Horizon at Sandy Point

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Value for money

My friend wants me to help write guidelines for not-for-profits looking for funding. More to the point, he wants to help a friend of a friend to find funding for the art school for kids who would never afford art lessons, or may never have conceived of art as something they might excel in. The art teacher who runs the programme has no idea, or inclination to ask for funds, but understands that the good idea could be extended to a lot more kids, if only there were additional resources.

First off, we have to believe that these organisations are concerned with other (higher) objectives than making money. Dig deep, and you understand that they wish money would accrue to them as a result of their "good works." They may not be equipped or staffed to think about making/ securing/ earning that money. The underlying assumption is that their good work is above mere money, and at the very least worth something, if not "a lot."  What we are searching for is an equation of value to attract dollars to a virtuous and even virtual good.

Whether they realise it or not, such organisations require a third party, an advocate even, to rationalise the value, and therefore the dollars that might be extracted from the business world. Some call that the real world, but it is perhaps less real than the world that directly affects the lives of children.

This is what the needy not-for-profit says:  We've been a not-for-profit saving trees for over 40 years. We need to attract funds to pay salaries, to build an education centre. Let's target some energy sector companies for contributions.

This is the virtual response of the company: Donation, you want a donation? Well, what is the specific immediate need?

Not a donation, a sponsorship? How is what you are doing compatible with our brand? Will our support bring us benefit, mileage, goodwill? Can we put our name to your project? Would we want to?

So you want us to just give you some money? How will you account for it? How will we justify to our shareholders that we have a benefit from what you want us to give you? Fill out these forms.

This can almost be too hard for the group that just wants to sing, plant trees, save guppies, or shelter small animals.

Despair not, says the party of the third part, there is a middle ground. And it's called the relationship. To the corporate funder, the relationship is about "who you are" and "why should we fund your operation" and "what's in it for me." To the not-for-profit, the relationship may be about the earnest effort to do more good (the value) but resources are required.

The way to bridge two almost mutually exclusive mindsets, not to mention objectives, is the conversation, which may be seen as the prelude to the relationship. A good conversation lets each party understand the other - the history, philosophy, positives and weaknesses. (Sometimes, the conversation may be replaced by simple research.) The conversation may start with a chance encounter, or a letter of introduction. A good outcome is the appreciation of what each can provide to the other, what values are common, where the paths intersect and can flow together for mutual benefit. A good outcome may also be the intuitive knowledge that you aren't compatible, or not ready for each other at this moment.

Since this is written for the not-for-profit, you know that not all business funders are the same. The small local retailer may be more compatible and serve the relationship better over the long term. The company that does not have a lot of free cash, but which offers "in kind" or human resource could be as valuable as the one that can write a cheque easily. The relationship grows as the not-for-profit develops and the business too, each in their own way.

The option many not-for-profits in Trinidad seem to prefer: to hit the jackpot with a giant pay out from a big company. Word has it that AA company or BB company has given a few hundred thousands to save the tadpoles; and everyone targets them. Maybe you'll have an initial success with a cheque to send two art students to visit MOMA; but then what? Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.

Not-for-profits need to build sustainability into their  operations as in their relationships. Sure, buy the lottery ticket every week. But there's need to plant your own pigeon peas in your backyard.

Let's look at today's takeaways. Not-for-profit, what's your "good?" What is the value you're offering? It may not be what you think it is.  Is it sustainable? If not, how would you make it sustainable? How would you replicate it? How you respond will provide keys to what you need. Hopefully, you'll gain certain knowledge about your "good" and the value that is trade-able to make it better, bigger and a model for others. That's value for anybody's money.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Caribbean soul, Cuban artist

We first met the artist Dunieski Lora Pileta in July 2013 at Luise Kimme's castle in Mt Irvine Tobago. We learned that Kimme had found him in Cuba where he had the technique to turn her  small sculptures into bronzes. Cuba inspired Kimme as Tobago had done for 40 years. She loved the Cuban art and music, the style and verve and hunger for life of the people. So it was no surprise that she would bring Dunieski to Tobago where he helped with the heavy lifting and strenuous work that she was no longer capable of. But he is more than the master's apprentice.

Dunieski has adopted Kimme's dogs
One year later, "the Cuban" - as he is known to his Tobagonian friends - maintains the Kimme museum while he makes his own art. He has learned to speak English and enjoys barter relationships with people who have discovered his ingenuity for fixing engines and small machines. The Cuban is resourceful and innovative. He works hard, and is constantly learning. With new English, he found the parts and materials to build the workshop and kiln that allows bronze casting. The workshop with the kiln had been planned by Kimme.

The small workshop with kiln that Dunieski built.

In Tobago, he lives a solitary life with the freedom to create and work, and opportunities that he might not have in Cuba. His family in Santiago de Cuba - the second largest town and a port on the southeast coast - is his primary motivation. He lived in Santiago all his life; graduating from high school and Universidad de Oriente in Santiago, in art: two dimensional forms such as lithography and painting as well as the plastic arts, ceramics, sculpture and metal casting.
Dunieski with some of his work at Kimme's castle

The Dog on Roller Skates is man tall

The high kicking Harlequin Clown

Venus with pig on top

At the Kimme castle, Dunieski respects the spaces of the master. The castle remains unchanged - tidy and repaired - and you imagine that she'll appear one more time, just around the next corner, through that door, imperious as ever. Discreetly, Dunieski occupies as little space as possible. He moves lightly through the kitchen and the fretwork shaded passageway with the big blue worktable. He barely relaxes in living quarters that were assigned to him. But he has collected his own work in a smaller room adjacent to Kimme's high ceilinged gallery.

He is available to guide the occasional visitor through Kimme's work, the hall of drawings; the "chapel" that's the gallery of her larger pieces, the small room of her Cuban portraits and little bronzes.

In this space, the master has departed; the apprentice works. After a classical education that included European Apollo, churches and palaces and Brancusi, Kimme herself arrived in Tobago at 40. She wrote, "I found myself in a valley in Tobago, looking around if anyone from England, USA or Germany could see me, leant a tall cedar tree against a cluster of breadfruit trees and began to carve Banana Lady."

Dunieski - in his 39th year - breathes the Tobago air, and dreams Cuban dreams. Perhaps, Tobago and Cuba are not that far apart; both inspire Caribbean dreams. How Dunieski's dream will materialise, we'll have to wait and see. If you want to see more of Dunieski's work, look at his facebook page:

Rory and Bunty O'Connor of Ajoupa Pottery have supported Dunieski's work.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Remembering Greg Page

Since I wrote this to remember Greg, I found these happy portraits that must have been taken by Ranji when we were in Miami in 2001, on our way to the Disney cruise. They are lovely photos that capture his spirit, his warmth and grace.

Photos of Greg Page, taken in 2001 by Ranji Ganase

I am rummaging through old family albums, photos dusty and faded. We didn't take photos back then. I am looking for the one that I know is there somewhere. I remember it so vividly. There has to be a photo of Greg and Leemoy's wedding day. And as I search, the mind reels back pulling and piecing together the threads of memory.

My Dad's sister Aunty Leemoy, Pamela Wong Chong, had travelled to Miami just months before - July? - to seek her fortune with her older sister whose husband was an independent importer-exporter. Uncle Sandy ran his business out of his camper van, and maybe he could use an administrative assistant. Leemoy, a qualified nurse, could do that until she found her feet. But before the year was through, Gregson Page came out of nowhere and swept her up to a life she could not have envisaged or planned.

It must have been November of that year when we received the invitation to the wedding. She asked me to be a bridesmaid alongside her Jamaican girlfriend Olive Chin. Which year was that, I wonder? Because I was "13 but looked like 16" - having shot up tall and lanky - I conclude it was 1964. The wedding would take place in December and my mother agreed to have my dress made before we arrived, a long sheath with a lace top.

December in Miami was cold for my tropical blood. The wedding reception would take place in Aunty Seemoy's home which was still seeing Christmas with the tree up. They would marry on the last day of the year - something about filing taxes in that year. There was wedding cake - a yellow sponge with marshmallow icing which Kathy and I tested from the back. No one noticed small finger digs in the icing; they were too preoccupied with other wedding matters. After the wedding, I remember a Miami modern cottage where they would live.

Uncle Greg was a quiet handsome man, over six feet tall. Next to him Leemoy was tiny. Mutt and Jeff I thought. She was a radiant bride, and he smiled a lot, silent mostly among this new Trini Chinese family in which the women talked fast and plenty and loudly, and laughed a lot. He doted on "Pam," as he would call her in his slow Kentucky drawl. It was clear whose voice would carry the weight but I came to respect his strong, well-mannered and respectful silences; his shrug or smile saying it all.

Greg loved Leemoy - Pam as he always called her - from the first, and beyond reason. I heard stories about his sleeping in a car sometimes in those months before they married: because he stayed late with her perhaps. By the time Wendy came along, their love was cemented, steadfast. I was named godmother for this lovely girl, my first godchild.

Who knows what turbulence rocked their marriage through the years, the need to find work, to earn to live, to be upwardly mobile, to provide for the growing family. Through it all Greg was calm, compliant, the peace-maker, qualities I admired; that I would project onto myself because we shared birthdays in the end of October. He would take me out with him inspecting lines for Florida Power and Light. We would talk about his job, where he was from, what I wanted to do "in college" and after. I didn't know. They suggested that I could "do well" to move to the USA.

In a flash, almost 50 years have gone by since the Miami wedding. Wendy, Raymond and Anthony have grown up. But for me, Leemoy and Greg were always the same: welcoming, happy to see us, wanting us to stay. That love which they shared in life continues even though Greg may no longer be here. It is unwavering, unflinching even to anger and irritation, steadfast and enduring. And this is what I will remember of Greg: his ready smile, his calm demeanour, his steadfastness, his loving kindness. Always.

I did find two photos taken at the time of the wedding. But they are of the bride and her bridesmaids. Self-effacing Greg is not there, but present. We see him in the happiness on Pam's face.

This was a polaroid photo taken in front of Seemoy's tree. Chinny (Olive Chin), Leemoy and me

Wedding day for Greg and Leemoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tobago Market

One of the features of small island/ community living is the presence of livestock - chickens, goats, even cows - wandering through the public spaces. Don't be tempted to think they are free or unowned!

All over the West Indies, we've grown accustomed to spontaneous outdoor markets. Yes, there might be a paved, covered, fenced space with stalls assigned. But inevitably at the height of any season, the market spills over. Onto the sidewalks and side streets, a tarpaulin thrown on the ground or a few cardboard boxes might constitute the temporary selling point for anything - mangoes, herbs and spices, eggs. Little wonder that it seems so easy to fill the pick up with whatever - watermelons, pineapples, bundles of mixed seasoning, portugals, plantain, sorrel - is coming in fast and must get to market soon. Find a spot on a main road - sometimes an empty lot, or extended carpark or layby or broad shoulder - and hope it all sells out before the sun gets too hot, or the day ends.

Looking across one diameter of the Scarborough Market: the space was tidy, relatively empty on the morning of our visit. High ceiling and windows allow natural light and ventilation.

This neat stall featured sweets and preserves

Mangoes and figs here 

You'll also find permanent marketplaces everywhere. This designed space is the heart of Tobago's capital Scarborough in walking distance from the port. It is fashioned after a large circular tent - high ceilings, entry doors and walkways that bisect the circle. Fruit, vegetables and foodstuffs occupy the stalls in the centre. An outer ring accommodates the butchers with their raw meats. Outside, you'll find all manner of dry goods - kitchen tools, clothing and craft. There's a large carpark and a play park attached to this market.

We entered the market looking for - of all things - a bottle opener. Got a pocket sized tool for $5 and a vegetable parer for $15! Inside the market, we were "just looking" and ended up with a bottle of fresh made coconut oil from Maisie Prince of Friendsfield Road. She extracts coconut oil every week and is usually in the market.

Baked goods: fruit cake, sponge, coconut tarts and rollovers!

Maisie Prince makes and sells coconut oil and seasonings. Her labels give an address in Friendsfield Road, 639-3914

People like the friendly market conversation, so don't go there looking grim!
If you are in Tobago, check out the Scarborough Market. You may find parking just next door, or on the seafront. Bring a basket and before long, you'll fill it up!

On the outside perimeter: more stalls

Craft: calabash change purses and bamboo windchimes

Stalls on the outside perimeter of the market
Pretty Dominican rooster wandering the Tobago market.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mind-space of the artist

Bele dancers frame a porch in a Tobago artist's home#
I realise I had never seen the house completely open. Whenever we visited, Luise Kimme would take us into specific rooms - the tiny library for an interview; the gallery with new work. So the opportunity to walk around freely through spaces filled with natural light was stunning.

At mid morning, there is light everywhere. Streaming in through formal or simple windows, it invites you to sit in the old Morris chairs. As it changes through the day, witness the chiaroscuro of fretwork. Through this alley, the pool appears in a blue study of mango and palm trees, the far sea and shifting sky.
The bamboo gully embraces the site of the Kimme house
It is almost 20 years since the house was completed in 1997, designed by Luise Kimme, aided by architect Ekkehart Schwarz and an army of Tobago craftspeople including the Carpentry Construction company, Roger Duncan of Moriah, masons Allister Bruce, Anderson Williams, Eldon Broome; maljo blue birds by Torkler and wind chimes by Anna Serrao.

When she bought the land atop the Mt Irvine estate, she was one of a handful of visionaries who appreciated the light sifting through a bamboo gully, the shelter of a slope and the quiet of the hilltop.
Luise Kimme came to Tobago in 1979. Though she continued to teach and sculpt in Dusseldorf in Germany, she was building a home in Tobago whose people, culture and energy inspired her life's work.
Weathervane and friezes decorate the castle

Blue birds guard the spirit of the castle

Mythical creature and angels bless this space

The Tobago couple dances a jig at the roadside

Bronze sentinels protect the entrance

Today, the Kimme house - called a castle, a museum, it was a home after all - on Kimme Drive, the other end of Aurora Drive, is a living monument to this complete artist. In her time, she was a writer, sculptor and painter. She was also the architect of her space, living in the light and in the shade organized to her vision. It became her hermit's shell.

Kimme's home reveals the mind of the mature artist, living large the last 20 years. Today, it is occupied by Dunieski Lora Pileta, the Cuban artist who helped Kimme with her bronze works. Hopefully, the castle at the top of Mt Irvine will remain a sanctuary for artists and for art in Tobago.

The drawing room with windows to the sea

Through the front door

Hallway with drawings at the far end of the drawing room*

Open doors let in mid morning Tobago light
Like a small village or a commune, there is a dizzying assortment of structures, roof lines, passageways, stairways. Defining every opening, every outhouse, every porch, each level, there is the light of Tobago, clear blue, soft and warm. The feeling of serenity, of sanctuary, of languor is overwhelming.

Massed rooflines, like a small village

The doorway at far end of the drawing room* 
Porch looking across to Mt Irvine bay#

Fretwork and galvanize roofs, so Caribbean

Kimme discovered the jigsaw and created random and patterned fretwork

Stairway to the pool: doorway to the left leads to the gallery of small bronzes

Formal drawing room upper right, little gallery below

Upper left structure is a gallery of larger sculptures; fretwork frames the porch at right#

Alley alongside the kitchen features breeze blocks

Drawing room windows behind the banana leaves

Stairway to the sculptor's work space

Self-contained apartment
The interior spaces are functional and organized. Luise Kimme created a space for everything. It is our earnest hope that her home is maintained and remains open to visitors. What better way to do this than to have an artist who appreciated the Kimme mind, working in the space she defined.

Fretwork door with frog doorstop

Galvanize roof; open doors

Doorways are important in this mind-space

Fretwork encloses this hallway that is at the heart of the work space

Worktable, and at the far end towards the light, the hoist and tackle that Kimme used to lift giant pieces of wood

The gallery of small bronzes

And the light comes in ...

The Tobago face looks through louvre doors to the landscape

Galvanize and louvre doors

The library: a tiny room that was also used for interviews
In the end, Tobago was Luise Kimme's muse. Not just the people, of whom she said, "I love the beautiful Tobagonians. They look like Egyptian paintings, tiny waists, broad shoulders, long necks. Stately walk, velvet voices, they sing like angels and crack up with laughter." Tobago energized the artist, gave her inspiration to imagine, and freedom to create, far from the conventions of the world she grew up in.

If Tobago were a personality, it might be this, imagined by Kimme