Culture

The very first Instinct

September 13, 2014

Celebrating their innate drive to create, nine esteemed Bahamian artists will be showcasing their works at The Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBB) Art Gallery in a show aptly titled "Instinct". Opening on Thursday, September 18, the exhibition has been organized by multimedia artist Nadine Seymour-Munroe, who hopes to create a platform to expose The Bahamas to the talents and mastery of female Bahamian artists.
Having practiced art since high school, Seymour-Munroe knows firsthand the importance of artists gaining support and recognition for their abilities. She received partial scholarships for her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she graduated as the top painter in her year. The honor meant she was a prime candidate for the Florence Leaf Award, which helped fund her studies in RISD's master's program in art education. Her efforts did not go unnoticed at home, where several individuals and organizations provided her with private donations toward her education.
Now, she's trying to keep the ball rolling by establishing a sustainable foundation of support for female artists in the country. She'll be starting with Instinct, which will feature a range of mediums - from ceramics to digital pieces - and host the works of Sue Bennett-Williams, Chantal Bethel, Lisa Codella, Jessica Colebrooke, Claudette Dean, Sue Katz, Holly Parotti, Nadine Seymour-Munroe and Ana-Lisa Wells. This show is the first in what is hoped will become an annual event.
"I feel in The Bahamas right now, the female artists could get together a bit more and present themselves stronger, so this is how Instinct came about. Instinct is simply the ability to do something without being taught, and I feel...that women are instinctively creative, and I thought it would be a perfect topic to have these gifted artists who work in The Bahamas to come together and show The Bahamas what we have to offer," said Seymour-Munroe.
Acknowledging that it comes at a time when gender issues are at the fore in the country, she noted that the show "is a good representation of what we have to offer because, if you check records, most men get contracts when it's time for art, and a lot of times they get paid more, and it's an international concern. But I think this is a great start to say, 'Here we are, see what we do'."
Choosing artists whose work and skills she knows and admires, Seymour-Munroe wants to call as much attention to seasoned artists, like fellow multimedia artist Sue Bennett-Williams, as she does to relative newcomers, like ceramicist Lisa Codella. She is quick to point out that her objective is not to exclude male artists, but, rather, have it "be noted that we have excellent, senior female artists [in The Bahamas]".
"We've been saying we don't want it to be thought of as a sexist show, because when males have exhibitions, they don't say it's an all-male show, so we don't want the focus to be that it's an all-female show," said the Instinct founder. "But I want it to be noted that we have excellent, senior female artists. Oftentimes female artists are not as highly esteemed as male artists are. For example, we have master artists, but all of those are males. Why don't we have female master artists?"
Each artist chose her own pieces for the exhibition, which was arranged by CBB Gallery Curator Antonius Roberts and his team. Seymour-Munroe has submitted pieces from her "Blue Angel" series of abstract, mixed media works.
"It was done that way because, like I said, instinctively we are creative, and this show we really didn't have any limitations as to what you should enter," she said. "I just wanted the ladies to show the public what they feel inside as artists."
Though it hasn't opened yet, Instinct has already received attention internationally from a Chicago-based gallery, and Seymour-Munroe believes it's a good indication that the exhibition would have success as a sustainable, long-term and, possibly, international endeavor. Though Instinct is a for-profit show, she has plans to establish an Instinct-linked scholarship foundation for younger female artists in years to come.

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Doing double duty

September 13, 2014

The product of two developers - one of whom was in search of a simple dining experience offering good food and friendly service and another who knew his way around a cellar as a wine sommelier - Mahogany House was born in 2011.
Serving up simple meals made from fresh ingredients, the restaurant has since offered an understatedly elegant dining option to New Providence's western community.
But these days there's a whole lot more being dished up on the lush, green property than what comes out of the kitchen. Lauren Holowesko, daughter of Mahogany House founder Mark Holowesko, is branching out of the family tree with her own project - The Island House.
A boutique hotel in the works, most people have by now caught wind of The Island House, which is being developed on a 10-acre plot adjacent to Mahogany House. Seeing a need for a guest house offering all the comforts of home, the luxuries of a resort and the beauty of the country's natural landscape, Lauren Holowesko seized the opportunity to provide the area's many business travelers with a suitable place to stay.
This isn't the first time the developer's gotten her creative juices flowing - far from it, in fact. Holowesko has a strong foundation in the visual arts, which began in elementary school.
"I got involved in art from a really young age...I had a fantastic art teacher, Ms. Robertson, at Lyford Cay School and at St. Andrew's," she said.
Her early years resonated with her at Georgetown, where she completed a bachelor's degree in art history; she followed that with an art business master's degree at Sotheby's Institute of Art in London. It was also in London that she worked with auction house Phillips (formerly Phillips de Pury & Company).
Returning home in 2012, Holowesko got started on putting her plan into action that April. She knew from the get-go that her love of the visual arts would have a starring role in the finished product.
Now the project manager of The Island House, Holowesko finds her days filled with sourcing artwork for the upcoming hotel, which will serve as the exhibition space for Mark Holowesko's private collection of Bahamian artwork.
"I think that celebrating art ties into the foundation of The Island House and the reasons that we wanted to build this - a lot of it has to do with celebrating passion, creativity and conceptual thinking and really hard work," said the project manager. "I think that will enhance each guest's experience and I think also the misconception of what Bahamian art is, is something that we want to be able to brush to the side."
Holowesko's grand plans include original Bahamian works - including paintings, installations, woodwork and ceramics - in each of The Island House' 30 rooms and suites as well as its common areas. Slowly growing her father's collection, she has acquired existing works and commissioned bespoke pieces by master artists and up-and-coming ones alike. It will be those works that make each room at The Island House unique.
"That's something that Baha Mar has an advantage over us," said Holowesko of the upcoming mega resort, which has pledged to fill its property with original Bahamian works. "They have the publicity and the presence to really elevate Bahamian art to an international level and that's something that we're hoping to do as well. [It's] the realization of our social responsibility that we have to really showcase this and encourage cultural development in general."
In addition to serving as a hotel and private exhibition space, The Island House will also have an onsite 48-seat cinema, which will focus on hosting art house and independent films. Hoping to establish a quarterly program for the theater, Holowesko looks forward to supporting Caribbean filmmakers by promoting their works at The Island House.
"I think [it was] something that really sparked my interest, being in London and having access to so many art house cinemas all over and being introduced to that. It really sparked an interest - a desire for that to be available to this community as well," said Holowesko.
The Island House cinema will be open to the public who will be able to book their tickets online. She looks forward to showcasing documentaries, in particular, mentioning Laura Gamse, Toby Lunn and Kareem Mortimer's collaborative work, "Brigidy Bram", as a potential future feature.
"I think that would be fascinating because we're looking to have some of Kendal's works in the hotel, and [to] be able to showcase a film like that, that draws the viewer in and gives you a real foundation for his whole life and how his art career has developed...I think it brings so much more value to what we're presenting to not only the tourists who come to stay in the hotel but the locals as well."
While the hotel and theater won't be open until early 2015, Holowesko already envisions plans to extend The Island House' role in the Bahamian film and visual arts scenes.
She has proposed using the site as a potential screening venue for the 2015 Bahamas International Film Festival. Hosting other exhibitions and establishing a future artist-in-residency program may also be on the books.
"There's kind of endless opportunities that we'd be able to provide, and I think that's what's so exciting - to be able to provide a platform that's really flexible and really creative," she said.
To find out more about The Island House, visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Island-House/236004756595343 or contact a member of The Island House team at info@the-island-house.com.

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Cut from the same cloth

September 06, 2014

Now known primarily for its blue holes, pine forests and crabs, Andros' reputation as a trendsetting Family Island seems to have fallen by the wayside - it has, after all, been several decades since Androsia took the nation by storm. Though the vibrant batik cloth and clothing may not be found as frequently across The Bahamas, the Birch family - known aptly as the Androsia Family - is still making Androsia the way Rosi Birch developed the practice on the shores of Andros in the 1960s and early 70s.
Settling in Andros with her husband, Dick Birch, who established the still-running Small Hope Bay Lodge in 1960, Rosi Birch was an artist who was introduced to batik by a guest at the resort.
"It was an art project for kids one day," said granddaughter Casey Birch, who knows how the family business got started through a visitor who "showed [Rosi Birch] how to do it using candle wax and a little bit of food coloring. Then she thought immediately, 'This is kind of a low-tech, really easy way to create something that could eventually be a business and provide more employment on the island'."
An ancient practice, batik has its roots in Southeast Asia; the Birches, though, are proud of Rosi's mastery and unique twist on the dyeing process. Starting out in the late 60s, the founder of Androsia - a fusion of "Andros" and "Rosi" - began making batik prints on the beach at Small Hope Bay Lodge. Over time and through much trial and error, she developed her own method of making batik cloth.
The process begins by hand carving stamps - the shapes seen on Androsia cloth, often inspired by nature - out of foam. Stamps are dipped in hot wax and applied to the fabric, making dye-resistant shapes on the cloth. The fabric is then bundled up and dyed in bath tubs with color blends mixed by the Androsia Company. The dyeing process takes, on average, two hours per color; when that's done, the fabric is put through a hot water treatment to remove the wax and excess dye, leaving the finished Androsia print.
Rosi Birch's plan was to grow the practice so that "one element of the production would be done in every community in Central Andros - they could wax in Fresh Creek, dye down south, then bring it back to be cut and sewn," said Casey Birch.
Though it didn't quite work out that way, the art form began to develop the local community in other avenues. Teaching people to sew and equipping them with sewing machines, the small organization would make fabric, hand paint and dye it and send it out to be sewn in local homes. With growing popularity, the company was established in 1973 - the year of Bahamian independence.
"That's why we use such bright colors and natural designs - to showcase the natural beauty of The Bahamas," said Casey Birch. "To have a product that was produced, manufactured, sewn and cut in The Bahamas, because it was the year of independence, it just became very, very popular throughout 70s and 80s. Now it's become synonymous with the product and the fabric of The Bahamas."
The granddaughter estimates that, in those decades, the family business "had hundreds of employees and shops everywhere". Now in their third generation of batik dyeing, it doesn't seem like the Birches have any reason to stop. Androsia cloth is still in demand throughout the country; though the Androsia Family has localized its company, consumers can and do still purchase cloth and clothing online or from local suppliers. Though there are several imitations around, the Birch family reminds clients that true Androsia is identified by the Androsia stamp present on each yard of the batik fabric.
Popular with school groups touring Andros, this past June, the Androsia Family decided to return the favor by traveling to Nassau for an Androsia workshop held at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB). Wax pots, stamps, stencils and cloth in tow, the Androsia team gave youngsters a hands-on lesson in the Androsia batik process. Each participant was given a bandanna or tote bag to decorate with wax; the Androsia Family carried the patterned items Andros to be dyed and then shipped them back to the crafts makers as keepsakes.
A hit with the kids, Casey and the Androsia team will be back at the NAGB on Saturday, September 13 to hold two workshops for kids and adults, respectively. At a cost of $25 for children (ages six and up) and $30 for adults, both groups will have two hours (kids from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and adults from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.) to decorate their Androsia goods; adult participants will have the option of decorating a scarf or large tote bag.
"We think it's important because I think that most people in The Bahamas are aware of Androsia. They know what it looks like.

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Master artist Maxwell Taylor completes murals for Grand Hyatt

September 06, 2014

in the hospitality industry, first impressions mean everything, forming the basis for a dynamic and meaningful guest experience that will make The Bahamas a standout global destination.
To that end, Baha Mar's art team, The Current, is coordinating thousands of art moments across the $3.5 billion development to ensure that guests will be inundated with Bahamian culture from the moment they arrive at the luxury destination resort in spring 2015.
One of the first major projects to near completion is a series of four large murals by Bahamian master artist Max Taylor, which will greet guests in The Grand Hyatt lobby with rich depictions of Bahamian life.
A painter, printmaker and ceramicist, Taylor has rightfully earned his place as a master visual artist in Bahamian art history. Utilizing a variety of creative techniques and styles, he addresses a range of subject matter in his creative practice, making him one of the most versatile artists practicing in The Bahamas today.
Over the past few months, Taylor has been steadily painting the murals in The Current art studio, bringing together abstracted figures, geometric shapes and hand-applied linoleum patterns in myriad colors to form breathtaking tributes to Bahamian people, history and culture.
"It looks at different types of history in The Bahamas--of culture, in performance, in music, of art itself--and sets a festive tone for The Bahamian Riviera," said Baha Mar Creative Artistic Director John Cox. "It's powerful and proud. But mostly it's a large expansion of decades of experience that this master artist has shared with us."
Taylor worked with loose themes of festivity and Bahamian life to craft a dynamic narrative. Letting the particular details come to him in the moment and inspired by the range of colors at his disposal, Taylor steadily crafted the masterpieces layer by rich layer.
Taylor's murals are just one of the thousands of opportunities for Baha Mar's guests from all around the world to learn about Bahamian visual art, culture and way of life.
"One thing I think about Bahamian artists, most of them have the ability to do anything, any project," said Taylor. "A Bahamian artist does not always get this opportunity, especially on such a broad scale, so I think Baha Mar is a fantastic opportunity. I'd really like to say thanks for choosing me as one of the artists to be part of this global platform."
The Current is the unifying force behind the collective art moments across Baha Mar, from the reproductions and site-specific commissions informing the guest experience to the rotating exhibitions and artist residencies in three gallery spaces within the development. Visit facebook.com/thecurrentart to find out more, or email art@bahamar.com.

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Shakespeare in Paradise season is back for more

September 06, 2014

It's been said time and again that The Bahamas has much more to offer its citizens and its visitors than sun, sand and sea. With an abundance of talent in the country's arts community, it seems no wonder that repertory theater company Ringplay Productions could extend that alliteration with the addition of "Shakespeare". For the past six years, the company has been producing the Shakespeare in Paradise Theatre Festival.
An annual event, the non-profit festival is held in October and celebrates the performing arts by staging a series of productions, one of which is a signature Shakespeare play.
The idea of holding a local theater festival came to Dr. Nicolette Bethel and Philip Burrows almost 3,000 miles from home, in Ashland, Oregon.
"We took students to a festival held in the little town of Ashland. When you get there, you can see theater of a quality as good as and better than what you see on Broadway for a fraction of the cost. So we thought, 'Well if they can do it, why can't Nassau do it?' When we came back, in 2000, we had in our minds a theater festival," said Bethel.
Bethel and Burrows knew that a modest start with a solid foundation would be the best way forward. They chose to center the festival on Shakespeare's productions - it doesn't take much guessing why. The classic renaissance plays have transcended cultural boundaries for four centuries.
"Shakespeare is part of every theater practitioner's repertoire. Shakespeare is popular as well as classical. We thought, 'We can do Shakespeare in The Bahamas, so we'll have a Shakespeare festival'," said Bethel.
Making the event a sustainable one was the duo's objective, and so far, they and the other Ringplay Productions team members have been successful. Bethel also hopes that, by incorporating the classic Shakespearean productions, the festival will be 'legitimized' on a global scale.
"It's a way of legitimizing the festival internationally as well as locally, and it also builds confidence in Bahamian audiences and Bahamian performers, because we have a tendency in the Caribbean - certainly in the wake of independence - of rejecting and turning our backs on everything that smacked of British colonialism. One of those things was the centrality of Shakespeare. But I think, and experience and observation suggests, that that's not one of the things that we needed to excise from our repertoires."
This year, the festival takes place October 3-13 and features "Romeo and Juliet", "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf", "Sizwe Banzi is Dead" and "Bruce Katooska: Laughter is the Best Magic!".
Under the directorship of Philip Burrows, the Shakespeare in Paradise version of "Romeo and Juliet" substitutes a Bahamian-Haitian relationship in place of the classic Montague-Capulet affair. It stars Matthew Deveaux and Angelique White.
Also directed by Burrows, "Sizwe Banzi is Dead" is set in apartheid South Africa and tells the story of a black South African looking for work in Port Elizabeth. His passbook gives him permission to stay for three days to find work before facing deportation. He is faced with making a grim decision when he encounters the body of a man with a work permit.
Back by popular demand, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" features the same performers who stunned audiences in the Dundas' black box theater earlier this year. The production will be directed again by Bethel, and, if July's ticket sales are any indication, it is expected to be a box office hit.
"Bruce Katooska: Laughter is the Best Magic!" offers a special treat for primary school-aged children. This magic show will offer 10 primary school performances from October 5-10. School administrators who want to book the show should contact the Shakespeare in Paradise box office.
With weeks to go before the season opens, casting has long been completed and actors are facing nightly rehearsals at the Dundas. The stars of the shows aren't the only ones putting in the hours, though. Each season, an average of 50 to 70 volunteers - who include cast members, backstage crew and box office personnel - are involved in helping to make Shakespeare in Paradise a success.

Their hard work has made the festival popular with locals. According to Bethel, ticket sales for the Shakespeare in Paradise season are in the region of 4,000-4,500. Two-thirds of these are student tickets, which are offered at heavily discounted rates.
"One of the reasons why we operate at a breakeven environment is because we offer student tickets at $10 a head...Each seat is worth about $16-$18 in real money, if we're working at full occupancy. If we're operating at two-thirds occupancy, that means each seat is $23. So we can be losing between $8 to $13 on each [student ticket], but we believe that is an investment that is worth making," said Bethel.
Now in the midst of preparation, Bethel has already seen demands from festival goers for tickets.
"It's our sixth year, which I think is an achievement," she said. "I think it'll be more of an achievement when we get to the 10th year, but I think that the fact that we've been able to keep it going for six years is really something to be proud of. Of course our audience is a part of it. The fact that we have people calling now, and it's just the beginning of September, to book their tickets is an indication that the audience looks forward to it."
Those interested in finding out more or getting involved in Shakespeare in Paradise are encouraged to visit the event's website, at http://shakespeareinparadise.org/, or Facebook page, at https://www.facebook.com/ShakespeareInParadisesupport, where they can sign up for the festival's mailing list. Anyone interested in supporting the Shakespeare in Paradise season is asked to make checks out to Shakespeare In Paradise or contact the Dundas on 393-3728 or 394-7179 to find out more about making cash donations or direct deposits.

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'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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