By Japhet Alakam
Princess Tessy Iyase-Odozi is not a new name in art. She is an artist, art administrator, promoter and educator. For her, life revolves around art and that has reflected in the way she has taken the arts beyond artistic heritage and aesthetics. Ever since she opened the Green House Art Gallery, in Olambe, Ogun State,she has touched many lives with her arts.
In this interview, the University of Lagos trained painter speaks on the passion and creativity that have made her stick to art amidst other jobs, how the location of her gallery has affected the community, the motivating factor behind her success in the male dominated art business, among others.
You were quoted as saying that the gallery was established to enhance and contribute to the society. Since inception, have you been able to actualise that dream?
GreenHouse Art Empowerment Centre has remained on track in fulfilling its mission. Our focus since inception has been basically to promote Nigerian Art and artists and to empower the youths, women and other disadvantaged groups in the society by providing them with skills in arts and crafts for self and paid-employment.
Every activity that the centre has been privileged to organise, has been worthwhile. Many youth, women and children in Olambe and its environs have benefited from our various programmes. Indeed, we are living up to our dreams.
How do you cope as a woman in the male dominated art business,
what is your secret?
First and foremost, Princess Iyase-Odozi is seen as a Nigerian female artist, who paints and produces works of art that stand up to those produced by male professionals. Secondly, she is a promoter of Nigerian Art and Artists through several of her initiatives. Several times the question of how she has managed to thrive in a male dominated profession has been raised.
Be it in Art or in any other fields, there are some simple rules of success which are no secrets. One of the rules or principles of success is to seek to bring out the best in others by helping and empowering them in order that we may be empowered. Thus, in empowering others, I too have been empowered from various sources.
The second rule is practise, practise, practise! By practising regularly, I have been able to hone my skills and gain recognition and visibility in a male-dominated business.
Third rule of success is the pursuit of excellence and beauty in all things. Thus, I stretch myself to give my very best and ensure that my best matters. My fourth rule of success is to work in partnership with others and to learn to share honour and praise with others. In pursuit of this principle, I have been privileged to hold joint exhibitions with both male and female artists. I have also been able to make good sales without my buyers caring whether I am a female artist or not. Indeed, my works have been well received not because I am a woman but because of their substantive appeal and perceived value.
How has the opening of your gallery at Olambe, affected the life and development in the place?
When I go through my comments/remarks book, I have the impression that many people believe that it was a wrong decision to have established a gallery in Olambe. To many, art galleries are meant only for the ‘Wealthy and Mighty’. However, well-informed people know that art is meant for everybody irrespective of their status. Thus, coming to Olambe was not a mistake.
Guests and visitors who come to Olambe from time to time recognise the benefits and joy that have come to the people of the community through our gallery. For instance, a representative of Olambe traditional leaders, Otunba Aremo Rahman Ogunremi who described Princess Iyase-Odozi as “a pillar of support for Olambe community” in his comments said “the Centre is built to take care of students, women and youths in creative arts and culture.”
Indeed, by creating job and service opportunities and enhancing the visibility of Olambe, our gallery has positively impacted development and living conditions in the Community.
Has the choice of Olambe against other cities paid off in your business?
From the perspective of business, operating in Olambe has not been a commercial success. However, this place was not set up for profit. So, we have no regrets, no apologies. However, in terms of serving humanity, it has been worthwhile and fulfilling. We have been able to touch many lives and impart in them skills that will take them through life. Having the gallery in Olambe has made it possible to achieve both national and global visibility not only by my mounting a solo exhibition in 2009 but also building an Art Gallery and an Art Empowerment Centre/Museum.
Last year, you were able to pull crowd to Olambe when you organised the unique exhibition to celebrate Art icon,
Bruce Onobrakpeya at 83, how did you conceive that and what was the outcome?
The opening of the 1st GreenHouse Group Art Exhibition and the presentation of the maiden edition of the GreenHouse Art Journal, on September 12th, 2015, which lasted for about four months was great. The number of guests from various facets of life went beyond our expectations.
They included Community ;eaders and stakeholders, lecturers from the University of Lagos, Creative Arts Students, artists, friends, art enthusiasts, and the general public.
Legendary Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya was our guest Artist, amidst twelve other Nigerian Artists who exhibited their works. They include, Stella Awoh; Sam Ovraiti; Evelyn Osagie ; Olojo, Bolaji Ogunwo, Juliet Maja-Pearce; Oke Ibem Oke, Arinze, Awogbade and others.
Overall, the 2015 Group and Solo Art Exhibitions at the GreenHouse Art Gallery were an unqualified success. Professor Bruce Onobrakpeya added both class and colour to the Group Exhibition which turned out to be a moment of celebration for him on the occasion of his 83rd Birthday.
What of the Moving Art Exhibition, how far?
The Moving Art Exhibition was our starting point, which gave rise to all we do today.
Basically, by definition it is moving from school to school participating in educational and other social events. Presently, our Art Empowerment Centre is so organised that instead of our going to schools, we now encourage schools to visit us on TOUR of our various offerings such as: The Educational Museum consisting of both Ancient and Contemporary sections and the Private and Public Museums.
The GreenHouse Art Empowerment Centre (GHAEC) has engaged in at least one programme each month, ranging from Youth Empowerment to Women to Community Empowerment.