On Friday, November 2nd, I was thrilled to finally be on my way to Curacao, where I am taking part in a collaborative project with the Instituto Buena Bista (IBB) on behalf of FRESH MILK. After two flights (and two security searches!), it was lovely to be greeted so warmly and enthusiastically by David Bade, visual artist and co-founder of the IBB – especially with the news that his fellow founder and artist Tirzo Martha had just become a father! From the airport, we traveled straight to the IBB headquarters, which is on the same compound as Klinika Capriles, a psychiatric clinic with which the IBB has a relationship. Some past students have been patients of the clinic, and some patients, while not being full-time students, still visit the studios and become involved. This itself can be a kind of art therapy, as it gives the patients an outlet for their thoughts and emotions, and a change of pace from their routine at the clinic.
Hearing David speak about this aspect of the IBB while he gave me a tour around the premises was an inspirational experience, as he and the IBB team are obviously very passionate about what they do, not only for the young students – with the mission to equip them with the tools they need to go on to further artistic studies as well as showing them viable outlets for their talents in the professional world – but to make a difference in society through the engagement with the clinic. In this way, the IBB becomes more than just an art school or a space to hold exhibitions; it is an ongoing vehicle for social change through the arts.
To this end, I also met Dutch artist Erik Habets, who is the current resident artist at the IBB, and my housemate during my stay. Alongside his own work, he is also very involved with the students, and is at present working with them to create a wooden installation in the courtyard of one of the long-stay wards of the clinic. This interaction between Erik and the students, combined with the curiosity and interest the patients had in this new hive of activity in their life, was a very moving sight, and highly indicative of the whole dynamic at the IBB; one of sharing, inspiring and supporting through open expression in the arts.
David then took me to the IBB Residency House, where I met Erik’s wife Marijn, and settled in. Erik and Marijn took me out to dinner that night, and I am so grateful to both them and David for making me feel welcome in Curacao. This continued into the weekend, when Erik, Marijn and I had a barbecue in our garden on Saturday, and on Sunday David took me for a drive around the island, briefly showing me the town and some places of interest (including the former sites of the IBB). Something I found fascinating about the island so far is how familiar, yet unfamiliar it feels; having never visited the Netherlands Antilles, I did not know what to expect. The distinctive Dutch architecture of some buildings made it feel like a different world, but then there were some areas we drove through, where people were ‘liming’ by what I would compare to Bajan rum shops – which of course is a typical part of the landscape I am used to at home. These kinds of differences were not only interesting for me as a spectator, but relate to the tension David mentioned is very much a part of the culture in Curacao, with their relationship to the Netherlands and the impact on Caribbean identity. I hope to get the chance soon to walk around the town and get to know it further – as well as take some pictures for you!
Today I was back at the IBB, where I discussed my segment of the residency in more detail. David gave me his input, and a list of key figures in the Curacao art scene to begin contacting to arrange interviews with. Tomorrow I will conduct the first interview, with art historian Jennifer Smit, who will visit the IBB headquarters. On Wednesday I will travel to the studio of visual artist Herman van Bergen. The last confirmed interview so far will happen on Thursday, with curator and director at the Bloemhof Gallery, Nicole Henriquez. These will be filmed and edited by two students at the IBB, and shared with you soon. Anxious to see what will come of these conversations! Also looking forward to the arrival of Holly Bynoe this Wednesday, after her unfortunate delay being stranded in New York during hurricane Sandy. We are all extremely relieved and thankful you are safely back in the Caribbean, Holly – and can’t wait for you to land in Curacao!
Look out for more updates and pictures from me soon!