A chat with Anthea McGibbon, Founder of OAaSIS International

OAaSIS International Foundation is just a year old. It exists to network members of the creative industry and relating fields to empower the creative mind of youth, up to 25 years, focusing on the age group up to 16 years.

It’s founder spent 13.5 years in full time employment at the Gleaner company, filling many roles from subeditor, feature co-ordinator (Religion), writer, photographer, to reporter. After that she became an art critic and writer for the Arts and Education section of the Sunday Gleaner.

Beyond that however, she herself is a multi-skilled, multidimensional artist. One of the main reasons she started the OAaSIS International foundation after she realized how little connected Jamaicans were to the Arts, which to her is critical in the development of individuals and the nation. Through the Foundation and her media website she promotes the Arts, Creativity and Culture. Speaking with her one will come to understand her intense love affair with deft skills she possesses in the Arts.

In a recent interview she speaks on her varied commitments.
Her aim is to sensitise others to arts, creativity and culture, especially from Jamaica . Not enough, she says, is being done to bring Jamaica ’s treasures to the apex of the world.
“Right now the numbers of singers who seem to understand themselves as a global commodity are few. “However visual artists who understand this are even fewer. Jamaica has so much talent, but lack the understanding of themselves and their creative power,” she says. They don’t quite understand their talents and services as a product to be packaged and marketed like any other business,” she opines.

She resorted to writing as she felt there was a serious lack especially among government and media personnel, two crucial entities. She insists however that more artists need to realize that their own success is up to them.

About her MEDIA WEBSITE  she explains that “in no way it competes with any existing mediahouse, but rather it compliments what they offer by providing added space to zero in on the arts, creativity, and culture.”

Her writing earned for her much interest among a global audience, and serving her readers, she temporarily abandonded her own art. Then with limited space available in mediahouses to highlight the total of creative output, she upon the encouragement of others, formed her own website and dedicated its focus to arts, creativity and culture. The site is hosted by Michael Conally and maintained by Shane Strong , who both have been cornerstones of encouragement from first world countries. Michael Conally himself once worked at the Gleaner while living in Jamaica , and now owns the popular media website Yush.com  operating out of the United Kingdom . Click here for more.

The year-old OAaSIS INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION, a not-for-financial-profit entity, has approximately 800 members since it went public a few months ago. Its list of patrons includes Barrington Watson, Farenheit, Bernard Hoyes. Canadians Bill and Kris King owners of the Jazz Report magazine that publishes much about Jamaica ’s music scene are the only international patrons.

Interview with Anthea McGibbon

Where, when were you born?
November 10, St Anns Bay hospital

Where did you attend school?
St Theresa Prep, Edna Manley, Jamaica Paralegal Institute, Instituto de Venezuela, Internships

How significant is art as a facet in your life?
Very significant. I see the combined arts and creativity in everything. It’s what makes individuals unique and able to compete positively in any environment.

How did you learn of your arts skills?
It wasn’t a matter of learning. As soon as I could read and write I was drawing and dabbling in paint as well, I suppose like other children. I think I just did it more as I always tried to design my own clothes, shoes and later sketch cartoons and write little stories. At every age I was always doing something real creative or artsy, even modeling and choreography – so many things at all ages.
I also remember mathematics always being my favourite subject, and that I always viewed as a language and expression of arts or interrelated with especially visual arts somehow. You know for example calculating designs for a shoe or piece of clothes or working out some choreography.

When was your first drawing?
Bwoy… I really don’t remember the first, but I remember my doodling days in church and after school. I used to just love designing and getting all dolled up too.

Was it easy to attend art school ?
No, I had little support. I remember not being able to finish my homework because my aunt thought I was wasting her electricity on art. Everyone recommended me for either law or the sciences because I excelled at many subjects and they were also fitting my personality. I had to do all sorts of odd jobs to send myself through school to support my decision.

What did you study?
At the Edna Manley College , I majored in Graphic Design, but in our days we had to excel in a wide variety and Creative writing with Professor Rex Nettleford. We also had electives at the other schools – I did a year at dance school and a bit of drama. Later I studied paralegal studies, completed Spanish courses and did interns aside from varied art related jobs until I worked full time at the Gleaner doing many writing text related jobs.

How many art forms do/have you practise?
Ahh so many. At all ages, I was either adding a something or expanding on some form. I’ve done painting, faux finishing, graphics, writing, pagination, photography (varied kinds including weddings, commercial, events) modeling and even choreography for a start.

How do you balance all facets?
It comes easy when you’re creative and appreciated enough to influence others to work with your schedule.

What is your current career?
I mainly earn from consultation, writing, web content development and a bit of painting. (Click for catalogue) I also tutor varied subjects. People approach me for different things, as I have skilled experience in several capacities and areas.

What of the foundation you started? How does that fit in?
OAaSIS International Foundation is just a year old and is not-for-financial gain. Projects are worked out to develop the creative mind of youth and  adults affecting them. It’s actually a more structured way of doing what I did in creating several art clubs around Kingston and St Catherine before now.

Why did you start the foundation?
Firstly, it suprises me about the number of Jamaicans who still do not understand arts and creativity beyond drawing, painting, singing and as a vital tool to development. I have always started art clubs at schools, churches or communities across the main metropolitan areas, Kingston and St Catherine. The volume of work and increasing demands on my finances and time, setting up and working with art clubs, influenced me to start the Foundation to more adequately achieve my objectives. I also was motivated by the obvious lack of proper focus on the Arts in schools and the struggles I observe in children in understanding Mathematics and English. Besides as long as I can help it, I want to assist youth to empower themselves so that mistakes made with me will not be repeated with them. . I didn’t want others with creative skill to have the difficulties I had to achieve something.

What are the current projects?
Among the projects are creative workshops and libraries, arts careers libraries, creative puzzles. The Foundation is also working on a creative youth club.

The focus however is on the list for creative workshop series which is growing rapidly as more persons who learn about it, seek our visits.

Do you work in particular areas?
No. However right now owing to the great need OAaSIS has been serving Allman town, Trench Town, Sargeantville, and the list of callers have been extended to schools and communities around Kingston such as Boys Town, Drews Land, , as well as out of Kingston zones like Clarendon among others. We started with prep schools being the last to target, but really they need equal treatment, as the exposure they get is well appreciated and applied. 

How is it funded?
OAaSIS only recently started seeking sponsorship. There is a range of products, and some artists have given designs for these products. There will be fundraising ventures. Presently contribution tins are strategically placed for donations.

How do you create balance as in your commitment to the foundation, as an artist, writer and paralegal among other things?
A detailed time table is crucial, a good writing team with multi-skilled members and flexible personalities. It is also important to keep everything working parallel with each other towards obtaining the same objective and focuses.

How do you view Jamaica and artists?
Jamaica is the best, and has the best, but its people needs to first understand this before they can have visions, develop strategies and work towards bringing it all out for common good and advancement. I believe whether we travel or not we need to develop a first world way of thinking to enhance the way we approach especially challenges. Let all artists especially visual artists understand themselves as products to be packaged well and marketed. More persons need to learn and understand better our laws, our talents, our rights, our God-given abilities, and how to use them to achieve economic independence.

How do you feel about the contemporary art scene?
I am both impressed, motivated and elated as the contemporary scene gives us, especially Jamaicans, avenues to be real in a bold way about who we are. We are given chance to express our creativity, yet speaking volumes on our culture and our talents just the same. We are not bound by, but directed and inspired by tradition. A visit to the recent graduation show at the Edna Manley and also the National Gallery where the works were “out of the box” confirms my beliefs.
I also believe it allows us to enter and perform well within the global market with more confidence.

Who was your art muse?
Several persons from different genre and styles arrested my attention and admiration. Writing, research and critiquing exposes me to so many aspects that just makes me fall in love, and heightens my inspiration. Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Jozza on the international scene. Locally Gene Pearson, Barrington Watson, Alphanso Blake, Garth Sanguinetti, Hope Wheeler, Beverley Oliver, Marissa Willoughby to name a few. Of course performing, literary and culinary artists also impress and influence me. I am a sucker for real talent that massages my mind.

What are your thoughts on art education in Jamaica ?
That’s a tall order to answer in limited space. In summary it’s not where it should be. Far more persons especially among the young need to be more familiar with what the Arts are about, the critical role it plays in one’s development even beyond being an artist. It is so important in maintaining our unique characters, and in assisting our youth in better understanding the world around them, especially when it comes to learning academic subjects such as numeracy and literacy, science and performing in business – when understood properly.

Journalists are among the list of persons who need to see themselves as a part of the education process, and equip themselves with knowledge before offering information to the public, with responsibility.
I also must reiterate Rex Nettleford’s statements 1) “To know where you are going you must understand your past” 2) “Creative people should be among the leaders, as they are the ones who see beyond the surface, interpret and translate through their arts so others can better understand and relate”

I hope more persons with first world experience can someday find a way even on a one-on-one basis to influence other Jamaicans even in thought.

Any final thoughts?
Get yourself involved one way or another with the Arts. The one thing about us that cannot be sold is who we are, and our innate talents. WE can’t prostitute our culture, but we sure can use it as the critical tool that it is in earning money, effecting POSITIVE change, for ourselves and our country.

Of course I also am seeking as much sponsorship as possible for OAaSIS projects, especially as the list of those benefiting and seeking our input is growing.



Visit Anthea’s media site