Historic Nassau Tapestry returns home
Published: Jun 22, 2013
Lyford Cay International School (LCIS) and Baha Mar welcomed home an historic tapestry on June 11 at the LCIS Annual End of Year Art Show, “Mosaic”. The Nassau Tapestry, a fantastic collection of images of The Bahamas in the 1950s, was executed by one of the world’s finest needle point artists, Patience Gibson, an expatriate married to an American and living in Washington, D.C. who first visited Nassau on her honeymoon in 1935. Originally intended for the rotunda of Government House, the rug was made nine feet in diameter to accommodate that space. But after seven years of labor, the completed piece never made it back to Nassau, until now.
Thanks to an introduction to the Gibson family by a parent, LCIS was delighted to be able to bring the tapestry back to Nassau and at the same time, be able to benefit the art program through the LCIS Art Institute and encourage students throughout The Bahamas to be inspired by the field of traditional local arts and crafts.
The tapestry was officially donated to the school, by Gibson’s son, James Gibson, with instructions to ensure that it will always remain in The Bahamas and was to be displayed where it was accessible to the public. LCIS arranged for Baha Mar to purchase the tapestry for $40,000. It had recently been valued by Sotheby’s for between $40,000 to $50,000. It will become part of the Baha Mar Art Collection, which will be displayed in the largest gallery space in The Bahamas once the resort opens in December 2014.
“It was a win-win situation,” said Rebecca Massey, development coordinator at LCIS, "We were able to find an excellent home for the tapestry, where it will be available for public viewing and Bahamian students will benefit from the funds raised through it’s sale.”
Gibson is described by her son as a warm woman with an excellent sense of humor. She first visited Nassau in 1935 on her honeymoon and made regular trips to The Bahamas after that date. She brought her three children to visit often, taking them to stay on Hog Island (now Paradise Island). “The one thing that I remember about The Bahamas was the people,” Gibson recalled. “So friendly and warm. We came to feel very at home here.” Gibson, a craftsperson herself, was particularly taken with the Bahamian craft industry, and it is featured in her tapestry. It was her wish that the tapestry return to Nassau, and it was her love of the local art of The Bahamas that led to the establishment of a fund supporting that art.
“We are proud to be custodians of this cultural artifact and this donation will be used to encourage students across The Bahamas, not just LCIS, to take an interest in traditional Bahamian methods of art. Our future plans include a national competition to encourage students to be inspired by the field of local arts and crafts,” said LCIS principal Stacey Bobo.
The tapestry was officially handed over to Baha Mar’s chief marketing officer, Denise Godreau, who accepted graciously and officially welcomed the tapestry home.
Parents, students and community members were able to view the large tapestry, and many were able to ask Gibson questions about the piece of work and his memories of Nassau in the 1950s. Gibson was more than happy to recall many stories of years gone by as he pointed out details in the tapestry. “Once it was finished it was used a few times in my mother’s home, on special occasions. I remember my mother bringing it out one Christmas for us all to enjoy,” Gibson said.
His mother became one of the world’s finest needlepoint artists; she published a book titled “Needlepoint for Churches” in 1972 (Scribner), and her work adorns the pews of Canterbury Cathedral where she designed and stitched the altar rail kneeler and presented it as gift from the United States. It displays the native flower of each U.S. state surrounded by acanthus leaves. Her tapestry depicting the first ladies of the United States from Martha Washington to Jacqueline Kennedy in their inauguration gowns (five feet in diameter, took 10 years to complete) now hangs at the entrance of the First Ladies wing at the Smithsonian Museum.
“LCIS is honored to have played a role in the story of The Nassau Tapestry. I think this is a night that we will all remember,” said Massey. “Everyone here, I think, realizes what an opportunity this has been. I do not think that we will ever be able to get as close to the Nassau Tapestry as we did tonight. And it was wonderfully inspiring to feature this artwork alongside the work of our LCIS students.”