Teaching the skills for creativity
My name is Dede Brown and I am a freelance, interdisciplinary artist living and working in The Bahamas.
After completing my Bachelor’s Degree in 2006, I returned to my hometown of Nassau on New Providence Island and did what every eager college graduate does; I landed my first, full time job in my studied profession, and began working full-time as an interior designer for an architecture firm. After about a year or so the rigid structure of the office environment, sitting in traffic for several hours to and from work and the tediousness of building projects which never seemed to reach completion, started to get to me and I found myself feeling overwhelmed by a great sense of frustration and complacency. I began pursuing photography and fine art (primarily drawing and painting) in my spare time in an effort to satisfy my creative curiosity. Together with my partner, we joined a local artists’ collective in 2008 and by 2009 had our first successful fine art exhibition. This struck a chord, and from then on, after hours (morning and night) were dedicated to either a photo session or time in the studio.
Now an active member of the local art community, I was inspired and enthused to further explore and learn new skills in fine art. This coupled with my skills as a working interior designer gave me the confidence to submit a proposal to an open call, which had gone out to all local artists, for works of art that would become permanent fixtures of the newly constructed Nassau Airport. And would you believe, my proposal was accepted. I had submitted the concept and schematic designs of 100 life sized flamingos to be crafted out of sheeted aluminum, painted and permanently fastened across to large walls of the domestic departure terminal. At the time I had never worked with metal as an artistic material before in my life so the next vital step was to actively learn a new skill set. Reaching out to several members within our small art community, I quickly found myself in the studio and workshop of Bahamian artist and metal smith, Tyrone Ferguson. Tyrone was kind, patient and encouraging, we were friends almost instantly. Before I knew it, he had me slicing through a piece of scrap aluminium with a flaming hand held torch and I was quickly learning the skills of plasma cutting. Tyrone did not hesitate to share his knowledge and his compassionate nature and willingness to assist me with my new skill development. It has proven to be paramount in the development of my work.
Fast forward to 2018, 5 years after completing the flamingo sculpture, I was contacted once again by the same companies I worked with previously, and this time commissioned to create a gift in the form of a custom artwork, which celebrates the 10-year anniversary of NAD (Nassau Airport Development Company) operating the Lynden Pindling International Airport in partnership with Vantage and The Government of The Bahamas. The second aluminum sculpture, a large spiral of colourful reef fish, which warmly greets visitors and returning residents as they walk through and exit the American/International Arrivals Terminal.
In May of 2010, I took a big risk and decided to leave my job and become a freelance artist, a move which enabled me to integrate my skills and passion across three disciplines – Art, Design and Photography. I have spent the past 8 years developing my career as an interdisciplinary artist by applying what I know and have learned from my education and combining it with my experiences, and a drive to continue expanding approaches to learning skills. With technology growing at an exponential pace and art ever evolving you have to be adaptable and you have to be willing to evolve with it. Otherwise you may get left behind. Call it passion, curiousity or just sheer willpower to be creative – experiencing and daring to ‘jump in’ have always been my way. I’ll admit that many of my projects begin as mere artistic concepts and ideas and can often involve work and learning particular skills that I have never even practiced before (case in point with the flamingo sculpture). And while this can be daunting, even scary at times, it is challenging and keeps my life interesting and so my approaches to learning means taking risks and pushing my artistic boundaries – in the form of tackling new skills head on.
How can we support creativity? I am not a trained educator but have led several workshops at local schools, galleries and programming via The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, for adults and students of various ages. These workshops are aimed at supporting creativity from within the community. I do not believe we want to teach compliance and so my approach to art workshops is always tactile and very ‘hands on’ and I really think it needs to be, because while the need to teach theoretically can be very important, in the context of art, learning particular skill sets is essential to properly crafting and developing good technique and one’s own individual style as an artist. The nature of an art practice is fundamentally based on execution and so encouraging a practical approach I think provides students with a place to begin. Putting these tactile exercises into practice gives students confidence, it allows them to get their feet wet, to focus and explore their creative interests. Inevitably it enables them to start the journey of discovering what it is they are actually passionate about.
You may find Dede’s contact information and work using the following links: