Nine days after turning 23, Taisha Carrington received “the best birthday present ever”. She was declared winner of the Barbados at Fifty Monument Design Competition, which will see her name etched in Barbados’ history. (Picture by Sandy Pitt.)
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TAISHA CARRINGTON is not just a pretty face. She has the brains to back up her good looks and has been combining the two in award-winning expressions of her outstanding artistic talent.
Nine days after turning 23, she got “the best birthday present ever” – she was declared winner of the Barbados at Fifty Monument Design Competition, which will see her named etched in Barbados’ history.
Her winning design will be constructed on the Garrison Savannah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, near the spot where the flag of a newly independent Barbados was officially raised on November 30, 1966.
She was at home on a one-year break from studies at Pratt Institute in New York when the competition for design of the monument was first announced. Remarking on her victory last week Taisha told the SUNDAY SUN: “This is absolutely perfect. It is right smack in the middle of the two things I love because I see the monument as public art but also as architecture.”
In designing the historic national monument, she gets the opportunity to combine art and architecture, the two things that have been the focus of her studies. She is elated that she has won the opportunity to be a part of Barbados’ history.
“Art was not a talent that I discovered; it was always there,” Taisha said. She has never known her life to be without art. As she pointed out: “Just as normal as I had two arms, I had art.”
Her mother was the first to notice her three-year-old child’s talent and when she enrolled Taisha in kindergarten, teachers there also noticed this toddler’s unique ability to colour very neatly. They advised her mother to monitor the talent.
Even at that tender age, Taisha began exploring many areas of art. “I was not just interested in drawing; I gravitated to more three-dimensional art.” Her talent was further nurtured by her St Luke’s Brighton Primary School teacher Anita Brathwaite, who gave exposure to the primary school student’s work in external competitions. The many National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) awards won at that stage bear testimony to the early showing of this artist’s promise.
Taisha said: “I did notice leaving primary school I had more of an interest in three-dimensional art.” At Combermere School she was fortunate to find an enabling environment for art, encouraging her to live in the art room from day one until she left in upper sixth form. It was at this stage that she also discovered her love for technical drawing.
Taisha gushed: “I really love art, but beyond what people see as traditional art I am going to love the art of architecture.” She began to nurture both genres in first form and throughout her tenure at Combermere would always pick her subjects around being an architect and maintaining art.
In fifth form she received a CXC distinction in art and a Grade 1 in technical drawing to stand out among the CXC top ten students in the Caribbean. In her first year as a sixth former she made the CXC Merit List among the most outstanding top ten students in the Caribbean. The only Barbadian to make the list, she held the second place position for art.
“At that moment it really hit me because truthfully all along, because it was something that was so natural to me, I always underestimated it. I used to tell myself maybe I do well in art because I work hard. I would always decrease the value of my actual talent and put it down to hard work.
“But when I saw that I was second in the Caribbean and there were thousands of students doing this exam I said maybe my talent is a little more than just a little talent and a lot of hard work,” she acknowledged.
In 2011, soon after leaving school, the Barbadian beauty with a poster face and a fashion runway figure won the Miss Barbados crown and went on to represent her homeland at the Miss World competition. Again, she impressed with her tremendous artistic ability in the talent section of the competition.
At the end of her first two years of study at Pratt Institute, commencement saw her emerging with a 3.9 grade point average and being named the Most Outstanding Student both overall and in her major.
It is that knowledge of her innate ability that fuelled her confidence when she entered the competition, knowing she would most likely be up against seasoned architects. But she focused on concept, her area of strength. “I told myself I am not an architect, but I knew from my experience as an artist my strongest feature was always my concept.”
When she was selected winner among the five competition finalists, who included architects, her decision to let creativity and “the great understanding of what our country needs in a monument” won out.
“I analysed everyone else’s pieces, I found their strong point and I secretly tried to trump it.”
Acknowledging her limitations in the area of design, she reached out to architects Duane Burnett and Ryan Beckles and architectural technicians Roy Padmore and Ithmar Carrington for assistance with the technical designs.
Out of 48 initial entries in the competition, in the finals she managed to beat out two architects, an artist and a sculptor, all of them older than she, to walk away with a trophy and $20 000.
She considers hers a victory “for young people generally”.
“At a time like this, a lot of people are out there without degrees but with a lot of talent. To see somebody like me who technically does not have a degree (I only have half a degree right now) stand up to these people who do, it should tell the young person ‘if I have a talent, maximise it’. It is also encouragement for those people who are good artists to see it is as something that is viable.”
Taisha will be returning to Pratt Institute next month to complete the final two years of her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. After this, she will be working towards a master’s in architecture and plans to specialise in conservation. With so many general architects in the market, she sees this as a niche where she can make a valuable contribution to Barbados.
She said: “In a small country like Barbados we have to look at maintaining what we have.”