On February 21, the Bahamian art community lost one of its brightest stars with the passing of art teacher Sandra Illingworth-Adderley. At the time of her death, Illingworth was in her eighth year at Lyford Cay International School (LCIS). Before that, she had served 40-plus years teaching at Lincoln Primary School, A. F. Adderley Junior High School, S. C. McPherson Junior High School, C. V. Bethel Senior High School and part-time at the College of The Bahamas.
For the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB), she was a familiar face. She scheduled regular trips for her students, who showed up enthusiastically and prepared. She equipped them with foundational knowledge and encouraged them to apply their studies to the gallery explorations. Though the trip would be led by a tour guide, Illingworth would usually take her time; ‘Ms. Illi’, as she was affectionately known at LCIS, would be called over to examine respective pieces with individual students, encouraging constructive exchanges among them.
She was instrumental in the lives and artistic development of some of the NAGB’s staff members. Jackson Petit and Darchell Henderson were touched by her influence as young students.
Chairman of the NAGB Stan Burnside, too, knew her commitment.
“She was one of the nicest, kindest human beings I’ve ever met,” he said. “She was a superstar art educator who was devoted to the development of her students, and many of them have gone on to do great things.”
Jackson Petit, NAGB digital media administrator and installation technician, remembers Illingworth well from his junior and senior high school years. They first met when he was in eighth grade at A. F. Adderley. Convinced that he had potential, she encouraged him to enter the FINCO Summer Art Workshop. He followed her advice, and they crossed paths a few years later at C. V. Bethel, where she taught him from 1998 to 2001.
Petit went on to become a regular winner of the Central Bank art competitions. His work has made him an established and respected member of the visual arts community, and touches on issues like heritage, ancestral roots and belonging.
“I remember all of those wonderful days of doing art classes at C.V. Bethel. I cherish the memory of all the weekends of extra attention she gave to nurturing my talent,” said Petit. “They were such beautiful days of creativity and laughter. Ms. Illingworth was a woman full of life. Anyone who knew her would say that she had a wicked sense of humor and a heart of pure gold. As a teacher, she took vested interest in the artists that her students would become. This was important. However, she also encouraged us to be the best human beings that we are supposed to be. I will miss her dearly.”
Darchell Henderson, registrar and assistant education officer, knew Illingworth-Adderley from her previous work at LCIS.
“Ms. Illi was an amazing woman. She was always full of energy, telling jokes and encouraging students and friends to be the best they could be,” said Henderson.
“I can still hear her saying ‘Ya ma!’ as she walked passed, mocking me waddle while I was pregnant. She was so proud of me when I started working at the NAGB. She always made all my problems seem small and always told me never stop striving to reach my goals because she saw what great potential I have.
“It saddens that she is gone, but I hold onto the memories we made and the laughs we shared. She was a great mentor and I hope one day I can touch lives the way she has.”
Her colleagues, students and friends at Lyford Cay International School are in deep mourning for her loss.
“Mrs. Sandra Illingworth-Adderley was a very caring, generous and devoted teacher and friend to many. She was more than an art teacher to her students; she was a mentor, confidant and role model,” said Judy Reiach, guidance counselor at Lyford Cay International School. “Ms. Illi pushed her students to go beyond that which they believed they were capable of achieving. She developed in them character, confidence and skills that will stay with them for life. Ms. Illi’s humor and laughter were contagious. She is greatly missed. There is a feeling of sadness over our campus at this time. She was a very special person who touched all of us.”
The NAGB sends its condolences to Sandra Illingworth-Adderley’s friends; family, particularly her husband, Richard, and daughter, Sarah; colleagues and students. She will be remembered as one of the institution’s most treasured visitors and art educators.