(CMR) In recognition of her outstanding contributions to arts and culture within the Cayman Islands, Natalie Urquhart was conferred by Her Majesty the Queen with a British Empire Medal (BEM) within the 2022 New Yr Honours.
The National Gallery Director and Chief Curator’s outstanding contributions to arts and culture within the Cayman Islands and the broader region over greater than 20 years have distinguished her as a rare achiever in her field.
Mrs. Urquhart thinks, feels, talks and writes about arts, culture and heritage, especially, with a passion that has characterised most of her years within the Cayman Islands’ workplace.
She also excels in strategic planning, organizational leadership, and revitalization; and because the first professionally trained Caymanian art curator, has authored books, papers and articles, and led curatorial projects which have helped expand opportunities for arts and culture engagement in the neighborhood.
Mrs. Urquhart has the excellence of advising governments, organizations, and bodies throughout the Cayman Islands, the Caribbean region, in addition to international entities equivalent to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM). She has firmly secured the Cayman Islands’ presence and leadership on a variety of international cultural initiatives and organizations.
In truth, as the primary Caymanian President of the Museums Association of the Caribbean (MAC) from 2017-2020 and present MAC board member, Mrs. Urquhart continues to strengthen links amongst Caribbean museums and heritage organizations, by fostering and promoting closer collaborations, training, and networking opportunities amongst cultural and heritage sector professionals.
Notable amongst her myriad publications is her book titled Art of the Cayman Islands, a definitive tome, and the primary formal outline, of local art history. Based on her curatorial research, the book examines the confluence of tradition, cultural heritage, and collective memory that has impacted local contemporary art and artistic practice.
More importantly, the spin-off from the book was a series of exhibitions including twenty first Century Cayman (2010), The Persistence of Memory (2011), Tidal Shift (2015), REVIVE – Contemporary Caymanian Craft (2016); Cross Currents (2019), Island of Women (2020) and Reimagined Futures (2021).
Equally impressively, Mrs. Urquhart is the founder/creative director of Cayman Art Week, a project created in 2021 to assist offset the impact of the pandemic on the creative sector and to create a platform through which to advertise the art sector. The initiative goals to generate greater interest in local art, to stimulate more purchasing of local art, and thereby enhance local artists earning capability.
Yet, for all her accomplishments including her double masters’ degrees and an already impressive collection of awards, she stays down-to-earth, congenial personality, and above all, humble.
Awards she has garnered include the Cayman Literary Award (2017); Cayman Islands Top Employer Award Winner (team leader) (2011, 2014, 2015 & 2016); and National Young Caymanian Leadership Award Recipient (2011). Moreover, she has been honoured with a variety of National Arts and Culture Awards including Heritage Cross (2016); Star for Creativity (2010); and now in 2022, Gold Star for Creativity; Star for Creativity Certificate (for Cayman Art Week – her brainchild); and one other Star for Creativity Certificate with the gallery staff for his or her digital programming initiative.
Mrs. Urquhart continues to offer her expertise as she has done over time, on a variety of voluntary boards and dealing committees, whether local, within the Caribbean, the Americas or the broader world She believes strongly that culture can enrich lives in addition to providing a critical platform through which to search out shared values and social cohesion.
Commenting on the New Yr’s honors, she says with customary simplicity:
“It’s a real honor to receive this award and I’m grateful and humbled by the popularity. I’m very fortunate to do work that I like alongside creative individuals who encourage me, and would really like to increase my deepest thanks for his or her encouragement and support over a few years. This award can also be extremely motivating and will definitely encourage my work moving forward.”
She also singles out her family and husband Alexander Urquhart together with the National Gallery team for his or her unwavering support. Her advice to young individuals within the Cayman Islands is to “attempt to seek a profession that you simply are keen about and to be curious and open-minded in your work. Set your goals and consider in them and never let your failures stop you from moving forward.”