The TallMan Foundation is an NGO committed to building social bridges using the vehicle of the Arts to give the youth, especially young men, an opportunity to grow tall. The TallMan vision is geared toward establishing an Academy for the Arts in Gonzales, our first community of engagement, where we work in partnership with the NGO, CIT+E. This effort began in 2005 with a Photography Workshop and today includes Photography, Videography and Video Editing Workshops, a Dance Workshop with Elle Incorporated, a Drama Workshop with Lilliput Theatre, a Music Workshop with Holistic Music School and a Vocals Workshop with the Marionettes Chorale.
Why the Name?
Most Trinidadians will know someone called “Tallman”. It’s a popular colloquial nickname for someone who seems taller than the rest, and in fact, The TallMan Foundation did derive its name from one family’s life-altering interaction with a person known as Tallman. Where the naming of the Foundation was inspired in part by an individual, ‘TallMan’ also carries depth and layers of meaning, making it an apt name and symbol for an organization dedicated to intervention in the lives of young people, and particularly young men, in Trinidad and Tobago.
A TallMan sees further, reaches higher, sets an example by standing tall. See acclaimed Trinidadian actor and 3 Canal founder and singer, Wendell Manwarren, feature speaker at TallMan’s 2010 graduation, as he speaks about the TallMan motto of ‘Stand tall, reach further and see beyond’.
Where it Began
In 2004 the founding members of the TallMan Foundation chose to start its work in the village of Gonzales which at the time was struggling under the heavy burden of gang violence. As a small part of a partnership of community, religious and political stakeholders the Foundation’s earliest involvement consisted of funding and equipping a photography club for young people.
How we Grew
The seed was planted. The popularity of the photography course, coupled with the founding members’ own belief in the transformative powers of the Arts, led to a big jump for TallMan, from funding one course, to designing and implementing an Arts program offering workshops in different disciplines, such as videography, drama, dance, music. This marked the first steps toward the overarching dream of TallMan, to establish a performing arts company with its own performancce space in the community itself.
As the program grew, one of the unexpected offshoots was the positive impact of the human relationships formed between members of the Foundation, both volunteer committee and students. A sense of pride and accomplishment was shared by all after a successful exhibition or performance by the students. This led to the natural expansion of the initial mission of the Foundation. In addition to ‘transformation through the Arts’ TallMan could now add ‘building social bridges’ to its aims, having experienced firsthand the dispelling of stereotypes and, the real relationship possible when both sides of a perceived divide are prepared to take a step towards each other and participate in achieving a common end.
In tandem with this new thrust, TallMan introduced a new workshop entitled ‘TallMan Talk’. A workshop devoted to personal development this innovative workshop gives the youth a forum for discussion and an opportunity to have their voice heard. To date it has been the most popular of the workshops on offer, boasting record attendence of close to 30 students per session.