Rutte calls artist Griffith ‘St. Maarten monument’

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A report from The Daily Herald.

He’s a frail man, mobile only with use of a walker and slow measured steps, but the deftness still in his fingers is very evident on the pastel canvases adorning his room in St. Martin’s Home for senior citizens.

The sunlit room is that of St. Maarten Master Portrait Artist Cynric Griffith (99) and on Monday he had an unexpected visitor – Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte.
Rutte and Dutch State Secretary for Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops were on a one-day working visit to St. Maarten. They took time out from meeting with local Government officials to pay tribute to and chat with senior citizens who are often described as the foundation of this 16-square-mile Dutch Caribbean country.
Following Griffith into his meticulous room, Rutte perused a number of canvases and commended the nonagenarian on his talent.
“You are very talented. I wish I had your talent,” Rutte told Griffith. To that the still-very-agile-of-mind artist said, “We all have talent.” That garnered a chuckle from Rutte, who jovially responded, “I don’t; that’s why I went into politics.”
After his meeting with Griffith, Rutte described the artist as “a St. Maarten monument” whom he was honoured to meet.
Born in St. Kitts, St. Maarten’s artistic treasure Griffith was educated at the Art Student League and the National Academy of Fine Arts in New York. His career began with his first entry in the 1955 competition by Alcoa Steamship Company.
In St. Maarten, his home for the majority of his prolific life, Griffith received the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Culture Prize in 2013 in recognition of his contribution to culture through his paintings and drawings, work that has earned him an international reputation.
At the 2013 prize presentation Governor Eugene Holiday said Griffith’s special gifts of art “truly are a testimony to your exceptional artistry, rightfully qualifying you to carry the title Master Portrait Artist.”
Rutte also met with several other seniors on Monday at the care facility run by White and Yellow Cross Foundation. He chatted with seniors, asked about their day and even their critique of their daily meals. To those with mobility issues, he inquired about their routine and challenges.
One senior Rutte met in the dining hall told him of her impression of her meals: “It’s okay. … Sometimes it has too much seasoning for me.”
Thereafter, she asked, “What’s your name?” To which he replied, “Mark.”
When Rutte conveyed his best wishes and said goodbye, the elderly woman who had a lively chat with him turned to one of the orderlies to ask: “Who is he?”
The answer was, “The Prime Minister of the Netherlands,” to which the lady chuckled and said a simple, “Okay.”
White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation received close to one million euros of seven million euros in early recovery funds from the Dutch Government to execute three projects: repairs 50 homes for its clients, and retraining programmes focused on construction and health care for those unemployed after Hurricane Irma.

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