RESIDENTS of western Jamaica now have an opportunity for cultural exposure opened to them, with Friday’s official opening of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre in Sam Sharpe Sharpe Square, Montego Bay, St James.
Formerly known as the Montego Bay Civic Centre, the newly opened Cultural Centre has been redeveloped through the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) at a cost of J$109 million, and will house a permanent national art gallery for perusal by residents of western Jamaica, with the backing of the Institute of Jamaica and the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.
The building was originally erected in 1810, and is notable for being the site of the former courthouse, where national hero Samuel Sharpe and several of his fellow slaves were tried and condemned in 1831.
In his keynote address at the function, tourism minister Dr Wykeham McNeill urged the people of Montego Bay to care for the newly refurbished facility.
“This facility belongs to the people of Montego Bay. We have to care for it, and we have to keep it…this is an edifice that shows where we are coming from,” Dr McNeill told his audience.
“The truth is, we have a tremendous history… we have to do more with it,” Dr. McNeill added. “Tourism is telling people about ourselves. When people travel, it is for a lot of reasons… they want to learn about your culture, your history and your heritage.”
Chairman of the Montego Bay Arts Council, Josef Forstmayr, expressed pleasure at the opportunity to open art and culture to western Jamaica, with the opening of the Cultural Centre.
“The dreams and aspirations of so many of us have now become a reality. Today is a happy day,” said Forstmayr. “Let us use the new Montego Bay Cultural Centre to truly celebrate our motto, ‘Out of Many, One People’.”