Phuket-based artist Jim Newport first displayed his multimedia piece, “D.O.A” (Dead On Arrival), at the FREEZE exhibition at HOME art gallery and restaurant on April 9. The show featured works of art created from recycled refrigerator doors salvaged from Phuket junkyards. Thirteen local and international artists participated. Mr Newport arranged his doors to resemble the freezer doors in a morgue, which featured newspaper photographs and headlines, overlapped with heavy brushstrokes, and cross stripes of yellow-and-black warning tape. Clearly evocative of the results of road accidents, the piece aims to reflect on the annual carnage that occurs on the streets of Phuket due to reckless driving.
Over 2,500 children die and 75,000 are permanently injured each year in Thailand due to motorcycle accidents. Only seven per cent of children who are taken on motorcycles wear helmets, making Mr Newport’s art piece very pertinent to the overarching safety issues that millions across the country face due to questionable driving, unsafe roads and a lack of focus on the safety of individuals who are commuting.
Sean Panton, the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for JW Marriott, saw “D.O.A” at the exhibition, and asked to use the piece for his Save The Children helmet campaign, and on June 17 at the JW Marriott Mai Khao, Mr Newport officially handed over “D.O.A.” to the Marriott Thailand. It is being used as a centrepiece with the Save Our Children campaign – providing crash helmets for Phuket’s children.
“I immediately realised that this would automatically give my message a much broader audience. When I went to the Marriott for the handover I was very impressed by the level of corporate responsibility Sean is able to instill into the hearts and minds of the employees. For instance, there is a policy that if an employee shows up for work without a helmet, they are sent home,” explained Mr Newport.
The Marriott has been involved with the Save Our Children campaign since October 2014. The campaign aims to raise awareness about road safety through helmet education, fundraising, and other activities at local schools. Sean’s programme has hosted eleven helmet-centred events and donated over 700 children’s helmets across the country. They have also painted road line markings at five local schools.
In the most recent iteration of this campaign, the Marriott hosted the launch of Save The Children’s 7% Helmet campaign (a clear reference to the helmet-less statistic) in November, and the campaign is expected to continue to grow.
Mr Newport’s art piece is, in many ways, very representative of how important artistic expression can be to catalysing interest and bringing to focus overarching social issues that make up contexts.
“Sean is making a difference and I am very happy to be a part of anything he is behind,” says Mr Newport, who adds that artistic support can be an intrinsic part of motivating social change.
Following this, Mr Newport is sketching ideas for a potential piece called “WALLS”, drawing attention to the blocking of the island’s beautiful views by the ugly walls used to conceal construction sites.
For anyone interested in further artistic insight, Home Kitchen on Kalim Beachfront is preparing their next show, “Knockoff”, for high season, to celebrate the culture that encompasses fake and counterfeit products.