As a child, the mural and other art pieces painted onto the exterior wall of Victoria Park in Kingstown fascinated Shanique Stewart.
Passing the venue was always a special treat when her parents, Norris and Monique Norris Stewart, took her on drives from Sion Hill to the leeward side of St. Vincent on Sunday afternoons.
She would fantasise about the day when she too would paint a mural on the iconic wall in the nation’s capital — where artists were often hired to paint advertisements for upcoming events.
But when she came of age and was skilled enough paint a mural of her own, the era of murals on the Park’s walls had ended, and the layers of artwork, one hiding the other, were all masked by a final coat of white paint.
Undeterred, Stewart submitted one proposal after the other requesting permission to paint a mural on the park’s walls.
They all failed until this year, the 40th anniversary of Vincy Mas as a summer festival.
Stewart, now 24, received permission and, with the assistance of Troy Archibald, a young upcoming artist and member of the Heartist Association for Young Creatives, a newly developed arts & entertainment group that Stewart heads, Stewart painted a carnival-themed mural on the walls of Victoria Park, known during Vincy Mas as “Carnival City”.
“It was a long-held dream to paint at the Victoria Park wall,” Stewart emphasised to iWitness News.
“I realise I had a passion for art in preschool, I stuck with it ever since,” she says.
“It was the exposure to arts and crafts that really got me excited. Until this day, my parents still have pieces from competition, etc.”
Stewart was realising her childhood dream after making made a name for herself regionally.
She had done work for the Eastern Caribbean Marine Managed Areas Network (ECMMAN), the Ministry of Tourism Sports and Culture, Fisheries Department, Coreas Distillers and many pre-schools.
Lately Stewart has done works in Jamaica for the Sickle Cell Awareness, where she was art instructor to Yendi Phillipps, a Jamaican TV host, model and beauty queen who became the winner of the Miss Jamaica World 2007 beauty pageant, as well as of the Miss Jamaica Universe 2010 pageant.
In Jamaica, Stewart has also done work for St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Tony Rebel, and, among others, Queen Ifrica.
Stewart told iWitness News that she enjoys the cultural aspect of carnival and wanted this mural to depict the journey of Vincy Mas and how much the past, present and future makes Vincy Mas the festival that many patriots look forward to every year.
“The mural is inclusive of portraitures of artistes, mas, masqueraders, steel pan, pole walkers of the past, present and future and blended together to create the illusion of unity,” Stewart said.
With a fierce ideology to stray a bit from the traditional realism and utilise impressionist realism, Stewart breaks the confined perception of what art should be as she introduces St. Vincent and the Grenadines to different styles of art, which most young artists are working towards.
With the mural, Stewart wants persons to see and experience a representation of Vincy Mas past, present and future, rather than what is represented on the wall.
“It’s not about an specific artiste, mas band, etc. but rather a generalised representation of what contributed to making Vincy mas what it is today.
Soca music is a big contributor to Carnival hence the reason she represented those portraitures the most.
“Every single aspect of Carnival from then until now, is why this is one of the most anticipated festivals for Vincentians and visitors. I am happy that the CDC board and the National Lotteries considered the idea of bringing back a lot of history this carnival, with the mural being one of them,” Stewart said.
She said she hopes to develop not just the visual arts industry but every creative field and create opportunities for the young Vincentian nationals.
Stewart aspires to be an international renowned artist and not just build a legacy for herself but build legacies with other young talents from all over the world within the next 10 years.
Stewart appeals to parents and guardians to never dim a child’s dream and urges children never be afraid to fail while working towards a dream.
“Get up and keep trying, persistence is everything,” she said and urged businesses that can contribute to take time to invest in young people “who want more than the next hip party.
“Sit with them and be enlightened with the knowledge that comes from the youths of this nation, invest more into positivity and activities that can build the nation. To the young upcoming visual artist, there is financial success within this business, but you must be versatile don’t stick to one genre of art. God made us multitalented beings, explore your options and preserve,” she said.
Stewart considers herself a self-taught artist, adding, “But I did receive some tips on how to enhance my work at the Community College and I have just completed one year of studies at the Edna Manley College, School of Visual Arts, Jamaica.”
There, she majored in major in sculpture, with a minor in fashion.
“My work ethic leads me to work amongst and with Jamaica celebrities and I managed to gain some elite contacts within my first three months,” she told iWitness News.