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Arts & Culture Last Updated: Jan 16, 2019 - 2:28:21 PM

12 year old Bahamian Artist makes history
By Felicity Darville
Jan 11, 2019 - 11:27:31 AM

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Sean, right, wearing white jacket, with students of Jose De Diego Middle School

Nassau, Bahamas - A 12 year-old Bahamian students has become the youngest artist and the first Bahamian to participate in the RAW project which coincides with Art Basel in Miami, Florida Every year.

Sean Austin was proud of his painting of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis shaking cowbells and rushing in a Junkanoo parade. His teacher, Cicely Bodie, was proud of him too, and created opportunities for him to show off his work of art, including meeting the Prime Minister himself. Last summer, Ms. Bodie took Sean to the the launch of the Craftsman’s Business Center, when former Speaker of the House of Assembly Italia Johnson and her sister, former Senator Gladys Johnson-Sands were launching their new business. A group of teachers who were visiting The Bahamas were touring the center and the Bahamian artifacts and activities inside.

Sean meets an artist exhibiting at Art Basel

There, the young Sean met Dr. April Williams, Principle of Jose De Diego Middle School, who was impressed by his passion for art and his presentation to the teachers on why he decided to create the painting. Tribune Weekend was there and at that time, Dr. Williams promised to invite Sean and Ms. Bodie to the next RAW project during Art Basel.

That promise was fulfilled during the second week in December, giving Sean the opportunity to make history as the youngest participant and the first Bahamian to decorate the school’s walls in the city of Wynwood.

Ms. Bodie and Sean at the Urban red carpet event

RAW project (Re-imagining the Arts in Wynwood) coincides with Art Basel Miami where every street in Wynwood is bustling with artists, musicians, bloggers, street art murals, galleries and art enthusiasts from all over the world. Art Basel Miami attracts thousands of visitors every year to party, socialise, and celebrate its love of the arts. With Wynwood being such a creative neighbourhood, it was ironic that the local schools did not have an art department or any art funding. The RAW project began in 2014 to bring color and inspiration to Jose De Diego’s bland white concrete walls. The school taught over 600 students ages 11 to 14, but lacked any art education, until the RAW project stepped in. With the help of street artists from all over the world, the school’s walls were transformed with color and inspiration for the students. The project is also responsible for an ongoing $500,000 fundraising campaign to support the school’s art department.

The theme for this session was: “Welcome to the Afrofuture” – a theme for which Sean’s Junkanoo art piece fit in perfectly. Ms. Bodie gave special thanks to Mr. Jack Thompson for financial assistance for Sean. The major part of the funding was sponsored by the school, and Ms. Bodie says Dr. Williams and her staff gave her and Sean the royal treatment for the three days they were there.

viewing artwork at Afrofuture

Ms. Bodie recalls that the task was so daunting at first that they asked Dr. Williams for a scale back: “Initially they had a 40-foot wall for us to paint. But in three days, we didn’t think that would be possible. We wanted to do a good job and do something that would represent The Bahamas well. We had to accomplish the task with spray paint which was a first for me, so it was a learning experience for me as well. So, they took it into consideration and assigned us a 16 by 16-foot wall space. A professional artist was assigned to assist us, Mr. Jermaine Green, and he was really great to work with.”

Artists participating in Afrofuture included Denisio Truitt, a graphic and clothing designer of Liberian descent; Felice Gee, a Brooklyn-born artist with a long-standing interest in the gentrification of urban neighbourhoods; Courtney “Ceaux” Buckley, a New Orleans-born multidisciplinary artsist; Sokari Ekine, a Nigerian British feminist educator, writer, visual scholar and activist; Soraya Jean Louis McElroy, a Haitian-born mixed media artist; Nate Dee, a colourful street artist; Vitus Shell, who has painted for the National Civil Rights Museum’s NBA Pioneer’s Exhibit; and King James Britt, a DJ and Pew Fellowship recipient.

viewing artwork at Afrofuture

When Sean met Dr. Williams, he was a student at T. G. Glover Primary. Today, he is the recipient of a scholarship to attend Windsor School.

“Sean takes a great interest in art,” Ms. Bodie said.

She started out in the Ministry of Education as a janitor and worked her way up to becoming a teacher. She is self-taught, but combined a thricing passion with her natural ability to create beautiful art pieces into her current career as a teacher.

“There are so many students like Sean all throughout the education system. The Minister of Education needs to take note that there are opportunities like the RAW project and Art Basel out there for these students to participate in that can expand their international exposure the way it has done for Sean and I.”

She also encourages the Prime Minister to pay a visit to0 the school and see the larger than life painting of himself.

enjoying street art

Slide Show: Dr. April Williams, left, assists Sean in creating his Junkanoo wall mural

Dr. April Williams, left, assists Sean in creating his Junkanoo wall mural



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