Port Authority mural spruces up downtown Kingston

The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) has collaborated with the Duke Street Refurbishing Project (DSRP), the Kingston Restoration Company (KRC) and Kingston Creative to support the development of a creative city and art district in downtown Kingston.

The project is a multifaceted initiative which is restorative in nature as it seeks to significantly enhance the aesthetics of downtown Kingston by repurposing derelict buildings, neglected areas and unused wall space with vibrant art to improve the town’s attractiveness.

Further, the project creates an inviting visitor experience conveyed by compelling storytelling through murals, street art, storyboards and sculptures that form a walking museum. The long-term goal is to develop a creative city which will promote Jamaican heritage, culture, gastronomy and entertainment for the enjoyment of local and international visitors.

As developers of world-class facilities and creators of bucket-list visitor experiences, the PAJ is consistently focused on infrastructural improvement and enabling seamless business processes to foster economic growth and job creation. Oftentimes this extends to leveraging opportunities that augment its objectives and complement its work.

The PAJ was keen to support this project as it aligns with a number of the organisation’s objectives, particularly a Government of Jamaica (GOJ) mandate to resume cruise shipping in Kingston.

In 2020, the PAJ completed and opened a new cruise port facility in Port Royal and facilitated four cruise ship calls. During these calls, it was pronounced that Jamaica’s culture, heritage, art, craft and entertainment were premier attractions and tourists’ favourites. One of the goals for the development of the Port Royal Cruise Port was to create a gateway to Kingston, largely considered the ‘cultural capital’ of the Caribbean, in an environmentally sustainable manner. Heritage Tourism is popular among cruise planners and the rich history, heritage and cultural offerings of Port Royal and by extension Kingston are significant attractions for passengers who select cruise itineraries with Port Royal as a destination.

Professor Gordon Shirley, president and CEO, PAJ, opined that, “Strategically, participation in the Duke Street Refurbishing Project aligns effortlessly with the PAJ’s plans to develop Port Royal and by extension downtown Kingston as a cruise port town. Murals and the walking museum are value-added attractions that will enhance the cruise passenger experience during their visits to Kingston. This augurs well for commercial and cultural activities in downtown Kingston and will inevitably foster an integration of tourists and locals in a space for trade and knowledge sharing that should ultimately result in economic growth and a revitalised downtown Kingston community. Given the tourists’ interest in Jamaican heritage, the creative city and art district in downtown Kingston combined with the mystique and history of Port Royal form an ideal alchemy for a rich visitor experience”.

The PAJ provided the space to house the historic Duke Street mural as well as made a financial contribution to the project, which is nearing the completion of phase one, that includes upgrading the streetscape with signage and murals, erecting storyboards, tree-planting efforts, paving of the sidewalks and erecting sculptures which together are designed to form a walking museum.

In addition to complementing Port Royal’s offerings, the project also provides the opportunity for the PAJ to achieve a record-breaking feat. Apart from uniquely chronicling the history of Duke Street, the mural is being housed at its head office which spans over 1,250 square feet, earning the mural the designation of the widest single street mural in Jamaica.

The mural design, which was conceptualised by artist Nicholas Rose, is an epiphany on the Duke Street storyline featuring historical figures and notable buildings. The design starts with an image of Port Royal before and after the 1692 earthquake which sets in motion the drafting of a plan to build the new capital, Kingston.

The emblem of the Duke of Gloucester, after whom Duke Street is named, is the next image in the design, which is followed by historic stories of Sailor’s Rest. Thereafter, historical figures and buildings are added which lead to the final image of Duke Street as it is presently, which highlights elements of the legal, financial and business district which it is today. Street names and numbers are added on a scroll to provide perspective and direction in relation to Duke Street.

Brian Bernal, assistant vice-president, planning and design at the Port Authority, who served as PAJ’s lead and liaison on the project, highlighted that, “Art and public art are an essential part of a vibrant urban fabric. Art is definitely something that brings people to an area and adds vitality and excitement to the space.”

The downtown Kingston art district spans King Street, across Church Street into Duke Street and over to East Street, showcasing dynamic and engaging artwork. The project also aligns with the GOJ’s plan to revitalise downtown Kingston which aims to restore, rebuild and develop without relocating those that were always there, by including downtown residents, workers, businesses, agencies and all that make downtown what it has always been.

Kimberley Stiff, assistant vice-president, marketing and communications at PAJ added that, “The revitalisation of downtown Kingston through art and culture supports the development of heritage tourism and a creative city, as well as promotes a buzz of interest which should facilitate commercial activities and generate curiosity among all sectors and stakeholders. As the PAJ readies to resume cruise shipping activities in light of the disruption as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are eager to welcome the return of vibrant crowds with tourists and locals engaged in the space to enjoy and experience our culture, heritage, art and entertainment.”

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