Tilting Axis Curatorial Fellow 2018
Bahamian Natalie Willis, awarded!

Written by Dr. Ian Bethell Bennett  


As people who view art from outside, we are usually blind to all the moving parts that make art and bring it to us. We tend to think when we hear the term “public art”, for example, that this springs organically from the artist who is simply in his or her studio being creative. As Bahamians and members of an incredibly conservative mindset, we see art as something that will always leave our children poor and disadvantaged, so we discourage them from becoming artists; we discourage them from becoming writers. Yet, at the helm of much public art are leaders who make public art happen. They put things in place. Art does not usually simply spring up out of nothing and nowhere, though it can still be organic.

We need people to facilitate the art, bring it to the public, frame it in productive ways, and produce spaces that allow art and artists to flourish. Some of these people are curators. Curators organize, manage, understand the nuances, intricacies, needs, challenges and possibilities of art and collections. We do not usually see this side of art. 

In the Caribbean, art has bloomed over decades, especially in countries like Jamaica, Cuba and Puerto Rico, as well as the Dominican Republic. Haiti is famous for its art; yet we, as Bahamians tend to diminish Caribbean art and its value. When curators gets a hold of a body of work or a group of ideas the job they do to birth an experience is amazing. Especially when it comes to telling a story through and with the art.

Curating a space is as important as the art that goes in it. Creating a narrative through spacing, organizing, timing, physically hanging works, color scheme and mood, all accentuate how the art is allowed to speak and how the public sees the art or receives it. The process is not passive. As a part of this science, artists or art enthusiasts study for many years to learn how to tell stories with art and how to manage art collections . . .