The Local Artist & The Lack of Opportunity

Nelly Charlemagne

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Recently on social media, someone said that St. Lucians do much better overseas. That could mean a lot of things. Usually, St. Lucians do much better academically in foreign countries compared to local students. Some might also argue that St. Lucians are better off financially, but who’s to say. I interpreted it as the broader range of opportunity on foreign soil. On such a small island, there are only so many ways for a young St. Lucian to really succeed – especially young creatives.

As a poet, a writer, a painter or an artist, it is extremely difficult to make a sustainable living. Unless you’re a popular soca of kuduro artist, it’s hard to make it as a singer (even Ezra D Fun Machine has a day job). For most other local creatives, however, it simply can’t pay the bills; and I speak from experience. Now, there seems to be even less avenues for artistic and creative growth.

Often, I see young creatives from large metropolitan countries build thriving careers off Instagram. Simple posts spark large online followings and ever bigger sales. I’ve seen small sized reprints of digital drawings go for USD $25 at the cheapest. Imagine a local artist selling 10 small reprints of their paintings for EC$70. $700 easily pays from utility bills. Imagine now, the money a young person could rack up for bigger sizes.

As a writer, it’s easy to become discouraged here when opportunities are scarce. Other writers share the same experience. It is undeniable that literature is one of the pillars of St. Lucian culture, and our literary forefathers have undoubtedly provided sufficient inspiration to undiscovered local talent. When it comes to opportunities for poets and the like, Headphunk and Ponm Damou Kreations are the go to. The downside, is some sense, is that they cater to the more outspoken writers, the headstrong orator with even stronger opinions. So for the more introverted and reclusive writers who use writing as a venting mechanism, performing isn’t really an option.

There are tons of poetry collections from St. Lucians. In fact, Vladimir Lucien’s ‘Sounding Ground’, and Kendel Hippoltye’s ‘Night Vision’ sit less than 6 feet from where I sit now. I spoke to one young writer whose ultimate goal is to publish a book of her work. Now that I write this, I’m reminded that I actually know many young writers who aspire to successful publication. The biggest hurdle for them is not a lack of content, but a sheer lack of funding. St. Lucia’s creative sector doesn’t do much for poets, writers, painters and the like. I don’t think unknown, introverted local talent could successfully write to government to ask for book funding – but who knows, maybe I’ll try it out.

I admire local artists. It takes a special type of person to continue to press on with their work even though the environment isn’t fully conducive for them to prosper. I can only hope that more local, and regional opportunities will be created that will allow young creative to sustain themselves with their art, and their work. If nothing else, it should be seen as the way to mold the new generation of Walcotts, Brathwaites, Lammings and even Mighty Sparrows, and Invaders.

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