Popop Artists Part of History-Making Exhibition

By in News on October 10, 2011

John Cox

History is being made as the largest collection of Bahamian visual artists’ work to be displayed in the United States opens next week in Waterloo, Iowa.

“Master Artists of The Bahamas”, an exhibition featuring over 40 pieces of artwork by eleven Bahamian artists, will coincide with a symposium, film series and educational public art installation project at The Waterloo Center for the Arts.

It’s fitting as the WCA holds one of the largest collections of Caribbean art in the U.S. as well as a significant collection of work by Amos Ferguson.

In a press conference at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas this week, Pam Burnside, the exhibition’s Bahamian Coordinator, extended thanks to the WCA, the NAGB, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the United States Ambassador Nicole A. Avant for their support in making the exhibition a reality.

But she pointed out that the biggest thanks were reserved for the two filmmakers who inspired the exhibition in the first place—after all, it was Karen and Tom Neuwirth’s film, “Artists of The Bahamas” that sparked in Waterloo Center for the Arts Director Cammie Scully a desire to hold an exhibition of the Bahamian art they documented.

“Artists of The Bahamas”, which premiered in the 2008 Bahamas International Film Festival season, takes a look at the lives, inspiration and work by late Bahamian greats Amos Ferguson, Brent Malone and Jackson Burnside, along with Antonius Roberts, Dave Smith, Eddie Minnis, John Beadle, John Cox, Kendal Hanna, Max Taylor and Stan Burnside.

Marysa Malone, Antonius Roberts, US Ambassador Nicole Avant, Maxwell Taylor, Pam Burnside

“My husband Jackson Burnside predicted that this could only be a brilliant Bahamian classic that will inspire our children for generations,” she said.

After WCA Director Cammie Scully and Curator Kent Shankle visited The Bahamas during the Carifringe art festival last October to deepen their appreciation for Bahamian artwork first seen in that documentary, Pam Burnside worked with them for a year to bring the exhibition “Master Artists of The Bahamas” to life.

Burnside expressed excitement that the exhibition will broaden international understanding and appreciation for creative culture in The Bahamas.

“It will be shown and discussed by thousands of visitors to the Waterloo Center,” she said. “We are extremely excited about the potential this exhibition holds. ”

Kendal Hanna

“We believe that The Bahamas should be regarded not merely as a destination that is well-known for its sun, sand and sea, but also as a country that boasts about its flourishing creativity in the arts, as well as its proud culture and rich heritage,” she continued. “The ‘Master Artists of The Bahamas’ exhibition will help us achieve this.”

Also in attendance was United States Ambassador Nicole A. Avant, who commended the project as an exciting historical moment which she hopes will inspire generations of Bahamians to come and looks forward to it fostering future rich artistic cultural exchanges between The Bahamas and the United States of America.

“The ‘Master Artists of The Bahamas’ exhibition at The Waterloo Center for the Arts will not only serve as a platform for the featured artists but will also present a tremendous opportunity for Americans to gain a more comprehensive understanding and greater appreciation of Bahamian art and culture,” she said.

“The U.S. Embassy is a proud sponsor of ‘Master Artists of The Bahamas’ because we hope that the exhibit will stimulate ongoing exchange between artists from The Bahamas and the United States,” she continued.

She pointed out that their sponsorship will allow the NAGB’s videographer Jackson Petit-Homme to travel to Iowa to document the historical moment, hoping that the resulting footage and documentary will be shared on local TV stations and in schools to inspire the next generation of master artists of The Bahamas.

Attending the October 14th opening and public symposium at the WCA are its featured artists and their  representatives, including Pam Burnside for her late husband Jackson Burnside and Marysa Malone for her father, the late Brent Malone.

“I think viewers will get the diversity we have in The Bahamas because the eleven artists are so different,” said Malone at the press conference. “I don’t think it will be what they expect—they’re going to expect something typically Caribbean and not for us to be as modern as we are. It will be exciting.”

The film about her father that premiered earlier this year at the NAGB, “Brent Malone: Father of Bahamian Art”, will be shown as part of the opening, as well as the premiere screening of “Match Me If You Can”, the documentary about the late Bahamian artist Amos Ferguson.

What is also particularly exciting about the comprehensive program organized at the WCA for “Master Artists of The Bahamas” is the educational component.

Antonius Roberts, also in attendance at the press conference, expressed his excitement for his week-long residency at the center that coincides with the exhibition opening and symposium, where he will work with students from the University of North Iowa on a public art piece crafted out of local material.

“A lot of us, we tell our stories locally and we tell our stories through our work, but this gives us an opportunity to take our stories to the world,” said Roberts. “At the end of the day, this is a time when a lot of us are inspired by authentic and positive stories and this exhibition and symposium provides that opportunity.”

“To me, making art outside of The Bahamas is really what I would love to do,” he continues. “It provides me an opportunity to take my story with me.”

Luckily, the story will not end in Iowa—once the exhibition has finished its run at the end of January 2012, it will travel to other art venues in the United States and share with the country the rich history and potential of the Bahamian creative industry.

Sonia Farmer
The Nassau Guardian
Arts & Culture
Published October 10, 2011

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