The George Keyt Foundation: A helping hand to emerging artists | Sunday Observer

The George Keyt Foundation: A helping hand to emerging artists

18 December, 2016

The founders of the George Keyt Foundation Cedric De Silva and Sita De Silva have been instrumental in providing artists the opportunity to showcase their talents by having annual exhibitions for the past 30 years. The George Keyt Foundation organises three annual exhibitions named Kala Pola, Nawa Kalakaruwo and Sri Lankan Art. The Chairman of the George Keyt Foundation Cedric De Silva says that the exhibitions are very successful and a tremendous amount of paintings are sold every year. He says it is important that there is a good set of artists and the paintings are of a high standard. Sita De Silva highlights the way in which the J.D.A. Perera gallery facilitates the development of art by connecting with the University of Visual and Performing Arts which provides an intellectually stimulating environment for the artists.

The public’s response to Kala Pola is fantastic because it provides opportunities for a variety of people ranging from the sophisticated to the simple, and the beauty of it is that they all work together. The Kala Pola is sponsored by the John Keells Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. De Silva are very grateful for their continuous support. Mrs. De Silva says, “The John Keells Foundation does an enormous amount of work for us.

They put up the stalls and the whole place becomes organised. They have played a major role and we are very grateful to them. What would we do without John Keells?”

The “Nawa Kalakaruwo” exhibition provides a wonderful platform for emerging young artists to exhibit their work. Young artists have to be given the exposure and the expense is difficult for them to bear, and therefore the George Keyt Foundation takes up the cost. The exhibition provides an opportunity for the world to see their work and to make sales. And when they make sales they have the money to buy equipment which is expensive. Both Mr. and Mrs. De Silva emphasise the importance of providing opportunities to artists. Mrs. De Silva says, “If you have the opportunity, what can’t you do? We give artists the opportunity.” Mr. De Silva adds, “The public gets to know them, artists get to know them and they know it’s something worthwhile.”

The main achievement of the George Keyt Foundation has been keeping the art movement alive, and facilitating a terrific relationship between the public and the artists. There is also international interest in the work done by the George Keyt Foundation. Mrs. De Silva says, “the foreign missions were very interested in what we were doing. They came in a big way because they knew we were sincere in what we did.”

George Keyt was a personal friend of Mr. and Mrs. De Silva, and he would visit them every month and spend three days with them in their home. Mrs. De Silva recalls that when she was a primary school teacher at S. Thomas’ Preparatory School her husband asked her to give it up as he felt it did not fit in with his life because he was onto all kinds of projects. Mrs. De Silva says, “it almost broke my heart and broke their hearts because I taught there for 13 years.”

After she gave up teaching Mrs. De Silva remembers telling George Keyt that they should start a foundation for art and he leaned forward and said, “If you and Cedric are doing it, it will work. I have faith in you.” Mr. and Mrs. De Silva had an interesting friendship with George Keyt and they remember going on trips to Kandy to Mrs. De Silva’s ancestral home the Dunhida Walauwa where her grandfather had resided.

Mr. and Mrs. De Silva hope they can continue their good work for a while longer, and then another batch comes up and keeps it going. What they have done for the George Keyt Foundation speaks for itself.

Pix: Vipula Amarasinghe


Please let me know if there is a young artists group or organisation that a young artists could join. And if so, details of the forum. Thank you