The Bahamas through the eyes of its artists

Jessica Colebrook

In daydreams of The Bahamas, most of us conjure idyllic imagery of turquoise seas, golden beaches, and luxe spa sessions. While these dreams undoubtedly reflect the beautiful reality of The Bahamas, the destination is more than just secluded cays and sunsets that look as if they leapt off a canvas.

The Bahamas is a proud nation with its own rich culture, colourful expressions, and unique traditions, populated by warm-hearted people truly invested in sharing their heritage with visitors. Beyond the ubiquitous smiles and exceptional hospitality, this welcoming spirit is also showcased in the destination’s thriving art scene.

Over the past decade, there has been a movement to enhance the Orange Economy (a term used to describe a country’s artistic industries) in The Bahamas and give these oft-underrepresented artists the spotlight that they deserve.

A nationwide conversation in The Bahamas about the importance of promoting its own cultural works abroad has given birth to a pair of incubators for the educational and professional development of artists: The Current Gallery and Art Center and Contemporary Art Bahamas (CAB). Both Platforms were specifically created to connect the nascent Bahamas art scene to the rest of the world. They recognise, nurture, and support compelling Bahamian artistic experiences through captivating exhibitions, workshops and lectures with local collectors, tourists, and curatorial services.

Jessica Colebrook, one of The Bahamas’ leading ceramicists, has found a new audience for her work through The Current. Colebrook’s work has been inspired by Bahamian history, its diverse culture and splendid landscapes. She is also the first Bahamian female tile manufacturer and proud owner of Jessica’s Tileworks Studio and Gallery, the leading ceramic manufacturing company in The Bahamas.

Being a creative artist herself, Jessica promotes the artform by creating and supporting the biennial “All Ceramics Exhibition” (ACE), in which upcoming and established ceramic artists exhibit their work and the general public has the opportunity to view the fine art pieces. Out of the proceeds from ACE, Jessica provides a grant to a student from The University of The Bahamas who exhibits a strong interest and talent in three-dimensional art.

A virtuoso with brush and canvas, Sue-Bennet Williams finds that she has been similarly empowered by The Bahamas’ new focus on its artistic exports. A former Floridian turned naturalized Bahamian, Sue works primarily with watercolours. However, in recent times she has started experimenting by adding acrylics to create different textures and effects and incorporating clay to create dynamic mixed media pieces.

Since 1988, Bennett-Williams has been an art professor at The University of The Bahamas, teaching both applied arts and art education courses. Bennett-Williams continues to mold the minds of primary and secondary-school level up-and-coming artists through the After-School Arts and Music Program (ASMAC).

With a stronger spotlight now shining on them, Bahamian artists are poised to make a splash on the world stage. Add a stop at one of The Bahamas’ many galleries and museums to your next Caribbean itinerary and bask in the tranquil environs that have inspired the destination’s artists to new heights of creativity.