ONE: Clint Kemp (left) of the New Providence Community Centre is pictured with metal sculptor Tyrone Ferguson, lead artist for the ONE sculpture project (centre) and painter/sculptor Antonius Roberts. The dramatic 28ft metal sculpture speaks to the idea of unity and power of artistic expression. (Photo: Felipe Major/Tribune Staff)
'ONE' Step At A Time
Does art have the power to transform a community and a culture? Clint Kemp of the New Providence Community Centre thinks so, and he's out to prove it is one step at a time.
The first step in this long-term process of art development in the Bahamas, taken on by Mr Kemp and his congregation at New Providence Community Church, is through ONE, a public art sculpture project that speaks to the idea of unity and the power of artistic expression.
Public art is not a common sight in the Bahamas is was seen as an obvious vehicle to expose the community to art and bring artists together for a good experience.
"(But) it's not just about a piece of art, but about art in this country," Mr Kemp told The Arts in an interview at his office. "It's a portal of what art can become, the power of art in the community."
The concept for ONE, a dramatic 28-ft tall metal sculpture, first came about when renowned Bahamian artist the late Brent Malone joined NPCC and its discussion on how to create an environment where art was supported.
Other noted artists, like Antonius Roberts, John Cox, Tyrone Ferguson and Diane Turnquest were invited to contribute and after weeks of discussion ONE was born.
The decisions on the size of the sculpture, the material (stainless steel) it was made from and its location were all very deliberate. The design team wanted to ensure that ONE would be a complete experience for the viewer, both on a physical and emotional level. Its sheer size, 28ft, makes it visible from the air and to the hundreds of motorists who will pass it everyday; the stainless steel reflects the environment surrounding the sculpture, which rises from the middle of a pond at NPCC's Blake Road campus; and the giant chimes allow it to be heard.
A synopsis of the project explains: "(This) sculpture will speak to thousands of people for many years to come. Light reflecting off stainless steel and an harmonic symphony generated by the wind gongs will truly be an experience for those who visit. This experience will inspire heart and mind and be a point of reference and transformation for many."
The artists and other contributors were careful not to over-define ONE. They simply wanted to express the power of oneness, a message that is not necessarily spiritual or religious, emphasises Mr Kemp. It is simply an expression of unity.
Mr Malone was the senior voice of the project. His influence shaped the creation and development of ONE, and when he died suddenly last year, in the midst of the project, it was decided that ONE would be dedicated to him.
The project was officially launched on June 4, and at the end of November a group of metal artists from Michigan will visit the Bahamas to work on the sculpture with local artists. The unveiling of the sculpture, which will stand on the NPCC campus near the high-traffic cross roads of Blake Road and J F K Drive, is scheduled for April 2005, during the centre's annual One Love festival.
In the meantime, Mr Kemp and the project's organisers are working on raising the $40,000 needed for the materials and tools for ONE. The artists have donated their time and already more than half of the funds needed have been raised.
"The power of art to shape a culture is profound. As our country grows through its early history, it is the creativity of its people that celebrates and challenges us to self-discovery and a preferred future," says Mr Kemp. "ONE is a platform along with others, including the National Art Gallery (of the Bahamas) that points us in the direction of hope."
For artist Antonius Roberts, ONE represents a wonderful opportunity for artists to create in the "spirit of oneness".
And like Mr Kemp, he sees it only as a first step.
"This sculpture will be at NPCC, but most importantly it is a piece of sculpture in the Bahamas," says Mr Roberts.
It is hoped that ONE will inspire similar ideas and become a model for other community art projects, fostering a greater appreciation for the holistic benefits of art.
"I believe that persons who are in a position to make public art happen are ignorant to the vast potential of art in very public spaces," says metal sculptor Tyrone Ferguson, the lead artist on the ONE project.
"The gallery at the airport is a good start, but what happens on the way from the airport. As a community we are starved for art in public spaces, not because of the lack of money or creativity but because of the lack of an understanding of how much we can benefit from public art. Imagine welcoming visitors to our shores with a manifestation of creativity in metal grilles in a stunning burst of Bahamian colours instead of drab chain-link fences."
ONE is a part of NPCC's larger vision that involves an holistic approach to religion, encompassing issues of healthcare, education, the environment, the arts and community service.
"We want to be a community that serves the community," says Mr Kemp.
Dressed in cargo shorts, a short-sleeved button down shirt and flip flops, Mr Kemp is an unlikely picture of what most Bahamians would consider a pastor, but his vision and the result of the little-publicised work in the community that the church has been carrying out for the past 10 years speaks for itself.
"We (NPCC) are trying to create an experience along the thinking that art is beauty, beauty points to truth and truth points to God," says Mr Kemp.
Along with developing its own art programmes, NPCC has donated the exhibition space for the upcoming International Professional Artists Symposium and Exchange exhibition, which opens Thursday, November 11 at 6pm; and plans are underway for the development of the Contemporary Art Centre of the Bahamas, the next step in Mr Kemp's effort to bring art and its benefits to the wider community.
The idea for the centre, which will provide a home for the art community to work together, was first presented to government officials years ago by Mr Malone and Mr Roberts. The artists did not receive a response, so when Mr Kemp heard of the idea he jumped on it. It is hoped that the centre will be up and running within two years.
"Our culture cries out for safe places to experience community, beauty and hope," says Mr Kemp. "This centre will be such a place."
Like the international artists symposium now taking place at the College of the Bahamas, which is providing two local and three international artists with the opportunity to work together and exchange ideas, Mr Roberts feels that the proposed centre's benefits will give Bahamians from all walks of life the chance to experience art and creativity in ways that most rarely get the chance to.
And Mr Roberts would like to see those experiences spill over into Bay Street, Arawak Cay and Rawson Square.
"This is a wonderful time for us to explore the concept of oneness and spirituality and creativity, and how we can use the energy and talents of the Bahamas for the sake of helping everyone to go to the next level," says Mr Roberts.
NPCC's commitment to art is obvious to all who visit the 20,000 sq ft centre. Bahamian paintings and photographs line the hallways and music and singing can be heard coming from the many activity rooms filled with children and adults taking part in the variety of programmes offered by the centre.
The centre is open to all, and Mr Kemp is eager to point out that the New Providence Community Church is only one aspect of the one-year-old centre, which is already attracting many people from all different backgrounds.
"I think it's a beautiful thing," says Mr Kemp. "What the sculpture represents is already happening."
By Erica Wells, The Tribune.