Young Bahamian Artist Attends Prestigious College
Though Bahamian artist Khia Poitier is only 20 years old, she’s already made her mark on the Bahamian art scene—and she’s headed for big things, starting with enrolling in the Rhode Island School of Design‘s undergraduate program in Illustration.
As this year’s recipient of the Harry Moore Memorial Scholarship in the Arts, given out by the Lyford Cay Foundation to an artist pursuing studies abroad, and the National Merit Scholarship from the Ministry of Education, Poitier is ready to make a difference in the way the public views art.
“When the art is right next to you, you feel more connected to it and I really would like to get more Bahamians connected to art,” says Poitier. “I’d like to see the art community reach out to the broader community because Bahamians are into it—I mean, look at Junkanoo.”
The artist herself has participated in public art projects, such as the Love My Bahamas mural project with the Downtown Nassau Partnership and her own mural-like piece in the Harry C. Moore Library and Information Center at the College of The Bahamas. Her work has also been exhibited during Transforming Spaces and the Schooner Bay Art Symposium.
But before all of this, her primary school drawings were exhibited on their fridge by her mother, who Poitier says has supported her all the way.
“Art has always been a part of my life. It was always encouraged in my house. My mom is a single parent and the sacrifices she’s made for me are really quite amazing,” says Poitier.
“She chooses to really support me, she loves me and cares about me a lot. She always said we’d figure it out and had a fire for me to succeed.”
Even when Poitier became unhappy with school, she and her mother decided together to try a home schooling course from 9th grade onwards. It turned out to be a significant change in Poitier’s life, allowing her to flourish in academics and try out extra-curriculars like guitar and, most importantly, art classes.
“It freed up a lot of time and money so I started afterschool art classes with Sue Bennet Williams and I think that’s when the shift started,” remembers Poitier. “Williams’s class was the first time I felt that art could be a career.”
Poitier credits Sue Bennet Williams for encouraging her to pursue art in college and to apply to the College of The Bahamas. So after finishing home school, Poitier embarked on her Associates of Art degree, earning it with distinction three years later and achieving both the 2011 College of The Bahamas School of Communications and Creative Arts A.A. Art Programme Award For Outstanding Academic Achievement as well as the 2011 College of The Bahamas School of Communication and Creative Arts Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement.
“The great thing about COB is it puts you in contact with really significant people in the art community which is important because the art world can seem so distant and there you realize it isn’t,” Poitier says.
“That one-on-one contact with teachers in small classes is great because whenever you’re excited about something, they’ll do anything to help you with that.”
Another one of her mentors she credits with supporting and inspiring her was one of these teachers: John Cox. In the educational art space he created, Popopstudios International Center for Visual Arts, Poitier flourished as one of their first (2010) Summer Junior Residents, giving her an art space and community in which to create work in over the summer, culminating in an exhibition.
“I loved just being around artists at Popop, a community of artists who are supportive or just give you help with your work or just talk about this art world,” she says.
“The art world always seemed so far away from me. But when I went to Popop, it was just all around me and it was easy to fit into it.”
She credits Cox with encouraging her to continue her education with a Bachelors at the Rhode Island School of Design, of which he is an alumni. Though she had already been accepted into another school in Portland and was intimidated by RISD’s application process and significantly higher tuition costs, Cox helped her through it, guiding her to chose the major of Illustration and writing her a glowing recommendation—which ultimately paid off.
“When I got in, I couldn’t believe it—I thought it was a mistake,” Poitier laughs. “I even called them to make sure. Then it dawned on me that I’d have to give them money I didn’t have.”
Luckily both the Harry Moore Memorial Scholarship in the Arts from the Lyford Cay Foundation and the National Merit Scholarship from the Ministry of Education came through for her just as time was running out.
“I wasn’t sure I was even going to go until about 3 weeks before,” says Poitier. “When I got that second scholarship, I cried. It was a crazy last two weeks, packing up everything before going.”
Now settling into RISD’s campus and already under deadlines with assignments, Poitier is excited about the work she will produce as an Illustration major.
“RISD so far is really amazing. The people I’ve met so far are wildly talented, smart and driven. It’s nice to be surrounded by that kind of energy,” she says.
“I worked so much with paint that I thought that would be what I would pursue,” she continues. “But pursuing the commercial side through Illustration would be helpful and provide me with more opportunities.”
Such opportunities, she hopes, will lead her maybe to a graduate degree in the art field and hopefully home, where she has big plans to contribute to the flourishing local art world by bringing art outside of the traditional gallery space.
“I like public art. I like art that resonates within a community,” she says. “The great thing about painting outside is while you’re painting it, people will come up with no reservations and ask questions and want to do it. It’s cool to see people thinking about art outside of a gallery space. It’s so dependent on viewer interaction and I would really like to see public art more utilized at home.”
The Nassau Guardian
Arts & Culture Section