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Earlier this year, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas began a comprehensive and transparent search, locally and worldwide, to fill a number of positions including Director, Assistant Educational Officer, Curatorial Assistant and Curatorial Trainees. The Board of the NAGB and the Gallery itself worked in consultation with the arts community throughout the entire process. With this talented selection of persons, the Board is confident that the process has been a sound one and that it has resulted in the best persons being chosen for each position.
After an extensive search, the Board of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas announces the appointment of Director Amanda Dana Coulson to succeed Dr. Erica M. James, who managed the National Art Gallery since its establishment seven years ago.
Amanda Coulson, a Bahamian citizen, earned her Master’s Degree in Art and Architecture from New York University’s prestigious institute of Fine Arts and went on to become an internationally-renowned art critic and curator, while supporting Bahamian artists on the international platform.
Dr. James is a strong supporter of Coulson who she worked with in 2006 on the international exhibition Funky Nassau – Recovering an Identity. The exhibition was staged at both the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas and the celebrated Nassauischer Kunstverein in Wiesbaden, Germany, where it garnered great international press for the nine Bahamian artists: John Beadle, Dionne Benjamin-Smith, Lillian Blades, John Cox, Blue Curry, Michael Patrick Edwards, Antonius Roberts, Heino Schmid and Clive Stuart.
Coulson maintained close contact with many of the artists and helped further their careers with advice and insights in navigating the complex world of contemporary art. “I’m really touched at how many friends and colleagues have supported this appointment. It underscores the warmth and richness of our community that I’ve missed for so long,” Coulson comments.
Having co-founded contemporary art fairs with her German husband in both Basel, Switzerland and New York, Coulson wished to bring her expertise in arts administration, curating and critical writing back to her native soil. “Like many Bahamians who went abroad to complete their studies, connections are made that take one further away from home, professionally or personally. I secured a great job in New York and then married a German art dealer. While I found myself in a network that was extremely rewarding, it was disengaged from my homeland. So I was particularly thrilled when this opportunity arose for myself and my family.”
Coulson has promoted artists from other Caribbean nations like Che Lovelace (Trinidad), Enoc Perez (Puerto Rico) and Zac Ové (Trinidad), as well as African artists like Athi-Patra Ruga (South Africa) and Meschac Gaba (Benin), increasing their presence on the international art platform. “There are many art scenes that are unfairly marginalized due to their remoteness from the global art hubs. I hope to use my network of 20 years of arts management, to further the reach of Bahamian artists by bringing our national achievements to an international stage, and to garner more international focus on the islands themselves, encouraging visits by art lovers and curators to see the richness of our cultural scene.”
Additional appointees are:
Jordia Benjamin - Assistant Educational Officer
Jordia Benjamin was born in Nassau, The Bahamas, attended Aquinas College and graduated from High School in Kissimmee, Florida. She attended Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida pursuing and completing the Associate of Arts Degree in Studio Arts. She transferred to the University of South Florida, in Tampa where she graduated with honors and received dual degrees, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Studio (concentration in Painting) and a Bachelor of Arts in Art History. While a student at USF, she furthered her studies abroad by enrolling in the University’s summer programmes in Paris, France and the United Kingdom. As an undergraduate, Miss Benjamin received numerous awards and grants including ‘Exceptional Talent Grant, CVPA Diversity Enhancement Grant, Transfer Student Achievement Scholarship, USF Art Department Talent Grant and USF College of the Arts Study Aboard Grant.
Her work has been exhibited in several Tampa galleries: The Centre Gallery, Flight 19, Traditional and Digital Arts Gallery, The International Boba House and William and Nancy Oliver Gallery. She received Honorable Mention in “Cityscape,” the University of South Florida Study Abroad International Photo Competition and was co-curator of “Je veux l’art” Fall 2008 Paris Study Abroad Exhibition at the USF Centre Gallery, Tampa, FL. Miss Benjamin has worked in several museums including the Contemporary Art Museum in Tampa, Florida and the Orlando Museum of Art in Orlando, Florida. She is a member of two honor societies Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key International Honor Society. She is the daughter of Crispin and Juieth Benjamin.
As Assistant Educational Officer, Miss Benjamin will assist with the development and supervision of education programmes for children, adults and artists; develop and execute community and island outreach programmes; along with assist with the development of educational materials for exhibitions as a part of educational product development.
Ashley Knowles - Curatorial Assistant
Ashley Knowles was born in Nassau, New Providence where she first developed an interest in art. After graduating from Bishop Michael Eldon School in Freeport, Grand Bahama, she received the Bahamas United World College full scholarship to attend Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada for 2 years to complete her International Baccalaureate. Upon completion of her baccalaureate degree, Ashley Knowles received a scholarship to attend Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts where she completed her Bachelors of Arts in May 2011 in Anthropology and a concentration degree in Museum Studies. Whilst attending Smith College, she also completed a thesis in Museum Studies on the role of relevancy in the Bahamian history museum. In the summer of 2011, Ashley Knowles successfully completed a certificate programme in Art Museum Studies at the Summer Institute of Art Museum Studies (SIAMS) where she was published and was 1 of 5 curators for the certificate exhibition entitled, Surface Tension: Reconsidering Water as Subject.
Ashley Knowles has had the good fortune of working at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC where she researched and curated an online digital exhibition entitled, "An Attempt At Noise: The Presence of Junkanoo in The Bahamas" and the Smithsonian 1994 Folklife Festival. Ashley Knowles has also interned at the National Museum of The Bahamas, The Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation where she researched and conducted interviews on Grand Bahamian history and assisted with the completion of a mini exhibition on the history of Grand Bahama.
As Curatorial Assistant, Miss Knowles will assist the director and curators with the research, development, design, installation and implementation of exhibitions, maintain and manage the National Collection and exhibition galleries. She will also act as liaison between curatorial staff and the general public, supervise use of the National Collection and perform routine condition reports on the galleries and National Collection with curators.
Nastassia Pratt - Curatorial Trainee
Nastassia Pratt was born in Nassau, Bahamas. Her interest in art began during her high school studies at St. John's College, particularly in 2003 during the RBC Finco Summer Art Workshop when she was introduced to watercolor painting. This subsequently led to her studies in design at The College of The Bahamas' Associate's Degree in Architecture. She then continued studies in architecture at Ryerson University in 2005 where her interest in model-making began. An ongoing exploration of these avenues of creating has led her to her present position as a Curatorial Trainee at the NAGB.
As Curatorial Trainee, Miss Pratt will support the work of the curatorial staff and focus on professional museum practices training. Miss Pratt will assist with exhibition development and maintenance, collections management, research, public programming, merchandising, membership and gallery promotion.
Averia Wright - Curatorial Trainee
Averia Wright was born in Nassau, The Bahamas and graduated from St. John's College. She is a ceramicist/sculptor who graduated from the College of The Bahamas with an Associates Degree in Fine Art. She transferred to the University of Tampa where she studied under Bahamian sculptor Kendra Frorup and graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Art with a concentration in ceramics. She was employed at Doongalik Studios Art Gallery, Nassau and participated in a two-man show, alongside Toby Lunn, in Transforming Spaces 2010 in the exhibit "Earth to Flight." Her work can be found in the collections of Dawn Davies, the D'Aguilar Art Foundation and Jackson and Pam Burnside.
As Curatorial Trainee, Miss Wright will support the work of the curatorial staff and focus on professional museum practices training. Miss Wright will assist with exhibition development and maintenance, collections management, research, public programming, merchandising, membership and gallery promotion.