“Artists of the Bahamas” Prepare For Iowa Exhibition

By in News on August 12, 2011

A hit following its 2008 release, the film “Artists of The Bahamas” builds on the momentum surrounding its debut at the Bahamas International Film Festival. Last November the artists of the film were featured in a city-wide exhibition encompassing six galleries and three weeks. Now the artists prepare for the next big event: an exhibition at the Waterloo Center for the Arts in Iowa.

The event is scheduled for October of this year.

The Waterloo’s director and curator traveled to The Bahamas for the November exhibition to begin initial research. They met and interacted with the artists of the film at that time.

“They were very impressed with the extensive Bahamian art that they were able to see, and meeting with the artists while they were here added a really special dimension,” said Pam Burnside, who organized the city-wide exhibition with Dawn Davies and Saskia D’Aguilar. The simultaneous shows featured works from their private collections.

The artists of directors’ Karen Arthur and Thomas Neuwirth’s 2008 film include Kendal Hanna, Max Taylor, Dave Smith, Eddie Minnis, Stan Burnside, Jackson Burnside, Antonius Roberts, John Beadle, John Cox and the late Amos Ferguson and Brent Malone.

Below: Artwork by Popopstudios founder John Cox from his series “I am Not Afraid To Fight A Perfect Stranger” and by Popop’s resident artist Kendal Hanna for the exhibition at the Waterloo Center for the Arts in Iowa.

Waterloo curator Kent Shankle said that the film raised the center’s interest in learning more about contemporary Bahamian art and artists. Home to the largest public collection of Haitian art in the world, the Waterloo Center for the Arts also holds a significant Caribbean collection. The collection includes numerous works by Amos Ferguson and several other Bahamian artists.

“We were really struck by the quality and diversity of the work because it’s so dynamic and interesting,” said Shankle, who works closely with the center’s director Cammie Scully, in an interview yesterday.

“We wanted to do more research on the work and we were actually disappointed to find that there wasn’t more information online about these wonderful artists. We thought about what can we do to change that,” he said.

Shankle said that the group who traveled for the exhibitions in November enjoyed the experience and were impressed with what they saw.

“It was a real joy to get to see the incredible collection. The [National Art Gallery of The Bahamas] is a wonderful resource; I was very impressed and of course I was most impressed with the talented and thoughtful artists. It was a real treat to get to engage them in conversation and hear about their work and their thoughts and their process, and in a wonderful setting. The Bahamas is a magical place,” he said.

The October event at the Waterloo Center will include a symposium featuring the artists, an artist residency with one of the artists, musical performances, a screening of the film and the exhibition.

The center also hopes to tour the exhibition to other spaces in the U.S.

“We’re very excited about every opportunity that we get to show to the rest of the world that we’re deeper than sun, sand and sea and fancy drinks on the beach,” said artist Jackson Burnside.

“We’re a people who think and who feel and who have emotions and are living as any sophisticated culture anywhere in the world. Every opportunity we get we grasp that; that’s what an artist does, expresses the soul of the people.”

The organizers said that the Ministry of Tourism and the Department of Culture are supportive of the venture.

Buoyant about the opportunities the exhibition abroad are expected to bring, Jackson Burnside highlighted decades-long efforts to boost cultural confidence in and exposure for the arts.

“By the year 2020 more people will be coming to The Bahamas attracted by our art and our culture, our heritage than those who come here for the sun, sand and sea. It’s no longer a dream. It’s becoming a reality,” he said.

Thea Rutherford
Nassau Guardian