National Institute of Arts (NIA) was honored by Prins Bernhard Culture Funds Caribbean Region PBCCG with the culture prize on St. Maarten in a small, intimate ceremony at Pasture Piece in Cul de Sac on Wednesday evening.

The event was attended by the Governor of St. Maarten Ajamu Baly and his wife.

During the presentation of the prize, PBCCG officials explained why NIA was chosen to receive that culture prize. They said NIA has become a household name in St. Maarten, providing a platform for the expression and development of art and culture in numerous forms.

PBCCG officials said NIA has become a necessary platform where arts, artistry, and artists come together in a safe, nurturing environment to create, explore art, find one’s personal voice, document our story and history, create tangible works of lived experiences, acquire creative artistic skills and create platforms for youth.

PBCCG officials noted the role NIA had played after the passing of Hurricane Irma in 2017 and again with the COVID-19 pandemic through art-focused projects provided for persons.

They highlighted the significant number of persons who are reached by NIA, noting that on a weekly basis NIA teaches 1,500-2,000 students, giving various classes.

During the ceremony, several persons who have worked closely with NIA took the opportunity to share their congratulatory remarks with the founders and fellow representatives.

NIA co-founder Arlene Halley joined her team and fellow co-founder Clara Reyes at the podium and thanked PBCCG not only for the recognition that evening but also for being a great source of support over the years. She recounted how PBCCG had reached out after Irma and again with the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact this had not only for NIA, but all the students and persons who took part in the classes.

Halley also gave recognition to her team and the roles each person had played in the institution.

Reyes gave a short tale of the development of NIA’s famous logo and how the two founders, after many years, had come together to create the art institute. She shared her hopes to see continued growth in the arts and culture in St. Maarten.

The culture prize is awarded in Aruba, Saba, St. Eustatius, Bonaire, St. Maarten, and Curaçao for achievement in the fields of history, literature, visual arts, music, theatre, arts and cultural education, monument care, and nature conservation performed by a person or an organization established on one of the six Dutch islands.

The PBCCG culture prize aims to draw attention to the winner’s work, to stimulate the production of high-quality performances in those areas.

The PBCCG culture prize is in the shape of an egg, designed by Hortence Brouwn, a visual artist in Curaçao.

The evening ended with a surprise performance of singing and dancing by NIA students.