In commemoration of February as Heart Month, many will come out to the annual Heart Ball in support of the Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation. But through the Salus Project, several Bahamian artists will make a significant contribution to the foundation with their work in the upcoming exhibition, “Matters of The Heart”.

With heart disease as a leading cause of death in The Bahamas and around the world, artists Yutavia George, Edrin Symonette, June Collie, John Cox, Allan P. Wallace, Preston Hanna, Ernest Forbes and Charlthorn Strachan set out to create work to address this and surrounding issues.

George chose to create pieces to represent the Sassoon Foundation, the Bahamas Heart Association and the Bahamian community, through the medium of acrylic on canvas.

“They highlight the demand for more networking between each group concerning information, resources and support. The work symbolizes the necessary contact with each other for survival as a symbiotic balance,” she said.

Since The Salus Project is about wellness, Symonette felt that it was only appropriate to consider his grandmother’s life and everything she has endured in her lifetime. His pieces are a tribute to her and emphasize the blessing of a life without heart disease or serious illness.

Cox’s work will approach the idea from a physical standpoint, departing from his usual large format paintings. Using bicycle tubes and air to pump them up, he is attempting to create an artificial vascular system. Though small and still in progress, these three-dimensional assemblages are meant to suggest the mechanics of the heart.

The artwork will be donated to the Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation for a silent auction at the Heart Ball on February 16.

The artists seem more than excited about what they are doing and being a part of the Salus Project, many of them not for the first time.

“[The Salus Project] does several things,” said Cox. “One is it creates regular and consistent opportunities for artists to be challenged and to also gain visibility for their work. It also gives them guidelines to exploit. I think there’s something kind of counterintuitive about the way artists work.

“They always say that they want to be left alone and to be totally free, but I feel nothing is more liberating to an artist than to be given a rule and to then break it. It gives a guideline to really break free, to do something outside of what’s expected, and I think that that helps focus artists.”

For George, “This Salus exhibition shows that young people are conscious of the issues in The Bahamas and are making efforts to support and help raise awareness.”

“The Salus Project decided to partner with the Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation, to help raise funds for children in need of heart surgery,” said Salus Project Co-founder Dr. Graham Cates. “We are also partnering with the Bahamas Heart Association to increase public awareness of the burden of heart disease and to empower Bahamians with information on how to prevent heart disease and reduce the complications for those already affected.”

The foundation is also excited about the collaboration and the continued support it receives from the Bahamian community.

“We’re very grateful to be partnering with [The Salus Project],” said Coretta Owen, co-chair of the Heart Ball Committee, which is the fundraising arm of the foundation. “And we do hope that we are able to raise quite a bit of funds from the Salus Project art show… and then the balance of the artwork will be donated to the Heart Ball for our silent auction for the night of the ball on February 16.”

The foundation also receives funds through its annual tea party as well as one or two other art shows from artists who contribute their artwork throughout the year. According to Owen, the foundation has had donations from Antonius Roberts, Tyrone Ferguson, Eleanor Whitely, Rik Carey, Shakila Stubbs and Cox.

Founded by Dr. Cates and his wife, Nurse Anita Cates, the Salus Project is for young artists to express themselves in all five areas of wellness: spiritual, financial, physical, emotional and social.

Salus, which is Latin for wholeness, was founded in summer 2011, “out of a desire to provide a bridge between art/beauty and health/wellness – two core values of New Providence Community Church”. According to Dr. Cates, “The Salus Project invites student artists to come around a theme and create art so as to increase awareness and positive changes in the artist and the wider community.”

“Art has a unique way of getting a message across. It allows the viewer to pause, think and formulate ideas which might not occur through traditional media methods,” said Nurse Cates. “Art brings beauty into our lives and we certainly need more of that.”

The Salus Project has collaborated on projects to highlight five dimensions of wellness, HIV/AIDS and diabetes.

“These initiatives are all interconnected to our core values of health and wellness,” said Dr. Cates. “We want to provide as many different opportunities for The Bahamas to become aware of and engage in meaningful conversation that will result in positive behavioral changes of a healthy Bahamas.”

By Reva Cartwright-Carroll
The Nassau Guardian
Arts & Culture
Published: Saturday, February 2, 2013