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Bermuda’s Bascome helps Boston find its way

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Daren Bascome has a lot going on.

Proverb, the brand-building agency he founded in 1999, unveiled an antiracism campaign last week that the city of Boston is banking on.

And then there’s the ongoing work he does for his alma mater, Massachusetts College of Art and Design because, as he puts it: the school played a tremendous role in his development and he’s a huge fan.

“I grew up in Bermuda but while I was studying at Berkeley [Institute] I managed to convince my parents to let me come up for a summer when I was 16 to take a course.”

The course at MassArt was aimed at high school students who were interested in pursuing creative careers. Much to his delight, he fit right in.

“It was amazing. It’s one thing to be a big fish in a small pond, it’s a whole other thing to be surrounded by peers who are as good, or better than you are,” said Mr Bascome, who signed up again the following year.

“It convinced me that I was on the right path but it also convinced my parents and others that this was something that I really should pursue.”

In the 1980s “a career in design wasn’t an obvious choice”. Even his musician father, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, was initially “unconvinced that it was a good idea”.

“I think a big part of that was just based on not knowing anyone else who had done it or had significant success,” he said, adding that that outlook had changed as time passed and his career exploded.

A global brand-building agency, Proverb works with “innovative real estate developers, cities and other organisations that seek to transform the built environment”. The company has won numerous awards and received attention from such international media outlets as The Boston Globe and The New York Times. In Bermuda, Proverb created Why It Matters, a $40 million fundraiser for the redevelopment of the acute care wing at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and one of the largest campaigns of its time.

It partnered with Colette Phillips Communications and the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau for All-Inclusive, a marketing effort celebrating Black, Latino and Asian-American Bostonians.

“The city put out a really clear mandate in terms of what they were looking to do and the first was to safely reopen the city and to drive new revenue into many different parts of it and try to do it in a way that’s equitable,” Mr Bascome said.

“We were the creative lead and, to some degree, the strategic lead in terms of what the campaign wanted to be about, how to strike the right tone and what the speed of message is.”

The response so far has been “overwhelmingly positive”.

“We’ve been really excited about the ways in which the city appears to really be getting behind us. There’s been a lot of excitement about what we’ve been able to create. I would say that for a long time the leading messages about the city have been driven by mass media – through film, TV, advertising. This is the first campaign that the city’s actually authored to try to drive either a new narrative or an additional narrative in a way that tells a story that is beyond what happens between Faneuil Hall and Fenway Park – just because Boston’s much bigger than that.”

Founded in 1873, MassArt was the first college in the United States to grant an artistic degree. Today it is the only “publicly-funded free-standing art school” in the country.

Its classes are “largely” but not entirely virtual thanks to Covid-19.

“Like most places the level of innovation that’s been required in order to fulfil [their] mission over the last 15 months has been central in terms of how do they continue to move forward,” Mr Bascome said. “One of the members on our team at Proverb is also a faculty member and so it’s been exciting to kind of see the opportunities that have been unlocked through all the things that we’ve had to figure out.

“I’m also a trustee so it’s also been positive to hear some of the feedback in terms of how students both understand what we’ve had to do but also appreciate that we’ve continued to move forward.”

Held last weekend, the 32nd annual MassArt Auction featured “over 300 contemporary artists and artworks” with sales in aid of scholarships and academic programme support.

“We’re really, really excited about this. The calibre of artists we’ve been able to attract has never been higher so the idea that you can both purchase work by emerging artists and blue chip artists like Kehinde Wiley – who very well known for his portrait of Barack Obama that’s in the National Portrait Gallery – is a big deal.”

This year specifically, the event was held with the college’s seniors in mind.

“Many of our students often struggle as they approach their junior year,” Mr Bascome said. “In some cases we’ve had students that have a shortfall that might be as little as $500 or $1000, and so the idea is that a donation can really make the difference in terms of getting someone over the finish line. We think that’s a tremendous opportunity to both buying arts, supporting artists but also really make a difference in people’s lives.

“[But] the overwhelming message is really around the central role that a creative education can play in terms of helping us to be better expressed and the ways in which it can help to unlock innovation, the ways in which it can drive value and helps to connect all of us together.”

Although he is unaware of any Bermudian students at MassArts at the moment, the virtual learning makes an education there accessible in a way it hasn’t been before.

“There are both limitations and there are opportunities that are created. So the idea that someone could attend from Bermuda and not get on a plane is a really big deal for us.”

Daren Bascome (Photograph by John Davenport, courtesy Proverb)

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Published April 13, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated April 12, 2021 at 2:06 pm)

Bermuda’s Bascome helps Boston find its way

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