Expanding the language of art and culture
Emma Ingham babysat and cleaned houses to pay her way through high school, saving every penny.
It wasn't enough to get her to university but the iconic department store Trimingham's recognised her talent and sent her off to New York for an apprenticeship.
There, “I got a taste of what I could really get my teeth in”.
She spent another four years here, working day and night to scrape together the cash for Parsons School of Design.
“A lot of people know my history,” said the 70-year-old artist.
“In those days there weren't the facilities that there are now [on the island].”
She's since helped a string of artists build their portfolios and in that same spirit, put one of her portraits up for sale as part of the International Women's Club fundraiser last week.
Works by Michael Jackson, Jill Amos Raine, Nicky Gurret and Ms Ingham are among the pieces now hanging at the Chubb gallery.
Monies raised will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Coalition for the Protection of Children.
Ms Ingham hopes the IWC will use the event as a springboard to developing a learning facility with an art institution here.
“Bring people in, do quarterly talks on getting it going,” suggested the former ad agency owner, who now teachers watercolour classes at the Seniors Learning Centre.
“This is the legacy that these women could share.”
She said it was “absolutely necessary” that Bermuda implement ideas promoted by Lord Cultural Resources consultant Lauren Merkel last week.
“Here we are, the most expensive place in the world now, and yet, when you look around you think, where's the artwork? Lauren hit on something — the value of art and culture; focusing on how culture and the arts can help a community.
“Think of this island, it can become the benchmark by where other places can offer education, creativity and, to some degree, social intercourse.
“Arts and culture stimulate dialogue. That in itself should be the flag for the International Women's Club.”
She highlighted past initiatives to show how it might work: a programme she created with Liz Jones “married the visual arts with the written arts” for students at Berkeley Institute and Dellwood Middle School and she and her former husband David Mitchell were key in starting the Bermuda Arts Centre at Dockyard. She also tried to create another initiative, Spring Break Arts, with the late David Allen, the PLP's first Tourism Minister.
“We can work together,” she said. “Those kids were just amazing. They took it in their teeth and they ran with it.
“Can you imagine if we did a camp and brought it to Bermuda? Students from Rhode Island School of Design, Parsons, University of Tennessee — all of these places with strong summer programmes, because you're building a following of young people that will keep coming back to Bermuda.”
St George's would be a great place to begin, said Ms Ingham, who has shared a studio in the East End with artist Charles Zuill for 40 years.
“[It] is an ideal venue for an artist enclave to nurture and drive a new tourism entity — one that doesn't have walls, one that doesn't need plumbing; that which is made by virtue of the people.
“Yes, it would cost money, but what it would save in social ills that have to be nurtured, cured or otherwise offer long-term commitment to the correction thereof?
“When my studio door is open, it is an open-door policy in that sometimes these very arrogant, troubled men just walk in. The language of art communicates to all.
“Vincent Van Gogh said, ‘The only time I feel alive is when I'm painting.
“It's that feeling of vitality that people get from painting or drawing or sculpting and I think it's important that this legacy be fed in Bermuda.”