Article by: Andrea Chung
Marianna Farag is truly a global citizen; born in Greece, she speaks 4+ languages and has lived and traveled all over the world. Her career has taken her from Paris to New York and now to Kingston, Jamaica, where a new wave of contemporary artists like Ebony Patterson, Leasho Johnson and Matthew McCarthy are bursting onto the international scene. She recently sat down with Go Global Art to share her vision for Artists of Jamaica.
Where were you born and how do you identify yourself culturally?
I was born in Athens, Greece and grew up moving around Europe with a short 4-year stint in the US and now I’m Jamaica. I come from a Middle Eastern family and I have an overflowing love and curiosity for world culture.
What is your professional background?
My background is in global marketing but I’ve always had a dual nature of having one foot in the corporate world and the other in the creative and artistic world.
Why have you chosen Kingston as your home?
Having solo traveled for quite a bit, I came alone to Kingston three years ago and fell in love with the place. To my surprise, I found myself coming back over and over, each time for short visits and on a social purpose that I would initiate. The longest time I spent was in 2014, when the Paint Jamaica project kicked off. With each trip I ’d meet people, I ’d understand the culture a little more and slowly but surely, Kingston started to feel like home. I think it’s the energy, the people and the organized chaos. I love it.
Have you always been involved in the arts? Tell us why you think you are drawn to these types of creative projects.
My life-long dream was to be a fashion designer but somehow I ended up going to business school. I’ve always felt the need to express myself creatively through cooking and photography and I love art. It is absolutely necessary and it is one of the few things that has existed in every culture and in every corner of the world since the beginning of mankind. It’s part of humanity’s story.
What was the impact of Paint Jamaica and how do you feel that it has benefitted the community?
Paint Jamaica was a social, democratic street art project with the idea of transforming the visual spaces of marginalized inner-city communities through art and simultaneously putting art out there on the streets for everyone to enjoy. All the murals on Fleet St are inspired by conversations we had with the community. At the end of the day, these are their walls, not ours. We know for sure that now people from all over are stopping by to check out Fleet St. The street art has broken down some of the negative connotations of downtown and brought more exposure to the community of Fleet St.
What gave you the idea to start the online directory, Artists of Jamaica (AOJ)?
The idea came from my love for the talent in Jamaica and seeing the need for outlets to expose the art created on this island. The Internet is a powerful tool that can help expose Jamaican talent in an unbiased, impartial way. I’m hoping the art will be appreciated and connections will be made – in Jamaica and abroad.
What is your vision for AOJ?
I want it to become the largest online directory of visual artists from Jamaica – so it needs to continue to grow. AOJ is structured into two parts: there’s a permanent “static” directory (artistsofjamaica.com) and then there’s the “living” social media aspect, which features artists on a rotating basis. I’d like to complement it with interviews and studio visits.
How does the Kingston art scene compare to the other places that you have lived?
I think the art scene is great. I think there is some amazing talent – but not enough platforms to expose theartwork. I do find that there may be a conservative attitude towards art- not from the artists’ side, but from the consumer side. And there is definitely lack of support and funding to grow the arts. In other countries I’ve been to, there are all sorts of programmes tailored to support artists in traditional and non-traditional ways. Abroad, there are also lots of individuals who will inject money into seeing the arts grow and a lot of people who encourage out-of-the-box thinking and I’m hoping to see more of that happen for Jamaica.
What motivates you and what do you see yourself doing in the future?
Here is what I know: life flies by and the most fun part about living it is doing a ton of creative projects and meeting amazing people along the way. I have an amazing day job that I truly love, but I’ll always be doing something creative on the side.
Andrea Dempster-Chung is an engineer and serial entrepreneur whose career spans several industries in the private and public sector. She won national awards for Bookophilia, her first startup and is the Founder of Go Global Art (www.goglobalart.com) an online gallery that enables everyone to buy affordable art directly from artists around the world. She has served on several boards and has a keen interest in projects that benefit the creative community.Questions about this article? Email her at: [email protected]