By Charles Ogwo
Natural talents grow into skillful talents, especially when nurtured. Likewise, some skills can be cultivated and nurtured to professional level. However, what is paramount in skill development is the passion of the learner.
Nigerian youths are gradually taking their passion for the Arts into greater heights by enrolling in Arts Academy to nurture their innate and acquired skills in the various forms of Arts.
In Oke-Afa, a suburb of Lagos (in the Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Area), many young Nigerians are ‘growing their artistic talents in an Arts Academy, that is silently churning out talented artists.
Billyrose Arts Academy, popularly known as Billyrose Signature, was founded in 1991 by Mr. Gbenga ‘Billyrose’ Adeyemi, a Master Member of National Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA).
The academy located at 3, Oke Afa – Isolo Road, by Jakande Gate, Isolo, has the founding philosophy: “Catching them young, getting the best out of the young ones creatively.”
Since its establishment, the academy has achieved much to turn raw artistic talents into professional recognised and fulfilled talents.
Presently, the Billyrose Academy is home to some budding talents that are dreaming of blossoming to artistic giants in the near future. There are about 20 students in session now. Some of the students are in the academy to acquire Diploma in Arts, that will enable them gain admission into tertiary institutions without necessarily passing through the Universal Tertiary Matriculation Examination(UTME).
The main criterion for admitting students into Billyrose Academy is simply passion.
“Once a student shows his/her passion for creativity, I will take it up from there. Arts is not for all. Passion is the key thing,” Adeyemi said.
Prosper Odianosen, joined the academy in October 2019 ‘to create his own world.’ Although a Science student in Secondary School, Odianosen, who is awaiting admission into Obafemi Awolowo University to study Pharmacology, decided to enroll in the academy to harness his creative arts skills, instead of being idle at home waiting for admission.
“I decided to invest my free time into acquiring artistic knowledge before furthering my studies,” he told The Educational Tide.
Odianosen draws his inspiration from watching cartoons and drawing objects around him. His role model is a hyper realistic artist, Stanley Arinze.
“I want to be like Stanley Arinze, who studied Agricultural Engineering but he is doing well as a creative artist,” he said.
For Emmanuel Anu, who has spent three years at the academy, he joined Billyrose because he wants to grow his creative talents. The south-paw believes Billyrose Academy is the best place for upcoming creative artists in painting, sculpture, drawing, and other Arts forms to nurture their skills.
“Billyrose has helped me discover my inert potentials which if not for him, I do not think I would have been able to discover,” he said.
Anu explained that he gets inspired by seeing other good art works.
“When I see good arts work, I am inspired to replicate such a work and even to exceed the creativeness in the work,” he stated.
However, the budding artist stated that the relative high cost of materials is his main challenge.
Moses Ikwuogbe, from Delta State, has spent six months in the academy. An Ordinary National Diploma (OND) Graduate of Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa, Nasarawa State, where he read Arts and Industrial Design, is presently on Industrial Training.
Ikwuogbe’s major ambition after his Higher National Diploma is to own an art gallery, where he will be able exhibit his creative arts.
He stated that his younger brothers are his major source of inspiration.
“My two younger brothers inspire me a lot. That is why the drawing there is work I am doing in their honour. By the time I’m through, I believe they will like it,” he said, pointing to a drawing on his canvas.
Abidemi Akinlade, who has spent two years at the academy, enrolled as a result of his quest of knowledge and to gain new perspectives to life by improving his creative skills.
Akinlade has Ron Moeck as his role model. And he hopes to own an Art gallery in future.
Rasheed Oladiti has spent 18 months at academy and is currently a first year student of Federal College of Education, Osiele, Abeokuta, Ogun State, where he is studying Fine and Applied Arts.
He was introduced to Billyrose Academy by his neighbor who saw his works and encouraged him to go there for proper tutoring and mentoring.
“I am here because I love Arts and need to be nurtured to be the best in the land. Billyrose is the best when it comes to creative and modeling”, he said.
Oladiti started his drawings with his parents’ pictures.
“I used to pick my parents pictures and begin to redraw them. And in most cases my drawings are either a replica of the pictures or even better,” he said with a smile.
He has Stanley Arinze and Adekunle Gold as his role models.
Like every other promising young creative artist, Oladiti aspires to own an Art gallery and to win awards and wide recognition in Creative Arts, especially in painting and drawing.
His major challenge is funding for him to get materials for his practical. His parents, according to him, have been very supportive and encouraging.
“My parents have always been there for me. I’m working hard to make them proud in future”, he said.
Adeyemi, a Graphic Design (Sculptor and Painting) Graduate of Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), had worked at Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Ibadan, as a Graphic Arts Assistant as well as at Federal College of Education, Osiele, Ogun State as Creative Arts Lecturer, before founding the academy.
Since the establishment, his outfit has won many awards and recognitions through its works and the skills exhibited by its students.
These include participating in an Art exhibition organized in honour of late Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin, the Second Republic Governor of Ondo State (now Ondo and Ekiti states) in Lagos (1996); and Best prize at the Adorning the Law Union and Rock exhibition (1997).
The quality niche of the academy is reflected in the quality of its graduates, who are exceling above their mates wherever they found themselves.
These include Muyiwa Akinwolere, a Nigerian contemporary artist whose works explore the nature of human behaviour and topics; and Henry Igba, the Head, Visual Communication, Media and Corporate Affairs Directorate of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State.
Adeyemi stated that the major challenge before Billyrose Academy is the negative perception of many Nigerians towards the Art profession. He said many Nigerians still regard Creative Arts and Painting as career for drop outs, who cannot do well in life. And this, he said, is a fallacy.
Besides, he frowns at the fact that art works such as paintings, sculptures, and others alike seem to be for the few rich people in Nigeria.
“Another challenge is the government’s lack of interest and support for private arts academy and other creative institutions that are helping to take the youths out of the streets by engaging them productively. This is unlike what is applicable in advanced countries where there are local arts funding to support the industry,” he said.
Adeyemi would like to see the Nigerian government, at all levels, emulate other developed countries in providing supports for various creative arts initiatives and actions to promote cultural activities and recognise achievements in the field in Nigeria.