NAGB’s Mural Programme
: Eleuthera: “Freedom” of Creative Expression

By Abby Smith

Rich in history and eye-catching in its beauty, the island of Eleuthera became the backdrop for a creative explosion of young aspiring artists from all around the island. Continuing to make an impact on the islands visited courtesy of our travelling exhibition, the NAGB’s Mural Programme descended upon this tranquil isle with a challenge in tow: Telling the story of Eleuthera. Rising to the challenge was, Harbour Island All Age School under the directorship of Kevin Rolle, Art Teacher, North Eleuthera High School with Alfred Williams, Art Teacher, Central Eleuthera High School with Genele Williams, Art Teacher, Rock Sound Primary  School and Tarpum Bay Primary School with Itinerant Art Teacher, Janice Hall and Preston Albury High School with Will Simmons, Art Teacher.

Preston Albury students working on the final touches of Eleuthera Mural

Both teachers and students collaborated on a vibrant concept that focused on the folklore of the island incorporating physical features that brought a narrative of mysterious happenings and beliefs that permeated the hearts of children and adults. The synopsis of the mural spoke strongly not only to its well known heritage sites having a greater meaning besides its beauty and splendour but the impact on the communities in Eleuthera expressing “it would benefit the youth of Eleuthera by visually representing local landmarks and the stories surrounding them in a way that is fresh and new.  Old tales will become relevant to those who may not have heard them before and this will spark individuals’ interests in learning more about what makes them a unique part of this island’s story.”

Speaking to how it plays a definitive role in public art development on the island, art teachers stated collectively that their objectives are  “to preserve our Bahamian heritage in a form that is not only visually appealing but is meaningful, impactful and lasting.  As students and members of the community take part in creating OUR mural, they will be making history and preserving our history simultaneously.”

Currently being exhibited at Freedom Park directly facing the South Eleuthera Mission in Rock Sound, Eleuthera, the mural began its initial journey from the inner walls of the Eleuthera Arts and Cultural Centre, Tarpum Bay, all made possible by One Eleuthera Foundation. On the morning of March 2nd, eager students, teachers and NAGB team members gathered to paint a massive storytelling of Eleuthera. Initially intimidated by its size, students were hesitant tackling such a ginormous canvas. After much encouragement, students began to carefully map out their mural and by afternoon began adding colour giving them a burst of confidence to paint into the evening.

Following the first day of their first ever mural, participants continued painting and detailing their prized piece which saw a sense of ownership and appreciation for the work they had done the day before. Many came back with a renewed focus and a more dedicated effort in completing their story. The journey to and from this creative space spoke to the commitment many of these young persons displayed throughout this process especially those travelling from the farthest tip of the island to participate in this opportunity. Students and teachers were met with additional support from members of the community, workers from CTI and the South Eleuthera Mission, namely Ade Pinder. She often mentioned having a rebirth of sorts as she felt inclined to paint and not be a spectator in this wonderful process. She was engulfed in the process so much so that she took pride in her portion of the mural. All who participated became enamoured by its beauty taking selfies and documenting via social media as it progressed. Will Simmons, Art Teacher at Preston Albury High School, could be seen motivating students and using this as a learning opportunity not only in the creative process but the importance of teamwork. Kevin Rolle was equally active in having impromptu painting lessons with the piece itself as he reminded his students about colour theory and composition. “Keep going!” and “More paint on that piece” could be heard throughout the centre as students kept working toward its completion.

From Left to right: Abby Smith, Community Outreach OffIcer; Second row, Alfred Williams (Art Teacher, North Eleuthera High School), Kevin Rolle (Art Teacher, Harbour Island All Age School), Will Simmons (Art Teacher, Preston Albury High School) and Eleuthera student collective.

There was a sigh of relief and pride after the mural was completed as students stood in awe of three days’ worth of work. Many began to reminisce about how the mural started off as an idea and that its coming to life made their creatively spent weekend worthwhile. The vivaciousness of the mural to the depth of its narrative serves as the opening chapter to recounting Eleuthera’s folkloric journey seen through the eyes of school children.

Thanks to the unwavering support of the One Eleuthera Foundation and by extension the South Eleuthera Mission under the guidance of Ade Pinder, Project Coordinator, this mural stands tall and mighty at Freedom Park, Rock Sound. Stopping onlookers by foot and by car,  it showcases Eleuthera’s contribution to the talent pool of the nation’s top emerging young artists under the tutelage of some of the country’s best art educators. The mural illustrated the island’s rich narrative and its commitment to the community. Therefore, keeping in alignment with NAGB’s Mural Programme which focuses on involving communities in the creation of art while increasing the organisation’s presence in communities in The Bahamas.