Harry C. Moore Library Spotlight On Khia Poitier

By in News on August 13, 2011

Too often, art classes act in a “academic vacuum” says College of The Bahamas art instructor, John Cox.  To give his advanced students experience in the local art world and to “breathe life into the art program” at the College of The Bahamas, he helps them plan and carry out site-specific art pieces.

The latest location is the new building at the College of The Bahamas, the state-of-the-art Harry C. Moore Library and Information Center — fitting since Harry C. Moore was a lifelong patron of the arts.

“I think a lot of people don’t know what a supporter of the arts he was and these pieces bring attention to it,” says Cox. “It presents a present and future effort to make the library a monument to contemporary visual expression.”

Over the next few weeks, Arts & Culture will be examining the installations in this library by his Art 400: Advanced Painting students.

Art by Khia Poitier (Photo by Edward Russell III)

How many Bahamians can say they know their constitution and their fundamental rights?  On the top floor of the Harry Moore Library and Information Center lies the law library if you want to educate yourself, but if you want to take a shortcut, make sure to look over Khia Poitier’s untitled mural in the same area. It’s hard to miss — against a background of vivid tangerine and silhouettes that span floor to ceiling, Khia presents chunks from the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Individual as outlined in the Constitution of The Bahamas.

As a site-specific piece, the choice of the law library is no mistake — Khia’s message is as loud as the shade of orange she uses, and it’s one that advocates tolerance, equality and unity using the language of those who have the power to uphold and change it.

“I think you always make a work with an audience in mind, and I think the people on this floor are the people who are studying now to become the next lawyers, lawmakers and law changers in this country,” she explains.  “I want them to look at it and realize that everyone in this mural is a Bahamian and everyone deserves to have the same rights, the same respect, the same sense of dignity.”

Compared to the other installations in the Harry Moore Library and Information Center, it’s the most politically-driven — a piece that by its very existence creates controversy and leads to change.  But it’s also refreshing, engaging and eye-opening.

“We couldn’t really access that floor when we were choosing our site, but I knew it was the law library, and once I found that out I wanted to take a risk and talk about something that I really cared about.  No where else struck a cord with me,” she explains.

It also seems to be the most permanent, having the appearance of being painted directly onto the walls.  Yet Khia explains she’s worked directly onto thin and pliable pieces of plywood — and yes, she did paint the words by hand, opting not to stencil them.

“Making it was a lot more challenging than I anticipated — I can be rather ambitious,” she laughs.

Indeed, the sizeable piece has a definite physical presence, but its message takes on a loving rather than aggressive tone.

The fact that she painted the words by hand through projection rather than stencil, and with some other members of the art program at COB who were excited about the piece, lends weight to the process of it.  Imbued in the words is the very sense of intention, excitement and hope — and not just for the future society of The Bahamas.

“Recently those of us in the art program were really dissatisfied with what was happening at the College of The Bahamas,” she says.  “I think working on a project like this of this scale and knowing where it was going, it kind of made you feel that something you were doing mattered, and that where it was going it was actually going to be respected.”

Having spent two years earning her Associate’s in Art at COB, Khia would know.  But now she sets her sights on study abroad — she recently got accepted into The Rhode Island School of Design to pursue a degree in Illustration, and hopes to embark on it early next month.

“I’m really looking forward to a change in environment and being around artists that I have no cultural connection to and to prove myself and see that what I have to say is valid and different,” she says.  “I’m excited to see how I do amongst the best of the best.”

While she’s gone, her mural will remain a somewhat audible centerpiece to the quiet stacks of the law library, reminding those who visit the space often about what is truly important to the country — the equality of all who reside there.

“I hope it makes them want to do something about it, because they are in a position to,” she says.  “I can make noise but I don’t have the degree — they can actually do something.  At this point we can’t afford to ignore it because we’re affecting too many people, our community is too small.”

Sonia Farmer,
The Nassau Guardian
Arts & Culture Section

Mural at the Harry C. Moore Library and Information Centre, The College of The Bahamas.
8 x 38 ft. 2011.

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