Popopstudios presents this year’s Junior Residency Prize winners
In a country dominated by the financial, legal and hospitality professions, Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts is a welcome refuge for young Bahamians pursuing their ambitions of contributing to the visual arts community.
The independent studio and gallery, led by founder and Director John Cox, has been instrumental in the studies and careers of young artists through its annual junior residency program. Now in its fifth year, the Popop Junior Residency Prize is awarded to art students who show potential through their work, but who could also benefit from the program’s exposure, according to Heino Schmid, Popopstudios’ creative director. Funded by the D’Aguilar Art Foundation and Antonius Roberts, the junior residency is offered free of charge to prize winners; its objective is to help young artists develop sustainable practices.
The focus is no different for the 2014 prize winners. At varying levels in their studies, Ivanna Gaitor, Samantha Treco and Jodie Minnis are all under 25 – a requirement to be considered for the program – and look to the residency for guidance in developing their skills and artistic progression.
Originally from Abaco, Gaitor found out about the program through her studies at The College of The Bahamas (COB) – a popular portal for many of Popop’s past junior residents. Gaitor specializes in geometric shapes and lines and takes inspiration from American artist Sol LeWitt; she has plans to study advertising at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Keen on exploring different art forms, Gaitor hopes the residency will give her the chance to do so.
“It’s the perfect opportunity for me to delve into the things that we’re going to be exposed to on the Schooner Bay trip and also to what we’ll be exposed to on the New York trip, with visiting different galleries and, too, just being in an environment surrounded by different artists that would be able to give me advice and critiques during the process,” she said.
The excursions she refers to are not your average summer vacations, and, like the junior residency itself, the trips are free for the prize winners. Described as a ‘spiritual experience’, the annual trip to Schooner Bay is by invitation of Antonius Roberts, the Schooner Bay artist-in-resident. While this year’s junior residents aren’t sure what to expect, past participants have been encouraged to develop their vision and skill set through collaborative work. Traditionally, while there, the artists collectively produce an artwork outside on the natural landscape.
“It’s more cool, calm, collected,” said Gaitor of the trip. “We’ll be spending two full days there and what we do during our stay is we find materials and we have to come up with an art project at the end of our stay…”
The trek to the Big Apple is a bit more straightforward, particularly for Treco, a junior at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan. An abstract artist, Treco’s focus has shifted significantly from her roots in painting portraits, a move she says was inspired by FIT Professor Cynthia Gallagher.
“I went into abstract painting and it was a way of letting go and letting things happen, like control and non-control. And I’ve kind of incorporated that into portraits as well. Things happen in your life that you have control over and that you don’t have control over, so what I’m doing is trying to relate the two things.”
Hoping to find work as a curator in New York after her studies, Treco has long-term plans to return to The Bahamas as an art teacher. She found out about Popop’s Junior Residency Prize through Schmid, her former professor at COB. She credits the junior residency with helping her find her feet in her studies.
“Since I went on the New York trip before with past residents, that’s how I ended up going to school in New York now,” she said. “I wasn’t even a resident going with that group and I was in my second year at COB in the fall semester and I was like, ‘I need to get out of here. I should go to New York because there’s so many things to see’, so that’s how I ended up there now.”
The trip up north has traditionally focused on museum visits and lasts anywhere from one week to 10 days.
“You’re going from nature to the heart of concrete – concrete city,” said Minnis of the junior residency trips. “…This will be my first time actually going to New York for a long period of time, so I just expect to be inspired. I expect to learn more about myself and my practice by looking at other people’s work and their practices.”
A second-year art student at COB, Minnis’ focus is primarily on charcoal figure drawing, stating that she enjoys “the relationship between three-dimensional stuff on a two-dimensional plane”. With a long-term goal of becoming a curator, Minnis currently works as Antonius Roberts’ assistant at The Central Bank of The Bahamas. The artist looks forward to curating an October exhibition at The College of The Bahamas, which will feature her works among those of other students.
Minnis credits artist Alan Wallace with giving her the inspiration she needed to pursue her dreams.
“I asked him if he only was an artist, like if he had a side job or anything, and he was like, ‘No. I just paint’. And I couldn’t believe that because I was told, ‘Well you can’t make money in art’, you know? So, he was my greatest inspiration. He pushed me into the water to say ‘Go after it. If that’s your passion, then go after it.”
The three artists look forward to showing their works at upcoming Popopstudios shows. Popopstudios Junior Residencies generally last three months from the beginning of June to the end of August. Those interested in finding out more about Popop or its junior residency award are encouraged to visit Popopstudios.com.