John Cox has long been known as one of the leading artists in the Bahamas, but he is also a passionate supporter of the arts community as well as arts education. As the Creative Arts Director of Baha Mar and the creator of Baha Mar’s original arts center, The Current, John Cox is bringing these two missions together. The Current, the resort destination’s arts program, gallery, and studio space, provides opportunities for local artists to create new works while guests are introduced to another aspect of the islands’ cultural life. We sat down to talk to Cox about the program and the arts scene in the Bahamas.
When did you first decide to pursue a career in the arts?
In my early twenties when I was a student I had my first exhibition at the Rhode Island School of Design. This experience set me on a path believing that I could make an impact on my local community and begin a career as an artist. Later, I realized I was as passionate about creating platforms for art communities to grow responsibly. My experiences as an artist inform my administrative philosophy.
How do the Bahamas’ environment, history and culture shape your own work?
My “Bahamianness” is central to my work. The Caribbean is a fascinating and often misunderstood space, providing content for me in a variety of ways. For example, I began a Geisha series almost ten years ago, which directly relates to the hospitality industry in the Bahamas. Many Bahamians find themselves involved in tourism one way or another, and I see similarities to the early Japanese geisha culture. Both are fully occupied with “beauty and service”—a unique balance that makes the perfect dialogue when creating a body of work. Work should never be one dimensional—any opportunity to engage conversation should strengthen it.
What do you hope to achieve as Baha Mar’s Creative Arts Director?
My hope in establishing The Current at Baha Mar is to move Bahamian art and culture to a new level of experience and dialogue, and to employ dynamic creative types to help tell our story with a fresh and contemporary voice. My goal is to curate Baha Mar inside and out with thoughtful works, primarily Bahamian, and to establish a platform for local, regional, and international artists. I strive to be an active, lead participant in the Baha Mar Foundation by upholding our pillars of Culture, Conservation, and Community. Lastly, I hope to create soulful and meaningful experiences for Baha Mar guests across all brands.
What makes the Bahamian art scene different from that of other countries?
It is unique in terms of scale and diversity. The Bahamas has a track record of successful collaborations across institutions and individual artists. The natural, historical, and cultural environment are dramatic, lush, rich, colorful, raw, diverse and, in many cases, undiscovered. This gives artists great opportunities to explore materials, invent methods, and tell untold stories.
Are artists given specific guidance about pieces to create for the resort?
Yes, artists are given context to work within while the level of guidance depends on the project. The art in restaurants and public areas follows a site-specific design, in response to the environment. Throughout Baha Mar destination, we try to be as inclusive and whole as possible while being mindful of various disciplines and subject matter.
Who are some artists you are especially excited about working with?
I have enjoyed collaborating with Max Taylor, Lynn Parotti, Toby Lunn, and Sue Katz in the past and I look forward to working with Kendra Frorop and Stan Burnside.
How can art change the experience of staying at Baha Mar?
Art effects guests in surprising and positive ways on an initial sensory level. It moves them outside of the mundane life and uplifts them. I also see the art at Baha Mar as a type of “cultural way finding”—it gives us an excuse to tell a story and inform guests about something new about where they are at a particular moment.
Outside of Baha Mar, what are other places that people interested in the arts in the Bahamas should visit?
The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, as well as Doongalik Studios and Hillside House, both located in Nassau.