How Dreams Come True: In Conversation with Fresh Milk Barbados

By May 06, 2024
The Fresh Milk Studio. A non-profit art space in Barbados, situated on former plantation land and intentionally working to decolonize physical and social landscapes, Fresh Milk has been supporting the Bajan contemporary art community since 2011. With limited resources they’ve supported artist residencies, local public art billboards, exhibitions, academic fora, and various creative convenings. Photo by Charles Phillips.

It’s the Wednesday after the CARICOM high-level meeting about Haiti, and I’m at Fresh Milk Barbados Contemporary Arts Platform to interview its core team, Annalee Davis and Katherine Kennedy. They’ve just received a milestone $350,000 USD unrestricted grant from Mellon Foundation, the largest supporter of the arts and humanities in America.

The Fresh Milk Artboard, featuring a print of the artwork The Beast by Barbadian artist Ronald Williams. Photo by Dondré Trotman, courtesy of Fresh Milk.

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Butterflies fill my stomach until I remember Caribbean artists and writers of the 80s. They thought we’d be further along. For the last twelve years, Fresh Milk has faced the region-wide challenge of convincing the public, policymakers, and fiscally strained governments its existence is important. In the absence of major state funding or consistent contributed income, relationships and hours of unpaid labor fueled its founding vision to nurture, empower, and connect Caribbean artists, raise regional awareness about contemporary arts, and provide global opportunities for growth, excellence, and success through artists residencies and developmental programs. When Mellon reached out, this energy was waning.

I’m used to visiting Fresh Milk’s studio when it’s hectic. Sometimes I imagine my ancestors roaming this former plantation ground, telling me not to drop my guard. Today is quieter. “Yuh finally land!” sings Annalee. Katherine smiles.

Audience (including a younger me) at FRESH MILK XVI, the Barbados Launch of See Me Here: A Survey of Self Portraits from the Caribbean, edited by Melanie Archer and Mariel Brown, 2014. Photo by Dondré Trotman, courtesy of Fresh Milk.

Repositioned Objects II by Barbadian artist Kara Springer, created during her Fresh Milk residency in 2014. Photo by Kara Springer.

Amanda Haynes: How did you feel when you got the grant?

La Linea en la Memoria by Mexican, Aruba-based artist Irvin Aguilar, created during the Caribbean Linked V residency programme, 2018. Fresh Milk are part of the core team of the Caribbean Linked initiative. Photo by Sharelly Emanuelson, courtesy of Caribbean Linked.

Barbadian artist Simone Asia working at Fresh Milk during her residency in 2015. Photo by Sangita Chandra, courtesy of Fresh Milk.

Why did the disbelief run so deep?

British artist Helen Cammock leading a photography workshop at Workman’s Primary School, St. George, during her Fresh Milk residency in 2016. Photo courtesy of Helen Cammock.

What inspired Fresh Milk’s planned regranting program for Caribbean artists?

Installation shot of Bahamian artist Sonia Farmer’s A True and Exact History at Fresh Milk, 2018. This work was displayed as part of an exhibition series, Difficult Conversations, in collaboration with the British Council that took place in Barbados, The Bahamas, and Jamaica. Photo by Dondré Trotman, courtesy of Fresh Milk.

Barbadian, Glasgow-based artist Alberta Whittle’s Hustle de Money – a performance by Bertie aka Big Red aka General outta Glitter Zone at FRESH MILK IX, 2012. Photo by Dondré Trotman, courtesy of Fresh Milk.

SUGAR by Trinidadian artist Richard Mark Rawlins, exhibited at the Barbados Museum & Historical Society at one of the Caribbean screening events for Transoceanic Visual Exchange 3 (TVE 3) in Barbados, 2019. Fresh Milk is a Founding Partner and Project Lead for TVE, a new media and experimental film triennial. Photo by Katherine Kennedy, courtesy of TVE.

Do you think this grant award reflects a wider change in philanthropy?

Attendees at the inaugural Tilting Axis conference titled Tilting Axis: Within and Beyond the Caribbean – Shifting Models of Sustainability and Connectivity, held at Fresh Milk, 2015. Tilting Axis was co-founded by Annalee Davis and Holly Bynoe. Photo by Sammy Davis, courtesy of Fresh Milk.

Join us for the Athens Art Book Fair this June!

What’s been your happiest moment in Fresh Milk’s history?

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