If you’re looking to find a destination bursting with Bahamian culture, make your way to Hillside House in Nassau, which is the heart of art in the Bahamas. Inspired by the vibrancy of the islands’ customs and beauty, the local artwork is bright, bold and strikingly original. However, one of the Bahamas’ most renowned artists and sculptors, Antonius Roberts, has fused his two passions — art and conservation — into a unique blend, taking the island’s culture scene by storm.
Roberts first became aware of the need to preserve the Nassau landscape after witnessing the effect of the city’s thriving tourism economy on the environment. As a child, Roberts enjoyed running among hardwood trees, an experience he said made him “green” long before that kind of eco-consciousness became mainstream. As he grew, it became the principle that guided his art, philosophy and life.
“I always loved the environment,” Roberts said. “It was my Nintendo, my iPad. It was a place I went to explore and learn and play.”
As you explore Nassau, you’ll happen upon his various sculptures made from natural shapes and textures. Take a stroll around Centreville House and see fountains, labyrinths, treehouses and other installations of the park’s revitalization project that Roberts directed out of a desire to create a living record of his past.
Artists, Past and Future
If you are an art lover, another place worth visiting is the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, which Roberts helped shape. It offers national exhibitions, retrospectives, private collections and historical and contemporary exhibitions. This gallery gives some insight into the history and creative vision of the artists, as well as who they are, where they came from and where they are going.
If you are interested in up-and-coming artists, there are a number of studios on the island that are well worth a visit. Doongalik Studios Art Gallery and Popopstudios Center for The Visual Arts feature the works of younger artists, many of whom were trained by Roberts. Their works include murals, sculptures and public art pieces made during conservation projects.
“Young artists are bursting at our seams,” Roberts said. “We have a shared philosophy. We believe people will soon come to the Bahamas for the arts (and) we need to put our best foot forward. It is important to tell our stories through art.”
Discover the best of art in the Bahamas at Roberts’ recently opened Hillside House. This destination is a sanctuary that offers you a quiet space for reflection in the midst of the bustling center of Nassau. The house, which dates back to the 1700s, is a must-see for history buffs. Its recent restoration means the building, as well as the artwork it houses, is a work of art and preservation.
“[Tourists] come to downtown Nassau and stumble upon the gallery because it’s in the heart of town,” Roberts said. “It’s refreshing when people come into my space to be exposed to several different artists.”
Having curated and taught for many years, Roberts has forged relationships with local artists and created a thriving artistic community. Once a week, local artists meet at Hillside House for a coffee hour.
“My space has become the space artists meet every Wednesday,” Roberts said. “But it is open to all.”
So, if you find yourself strolling through the heart of Nassau on a Wednesday morning, you are welcome to come by to meet local artists, exchange ideas and drink good coffee in an informal, vibrant and welcoming community that cherishes both its cultural and environmental heritage.