Since its inception, Popop Studios ICVA – an art gallery and studio space owned and operated by renowned Bahamian artist John Cox – has been a home for many emerging artists who have passed through the doors of the T20 art classroom at the University of The Bahamas (UB).
Many remember Popop as being the pioneer for the art and wine concept known today as “Sip and Paint” and initiatives like “Sketch 24”. The latter was a 24-hour art event that challenged art students to draw from live models, which resulted in an exhibition of works sold to raise money for the space.
It was through and because of all of this that Popop became “the self-sustaining entity of the Bahamian art community, providing exposure to students through its residency program, while presenting The Bahamas and providing platforms for artists on a regional and international level”, says Angelika Wallace-Whitfield, curatorial manager at The Current, Baha Mar Gallery and Art Center.
Upon the untimely and unforeseen turn of events caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Popop Studios became uninhabitable due to severe roof damage. Thus, Cox’s vision for a place where emerging contemporary artists of all generations can come to meet, create, exhibit and reside, if need be, was temporarily placed on the backburner… until now.
After becoming creative arts director of Baha Mar, Cox and his crew took on the challenge of presenting The Current through this year’s Transforming Spaces initiative with an exhibition entitled “POPOP FOREVER”, held at Popop Studios in Chippingham.
Popop will take on new life, paying homage to its rich artistic and cultural past while embarking on a new chapter with new leadership and partnerships such as the continuous and fruitful support of art collectors such as Saskia D’Aguilar and Dawn Davies. While the D’Aguilar Art Foundation has for many years supported the Popop Prize and residency, Davies has loaned a significant part of her collection on view at the “Fairwind” exhibition that remains on permanent display in The Baha Mar Convention Center.
The Dawn Davies collection occupies many other public areas on the resort’s property such as the Rosewood, and The Current’s team was able to arrange a reciprocation to support the significant renovation of Popop Studios and aid in the execution of this exhibition.
“In keeping with the theme of sustainability, Transforming Spaces has encouraged artists to consider the power of art to transform communities in positive ways. Of course, sustainability is the process of maintaining change in a balanced environment. Sustainability requires a harmonious use of resources in order to enhance both current and future development and potential. The partnership formed between The Current and Dawn Davies through the Fairwind exhibition has allowed resources to be used to impact the wider art community,” said Wallace-Whitfield.
She added: “To pay homage to this partnership, The Current has curated the newly renovated Popop Studios for Transforming Spaces 2019 (TS19). The team invited Popop alumni artists to submit works that encompasses the show’s theme ‘POPOP FOREVER’. These artists include: John Cox, Kendal Hanna, Heino Schmid, Eleanor Whitely, Samantha Treco, Ivanna Gaitor, Keith Thompson, Sue Katz-Lightbourn, myself and many others.”
The body of work that will be showcased within this exhibition will reflect upon the times these artists have spent within the Popop space and have been influenced by the many other elements: people, activities, events, exhibitions and so on, that tag along with the overall experience that will mean “POPOP FOREVER”. This exhibition will also make visual reference to Popop’s physicality and transformation process from 2008 to now.
Essentially, Cox and his team are working tirelessly to present works that will not only do justice to the theme of sustainability, but also honour the times past of a place that meant a great deal and made a huge impact on the lives of Bahamian contemporary artists of today.
According to Wallace-Whitfield, after TS19, Popop Studios will seek to function as a regularly frequented art gallery space, nesting and nurturing student artists out of UB’s T20 art classroom yet again, while supporting the voices of alumni artists who have passed through its doors.
Transforming Spaces 2019 will take place this weekend on Saturday, April 6 and Sunday, April 7, 2019, with exhibitions being held at Popop Studios, the D’Aguilar Art Foundation, Doongalik Studios Art Gallery, Hillside House and the Franklyn R. Wilson Graduate Centre in support of UB’s Visual Arts Department.
Tickets for the tour are priced at $35 and can be purchased at Doongalik Studios Art Gallery, Hillside House, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas and The Current Studios and Art Center.