Arts & Culture
Abaco “First Art Attack” promoted and supported by the Abaco Art Guild
By Mirella Santillo
Apr 9, 2007 - 8:12:52 PM

Participants of the Art Attack stand in front of the finished piece. Antonius Roberts stands far left. VIEW MORE PHOTOS at the base of this article.

The Abaco Art Guild was created two years ago by local artists Marlee Mason and Jo-Ann Bradley not only to bring artists together, but also to promote art awareness among the students of the island.

            As four of us were meeting during lunch at Curly Tail’s, Jo- Ann informed Cathy Dohn   and I of the brain storm that she and Marlee had concocted: to invite a famous Bahamian artist to lead and supervise an art workshop in Marsh Harbour. What better incentive for kids than to learn from someone who had made a successful career from his art? I had been fortunate enough to meet many Bahamian artists while living in Nassau and some of them had even become friends, such as Mr. Antonius Roberts, a world renown and gifted painter and sculptor. We were voicing a few potential names, but his kept coming back. What a surprise when he suddenly appeared at our table!

             So was born The first Abaco Art Guild’s “Art Attack”, which was to be a workshop for   referred students over thirteen, their teachers and members of the Art Guild. It was decided that the people attending the workshop would collectively paint a series of panels. The mural would   then be mounted on the wall of a local business: Standard Hardware was pleased to accept the offer of displaying the art work. A garden corner was the perfect location, offering the right setting and visibility for the mural.The event was set for the last weekend in March.

            Twelve 4 x 8 panels of primed masonite, pots of paint in every possible colors and an array of paint brushes awaited the artists. As students of St Francis de Sales, Long Bay School, Wesley College, Every Child Counts, Agape Christian School and Forest Heights, some accompanied by their teachers, and local artists gathered in the hall of New Vision Church, that afternoon of March 30th,   Mr. Roberts immediately took charge, communicating his idea of what the mural should look like: a colorful Abaconian landscape.   He assigned a crew of drawers to sketch the design explaining that each panel would be a flowing continuation of the previous one. A few samples of birds, flowers and trees were at the disposition of the students, but he also invited them to use their imagination if they were so inclined. Now and then, the Master Artist stopped the group, urging people to step back to analyze and criticize the results, correcting what did not fit. By the end of the first session, an amazing scene of palm trees, bougainvilleas, mangroves, flowers, birds, lizards and more, on a seashore had emerged. Even a man dozing in his hammock entered the landscape!

            The second day was dedicated to painting. As early as 8:00 a.m. a crew was already painting the skies. As students returned and joined, the skies were completed, a sea crew started spreading turquoise.   As the background took shape, Mr. Antonius Roberts appointed people to paint leaves, flowers, butterflies, birds, rocks and critters. Each group became responsible for painting a specific part of the mural.   He constantly advised the group, himself taking a brush and joining into the creation.   Adults and children became entirely absorbed in the creative process, hardly speaking, enjoying the experience, barely stopping for lunch. Time was limited as the room which had been graciously put at the artists’ disposition by Pastor Derek Benjamin, had to be vacated by 3:00 p.m. to be prepared for the evening’s function. However, when work stopped, a fantastic scenery was revealed, bearing witness of the collective efforts of   people from different age groups, different ethnic and professional background, but all dedicated to the same goal: the creation of a work of art. As the workshop ended, Mr. Roberts stated how impressed he was by the amount of work that had been achieved in less than two days and by the talent of some of the local students. He said he is looking forward to come back to Abaco for more workshops.

             The Master Artist and his students will meet again for the press coverage of the unveiling that will take place during a small ceremony. Look for the date in the next issue of the Abaconian and remember to admire the mural while shopping at Standard Hardware or while passing by.



About the Master Artist, Antonius Roberts


 By Mirella Santillo


            Mr. Antonius Roberts is a native of Nassau where the first school he attended was Eastern Prep #3.   This is where he first perceived a talent for art.   In an interview with Patricia Clinton - Meicholas, he stated: “I was always encouraged, right from the beginning. Teachers would say: “Boy, you got talent.” “My friends always wanted me to draw for them.” But Mr. Roberts said that it was not until high school that he realized his full potential, getting an “A” in the G C E   “O” Levels.

            Many people were incidental to his art’s career from the very beginning, notably his High School teacher, Mr. John MacLaughlin who had prepared him for his O levels. Subsequently encouraged by Mrs. Juanita Butler, he took a job at the Matinee Art Gallery, then owned by another great Bahamian artist, the late Brent Malone. Mrs. Butler also encouraged him not to stay in Nassau, but to continue his studies in the United States. Miami- Dade Junior College was his next step. There he met Mrs. Jane Steinschneider who helped him to get into the Philadelphia College of Art, from where he received a B F A degree.

            First motivated by the German impressionists, Antonius Roberts had a complete turn around when he discovered Gauguin. “And Gauguin, for me, brought everything close to home.” “ I wanted to use Gauguin’s kind of approach... The Tahitian lady, you know... Why does a person have to be brown or white? They could be pink...So, I was fascinated by Gauguin use of colors.”

            “When I started in earnest, I really felt that art was meant to tell a story, art was meant to make a difference, art was meant to move people.” A statement that surely explained Mr. Roberts’ search for his African heritage, a search that motivated him to visit the Studio- Museum of Harlem, to travel to Washington, DC, “ to learn about Sam Gilliam. He came back home with a new perspective and started to associate with friends and other artists who shared similar concerns, “trying to find out what we were about, our identity. “ I really started to connect with things Bahamian. Things like ... Junkanoo. All that helped me to where I am right now.”   That interview took place in 1996 and from then, a promising start became a steady rise to success.

            His work evolved through many mediums and many styles. He mastered the use of Conte crayon, pastel, oil but later switched to acrylic for most of his paintings. He went form realistic to abstract and semi- abstract, slowly turning to a new mean of expression: sculpture, first starting with wood, but also lime stone. He sees himself as “an avid conservationist with a deep respect and understanding of the inter-connectedness of Nature, Man and Spirituality.”

            As an artist he has participated in exhibitions around the world and as a teacher and lecturer at Government High School and at the College of The Bahamas, he has been a mentor to a generation of young Bahamian artists. He participated in the restoration of Villa Doyle, which became The National Art gallery of The Bahamas and is the curator of the Central Bank Art Gallery.

            In 2006, he created a series of sculptures out of rooted dead trees, in various locations around New Providence, one of these “Sacred Space” holds twelve sculptures of women and marks the historical site of one of the first landing of slaves from Africa in The Bahamas.

            During the summer of 2006, Mr. Roberts was invited to Changhchun, China, to exhibit in the 8th Changchun International Sculpture Symposium with other sculptors from around the world. Mr. Roberts represented The Bahamas among forty five other countries.   His nine feet tall, head and torso of an African woman, cast in bronze, entitled Re-Birth now resides at the entrance of the Sculpture Garden.

            He has been approached recently by the Bahamian National Trust to oversee the possible creation of a site on Eleuthera.

            This is the story of a talented artist who has dedicated his entire life to his passion: creation. It is also the portrait of a man still pursuing his ideology, but eager to share his life’s experiences through his art and always ready to teach others, especially children for the perpetuation of art.

All Art Attack photos by Mirella Santillo (click to view large)

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