Tuesday, 22 December 2015

SHOW & TELL: Tranquil Harmony Hall combines artistic riches and towering legacy

 ON THE HOUSE: A snapshot of the rustic-chic, Tower Isle-based gallery. Below, a sampling of the art on view.

Upon taking a quick glance around the interiors of the Harmony Hall art gallery and gift shop, located at Tower Isle (near the St. Ann/St. Mary border) you are immediately struck by the vast and eclectic display on view. On closer inspection, afforded by a guided tour of the inviting rooms, what’s revealed is an embarrassment of artistic riches.

In addition to a wide-ranging series of eye-catching paintings, all by Jamaicans (living at home and abroad, established talents and virtual unknowns), the gallery/gift shop is stocked with exquisite woodwork creations, reasonably priced craft items (whelk shell key rings included), all-natural health and wellness products, bandana-clad dolls, scented candles and the list goes on and on. What visitors are treated to is a feast for the senses, the eyes especially. In a nutshell, Harmony Hall is a cozy little haven for the discerning tourist and art connoisseur.

Rounding out the lengthy list of offerings are island-travel guidebooks, earthenware vessels, a selection of hand-size mirrors and, perhaps most interesting of all, the Anabella boxes, mini treasure chests (named for their creator), which for over 30 years have “captivated residents and visitors alike.”

Which brings us to Anabella Proudlock, the late great creative genius who, along with Peter (the surviving spouse), opened Harmony Hall back in November 1981 as a north-coast-based art lover’s retreat and creative space. Since then, the spot has garnered acclaim in international newspapers, magazines and tourist handbooks, all raving about its diverse, tourist-friendly offerings. According to the brochure, Harmony Hall has represented over 100 artists and artisans, exhibiting art ranging from the naïve to the highly sophisticated, from many of the island’s leading painters, sculptors and carvers.

In the wake of Ana’s death (from stage IV cancer) in February of this year, it is understandable that a (slightly) mournful air still presides over the gallery. But, as day manager Myrna Martin explains, the place has been returning to its old self. Slowly but surely coming alive again. “We’re moving on, but we miss her,” says Martin, a mild-mannered, dark-skinned woman of 55. “She used to create new art every year that we looked forward to adding to the showcase.”

As for Peter, who was off the island for a week at the time of our recent visit earlier this month, Martin says the loss of his beloved life companion still pains him. But he’s been finding strength in recent times. “We have to just allow him to grieve until he’s ready to come back to us full-time,” she says.

Loss and legacy aside, the Harmony Hall story is far from over. And that’s terrific news for the local arts community, given the demise of the Mutual Gallery and the uncertain future that the Bolivar Gallery is currently facing. Martin is positive that once operations are back to full throttle they’ll be drawing loads of new visitors (including the regular cruise-ship throngs from Europe and the Americas) – and resume hosting regular intuitive exhibitions. (The last one was held back in December 2014.) 

But, in the meantime, there’s lots to see and experience here at tranquil Harmony Hall – a showcase best described as a visual feast for the eyes and a refreshing sojourn for the mind. The picturesque outdoors and the award-winning Italian eatery downstairs are a welcome bonus. 

Visit harmonyhall.com to learn more, or contact them at 975-4222; info @harmonyhall.com.

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