"PURE vandalism" was how local art historian, Geoffrey Maclean, yesterday described the slashing of artwork in the long-flagging People's Canvas art project on the walls of the Queen's Park Oval.
Monday morning brought to light damage to 19 of the 21 art prints gracing the walls on Tragarete Road and Elizabeth Street by a determined slasher.
The lower halves of the prints were torn, some in more than one place.
After viewing the damage yesterday, Maclean said the act did not appear to be anything more than vandalism.
"It is pure maliciousness," he said in a telephone interview.
"It is unfortunate the way people abuse all aspects of our heritage. People just don't respect anything."
Maclean is a member of the Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ASTT), which, along with corporate sponsors, started the People's Canvas project in 2008. The ASTT is no longer involved with the project.
The aim was to give artists a chance to showcase their work.
Ken Crichlow, artist and ASTT member, said the project suffered from a loss of enthusiasm by the business community.
The optimism of the early stages has been lost, he said, and this week's damage may spell the demise of the project altogether.
"When you have this kind of response, you feel dispirited," he said.
He added that public art is yet to manifest in Trinidad and Tobago, with only "transient" pieces being the result of years of talk.
"I suppose that will be the end of that project," he said.
Head of the Artists Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago, Rubadiri Victor, said yesterday it was sad that most locals do not feel a sense of ownership that embodies all aspects of local art and all geographic areas of this country.
While it is also unfortunate that there those who "catch their kicks" carrying out acts of vandalism, Victor said a real effort must be made to nurture art in public spaces.
"We come from a culture where people don't feel a sense of ownership of things that are rightfully theirs, so at times they feel that things that are in the public space or civic space or in seemingly private spaces, are worthy targets of a rebellious act of vandalism, not recognising that the space that they are defacing is really their home."
At the same time, he said, the project itself has raised issues regarding public art in Trinidad and Tobago and what constitutes public art.
"The only forms of public art that we have are coloured, copied prints of original artwork rather than commissioned public art and I wonder, if there were more gestures of real public art in public and private and community spaces, if we may see more of an understanding by the population as to the fact that this is their house and that it is being beautified, be it sculptures, graffiti or whatever form it takes," Victor said.
This country, for its history and culture, still does not have a rich tradition of public art, either in its commissioning or the skill level that is often executed when objects hailed as public art make an appearance.
"A national normally trains people like that," he said.
"Jamaica and Barbados have incredible monuments but they train people for that."
Photographer Chris Anderson, whose work "Maracas Bay", was slashed, said yesterday it was "extremely disappointing".
"It just shows Trinidad to be uncivilized," he said.
"While it may happen anywhere in the world, it just seems to happen more here and far too often."
Anderson said this type of acting out may be the result of a society better known for its partying than for its focus on family life.
That negative aspect of local culture, combined with an education system that fails so many of its subscribers, may be the reason there are so citizens who are down-on-their-luck and very angry, Anderson said.
"It just seems that Trinidad has a whole pile of social problems than can't be solved too easily."
Anderson hoped, however, that the project would not be allowed to die and that corporate sponsors would come through for next year.
The following artists' works, featured on the walls of the Queen's Park Oval at part of the People's Canvas public art project, were vandalised :
Shawn Peters "Chasing Horizons"
Marsha Bhagwansingh "Seascape"
Cliff A. Birjou "Cashew Tree on Monos Island"
Robyn Knaggs "Flamboyant"
Christopher Anderson "Maracas Bay"
Karen Hale Jackson "Peaceful Early Morning Mist"
Shalini Seereeram "Earth Mother"
Denise Anderson "Caura River"
Shalini Singh "Dreaming of Vessels"
Gaby Beston Edwards "Ginger Torches and Crotons"
Marsha Trepte "Looking for Fish"
Anil Bridgelal "Over the Hill"
Beverly Fitzwilliam Harris "J'ouvert"
Kenderson Noray "Pan Riddim II"
Ann Stapleton "Roadside Market"
Gregory Scott "Toco Sunrise"
Susan Correia "La Foret"
Nicole Craig "My Music"
(one artist's name was missing from its place)