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Wednesday, October 27, 2021
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Digital Art and Animation Sector

There’s no mistaking it. COVID-19 has dealt a severe blow to the Jamaican economy. It has changed the way we conduct business, forcing industries to adapt or die. Among these industries striving to adapt is the creative industry. Living up to the title of ‘creative’, the Digital Art and Animation industry found innovative solutions to the restrictions placed on physical gatherings.

While many industries relied heavily on using zoom to teleconference, this branch of the creative industry had to find other ways to translate a primarily visual and interactive experience to the online space.

Stakeholders figured out fairly quickly that participants in festivals and expos needed that live interaction to recreate the sensation of being physically present. Using various video and web hosting platforms, the conferences, workshops, and expos that were usually held in person were moved online.

One notable example is the animation expo Dreamdust. Dreamdust was launched online on December 19, 2020 and featured various works from local creators. These works included illustration, animated shorts, comics, and video games. The goal of the expo was to showcase Jamaican talent and to show that Jamaicans could create quality content on par with the rest of the world.

Achieve that goal they did. Outstanding talent was put on display by the likes of Gashwayne Hudson, Joelle McFarlane, Patrick Meikle, Jade Carberry and many others.

The Dreamdust team used social media such as Instagram to create hype for the inaugural launch of the expo. The event was broadcast to YouTube and incorporated live discussions, display of work, and music by DJ Sparkle Dust.  

During some of the discussions the panellists, despite being in different locations, were able to draw live at the same time on the same screen for the audience to see. It was as if everyone was together in one room, watching and creating with each other. Being able to interact with the artists and having artists interact with and see each other working in real-time was definitely the highlight of this expo.

Another example of ingenuity was on full display at the Animae Caribe animation festival. Pre-Covid, the festival is usually based in Trinidad and Tobago and held in other Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, Barbados, and Suriname- but, in November 2020 the festival moved online.

Animae Caribe embraced this move by using the website highfidelity.com to create a virtual space for participants to meet and explore booths. Participants could “walk” through a virtual stadium and visit booths as well as talk to other participants at the expo. This helped mimic the feeling of walking around at an expo and organically meeting attendees and panellists.

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Most impressive was the choice to use virtual reality. Animae Caribe used Virtual Reality to gather participants into a room to watch performances, simulating the feeling of being gathered together with friends. Animae caribe 2020 was both an educating and novel experience.

The charm of animation festivals, art expos and conferences lies in its ability to organically connect artists from around the world and share in an artistic experience. Until 2020, the potential of the internet in facilitating this experience was not fully realised in this industry. However, these festivals found creative ways to recreate and enhance the experience of meeting and sharing art in person.

This fledgling sector has truly shown its potential to be one of the most innovative and resilient parts of the creative economy.

Kingstoon, another animation festival, is scheduled to be held online April 21 to 25, 2021. With the inventiveness shown by Animae Caribe and Dreamdust in 2020, it is eagerly awaited to see how Kingstoon will overcome the challenges faced by meeting on screen.

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