Culture

'Brigidy Bram'

August 29, 2014

A Bahamian visual artist, Bahamian filmmaker and American filmmaker walk into a studio - this is not the beginning of a tongue-in-cheek joke; it's what Toby Lunn, Kareem Mortimer and Laura Gamse have been doing since early 2014 with the making of their documentary "Brigidy Bram". Focusing on the life and work of Bahamian master artist Kendal Hanna, "Brigidy Bram" highlights Hanna's journey through the Bahamian art world, his 1950s diagnosis of schizophrenia, the resulting electric shock therapy and his recovery through artistic creation.
Screening her first film, "The Creators" - a documentary shot in South Africa - at the 2011 Bahamas International Film Festival (BIFF), Gamse made the acquaintance of artist Lunn, who showed her to the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB).
"I was completely distracted by the walls, which were [covered in] Kendal's work. It was all of his self-portraits," said Gamse. "I was like, 'Toby who did this stuff?' and he said, 'Oh that's Kendal'. And Kendal had actually come with us to the National Art Gallery."
Originally from Virginia, Gamse was captivated by the septuagenarian's "1950s dialect". "He still has all of the nuances and phrases that have evolved out of our language, and I just liked the way he presented himself. And then I heard that he had a history with schizophrenia and electroshock therapy, and it seemed like a story that could be explored."
So she did. Wasting no time, Gamse left and returned to the country in early 2012, camera kit in tow. She entered the Bahamian International Film Festival, making Hanna the subject of her documentary. The film was awarded the Bahamian Oscar for best short film, catching the attention of Bahamian filmmaker Kareem Mortimer.
In December 2012 Gamse and Lunn committed to fleshing out the shorter film into a full-length documentary. "The short film was always lacking because we were missing so much of his life, and Kendal has had a really crazy life with some experiences that are just straight out of a movie...and we wanted to portray them much better than we would have on a $3,000 budget," said Gamse.
"Brigidy Bram" was born. With Gamse and Lunn mostly working on the project remotely, barring Gamse's periodical trips to The Bahamas to film, the duo made a push to complete the project this year. They invited Mortimer to be a part of the project in early 2014 as an editor and producer. Having seen the original shorter film, the Bahamian director, known for his award-winning films, which include "Children of God" and "Passage", was intrigued.
"They (Lunn and Gamse) just wanted to open the film up a bit more...and really flesh out the story of Kendal," said Mortimer. "And they also offered me an opportunity to come on as a producer to think about festival strategies and how to launch the film, and that type of work is really exciting to me because I've been doing this for a really long time, and so I have relationships with festivals, and it would be really fun to connect a story like that with people I know."
The trio, whose experiences in filmmaking range from novice to professional, view the collaboration as a win-win-win enterprise. Gamse, in particular, is grateful for the additional link to the Bahamian community and further insight into the local culture.
"I don't like when people kind of jump into a new culture and all of a sudden find themselves experts and make films about it. So I think it's important, when you're making a film based in a place that you are not from, to include someone in the creative process or hopefully more than one person who is actually from that place," she said.
Named for an old Bahamian interjection - one which Hanna himself uses frequently - "Brigidy Bram" goes beyond the work of a traditional documentary, according to Gamse. "It tries to delve into his mind and bring you into his mental landscape - the fabric of his reality. We're trying to let you live through his eyes; with that comes a different texture and cadence of experience, whether caused by one's unique life events or just a different mental landscape than the average person."
As a visual artist, Lunn is a direct link to the local visual arts community; Mortimer has professed a personal interest in the documentary's subject matter. "I entered this film purely for fan reasons," said Mortimer. "Kendal is actually one of my favorite painters in The Bahamas. Kendal's story is the story of an artist who persevered though all these tribulations for the sake of his art because it's what completes him, and I think that's a very powerful story to be led by your passion and still be happy, despite all these things."
The trio hope to complete production in September 2014 with a premiere in late 2014 or early 2015. It is Gamse's hope that the documentary shines new light and insight on a fascinating artist.
"I hope they fall in love with Kendal," she said. "He's just such a unique person and it would be easy for him to kind of just pass through this world and not have many people notice what a brilliant person he is, the value of his work to the global art world, and how unique and intriguing his life has been and continues to be."

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Paying it forward at the Pro Gallery

August 29, 2014

College of The Bahamas (COB) student Jodi Minnis knows it isn't easy starting an artist's career. President of the Pro Society, COB's art society, Minnis understands the vitality of a strong social support network for up-and-coming artists. As a Popop prize winner, she's been given a broad platform of exposure by some of the country's most respected visual artists.
Taken under the wing of Antonius Roberts, as his curatorial assistant at The Central Bank of The Bahamas, Minnis' experience working with Roberts has afforded her the opportunity to mature as an artist and future professional curator. That's why she vouches for the importance in recognizing some of the most significant mentoring relationships in The Bahamas' visual arts community. Now, Minnis, along with Pro Society Vice President Celeste Harding, are paying homage to these bonds with the Pro Gallery's most recent exhibition, The Past that Sharpened the Present.
Featuring the work of four Bahamian artists, John Beadle, Stan Burnside, John Cox and Antonius Roberts, The Past that Sharpened the Present opened this past Wednesday. The exhibition reflects Harding and Minnis' desire to "give the students an idea of the richness of the art community and how closely related the college is with the wider art community" while also highlighting the role that mentoring has played within the quartet.
"I know what having relationships with seasoned artists and people in the field that you want to be in can do for young artists," said Minnis. "I know through research. And through listening to Mr. Beadle talk, I know what his relationship with Mr. Burnside did for him. I went to Schooner Bay with Mr. Roberts and Mr. Cox for the Popop prize, and through listening to them and seeing them engage, I know what their relationship is about. It's more than a professional relationship."
Curated by Minnis and Harding, inspiration for the exhibition came out of the students' eagerness to develop the space as a gallery that professional artists might use. It would be easier said than done. With the Pro Gallery needing a little TLC, the society leaders took matters into their own hands. Thanks to a little elbow grease, cosmetic repairs and a private donation, the space can now proudly host the works of some of The Bahamas' legendary visual artists.
The Past that Sharpened the Present is getting the ball rolling with the first chance to see works by the four artists displayed together at The College of The Bahamas. Minnis hopes that the show will serve as a stimulant "for the renewal of the integrity of the gallery and the exposure to the student body" of the local art community's intellect and talents.
The exhibition's opening coincides with the beginning of COB's academic year - this timing is not by chance. Minnis believes in the importance of giving new art students an opportunity to see the art department's capabilities.
"I've encountered a lot of students who have fallen into other majors because they were unsure of the art department, unsure of what we do, unsure of the type of relationships they would form while being here," said Minnis. "We're having a series of shows to highlight the potential of the department."
Artist and COB art lecturer Michael Edwards finds Minnis and Harding's initiative an encouraging move for the art department.
"I think it's pretty good that students are engaging in curatorial work and taking an active role in the gallery, in running their own space, in galvanizing support for The College of The Bahamas and for the Pro Gallery," he said. "I think it sets a precedent for this art department moving forward."
The Past that Sharpened the Present will be open to the public until September 6. The Pro Gallery's visiting hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Thursday. Those interested in learning more about the Pro Society and Pro Gallery are encouraged to visit their Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/ProSocietyCOB and https://www.facebook.com/ProGallery, respectively.

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Concerns over The Past that Sharpened the Present

August 29, 2014

We, the curators of The Past that Sharpened the Present, thank everyone who was present, or present in spirit, at the opening event. We greatly appreciate the support, love and guidance.
It has come to our attention that our endeavors have been misinterpreted, misunderstood and have offended many. We humbly apologize for this misunderstanding, and, as we progress, we will do our best to circumvent this from happening again.
With that being said, and acknowledging that those comments were not made directly, we would like to give those concerned an opportunity to engage with us and express their concerns. The Pro Gallery will be hosting a talk to allow a formal and professional dialogue between the curators and general public on September 9, 2014 in the Pro Gallery, S9, The College of The Bahamas.
We wish to express our thanks for the public's continued support, love and positivity.

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Signaling shifts in Nassau Harbour

August 22, 2014

Blue Curry is a Bahamian artist currently living in London, who flies his flags in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Known primarily for his installation works that broach cultural and historical themes, in 2013 Curry was asked to take part in Unsettled Landscapes, a biennial exhibition featuring the work of artists from Nunavut all the way to Tierra del Fuego, and countries in between.
Held at Site Santa Fe, Unsettled Landscapes opened in July 2014. The exhibition examines the "urgencies, political conditions and historical narratives that inform the work of contemporary artists across the Americas". Each work in the show responds to three themes: landscape, territory and trade.
Curry's childhood memories of a tourism-saturated Downtown Nassau were the catalyst for his proposal for Unsettled Landscapes.
"I started by remembering how, as a boy, the cruise ships would come into Nassau Harbour and how dramatic the difference was between just walking around kind of two-story or four-story buildings, and suddenly something the size of a cruise ship comes in and creates this new city," he said.
Seeing the cruise port through a sculptor's eyes, Curry noted the port's shifting shape each time one of the massive vessels arrived or left.
"I'd often see the cruise ship port as a sculptor, because, if you look at the ships, on no two days, does that combination of ships in the port look exactly the same. So I would see it as sculpture and the combinations of the ships coming in, the way they dock and the formations they make, as a sculpture."
Looking to the past for inspiration again, Curry drew on his knowledge of Fort Fincastle and its historical flagpole, which served as an effective communication method for the port, Nassau's residents and incoming ships, in years gone.
"That was at a time when you could look to the top of that hill and see the flagpole - people did commonly know what the flags stood for, so they knew what was going on in Nassau Harbour," said the artist. "Time progressed and flagpoles became obsolescent. Beyond that, the downtown port became predominantly a port for cruise liners, so it served no more purpose. At one moment that flagpole would have been so important, and it has no relevance at all now."
With his wheels turning, Curry offered the concept of presenting Downtown Nassau as a "site for sculpture and installation, rather than a site for just
consumption" to Unsettled Landscapes' curatorial team. His proposal began with the installation of a live video camera taping the port and displaying the "sculptural formations of cruise ships coming in and out".
In a twist on the Fort Fincastle flag post, the artist recreated a signal mast outside of the Site Santa Fe gallery. Curry highlights the impact of The Bahamas' largest industry on its landscape with a pole of nondescript, patterned beach towels fashioned into flags. Each flag represents one of the 40 cruise lines expected to arrive in Nassau Harbour for the duration of Unsettled Landscapes. Inside the Site Santa Fe gallery, the installation is complemented by a projected broadcast of the live streaming from the video camera situated in Nassau and shelves of meticulously folded flags representing the ships that are not currently in Nassau Harbour.
"It's the responsibility of the gallery staff, according to the cruise ship schedules, to raise and lower flags when ships are in the port of Nassau," said Curry. "...One sculpture in Nassau activates another in Santa Fe. Just like cruise ships, it's always changing. There is not really a day that the flag poles always look the same."
Curry has pointed out the symbolism involved in his use of the beach towels as flags.
"The beach towel I'm using it in a sly way," he said. "It is a means of conquest. If only for a day, when tourists go to the beach, they throw these towels down, and they can occupy a beach for a day. This sort of taking over of space that tourists do on a daily basis maybe doesn't affect us, but maybe psychologically it does, as a very small act of conquest. I'm interested in the beach towel as a material that you can use to possess a piece of land, a piece of the beach, if only for the day."
The Unsettled Landscapes exhibition will be up until January 2015. Those interested in finding out more about the space are encouraged to visit its website at https://sitesantafe.org/. More information about Blue Curry and his work as well as a link to his installation's live video stream can be found online at http://www.bluecurry.com/index.html.

Jump: Curry examines beach towels as tools of conquest

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Chasing dreams across the globe

August 16, 2014

When he hopped on a plane heading for China in 2013, Alistair Stevenson wasn't about to let any language barrier get in the way of his eight-year dream.An 11th grade art class was enough to kick-start an enthusiasm for ceramics that he would find himself chasing around the globe in years to come.Growing up on Long Island, Stevenson first experimented with ceramics as a student at N.G.M. Major High School, Long Island, when a local cesspit excavation revealed clay in the area and workers handed it over to the school's art teacher. It was around that time that he first met local ceramicist and philanthropist Joann Behagg, who traveled to Long Island from Nassau to conduct a ceramics workshop at Stevenson's school. The two met again later at The College of The Bahamas (COB), where Behagg taught Stevenson, who was then in pursuit of his associate degree in art, and recruited him as her studio assistant. For four years, Stevenson worked and studied under Behagg, leaving only for a job at the D'Aguilar Art Foundation (DAF) in 2012.A year later he was off to China, more specifically Nanjing, where he's been living for the past year, getting a solid grip on Mandarin. His new language skills will come in handy next month, when he'll move to Jingdezhen to begin the first year of his bachelor's degree in ceramic art at Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute. The artist is nothing if not anxious to get his hands mucky in a city with one of the oldest pottery traditions in the world."I figured it was one of the best places for me to go to study ceramics because they have such a long history in it," said Stevenson. "The city in particular where I'm going has at least 1,500 years of history in producing pottery, and is most well known for producing about 90 percent of the world's blue and white porcelain."Having come home for the summer holiday, Stevenson will soon be gearing up to pack his bags again; before he does, though, he's got some business to attend to.On Thursday, the ceramicist opened his second solo exhibition, Outlets, at the D'Aguilar Art Foundation. A fundraising event, Stevenson hopes the sales from Outlets will provide him with living expenses as he begins his studies in Jingdezhen. If his first show is any indication, the artist's prospects look positive. Held a year ago at the DAF, Stevenson's Growth exhibition laid a strong foundation for the artist's reputation in The Bahamas. Inspired by the natural environment, featuring root, tree and coral-like elements, nearly each piece in the collection found a home after the show.Ah show was very successful," he said. "Nineteen out of 20 pieces sold, which I was quite proud of. It's fun for your first solo show to be a sell-out."Outlets pairs up Stevenson's ceramics with a series of his photography and sketches in a marriage reflecting "the idea of an outlet and ways you find to release and find a calm". This year the artist also pays homage to Bahamian folklore by giving Lusca - the half shark, half octopus beast said to be lurking in Andros' blue holes - a starring role as a recurrent motif. "Art is an expression of my interests and my thoughts and sort of a manifestation of that," he said. "Of course people have different means of doing that... for me, visual art is the best way to do that."Even with four years of studies ahead of him, Stevenson is planning his next globetrotting adventure, which he hopes will take him to the Mediterranean."In about five years, if I'm able to, I'd like to go to Italy to study for a bit to do my master's," he explained. "I have a deep interest in figurative sculpture. I think because it's something that's not very common in The Bahamas, I would like to see more of it here, and I think if I can do that I'd be happy to do so. So, Italy has a lot of figurative sculpture, and it's an option right now."Never without a back-up plan, the ceramicist admits that he would be content to return to The Bahamas, newfound skills in tow."I would like to come back home and start a ceramics factory myself," he said. "[The pieces] would be between my own fine art work and domestic ware. I think it would be fun to do really clean, well-done porcelain pieces made in The Bahamas."Stevenson's work will be on display at the D'Aguilar Art Foundation from August 14-22. For the duration of the exhibition, the gallery will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.

o Anyone interested in finding out more about Stevenson or his work is encouraged to contact the ceramicist at astvnson@gmail.com or visit his blog at http://astvnson.tumblr.com/.

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Four collectors sharing common ground

August 16, 2014

In keeping with the ongoing celebrations of its 40th anniversary, The Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBB) weaved a bit of business and pleasure at The Central Bank of The Bahamas Young Collectors Exhibition on Thursday past. Honing in on a group of young art collectors, Antonius Roberts, curator of the CBB Art Gallery, hopes to highlight the bank's work in making art accessible to younger generations of potential collectors.He has started close to home. Collaborating with four employees of The Central Bank of The Bahamas, Roberts has brought together pieces from the private collections of Banking Department Manager Derek Rolle, Examiner V Ruth Johnson, Administrative Manager Ian Fernander and Deputy Legal Counsel Stacey Benjamin in an exhibition that he hopes will "inspire more young professionals to engage in the process of collecting art"."My role at the Central Bank is really to reconnect the wider public with the Central Bank, and the role of the Central Bank has always been to inspire and to create opportunities for the young talent in the country," said Roberts.Sharing common ground, the four collectors were selected for their relationship with the bank and its influence on their affinity for visual arts. With frequent exhibitions and a permanent collection exposing staff to Bahamian artwork, Roberts thinks it was The Central Bank that sparked the employees' desire to begin to build their respective collections.Derek Rolle would probably agree. The deputy manager remembers the day he was "bitten with the bug" and developed a profound reverence for art."It hit me one day -- at a [Holly] Parotti exhibit -- the fascinating interpretation by the artist. I found it mind-boggling. A simple object became the most complex vision -- through the artist's eyes -- and that was translated onto a canvas for all to see," he recalled. "From that day, I was bitten with the bug. A fellow collector nodded at me at that moment and said, 'We welcome you to the fold'. At that point, I still wasn't sure I was a collector. I had made an awesome purchase that I marveled at, but I still did not consider myself a collector. As time went on, and I found myself acquiring pieces -- not for the sake of collecting, but for sake of the emotion they evoked -- I became a collector. Sometimes [I was] tortured by a piece, sometimes haunted, but a collector nonetheless."Roberts and assistant Jodi Minnis, who is also one of this year's Popop artists-in-residence, selected the show's works from the collectors' respective sets. In choosing each piece, the curators were influenced by each connoisseur's attachment to particular works."You kind of saw the excitement in their faces when they talked about certain works, like the story behind why they collect and why they bought that piece," said Minnis. "That helped when we were trying to decide which pieces to pick."With many works dating back to their creators' high school years, Roberts and Minnis also hope that the show will give the artists an opportunity to examine their individual progressions over the years.

"The exhibition itself is a way to get artists to reengage with their works, because some of the work is stuff they did a very long time ago," explained Minnis. "It gives artists an idea of where they've come from to where they are now, and I think that that's a very interesting aspect of the exhibition as well."Elaborating on why the show offers such a reflective flair, Roberts pointed out that many young professionals choose to begin acquiring artwork while artists are young because "people assume that those works are more affordable"."We are trying to send a message to young professionals... that you can be engaged in this whole process and it's really not a costly exercise," he said. "It just depends on when and where you want to get into the game."The Central Bank of The Bahamas Young Collectors Exhibit will be available to the public until September 6.

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Take a spin on the potter's wheel

August 09, 2014

Though often overshadowed by the country's alarming rates of diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity, hunger continues to be a tragic problem throughout our small island nation. That's why artist Joann Behagg has decided to do her part to reduce the number of growling bellies going to bed at night.
She'd heard of Empty Bowls - a simple concept developed by Lisa Blackburn and John Hartom in Michigan, U.S.A. The event offers guests a meal of soup and bread and a handcrafted ceramic bowl - representing the numerous empty bowls around the globe - in exchange for a donation. The money raised is given to local organizations dedicated to feeding the hungry.
Armed with a kiln and decades-long experience in ceramics, she held the first Empty Bowls Bahamas (EBB) event in 2009. Hoping to raise awareness of ceramics in the country for a good cause, Behagg's EBB piqued the interest of the surrounding community, but was not without its hiccups. The first event "barely made any money at all", according to Behagg, who recalls having to spend out of pocket for the first few years when there was "no money for the following year (to purchase supplies)".
Now depending on the kindness of strangers, Behagg has asked EBB members to donate toward operation and expenses that come from purchasing and importing materials like clay and glazes. In good faith, the community has taken it a step further.
"The Bahamas has been very generous, and people have been very generous, and schools have been very generous, especially the private schools. They have allowed us to use their facilities - by facilities I mean their kilns. And some private individuals have allowed us to use their kilns," she said. "We sent out a circular last year, and people were so kind. They were even offering to let us use their ovens in their bakeries."
Demanding approximately 3,000 handmade bowls each year, preparation for the event takes a toll.
"It's a lot of running up and down," said Behagg. "I'm running from St. Andrews, to Lyford Cay, to Stapledon, up and down and round and round, and back to my kiln. So it's a lot of movement."
That's why she's decided to get a head start. Behagg has already started making the bowls for Empty Bowls Bahamas 2015, and she's inviting the community to help. Reaching out to public figures and Urban Renewal officials, she received a response from the Killarney Constituency Office, which offered the space for her EBB preparations.
Every Saturday, from 2 to 5:30 p.m., Behagg and EBB volunteers can be found at the office with bowls, clay or glaze in hand. Welcoming anyone with a willingness to help, she's appealing to volunteers of all ages, creeds and political affiliations.
"As long as we have people, we will keep doing it until we get the bowls done. We'd like anyone to come. It isn't just open to Killarney. It's open to anyone. Kids are welcome," she said.
Hoping that volunteers benefit from the experience, Behagg welcomes young Bahamians with an interest in learning to throw on the potter's wheel for a good cause.
"We're looking for young people to teach them how to use our wheel so they can work for us," she said. "We have nine wheels, and we will happily teach people who want to work for Empty Bowls. If they'll work, I will teach them."
Though Empty Bowls' roots are in the U.S., the organization can now be found in countries across the world, including Brazil, the U.K. and Canada. Behagg hopes to use her events to connect Bahamians and Bahamian culture with ceramics by putting a cultural spin on Empty Bowls. The soup served at Empty Bowls often consists of traditional Bahamian recipes like peas soup and dumpling and pumpkin soup; entertainment is largely comprised of Bahamian music and other oratory art forms.
"I think there's so little to do in Nassau as a venue and it's something different," said the ceramicist. "And I think they like the idea of having their children take part in the event, because we take a wheel over there and kids and adults get a chance to play with the clay in a different way. I think it's intriguing for people to try the potter's wheel."
EBB is holding its first thanksgiving and check presentation service on Friday, August 15 at 6:30 p.m. Hosted by Holy Cross Amnesty Church, supporters, EBB members and those who want to learn more about EBB are invited to attend. Anyone interested in supporting Empty Bowls Bahamas is asked to make a donation directly to the organization through its account at Commonwealth Bank. Behagg asks those interested in using art to work toward eliminating hunger throughout the country to join her on Saturdays.
"I'm actually feeding people," the ceramicist said. "I'm quite happy about that. It's a lot of work but I enjoy it."

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Art supplies drive hopes to give art students a lift

August 09, 2014

At some point in the next week or so, many parents will probably find themselves tossing packs of coloring pencils and glue into their trolleys, alongside notebooks and highlighters. The gesture, often overlooked by many, is an act of love and generosity - these parents are able to spend their money on the tools their kids need to do well in all their classes, art included.
It's a sad fact that many parents in The Bahamas are not able to provide their children with materials for all of their classes; similarly, with limited funding, public schools are often left picking and choosing the subjects that are deemed important enough to warrant new supplies. It's no surprise that art often falls between the cracks.
Attending a 2013 art opening, Jordia Benjamin and Orchid Burnside made the acquaintance of an art teacher lamenting the fact that his students couldn't afford standard art supplies, like pencils and paper. Describing the situation as "sort of crazy", Burnside soon after joined forces with Benjamin, an art historian and former educational officer at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB); the duo began brainstorming ways to address the situation.
"We thought about what we could do to fix it and we came up with an art supplies drive, it's a very simple concept, but very effective," said Burnside.
The drive is a collaboration between the NAGB and Doongalik Studios, who, last year, partnered with neighboring junior and senior high schools to donate supplies; Doongalik supported nearby LW Young, and the NAGB took on CR Walker.
"What happens in the education system is that people do take art seriously, but it is at the bottom of the list," said Burnside. "So when you have other things to purchase that you deem more important, oftentimes art gets sort of swept to the wayside, or trouble students are placed in art because no one else wants to deal with them. We're just trying to change that mindset and meet a shortfall so people who are taking art, who are interested in art, have all the tools at their disposal to maximize their potential."
In its second year, the art supplies drive continues to be held in August to facilitate donations.
"We try to do it in the back-to-school season, so you're already out shopping for school supplies," said Burnside. "You can easily pick up another pack of colored pencils or some paper or a watercolor set - whatever it is that's easy and fits in your budget - and donate it to the drive."
Supplies of all shapes and sizes are collected at the NAGB and Doongalik for the entire month. "We got everything last year", said Burnside, listing off art pencils, sketch books, canvases, paints, teaching resources and clay as just a few of the materials donated by supporters and artists in the community. The art supplies drive also accepts monetary donations, of which "every last penny" is used to purchase additional materials, according to Burnside.
In the first week of September, when school opens, Burnside and Benjamin will make presentations to each school. This year, they are supporting three public schools - two on New Providence and another in Andros. The schools, which have not yet been announced, are all junior or senior high schools; Burnside and Benjamin hope to provide young Bahamians who might be seriously considering art as a career with the necessary tools.
"For me, it's less about my personal feelings and more about what we can achieve as an art community. Something that's really nice is last year a lot of artists actually gave some supplies that they had in their storerooms that they weren't using. And they really came together and they supported this cause, and I think it's important that, as an art community, we have this obligation to help the next generation of aspiring artists," Burnside said.
According to Burnside, last year's students and school administrators were particularly grateful for the support, and this month, the students will get a chance to show off the fruits of their labor. From August 14 to 31, the NAGB will hold an exhibition featuring artwork created by LW Young students during the 2013/2014 school year.
While at the gallery, art educators are encouraged to inquire about the art lesson plans and teaching resources made available through the NAGB, free of charge. Educators who are not beneficiaries of the drive are also asked to contact the NAGB throughout the year to find out more about accessing other free resources.
Though the drive officially ends August 31, Burnside and Benjamin will be accepting donations, on behalf of schools, throughout the year. Donations can be dropped off at Doongalik Studios, on Village Road, or at the NAGB, on West and West Hill Streets. Anyone interested in supporting the drive is encouraged to contact the art galleries at 394-1886 (Doongalik) or 328-5800 (NAGB).

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Stop by and see...

August 09, 2014

Tonight, The Takeoff, a concert in aid of jazz singer Cazna Hinds' educational funding, will be taking place at the National Centre for the Performing Arts at 7 p.m. For more information, call 242-698-1679.
Matthew Wildgoose' second annual art exhibition is being held at the Balmoral Club. The pop art artist's work will be on display until Monday, August 11.

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Buildings Are People Too opens at Baha Mar's Glass Bridge

August 02, 2014

Four weeks ago, Piaget Moss and Veronica Dorsett were featured in Guardian Arts&Culture as Baha Mar's first artists-in-residence. Nearly one month later, the young artists have completed their residency program, going out with a bang with the first Baha Mar exhibition in its Glass Bridge gallery.
Buildings Are People Too opened on Thursday, July 31, and showcases Moss and Dorsett's works created over a seven-week period in the Baha Mar art studio. The show's theme was chosen by Moss, who developed a bond with some of the mega-resort's construction workers. Armed with a basic understanding of Mandarin and a hardhat, she took to the construction site, returning with a better understanding of the builders' personalities, families and backgrounds.
"I sort of went from viewing them as a body of construction workers who are just here to build a building to these people with lives and with histories that are the driving force of the Baha Mar project," she said.
Much of the material used in the show was found on the Baha Mar construction site; many of the pieces are mixed media and several feature Mandarin writing, courtesy of Moss and Dorsett's alliance with a China Construction America Inc. (CCA) employee-turned-muse known simply as Jerry.
"We met one of the guys from CCA. His name is Jerry, and Piaget had him paint onto one of her pieces and I said, 'Can you write on this piece for me (Dorsett's work aptly titled 'Jerry'), and I want you to write anything'," said Dorsett. "So he wrote, 'One team, One dream', which is their slogan. And then on the side, he wrote in Mandarin 'Two beautiful girls asked me to write something, but I don't know what to say', and then the other side says 'Artists need ideas like construction needs workers', which I thought was a really nice analogy. Him writing on it just tied the entire thing together."
Held in an unconventional space, the Glass Bridge also serves as a hallway in the Melia resort lobby. Its location means that Moss and Dorsett's work will be easily accessed by visitors from around the world, giving the artists a substantial level of exposure. Each artist has a space of four walls and a glass showcase to display her works. While most of Dorsett and Moss' works are currently up for purchase, they will be expected to donate one work apiece to the Baha Mar art collection.
Asked what she found most exciting about the show, Dorsett said: "I think just the actual space itself and the development of this as a gallery space because it's so not traditional at all. It's not a closed room; it's not four walls. It's a hotel, where people walk through here at 3 o'clock in the morning. It's a constant flow of traffic. And not only traffic of the same people, but people from all over the world. And so, I think the international exposure that it will bring is just crazy, and not just for this exhibition, but with the other galleries [throughout The Bahamas]."
Attended by some of the nations esteemed art collectors and artists, the event was well received. Though the current exhibit will be up for another two months, local artist and Baha Mar Creative Arts Director John Cox looks forward to the years to come when Baha Mar art exhibits will be a regular part of the resort's art program. According to Cox, The Current, Baha Mar's art team, plans to put on four to six shows per year. It's hoped that each will have as positive an impact as the first.
"I'm happy with how it's turned out. I think that in this pre-opening phase we wanted to kind of sensitize the staff of Baha Mar about what we were doing and just show them what we were trying to get off the ground. We also wanted to sensitize and form a good relationship with the Melia so they can get to trust us, so I think that we've succeeded in doing both those things tonight, so that's a good-size step in the right direction," said Cox.
Both artists are pleased about breaking ground in the exhibition, which they both view as a meaningful steppingstone in their field.
"Personally it's sort of this milestone in my practice, in my whole career," said Moss. "It's really exciting and it's a maturity of sorts. And I guess for my place in the art community, it's like this initiation of the hub for art shows in the future and young Bahamians and veterans, and all sorts of Bahamians to come here and do the same thing and get the same kind of recognition like we're about to do."
The exhibition can be found at the Melia resort. To find out more about The Current, email art@bahamar.com. To learn about Baha Mar, visit bahamar.com.

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A family affair at the NAGB

August 02, 2014

You can find Eddie Minnis' prints in just about any Bahamian crafts store on the island - they're often easily identified by the fire-colored branches of a Poinciana tree in bloom. The iconic Bahamian landscape artist is known for his textured oil paintings of familiar locales, which he's been producing for more than four decades.
Growing up with a father who pursued his dream of becoming an artist full-time with the belief that the "weekend is too short to live for", it's no wonder sisters Nicole and Roshanne picked up paintbrushes early on in their childhood. With the two siblings maturing to become successful and distinctive artists in their own rites, it also came as no surprise when Roshanne expanded the family's repertoire in marrying artist Ritchie Eyma.
Now the four are putting their own twist on family portraits, with the largest Minnis family retrospective exhibition held at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB). Opened this past Wednesday, July 30, Creation's Grace tells the story of an exemplary Bahamian family of artists. Curated by Amanda Coulson, director of the NAGB, the exhibition juxtaposes many of the artists' earliest works with their newer pieces, giving viewers the opportunity to see the painters' respective evolutions and talents.
"I just think it was very important to finally have a retrospective of the family, because Eddie, in particular, really laid the foundations for a lot of Bahamian artists, even if the work is very different than what a lot of contemporary artists are doing today," she said. "It was people like himself showing the younger generation you can make a living out of being an artist that inspired people."
The brainchild of Stan Burnside, chairman of the NAGB Board, the idea for the retrospective exhibition was presented to Coulson in 2013. With most of the works owned by private collections, Coulson's team was responsible for sourcing the paintings, which will be hanging at the NAGB until November 30. The team's hard work has touched the Minnis-Eyma family.
"It was really a wonderful idea to bring all the works together," said Eddie Minnis. "This is actually the first time I'm seeing such a collection of our family's work. It really is a wonderful privilege that has been afforded to the family."
Taking up two large rooms at the NAGB, the exhibition flows from Eddie Minnis and Ritchie Eyma's landscapes to the human subjects captured by Nicole Minnis and sister Roshanne. The show offers the chance to observe the painters' distinctions, including choice of mediums, color and scene.
Known for her use of pastels - a medium rarely employed by painters - Roshanne shows a fondness for painting Bahamian waters as well as Bahamians engaged in everyday manual tasks, like cutting cane and gutting fish. Like her father, Nicole's paint of choice is oils; her paintings often feature children, and she uses her work to express emotion or commentary on difficult circumstances - such as single parent homes and the devastating effects of hurricanes. The sisters also differ in their selection of subjects, with Nicole often conceptualizing a scene before choosing her models and Roshanne searching for subjects who 'speak' to her.
"The subject has to say something to me. Has to speak to me," she explained.
Ritchie Eyma, like his wife, enjoys capturing Bahamian waters and nautical scenes, like Abaco's blue holes and Hope Town Beach, on canvas. An oil painter, Eyma has shown a deep appreciation for his father-in-law's talents, naming "Roots" - Eddie Minnis' painting of a Fox Hill silk cotton tree - his favorite of the NAGB exhibition. "The tree was not static," said Eyma. "In fact, after many years, you go and look at the painting - it's alive, it's breathing, it's saying something. It's a living thing."
In addition to their profound admiration for each artist's work, the family share common spiritual ground. Devout Jehovah's Witnesses, the Minnis-Eyma family credit God with giving them the inspiration to create.
"A couple years ago I stopped and asked myself, 'Why do I feel like I need to create something?' and then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we were made in God's image. So by creating, by doing, by making things, it's evidence that we were made in his image," said Eyma.
The family have pointed to the show as giving them the opportunity to see their personal developments. Constantly honing his craft, Eddie Minnis has expressed his hope that those who come to see the show are "critical as to what we've done, what we've accomplished".
"It's great to see all of the work together," said daughter Roshanne. "Sometimes when you start painting, you don't realize how many pieces you actually produce, but then if you get an opportunity to look back and see what you've done it's really very fulfilling, very rewarding. And it helps to see your progression as an artist, your progression as a person and see, too, how all of our work complements each other."
The opening night was well-attended with supporters and fans of the Minnis-Eyma family. It is Coulson's hope that the show not only gives visitors an opportunity to see the painters' stunning works, but also encourages them to notice a sociological commentary between flowering branches and picturesque street corners.
"I think it's worth reexamining the work, because as contemporary art becomes more hip and more known and we write about it, very often things that are just simply beautiful are often kind of assumed to be somehow less important or not addressing something important," said Coulson. "I think it's interesting to reexamine the work in a way that you really understand all of the artists are actually sort of making a comment about what we're doing to our country, what we're doing to our landscape, there are environmental issues, there are issues about heritage, and those are all being addressed. And just because the works are beautiful doesn't mean they're not importing a message that's actually important."

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Coloring the black box

July 25, 2014

First performed 40 years ago, in Berkeley, California, the magnitude of Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" is still shaking up audiences today. The play - comprised of a collection of poems - tells the stories of seven women who each represent a color of the rainbow and who all have endured the injustices of a racist and sexist culture.
Making its return to The Bahamas for the second time since the 70s, "For Colored Girls" (FCG) is now being performed at The Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts under the directorship of Nicolette Bethel. The play is the second 2014 Ringplay Productions performance since the group began its revitalization efforts at the Dundas.
Bethel, head of the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work at The College of The Bahamas (COB), credits her COB students with providing the inspiration for her to bring the play back.
"I decided to do it (FCG) because I was teaching it, and the students responded so well to it that I thought, 'OK, well maybe we should do it for an audience'. I did it now because of the space. I wanted it to be in that space," said Bethel.
Serving as the christening event for the Dundas' new black box theater, "For Colored Girls" opened on July 18 in the intimate space. Seating approximately 80 persons, the stark theater has proved to be an optimal venue for plays like FCG, whose actors often break the fourth wall.
"We wanted a black box. We wanted theater in the round, and "Colored Girls" was just right for it," said Bethel.
Rated C for subject matter and language, Ringplay has been careful to keep Shange's poems within the walls of the cozy set; still the play has been making waves among Nassau's social circles. According to Bethel, the Bahamian public's reaction has been strong and overwhelmingly positive, particularly when compared with the play's reception in the 1970s.
"Women really, really respond well to this play, and the poor guys who come - they are on the spot the whole time. Shange, when she wrote it, got a huge backlash from the guys, from the men who came to see it. I haven't seen that here," said the director.
Similarly, Michaella Forbes, who delivers an enthralling monologue as Green in "Somebody Almost Walked Off Wid Alla My Stuff", has observed an impressive trend with the play's male audience members.
"As the days go by it, seems like more men are coming," she said. "At first it was maybe just one in each row, but now you're starting to see two and three, so that's a good thing. So I'm thinking the word's getting out there that it's not only for women, it's for men too. We make the men feel very uncomfortable for a second, but I think they get a lot of out of it when they leave."
Bethel has also seen demand from Bahamian mothers who are keen on bringing their daughters to the play, adding: "What's really interesting is the production is rated C, and we've had a number of inquiries from mothers who want to bring their pre-teen or teenage daughters to see this. But, of course they can't because its rated C and nobody under 18 is allowed. That's been a disappointment for many of these women."
Shange's poems are known for their moving effect on women across the globe; through this year's production, the Dundas has witnessed a poignant response from both actors and attendees.
"There are women who have been moved to tears, who feel that they've had some kind of cathartic experience, who said, 'I saw myself on the stage'," said Bethel. "This happens to the actresses. There was one night that we had a workshop and there were many tears, and one (actor) who I didn't think could even continue. It was that strong."
Hoping to heighten a sense of community through theater, Ringplay invited all members of the public to audition for FCG roles; the result was a cast featuring a range of experience from those making their return to the stage after several decades to theater pros like Claudette "Cookie" Allens. Bethel noted the theater company's difficulty in selecting actors from the large pool of talent; the challenge resulted in a cast of eight, rather than the traditional seven, colors.
The eighth character - Rainbow - is played by marine biology student Aleah Carey, who has found her way back to performing arts after many years. Last appearing in a kindergarten production, Carey can now be found playing the role of the colors' healer.
"From the experience altogether, I got that this is definitely something I'd like to continue. I didn't think I would be so into it, but I absolutely love it," said Carey. "From the play itself, I got that we women, we must be strong. We cannot let these men walk all over us."
The black box production also signaled a return to theater for actor Onike Archer, who described her role in Shange's play as a move that gave her "life". Ending a three-year acting hiatus with "For Colored Girls", she played the color Purple - a woman who expresses herself through dance - and performed the "Sachita" scene.
"I figured [that] this would probably be a good challenge, a stimulating challenge, to get me back up on the stage, so I had to go through the audition process like everybody else...to my surprise, I was selected. I think just getting back into performing, which is mainly my real and true passion, is the reason why I have found myself back in the performance circle after being away for three years," said Archer.
The last performance of "For Colored Girls" will be held at the Dundas tonight at 8 p.m. Those interested in finding out more about the play or other Ringplay Productions are encouraged to call the Dundas at 393-3728 or visit the Dundas' Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/thedundas.

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10 Questions

July 25, 2014



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Preserving Nassau's neighborhoods

July 25, 2014

Nastassia Pratt wears many hats. A full-time assistant curator and graphic designer at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB), the 29-year-old also makes time to paint, craft model homes and study architecture. The commitments come naturally for Pratt, whose passion lies in studying and recreating the traditional Bahamian homes found in inner-city neighborhoods.
Introduced to painting and architecture during her high school years at St. John's College, Pratt took part in the Royal Bank of Canada FINCO summer art workshop as a 12th grader. Under the supervision of legendary Bahamian artist Max Taylor, she got acquainted with watercolor painting. In the fall, the young artist moved on to pursue architectural studies at The College of The Bahamas; a year later, she transferred to Ryerson University, Toronto.
"I first started painting with watercolor in that workshop. Since then I've pretty much just been developing it. At first I did still-lifes, like the onions and the mangos, but when I really started my studies at Ryerson, I said I need to paint what I'm really passionate about and interested in."
Moving home in 2010 to raise money for her final year of university, Pratt has spent the past three years at the NAGB - an environment which has only served to fuel her enthusiasm for painting and local architecture. It seems the post may have helped her find her niche.
She held her first solo show, Home Sweet Home, in June 2013 at Popopstudios. The exhibition was a hit, and the sales from the event helped to pay off tuition fees from her earlier years at Ryerson. One year later, she hopes to repeat the success with a second show.
Based at the NAGB, Pratt's Nassau Facades opened in June. The exhibition features a series of watercolors showcasing existing homes in the Bain Town area. The paintings are complemented by a selection of Pratt's delicate model homes. For the aspiring architect, combining art and building design comes naturally.
"I think they both kind of play into each other in a way," said Pratt. "My art really informs my design, and I guess what I do in school is pretty much informed by art also."
So far, she's sold four paintings and one model house in the show, which ends on July 30. Fans of her work are justified in their admiration; Pratt has long been dedicated to putting in the work to make each piece special. When she's not at the NAGB, she can be found exploring Over the Hill neighborhoods in search of homes exuding the traditional architecture she finds captivating.
"Working here (at the NAGB), I do quite a bit of research and read quite a lot of books by Dr. Gail Saunders. So, reading the books, it just made sense to do houses, because it's like history and design," said Pratt. "I'm really intrigued by the homes in the older neighborhoods - like Chippingham, Bain Town - and I like to study them to the best of my abilities. I'm trying to make my way through different streets. I've been on Jail Alley and Anderson's, so I'm trying to somehow map it out."
She's only got a few more months to explore before taking a hiatus - the painter will be returning to Ryerson in the fall to complete her bachelor's degree in architectural science. She has hopes of returning in spring 2015 to contribute to the country's "creative fields". Feeling enticed by both painting and architecture, Pratt is still pondering the best method of combining the two areas for her career.
"The only person who I knew of doing anything similar past was Jackson Burnside. He was really the only person who I could have spoken to about this stuff, and he got it immediately," she said of the difficult decision.
Having been dissuaded in her earlier years from pursuing visual arts as full-time career, Pratt's position at the gallery has helped to change her perspective on the feasibility of painting as a profession.
"I was always told, 'Don't be an artist, you'll starve. You'll go hungry.' But seeing and speaking with artists like Max Taylor, Dionne Benjamin-Smith, and seeing how seriously they take their practice - that's their full-time job - and I started to take my practice more seriously. With my first show last year, I was like, 'This is a serious profession that I could take on'. And so far it's been fairly successful."
Looking up to some of The Bahamas' visual arts powerhouses, who include John Cox and NAGB Director Amanda Coulson, Pratt is grateful to have received a warm welcome from the arts community.
"One thing I love about this art community is they're very helpful and open. I'm a developing artist, and I'm still growing," She said. "I just hope that the art community can keep being true to themselves."
To find out more about Pratt, Nassau Facades and her other artwork, visit her Tumblr page at http://nastassiapratt.tumblr.com/. To see Nassau Facades in person before the show ends, visit the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.

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Connecting the Caribbean

July 19, 2014

Holly Bynoe chooses her words carefully and deliberately. The soft-spoken co-founder of ARC Magazine doesn't rush herself when she's got something to say. And, when the words do come to her, she has a knack for making the listener feel their significance, especially where art is concerned.
That's why, when she agreed to meet with me during her last visit to Nassau, on the verandah of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB), I knew I could learn something about the role art continues to play across the Caribbean and throughout the diaspora.
A native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Bynoe moved to Trinidad at 17 to study biochemistry. Unsatisfied with her academic choice, she transferred to Adelphi University in New York, where she found her way to photography through a communications degree. Years later, in addition to her work with ARC, Bynoe has gained respect for her short films, mixed-media works and work as a curator.
"It took me a long time to think about how my life would be valued by myself, trying to figure out what type of experience I would want to have throughout life, and if arts was the best way - and if it could have been valuable, not only as a matter of expressing oneself, but thinking about security, thinking about a community. It could be quite an isolating experience. Thankfully that hasn't been the case," she said.
Editor-in-chief of ARC, Bynoe has managed to weave a large network of artists across the islands and North America via the internationally-distributed publication. Established only three years ago, in 2011, ARC now reaches as far as the U.K.; Bynoe's hope is to get the word out about the region's art and artists.
"I think that people have a certain type of understanding about Caribbean art, and it's been stereotyped. And we have to debunk and remove these preconceived notions that did exist for a reason, and have existed, because we perpetuate it," she said.
Referring to work that has been pigeonholed as 'Caribbean' - often reflecting picturesque landscapes - Bynoe's hope is that ARC provides a space to showcase Caribbean peoples' intellect, cultural understandings and artistic talent.
"In The Bahamas, it's conch shells, sand, pretty paintings of the sun. It becomes really typical. But that's not really what the creative arena here is like...People are thinking; people are being critical; people are being political; people are being unafraid. They're trying to confront internalized issues, so having that platform to support that type of work gives the Caribbean a certain type of currency where we're no longer laissez-faire people who are just drinking rum on the beach. We're actually thinking critically about our experiences. For me, having the ability to move around the Caribbean and expose a public - who might be completely unaware - to the density of work is incredible."
For the past few years, she and ARC co-founder Nadia Huggins have been hard at work doing just that. In her travels throughout the West Indies and North America, Bynoe has not overlooked The Bahamas. The editor has made herself well acquainted with the local visual arts scene, featuring the works of several Bahamian artists on ARC's pages and dropping in at exhibitions and events.
Partnering with COB lecturer and artist Michael Edwards to curate this year's National Exhibition (NE7) at the NAGB, Bynoe's passion and sensitivity to art from the Caribbean diaspora will be channeled under the 2014 theme, which focuses on confronting and questioning modern notions of race, specifically blackness and whiteness.
The exhibition, expected to open November 6, will host works of Bahamian artists and artists of Bahamian descent. Bynoe, in her travels thus far, has been impressed with the size and unity of the local visual arts community.
"There's not a lot of fracturing (in The Bahamas). There's not a lot of decisiveness, not a lot of division. And you have people within the institution who want to work with these artists, so there's an openness to the business to think about the larger way in which the art will appear globally, as well," she said.
Citing a lack of alliance and support as one of the major challenges to artist communities in the region, Bynoe believes the key to changing the perception and awareness of Caribbean art throughout the world lies in collaboration.
"It's like small pond, big fish syndrome, where you have a little bit and you just fight and you breakdown your community, and it becomes something that no longer is a benefit to you. With a neutral platform like ARC there's a little bit of a diffusion with that. People are starting to see the bigger picture of the industry."
Like many Caribbean artists, Bynoe's ultimate goal is social change and progression throughout the nations, which she believes share similar challenges by virtue of a shared history. Fortunately, ARC's strong networking pull has already begun promoting dialogue amongst artists throughout the Caribbean states. Bynoe's hope is that the publication prompts the region's societies to begin to consider and value the power of art as a catalyst for positive societal evolution.
"When you offer an open platform and an open forum to start these discussions, we become self aware; we become valued; we become centered as a community, and we become introspective. With these four things manifesting themselves, you can change your country. You can change your family dynamic. You can change your relationships to people around you. So, essentially, it acts as a tool to navigate through life."

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10 Questions

July 19, 2014



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Thinking outside the beach

July 19, 2014

It's no big secret that so much of what is being marketed and sold in Downtown Nassau comes from countries many of us have never seen. A brief stroll on Prince George Wharf will reveal that many goods that have come from The Bahamas have often been robbed of their full lifespans - starfish drying out in the sun and underdeveloped conch shells are sold as cute trinkets.
This may be fine for visitors who are content with mass-produced T-shirts and rum-riddled drinks on the beach, but many are looking for a more genuine experience. And Bahamians, too, want validation that their country possesses history, culture and beauty beyond its sandy shores.
In 2012 Jaime Lewis took over from artist Jon Murray in working to close the gap in Bahamian cultural awareness. Beginning as Murray's Downtown Art Tours, the company now operates as Islandz Tours and is run by CEO Lewis and VP of Operations Orchid Burnside.
Managing four separate walking tours, Islandz hopes to provide participants with an authentic Bahamian experience - hence its motto, 'Think outside the beach'. Most of its patrons are cruise ship passengers who have a few precious hours to spend in the capital, and Burnside and Lewis have been putting in the work to make each minute count.
The Downtown Art Tour has been rebranded as Gallery Hop, and includes stops at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB), Antonius Roberts' Hillside House and a quick break at the D'Aguilar Art Foundation or The Central Bank of The Bahamas Art Gallery. Participants are also given briefings on Downtown Nassau's historic passageways and Love My Bahamas public art murals.
For those looking to soak up the atmosphere with a bite to eat, the Art&Dine tour offers the best of both worlds. An all-inclusive option, explorers can have several of their senses delighted with the Gallery Hop followed by lunch at Hillside House, courtesy of The Distinguished Palate (open Tuesday to Friday, from 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.).
For Burnside, the best thing about her job is meeting a variety of travelers on any given day. "I change their impression of The Bahamas. A lot of them have these preconceived notions, and they walk away feeling like they got a sense of our country," she said.
The enterprise also offers two alcoholic tours. The first is its Rum Runner's Passage. This walk features six rum tastings, two cocktails, conch fritters, rum-infused chocolates and guava duff spread over four locations. The second option, known as Bites on Booze Avenue - named aptly for Bay Street's 1920s pseudonym, is Islandz only tour that is offered in the evenings. Stopping at three downtown bars, participants are offered three shots of John Watling's rum, three cocktails featuring John Watling's rum and nibbles including mango-glazed fish, sushi, hot wings and conch fritters.
Lewis and Burnside are all about making learning fun - that's why they've got plans in the works for a new tour fit for anyone with a sense of adventure. The Nassau City Seeker is a scavenger hunt that affords those used to independent travel an opportunity to get off the beaten path. Competing for prizes like John Watling's rum, Tortuga rum cakes and Graycliff chocolates, participants will be given a map and an hour and a half to collect as many points as they can.
"I had one woman, for example, who got a free cruise (to New Providence) and she almost didn't take it because she hated Nassau," said Burnside. "And she thought it was just 20 T-shirts for a dollar everywhere, and all these people harassing you, and that the food wasn't that good. But she spent two hours with us, and she was like, 'Now I've seen a different side to your country, to this island, and I would come back again'."
All Islandz Tours walking expeditions range in price from $40-$70 and can accommodate groups of two to 10 persons. Those keen on learning more about Downtown Nassau's hidden gems and anyone interested in joining Islandz as a tour guide are encouraged to contact Lewis or Burnside at info@islandztours.com or visit the site online at islandztours.com.

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The Dundas gets back in the ring

July 12, 2014

it's come a long way since Lady Dundas' years of training domestic servants and hotel maids on Mackey Street. Transformed by Meta Davis-Cumberbatch from a training center to a performing arts center in the 1960s, the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts is this year facing another kind of evolution.
Ringplay Productions, the theater's management group, has decided to revitalize the space formerly popularized in the 80s and 90s. Led by eight Dundas veterans, Ringplay's objective is to hold monthly performances at the theater; the plan comes after several years of seeing the space used sparsely as a rental facility and for a few weeks during the annual Shakespeare in Paradise season. Declared the 'year of culture' in The Bahamas, it seems only fitting for the group's initiative to begin in 2014.
Philip Burrows, a member of the management team, has been involved with the Dundas for more than three decades and has seen the center in its heyday. Burrows was artistic director of the theater from 1981 to 1997 and led the center's repertory season with former Dundas chairman, the late Winston Saunders.
Over those years, the season ran from January to May annually; it was known as a high time in Bahamian performing arts. The Dundas produced regular shows of distinction over 10-night runs; many participants were members of other established performing groups. The Dundas also served as a community center and a venue for summer schools and fairs. Saunders hoped to use the space as a training facility for aspiring thespians.
In 1997, following Burrows' departure for a teaching position in Canada, the repertory season slowly splintered and the Dundas experienced a significant decline in popularity. It has largely remained a rental venue since. The death of long-time theater manager, Betty Knowles, in March 2014 brought with it a realization that the center was in need of a revival.
Ringplay pushed full steam ahead with the first Dundas production since 1997, "12 Angry Men". The cast featured several acting novices, a handful of actors making their return to the stage after 20 years and a peppering of theater veterans.
Burrows was pleased with the event's turnout, noting the cast's eagerness to carry on through a blackout, which affected several parts of the island on Friday, July 4.
"We had the incredible evening of the Friday night, when the power went out at the beginning of Act 2," he said. "Cell phones illuminated the stage, and the guys didn't miss a beat and finished the performance, and it was a good return."
Another Ringplay project has been redesigning the old rehearsal hall into a black box theater - a feature Burrows believes is useful for small productions and theater in the round.
"It's always been an interesting thing to call this the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts, but only have one theater space on it. Now we're moving closer to it being a center," said Burrows.
The black box theater will host its first Dundas production on July 18 with the opening of "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf".
For Ringplay, this is only the beginning. The group hopes to utilize the large Dundas property by expanding its facilities. Future plans, which are dependent on funding, include constructing a small outdoor performance space and additional training and rehearsal rooms.
The Dundas will continue to host Shakespeare in Paradise productions and function as a rental space. This year's Shakespeare selection is Romeo and Juliet with a cultural twist -- a Haitian Romeo and Bahamian Juliet. True Shakespeare aficionados can also get a quick fix on August 5, when the Globe Theatre will perform Hamlet in a one-night show at the Dundas.
Burrows hopes Ringplay's productions will inspire more of the Bahamian public to get involved in theater. Auditions are held openly, and the management team has encouraged anyone interested in acting to try out. Being a community venture, the center also welcomes volunteers who are keen on helping out on set.
"We've always felt that more people should be involved. More training should take place," said Burrows. "We're trying to just let people know that it's not an exclusive little club or anything, so anybody is welcome."
Burrows, feels confident the entire country could benefit from the revitalization of the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts. He hopes the center will attract some of the country's younger citizens, particularly those vulnerable to anti-social behavior.
"I saw a video not too long ago about a group of kids in New York who were pretty much gang bangers and then they got into theater and it was quite a changing experience. And I know it's the kind of thing that people are trying with Urban Renewal, because a lot of these guys are in bands and they're traveling now and they're performing and all this sort of stuff. But not everybody is musically inclined, and we're looking for other avenues and other things to do," he said.
Above all else, Burrows believes the art form itself is something to be treasured. Holding Bahamian playwrights in high esteem, he hopes the country will see the importance in the Dundas' newest movement to present regular opportunities to perform and view performances.
"Theater is a part of life. It's putting life up on the stage and people get a chance to see, and I think it's important for any civilized society to have something like that on an ongoing basis and someplace for people to see themselves onstage, to see their lives, to see what they look like on stage," he said.

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Telling tales

July 12, 2014

Friday nights have been getting a little more stimulating than the average happy hour, thanks to Sonia Farmer and Orchid Burnside's printing blunders.
Since January, the duo has been inviting short story writers to share their works at the Illiterati Story Slam at Doongalik Studios. Held the last Friday of every month, the story slams offer the country's wordsmiths the chance to read stories of 10 minutes or less to an intimate group.
Farmer, the founder and owner of Poinciana Paper Press, and Burnside, vice president of operations at Islandz Tours, both attended college in New York State, where they had the chance to visit The Moth, a center for serious storytellers to share their works with avid audiences.
Working together at Farmer's printing press, both women found the idea of starting a story slam in The Bahamas appealing.
"Sonia and I were thinking about other things associated to that field of literature and what we could do to help build that community. I came up with the idea of doing a story slam because we both used to go to The Moth stories in New York," said Burnside. "We thought that since
Bahamians are natural-born storytellers, we could naturally have this community of great stories and anthology of great stories, but we needed a forum to expose that."
The name of the series came to Burnside during a particularly bumbling evening at the press.
"That was a press joke," said Burnside. "We had set the type [to print by hand], and we made a mistake. We had been talking about the Illuminati - I think this was right after Beyonce performed at the Super Bowl and all of this stuff came out about the Illuminati, so we were talking about that - and then we printed this thing and it was totally wrong. So I said 'Bump the Illuminati. We're the Illiterati'."
Each month, Burnside and Farmer choose a theme for the writers to work around; past topics have included 'Puppy Love', for stories about first crushes, and 'Mudda Sik', for stories about mothers. In keeping with national celebrations, this month's theme is 'Cutting Ties' and will focus on stories about independence.
Writers are free to interpret themes free of preconceived notions; both founders have noted that what makes the events interesting is often the surprise of how some participants make sense of different topics.
"For Mother's Day I anticipated a lot of funny stories, because the story about my mom was funny," said Burnside. "But people had a lot of very raw and hurt feelings towards their mothers, and that was sort of surprising and still touching in a way, and people just needed that place to share."
The monthly events feature prizes for the evening's best story. Each winning story is then entered into the Grand Slam, a competition for the best story told over the course of the year. Held in November, the winner of the Grand Slam will be offered the opportunity to have the winning work published by Poinciana Paper Press.
For people who haven't been published, the story slam can serve as a medium to share pieces with the public. For Farmer, sharing stories has always been something she's been dedicated to.
"I wanted to create a space where storytelling can thrive -- a formal space -- because we hear all the time Bahamians are natural storytellers," said Farmer. "You go to parties and Bahamians are always telling stories. Starting Poinciana Paper Press, I wanted to create a space where writers can share fiction, poetry, anything in between -- some sort of stories that add to our conversation about culture."
She hopes to use her press and the story slam to "promote a book culture" in the country.
"I don't know if we value literature, let along literacy, in this country well enough at all. And we don't have much of a space where we are encouraged to share our stories or things that happen to us or anything creative that we make up. And so I wanted the press to be a kind of place where we can do that, and by extension the story slam operates in that same space," said Farmer.
Both she and Burnside emphasize the necessity to engage with the audience, making the storytelling an interactive experience for both writers and listeners.
"I hope it continues to grow. I hope that more people who want to come out to perform, really give it their all and prep. My hope is that it keeps growing and that more and more people are touched by it and feel like they can share their stories too," said Farmer. "We're trying to facilitate the storytelling culture and make it important again in our culture, because it's important socially without Bahamians even realizing it. But I think -- formally we're putting people on the spot -- I don't think we value that or recognize how it can help us as a society."
Those interested in sharing at the Illiterati Story Slam are encouraged to visit the story slam's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/illiteratibs or email illiteratibahamas@gmail.com. The Illiterati Story Slams take place at 7 p.m., and each evening, there are 12 slots available for readers to sign up. Admission is free for all, and each reader is offered a free drink for the writer's contribution.

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