By Malika Pryor-Martin
The Elliott Museum in Stuart, Florida recently showcased an exhibition that included works drawn from the National Collection, D’Aguilar Foundation Collection and the Dawn Davies Collection as well as three local south Florida artists. Some Bahamian artists featured included: Edison G. Rolle, Maxwell Taylor and Eddie Minnis and the pieces selected by curators at the Elliott Museum wooed and wowed Floridian audiences.
As a national institution, it isn’t only the responsibility of the NAGB to preserve Bahamian art and culture through the visual arts; it is our duty to promote that very same culture through an authentic and thoughtful lens that speaks to the best and most brilliant elements of our art world.
The Bahamas has an incredible history of demonstrated excellence, abroad - outperforming typical western expectations of what a small Caribbean nation can do. So it remains essential for the NAGB to participate in building and continuing that legacy of presenting and sharing the depth and breadth of what this country has to offer, not only within, but beyond our borders. Although Florida is by far our closest neighbour in the United States, there’s still a good bit to be learned about just how dynamic and unique The Bahamas is. For so long, we have been seen as a paradise, whose storied sun, sand and sea take precedence over our human-centred narratives. This would not be a case in the exhibition, “Celebrate: Art of The Bahamas”, which opened at the Elliott Museum late last year on December 14th, 2017 and recently closed on February 26th, 2018.
For more than two months, works by Amos Ferguson, Nicole Minnis and John Beadle, among other noted Bahamian artists hung on the walls of the Elliott Museum and were viewed by hundreds of museum-goers. If there was a common theme in visitor comments, according to Jennifer Esler, President & CEO of the Elliott, it was that guests, “loved the art!” The opening night, as can be seen in the images below, suggest that the exhibition was well received by young and mature - alike. Crowding the halls, supporters and guests of the Elliott, not only engaged with the works for the reception but also for programming that was designed around “Celebrate: Art of The Bahamas.”
Annie Potts, who curated the show for the Elliott Museum, conducted two formal gallery talks for the general public and facilitated informal tours for guests on multiple other occasions. To lend an even stronger voice to the value of Bahamian art and artists, the museum invited and hosted Pam Burnside, owner of Doongalik Studios, founder of Creative Nassau and advocate for Bahamian cultural arts. The talk was well attended and received and provided those in attendance with an intimate look into the artworks, the individuals who created them, and the communities, stories and legacies that inspired them.
Beyond efforts to bring The Bahamas to Stuart, as we know many Bahamians or people of Bahamian descent are residents and citizens of the United States. This exhibition presented a fantastic opportunity to welcome and engage Bahamian nationals who have settled in Stuart, Florida, and the Elliott Museum took full advantage. During the event, Bahamian food was served, and the Bahamian national anthem was sung for which all in attendance - stood.