Baha Mar Presents First Ever Artists-In-Residence
For John Cox, creative arts director at Baha Mar, giving young Bahamian artists a leg up has always been high on the agenda.
For five years, Cox’s Popopstudios has been offering summer residencies to up-and-coming Bahamian artists. Now head of the art department at the country’s soon-coming second mega resort, he’s extending the same opportunity to those interested in contributing to Baha Mar’s cultural agenda.
Piaget Moss and Veronica Dorsett, both of Freeport, are the resort’s very first artists-in-residence. The graduates of The College of The Bahamas (COB) are nearing the middle of their residency, which culminates on July 31 with a show of their works at the Melia resort.
Twenty-year-old Moss, a mixed and digital-media artist, credits her mum with nudging her into the field. Two years ago, she sat in the dean’s office at COB, having qualified for a full scholarship with no idea what to major in.
“The dean kept questioning me and she kept asking me, ‘You have a full scholarship. Why don’t you know what you want to do?’ and I just said, ‘Well I don’t know’. I was so confused at that point, and my mom just said, ‘You know what, just put art on the paper’.”
Today Moss has no regrets. The former student of artist Heino Schmid at COB has been featured in internationally-distributed ARC Magazine. She caught Cox’s eye during Baha Mar’s art team’s “curatorial phase”. With a private studio and office space, the resort’s art team sought to get the ball rolling on a residency program to help fill an existing gallery space in the Melia. Moss’ work and “method of working” made her stand out as a candidate for the residency. She was invited onboard as an artist-in-residence in May.
“She’s really ambitious,” said Cox. “I think she’s really uninhibited; she’s very forward and confident. I like her method of working. It’s kind of an unusual way that she works. Locally we don’t see a lot of people who do a lot of collage and photo transfer and that kind of thing.”
Offered the chance to work alone or with a partner, Moss opted to invite Dorsett onboard. Having met at COB, Moss was familiar with Dorsett’s capabilities and passion for visual arts; she invited her to contribute to the collaborate effort.
Like Moss, Dorsett’s start in the visual arts kicked off through her family. Currently a mixed-media artist, she started drawing in her mid-teens with a gift for her sister; when her skills became apparent, she decided to pursue art at COB.
Moving back and forth between New Providence and Grand Bahama, Dorsett’s career in the arts hasn’t gotten off to an easy start. Like many young Bahamian artists, she’s had to build a “shell” to local criticism of her career choice.
“You know, you can probably ask any young artist like myself and they’ll probably give you the same answer. We’ve all experienced that exact moment of ‘Well, what are you going to do?’ and ‘Where is that going to get you in life?’ and ‘How is that going to help you get yourself further in The Bahamas?’ So I think we’ve kind of all learned to build up a shell to it.”
The artist has been featured by ARC online and has gotten her name out in the Caribbean through a 2013 residency and exhibition in Aruba. She’s looking forward to the fall, when she plans to be in Canada pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. In Canada, she said, “people respond completely differently as if that’s (art) a possible career choice”. Speaking on behalf of her Bahamian counterparts, Dorsett said: “We feel like art is needed and people need to see the importance of art and an artist more than sending 70 people off to be accountants, versus that one person who’s going to come back and be an artist.”
Before she leaves, however, she’s got big fish to fry at home. The end-of-July Glass Bridge exhibition is going to be filled with Moss and Dorsett’s collaborative pieces, and the artists have just under four weeks to complete everything. Moss chose the show’s theme, ‘Buildings are people too’.
Taking the phrase ‘hands on’ to a new level, Moss’ inspiration came from her encounters with the resort’s construction staff onsite. Having a basic level of Mandarin from a course she took at COB, Moss began striking up conversations with the builders. The theme, she said, came from her “fascination with the workers”.
“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.
Moss hopes the show will help visitors “be aware that there is quite literally life involved in this project”.
Both artists enjoy working with scrap materials found onsite to build their vision of what Dorsett describes as “documenting Baha Mar in its baby stages”.
The Baha Mar residency program is expected to continue in future years in what Cox calls a “sliding framework”. Future residencies, according to Cox, will last anywhere from one to six months. The program will invite both international and local artists, who will all be expected to give back to the Bahamian community through workshops and artist talks as well as by creating merchandise to be sold at Baha Mar.
The artists-in-residence will, at the end of this year’s program, be expected to donate a work to the Baha Mar collection. This move is hoped to bring them further exposure in what Cox predicts will become a “very prestigious collection”.
In the long-term, Dorsett and Moss both look forward to pursuing further residencies across the pond, in Amsterdam and Germany, respectively. For now, the young artists-in-residence are embracing their time at Baha Mar.
Moss said: “I think one of the most beautiful things for me is to come across legends and people like Kendal Hanna, who people know and people love and people cherish his work. And every day I get to sit down at the table and have tea with this man and talk about whatever.”
Dorsett has expressed her gratitude for past generations for paving the way. “I feel like thanks to people like John Cox and Heino Schmid and Sue Bennett-Williams and all of the older artists that are creating opportunities for young artists like myself – opportunities that they didn’t have when they were our age. I think that they’re ensuring that the doorways open up for more young artists like myself,” she said.
The Nassau Guardian