ARTIST IN THE SPOTLIGHT | DC Pratt and the Chan Pratt Foundation
Welcome back to Cacique’s Artist In The Spotlight series - a journey into a thriving Bahamian art scene and a deeper look at some of our most celebrated talents. In this episode, we are lucky enough to spend some time with Dewitt Chan (DC) pratt among a 110 piece collection of his FATHER's - CHAN PRATT - works now on display at NAGb.
If only this, it is our civic duty to value and preserve the rich island antiquity of our composite culture. The arts, deeply intertwined within our strewn archipelago, are a visual continuum of The Bahamas from then until now. Chan Pratt sits prominently upon our historical mantle with his iconic botanics and precise clapboard portrayals celebrating the intrinsic vibrance so closely equated with ‘island life’. DC has tasked himself with preserving the legacy of his father through the creation of an organization - The Chan Pratt Foundation. With emphasis on empowerment, DC offers aspiring young artists the chance to recognize their talents and in doing so, overcome the powerlessness and lack of influence that they feel quashed by. With an indomitable spirit, DC is making waves in the art realm, casting his father’s uplifting, iconic summery blooms where needed most.
Cacique. What’s the main idea behind your father’s artwork ? Capturing bahamian landscapes ? What do you think your father was trying to communicate ?
DC. I think he had an unmatched appreciation for the beauty of The Bahamas. He would capture all aspects of what made life here so special. My grandfather was a fisherman and so, as a result, my Dad and his brothers grew up on the water fostering a deep love and appreciation for the seascapes that feature so prominently in his work. As a child he wanted to be a farmer and eventually got into landscaping. His admiration for native flora and how it exists in our landscapes surfaced at an early age. From humble beginnings, my father and his family enjoyed the simplicity of island life which is evident in his depiction of traditional clapboard homes and calming island scenes.
C. What is the greatest lesson that can be learned from Chan Pratt and his iconic work that will forver be a part of Bahamian history ?
D. I personally think that the greatest lesson to be learned from my Dad is to follow your passions. He went against all odds and obstacles to pursue his dream of being an artist. His family did not support his decision to move away from the corporate world and into his studio but he didn’t let that stop him. He had a calling and he didn’t let it go. He never listened to all the “noise.” Despite having no formal art education my Father became a successful master artist through hard work and dedication. I think everyone, young or old, can appreciate that.
C. I understand that the Chan Pratt Foundation is as much a preservation effort as it is a supportive one. How do you empower/ support young, bahamian artists ?
D. Well, what we aim to do for young artists is to provide opportunities for growth. We’re still a young organization with limited resources. When preparing for a show we often make selections to expose younger, perhaps under-appreciated artists - give them a true chance to shine. The art world is competitive and young artists need a platform - we try to offer just that. We put together a scholarship at the University of The Bahamas - The Chan Pratt Memorial Art Scholarship - to give serious and dedicated young artists an education to further perfect their craft and career.
C. Can you describe the most important project that the foundation has been involved with ?
D. Recently, the foundation has become involved with school outreach activities. I’ve had the privilege to work with some talented high-school art students. I tried to instill in them what my father did in me. We spoke about his legacy but also about where they want their art to take them. I impressed upon them the importance of focusing on their talents, putting together a strong portfolio and about finding new ways to recycle some of my father’s damaged prints.
C. What is important about these projects for you ?
D. The art community can be pretty elitist and our youth, especially those in the public education system can easily be overlooked. I think it’s crucial to give young people a platform from which they can grow and perform at their full potential. The youth needs guiding as much as they need encouragement. We have some incredible, untapped talent here and I hope to help uncover it, if only a tiny part. I enjoy engaging with kids because their ideas are so fresh and original. They see the world differently and I love hearing about it. There is also a level of innocence and enthusiasm that energizes me to continue the work that I am doing.
C. what do you feel the foundation contributes to the growing art culture of the bahamas ?
D. I’ve been told that the foundation is a “safe place.” Some artists feel a bit alienated in the community because it can be pretty difficult to break into if you don’t know how it works. I’d like the foundation to be viewed as an institution with open arms to all creatives. Our doors are always open.
C. What projects are you currently working on ?
D. Currently, I’m restoring his gallery to use as a multi-purpose space that will include an office, show room and creative studio. I'm also working on a Chan Pratt calendar and catalogue. The foundation has also partnered with a Bahamian shoe company, “Bahems” and artist Lamaro Smith to create Chan Pratt inspired shoes.
C. What has been a seminal experience that you have had in your career ?
D. Losing my Dad. He was such an influential part of my life so I could not let him be forgotten. From a very young age, I admired him. When I lost him this admiration only grew. So many opportunities presented themselves because of how respected my father was. All the lessons he had instilled in me became all the more important and I did as much as I could to emulate his actions and decision-making.
Chan’s deep rooted appreciation for the native flora is almost always present. His distinctive techniques convey the simple brilliance that is ‘island life'.
C. Which work of art do you wish you owned ?
D. Every single one ha! I’d absolutely love the opportunity to see all of his works in one space to fully appreciate their splendor and his incredible talent. If possible, I would really like to own the painting of his that sits in the White House.
C. What is the most indispensable item in your personal gallery/ collection ?
D. There are two paintings that are included in “Resurrection” that I grew up with. They were completed when he was very young and both are completely uncharacteristic of the work that he produced years later in his professional Art career. These are so important to me and will never ever be sold.
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At Cacique, we love to showcase our colourful art scene and the characters that create its distinct flair. For more information about DC Pratt and the Chan Pratt Foundation or any of our other fabulous Artists In The Spotlight, or to find out about curating a unique look and sound for your event, feel free to contact us.
Looking forward to the next chat! SMS ;)