Masterworks the cornerstone of our cultural legacy
There has always been a strong sense of mission with the founding of Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. In fact, the mission has driven us.
An idea that was as ethereal as it could possibly be is now the cornerstone of Bermuda's artistic and cultural legacy because we have been able to weave artists from around the world into the Bermuda tapestry, and have them all sit comfortably under one roof.
Thirty years ago, we had no idea where this journey would take us because we had no idea of the uncharted waters that would yield the wealth that was out there. At the time, we thought it would be a 20-piece project, and we would never have realised that this dream would come to be the most important legacy for future generations to inherit.
This year we have seen a 20 per cent increase of revenue from membership, and our summer classes and camps are full. What was before a cultural wasteland is now full and brimming with vibrancy.
Although we've lost two local papers, The Royal Gazette increasingly has made a tip towards the arts. It is the recognition of these activities that forms Bermudian life in all aspects. Looking at what is being done in these mediums, Bermuda is punching above its weight. Some of our talented Bermudians are exhibiting or studying art as a way of life rather than as a back-up. It's becoming first and foremost in their thinking — and that is a reassuring aspect.
The idea when we started out 30 years ago was that we were going to try to project a visual culture 365 days of the year. We are rewarded by our belief and are further rewarded by those who would journey with us; that they would take the opportunity and chance to make this a part of our landscape. I would say we are succeeding to get the message through.
Next year will be our tenth anniversary of being a museum, and we have seen the museum used in a number of different ways — but it is the artwork that is the lure. Whether the museum holds a social event, a wedding, a wake or a dinner, it is the art that does the talking.
Thirty years ago, we could never have imagined that we would host the Charman Prize, which draws out so much talent from the Bermudian mosaic. The prize is in keeping with the overall democratic process of Masterworks. When one flips the pages of the catalogue, it is evident that Bermuda is not made up solely of a traditional population. Also, we never could have imagined that we would receive the principle patronage of Charles, the Prince of Wales.
When we started out, there were the elusive painters such as Andrew Wyeth and Georgia O'Keeffe who were the driving force in trying to create another image of Bermuda. We enjoy a song, Bermuda Is Another World, but I like to think “Bermuda in Another World” being represented by a strong showing of visual arts both in name and in deed.
We have repatriated the aforementioned, along with a stable of other artists. We have been able to return the photographs of Yousuf Karsh and Karl Struss, and the representative artwork of Albert Gleizes, Ogden Pleissner, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley and, temporarily, Henry Moore.
Had it not been for the creation of the Masterworks Foundation, much of the work of historic value and a greater cultural value would have been tossed out. We have rescued them and interwoven them with the inspired histories of the island, and that is intentional. They sit comfortably side by side with our Bermuda greats such as Sharon Wilson, Otto Trott, Chesley Trott, Charles Lloyd Tucker, Chris Marson, the Tucker sisters and Graham Foster, to name a few.
We recognise in the 30 years that we have been established that Bermuda has lost many icons: Trimingham's, H.A. & E. Smith's, Bank of Bermuda, the Mid-Ocean News and the Bermuda Sun. Add to that a liquor store — you get the idea!
The names of Wyeth and O'Keeffe become more and more recognised because we have been able to assimilate them for posterity, legacy, something to hang your hat on; for something to believe in — the names are only getting more numerous.
It is what keeps us at the museum very grounded because we are all servant to the greats who have left a huge footprint on the face of this earth. By attaching Bermuda to other communities around the world and connecting us from the insularity of our reef line and by reaching out, we have become players in the global community.
Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art is joining in #GivingTuesday tomorrow, and our hope is that the community can come together and give back to the causes that mean so much to this island and its legacy.
• Tom Butterfield, MBE, is the founder and creative director at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art