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Aug 27, 2003

NICH statutory instrument signed

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Driving down Regent Street in Belize City you can’t help but notice that there is some major construction work going on at two of the city’s most beloved buildings: the House of Culture and the Bliss Institute. When will it all end and what will the results be? This Monday, Minister of Culture, Mark Espat, toured the construction sites and today he signed the statutory instrument creating the National Institute for Culture and History. NICH will govern not only the activities at the Bliss and House of Culture, but other Houses of Culture around the country, the museums, as well as what used to be the Belize Arts Council and the Department of Archaeology. News 5 spoke with Minister Espat this morning about the relationship between tourism and culture.

Mark Espat, Minister of Culture

“Well unlike what some people may think, we are not merging the two, there has to be a distinction. And yes, our tourists afford us a good market to sell our products, or to be a part of the audience; the larger audience to what we believe is a dynamic Belizean culture. But what we want to do, the cultural work we have planned for the Institute of Creative Arts, for the Institute of Archaeology, for the Institute of Social and Cultural Research, for the Museum, those agendas are driven by what we think is a Belizean agenda. And we think that we want to have more musicians involved, more of our artists involved, more of our performers. And with the new structures we have put in place, with our board of directors, with an administrator, with four heads of departments, with a staff that is highly motivated, with an action plan, I think that it is a good thing for tourism, but primarily I think it’s a good thing for Belize.”

Espat says the Bliss should reopen in January. It will be air-conditioned, have a theatre with seats for six hundred and twenty people, rehearsal halls, and a cafeteria. The House of Culture should open sometime in October and will house a permanent colonial era collection, as well as provide display space for contemporary artist. It will be the headquarters for the National Institute for Social and Cultural Research and provide conference facilities and a library for scholars.

With considerable government investment in the renovation of both venues, News 5 asked NICH Chairman Yasser Musa how the four departments will find funding for their programmes and activities.

Yasser Musa, Chairman, NICH

“We’ll be working under one umbrella now, so to speak, and one

one budget, so that we all know exactly what our limitations, and our expectations are. We have a set of resources that we are gonna try and tap into. For example, the Institute of Archaeology has great potential if we set up proper systems to manage our national archaeological parks, to collect fees at those parks and manage those fees properly. We can then negotiate how these monies are spent among the four institutions.”

Members of the NICH Board of Directors are Alvin Henderson, Valentino Shal, Denise Courtenay, Mamie Martinez, Tracy Taegar, Joseph Palacio and Deon Pascascio.

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