COB departments team up to transform the NAGB

This year, College of The Bahamas (COB) students and faculty are bridging gaps and celebrating autonomy through group work in the 2015 Transforming Spaces. The annual art tour unveiling thought-provoking transformations in galleries and creative spaces across New Providence will this year be held over March 21 and 22. The 2015 Transforming Spaces bus tour will treat explorers to metamorphosed areas at Hillside House, Doongalik Studios, PopopStudios, the D’Aguilar Art Foundation, The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) and Liquid Courage Gallery.

However, unlike previous years, Transforming Spaces 2015 has set itself apart by foregoing a universal theme, giving participating artists more sovereignty than ever before.

Artists have been asked to use each gallery’s history, location and position in the context of Bahamian society as inspiration for transforming the space.

Seeing the opportunity to “transcend departments”, COB Assistant Professor of Art Michael Edwards and his students are collaborating with COB architecture lecturers Valaria Flax and Henry Hepburn, architect Michael Diggiss and students of COB’s architecture program to transform the space at the NAGB. Approximately 20 students in total, most of whom are architecture students, will join forces to construct an art pavilion on the lawn of the NAGB. Theirs will be one of two constructions transforming the gallery’s outdoor space, with Nicolette and Margot Bethel creating a second, unrelated work.

“We want to engender more collaboration between students, between departments of the university. We’re very cognizant of the fact that departments still exist in huge silos, and we want to deconstruct those silos to encourage more thinking across disciplines, to encourage more interdisciplinary work,” explained Edwards.

Architecture students have used the knowledge acquired in class to design the pavilion, having regard to available space and elements like light and air; they will also be responsible for the physical construction of the building, which will be composed of plywood. Art students have taken control over decorating the pavilion’s blank spaces with paintings and sketches. Both sets of students will be graded on their efforts in the challenge.

“Think about the name, in and of itself – it’s about transforming a space – so I thought it was a really good idea to bring design to the table and have design as a part of the conversation,” said Edwards. “Last year, Collins House was the first iteration of this idea of art pavilions. When you think about art fairs, there’s often an art pavilion that’s incorporated, where an architect will collaborate with the artists. So this collaboration has always been a part of these kinds of fairs.”

The project is largely supported by the D’Aguilar Art Foundation, and Edwards believes the new direction taken by Transforming Spaces and the college’s collaborative initiative is indicative of future Transforming Spaces events.

“We think this is where Transforming Spaces ought to go. We’re thinking five years ahead. We’re thinking down the line,” he said.

“I think this philosophy of working across departments, problem solving and coming up with solutions is the way forward,” he added. “We get bogged down in our monolithic ways of thinking, and we want to bridge disciplines and thought processes to work on these kinds of projects.”

Tickets for Transforming Spaces can be purchased for $35 from Doongalik Studios, on Village Road, or The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, on West and West Hill Streets. Bussed tours of the transformed spaces will be held from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 2 – 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, and 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 22. Members of the public are welcomed and encouraged to attend the week’s highlights, which include a public talks forum on Thursday, March 19, at the NAGB and an opening party at Hillside House on Friday, March 20.