Words by Michellee Nelson
You might be familiar with downtown Kingston through the number of legendary musicians the area has spawned, but it is also viewed by some as a ghetto full of violence and undesirables incapable of growth. A new project is quickly gaining support for its efforts to reverse this inaccurate image, by bringing art to the streets downtown, and literally painting the area in a new light.
Paint Jamaica, the brainchild of founder Marianna Frg, is a collaborative effort by a group of artists whose mission is to use art to fuel positive change. The artists, most of whom are based in and around Kingston, aim to transform downtown by inserting uplifting and beautiful murals into some of the neighborhood’s more rundown and underutilized areas. One goal of the project is to expose residents to skills they may not have had access to and fill a void that many of those who are unemployed could use as well. “We’ve been told that there are too many people doing nothing…. and they just want something to do!” Marianna told us. “By having [community members] involved we keep their minds occupied and tap into their creativity. Some may learn new skills or be inspired to find a new passion in the arts. It also gives a sense of pride and involvement towards the Paint Jamaica project.”
Marianna, a native of France but lover of all things Jamaican, told us more about the goals of Paint Jamaica, the dope creative team she works with and why she keeps going back to Jamaica. “The team is composed of various creatives: illustrators, muralists, photographers, videographers and writers,” she says. “Some were friends, others are friends of friends. We just all connected real well and had the same desire and passion to shake up the art scene and build a democratic, sustainable form of art where it is being brought out to the streets… in unexpected locations. Most of the team are based out of Kingston or the surrounding area [but] we are a mix of diverse backgrounds—which I think is a tremendous asset as it helps us relate and see things through different angles.”