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Bahamian scholar awarded the Clark Art Institute’s Caribbean Research Fellowship

Keisha Oliver, University of The Bahamas assistant professor of design and head of its Visual Arts and Design Department, has been named a fall 2021 fellow of the Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts.

Oliver is the first recipient of the institute’s Caribbean Art and Its Diasporas Fellowship, which supports art historians, artists, critics, and writers who are engaging with the complexity of critical Caribbean scholarship, art and visual practices. Focusing on themes of representation and cultural conservation, her current interests as an independent curator and researcher examine historical and contemporary practices within Bahamian art and visual culture.

Chartered in 1950, The Clark is one of the few institutions in the United States (US) that combines a public art museum and a leading international center for research supported by a distinguished art history library. Its research and academic program supports scholarship in visual culture, art history, and interdisciplinary inquiry. Clark fellowships are awarded to established and promising scholars with the aim of fostering a critical commitment to the theory, history, and interpretation of art.

During her time at The Clark, Oliver will pursue an archival project which maps the origins of Bahamian art in the 1950s through 1960s. This is noted as a critical period marking the emergence of formal art education in the US, established by prominent figures like Horace K. Wright, Don Russell and David Rawnsley, who trained the first generation of pre-independence artists.

“In The Bahamas, art history is dwarfed by contemporary practices while cultural conservation becomes a vanishing necessity,” said Oliver. “It is lost to a generation of post-independence historians and academics who realized the importance of preserving historical records in the country’s path toward de-colonialism. As support, funding, and scholarship trends shifted in the past 50 years, very few scholars in this field remain. My research focuses on the unearthing of marginalized historical perspectives that will contribute to a more inclusive and diverse archival record of Bahamian art, one that gives visibility to those who appear as footnotes in our history.”

Oliver’s project will make a significant contribution to Caribbean art history studies as she highlights the urgency of digital archival practices. Her research examines the intersection of design thinking, pedagogy, and de-colonial theory in addressing a shift in the framing of historical narratives that challenge dominant representations and stigmas of outsider cultures.

As part of The Clark’s Fall 2021 fellowship program, Oliver will be completing her research alongside five visiting scholars: Roberto Conduru of Southern Methodist University, Edward Payne of Aarhus University, Irene V. Small of Princeton University, Cynthia Hahn of Hunter College and independent art historian and curator Cecilia Faja-Hill.

“This is a rare opportunity for me to work with established academics from across a range of art history disciplines. Also, I’m inspired by the possibilities of regional collaborative opportunities and the chance to expand the dialogue in Bahamian art and visual culture,” said Oliver.

While at The Clark, Oliver will give a public lecture, “Almost Forgotten: Marginalized Histories in Bahamian Art (1950 – 1960s)” on Tuesday, October 19, at the Manton Research Center followed by a seminar on Wednesday, October 20.

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