here: Art and Nature Breathe New Life into Downtown Kingston

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Kirk-Anthony Hamilton (Huffington Post) writes about projects in downtown Kingston that focus on the revitalization of the area. These efforts include social intervention projects such as Paint Jamaica and Plant Jamaica. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

Fortunately there are those who believe hope still lives here. One solution to downtowns many issues is gaining serious traction. A parallel dynamic including art and food two grassroots social initiatives have emerged with a mission to sustainably educate and empower the people of downtown Kingston. Jamaica is without a doubt one of the most creative and fertile countries in the world, but unfortunately the island has failed to truly capitalize on the real potential of either resource. Paint Jamaica and Plant Jamaica are social intervention projects birthed to provide communities with a sense of pride and independence, which have so far eluded them.

Paint Jamaica started in July of 2014 when a French traveler Marianna Farag partnered with a group of Jamaican artists to bring art to Kingston’s streets and into the heart of some very unexpected places. The idea at heart is to change and revolutionize the relationship between art, talent and society. However, along with creative expression, Paint Jamaica has a greater social purpose, which is to change the negative stigma around Kingston’s inner cities. With this vision in mind, the team embarked on a 10-day project, beautifying the walls of a gigantic abandoned warehouse at 41 Fleet Street in Parade Gardens — an inner city area that few Jamaicans, myself had ever heard of much less visited — until now.

With Paint Jamaica being a first of its kind effort on the island in decades, the initiative has created quite a stir on social media generating a significant amount of praise for the cause. The site is becoming an increasingly popular point of interest attracting locals and internationals to view the works of the artists. The project has received support from the iconic music label Tuff Gong and Ziggy Marley and other notables. The impact has been extremely positive on the local community; with their involvement, new skills are being transferred and individuals have been inspired to creatively express themselves. Between projects, Paint Jamaica has organized free yoga, BMX and capoeira sessions at 41 Fleet St for the children in the community. The mere act of changing the visual landscape has helped to reduce crime and littering, setting the tone for a beautiful future for the volatile area.

On the heels of Paint Jamaica, one local volunteer to the project Andrew Bruce conceptualized ‘Plant Jamaica’, which aims to create sustainable farms in small inner city communities with the aid of farmers, artists and educators. The project kicked off at “LIFE YARD” which is situated right across from 41 Fleet St where the Paint Jamaica project came to life. Behind the zinc fence walls, the Life Yard collective have transformed an empty strip of land into a small oasis of fertility. Life Yard is an oasis in a tough community. The collective serve as mentors to the children in the community, ensuring they play peacefully and do their homework, their work is totally selfless and quite admirable. Bruce’s philosophy is simple “Eat what you grow, grow what you eat.” Life Yard operates as an affordable restaurant, serving healthy farm to table menu items to members of the community and newly emerging visitors to the area. [. . .]

[Many thanks to Rod Fusco for bringing this item to our attention.]

Photo above by Michele-Anne Hamilton; see more at http://www.michlanphoto.com/

For full article and many great photos, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kirkanthony-hamilton/hope-lives-here_b_6269476.html

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