Plainfield artist aims for Panama Residency

In reporting on her Drake House Exhibition this past February, I wrote about Plainfield artist Indira Bailey’s travels to Morocco, South Africa, and Japan, and her intention to learn in Panama this summer. The 2012 NJ Teacher of the Year finalist has now launched a kickstarter campaign to raise funds for her Panamanian residency. You can contribute here.

Bailey would use her time in Panana to broaden her knowledge of Afro-Latino art, style, and culture and further strengthen her familiarity with non-traditional art methodologies and customs. This residency would produce a documentary and an art exhibit. Bailey’s many students – largely African-American, Latino, West Indian, and African – would benefit, as well.
Directly from the kickstarter page, here are Indira Bailey’s intentions, in her own words.

I will learn and explore the Afro-Latin Congo and Kuna Indian Artwork, Culture & History in Panama.

The Art Teacher

Indira Bailey is an award winning art educator and one of four finalists for New Jersey Teacher of the Year in 2012. I have received several fellowships and awards as an art teacher. I am dedicated to education and have been teaching art for over fifteen years. I have been the recipient of the highly competitive Fulbright-Hayes Fellowships for international educational exchange to conduct research and exercise my talent as an educator and artist in South Africa, Japan and Morocco. To see my complete resume, visit

Plans– I plan to attend The Creative Currents Art Colony, ( an artist cooperative in Portobelo, Panama. This is a three-week summer art residency from June 29th to July 24th, 2014. I applied to Creative Currents Art Colony because their mission is to become a place to enable an artist to take on current projects or to create new works; engage in critical discussions about aesthetics; and deepen public engagement with the arts and culture in the African Diaspora, Latin and indigenous Indian art cultures in Panama. They provide an artist’s haven with a painters’ studio, a small gallery, and housing facilities. UNESCO haslisted Portobelo, Panama as a World Heritage Site.

Rationale –  During this time, I will meet with local Panamanian artists and participate in hands-on Congo Art workshops. Also, I will observe the indigenous Kuna Indian Molas traditional textile art techniques. This residency is a unique opportunity to discover how the African Diaspora enriched the tradition, history, and cultural awareness to Panama. Many of the traditions and artistic skills are handed down from generation to generation. Portobelo has an incredible interwoven history of the Africans, Spanish and indigenous Indians.

Goal – My goal is to learn a new style, document the Afro-Latin and Indigenous Indian cultures and then create an exhibition. I will pursue these activities by: visiting local artist studios; create artwork that combine common themes of Panamanian customs and create a documentary video. I will also engage the Panamanian culture of Congo descendants and indigenous communities thru interviews and recording the art-making process that is rarely seen. By learning and sharing the Panamanian culture, I will be continuing their legacy of innovative art that is communicated in cross-cultural themes through my artwork, in my classroom teaching and community based projects. I also plan to write about my experiences about Panama in art educational journals. Finally, I am going to create professional development workshops for teachers concerning all of these activities.

My intention through this residency is to develop a new way of working to enhance my artistic experience, style and methods. I would like to propose a new way of thinking that will challenge my visual thought patterns and how I apply thematic images into my work. In Panama I will analyze the metaphors, symbolism and allegory in Congo Folk Art. Also, this will propose a new way of working by observing how textiles are incorporated into art in the hand sewed reverse appliqué techniques of fabric Molas created by the Kuna Indians. Learning about both of these activities will give me the opportunity to experience a new technique and medium something that I have not attempted before allowing me to meld the traditional Panamanian styles of art into a new art form in my paintings. To see artwork visit,

Why now? –  When I think about my artistic and educational practice, I think about how I could learn more about non-traditional art methodologies and customs. This is an important time for me to strengthen my artistic development, create innovative artwork using diverse cultural perspectives and cross-cultural themes. I want to communicate visual literacy based on the Congo and indigenous Indian art into my own personal artistic style. This residency will help introduce me to a new way of thinking and take my work to the “next level”. I will be exposed to the methods and technical skills from the Congo descendents and indigenous Indian art in Panama that will heighten my artistic range and abilities in making new themes of narrative art.

Student’s Benefit – I teach in the largest urban county vocational technical high school district in New Jersey. The ethnic makeup of my high school within our district is Hispanic/Latino, African-American, West Indian and African. For many of them they are the first generation to this country or they are the first to go through our public school system. I also have students who are from such impoverished homes and their outlook on the future is pessimistic. Most of my students are not aware that Hispanic, African-Latinos and Indigenous cultures in other countries create art. This Artist Residency will enable me to develop a visual lexicon of ideas to modify and enhance my methods of teaching. Thus, allowing me to link my artistic experiences and design artwork that would expose my students to the Afro-Latin and Indigenous Indians culture. Finally, students will create artwork and exhibit it throughout the school, participate in the annual art show and other art community venues.

Your Involvement – I believe, as an artist and educator it is my responsibility to create artwork that will be ethnically diverse and incorporate art, history, and culture in the creative processes. This residency will enable me connect Panamanian culture and how people live in the world by analyzing global societies with my students and the community.

But, I need your help- I am inviting you – friends, family, educators and patrons of the arts to support me to help off set the cost of this trip. With your contribution, as a Thank You, you will receive one of the following: the greeting card set, open-edition art print and limited edition print of my artwork.

Your help will have a direct impact on providing productive art education to my students and community. In addition, this will provide me with a better understanding of the impact of the African Diaspora into today’s society. I know that my students would greatly benefit from me learning and teaching them about the Art of Panama.

How Will Your Funds Be Utilized? 

 Your financial contribution will assist with travel, accommodations, educational tours, art classes, art supplies and materials, video supplies. I plan to purchase additional art supplies to re-create art assignment in my classroom. I hope you will take advantage of this unique opportunity to assist with this project….Thank You.

Risks and challenges

Upon return from Panama, my plan is to edit my video diary, create lesson plans and edit pictures for possible paintings. I intend to show my video and have students create Panamanian themed artwork throughout the school year. At the end of the 2014-2015 students will be able to display their artwork at the annual Spring Art Show. In addition, I will be working on a new series of painting that will be displayed on my website and facebook account Indira Bailey Design Studio, as I complete them. Finally, I plan to take my experience about Panama further by sharing with other art teachers, so they can teach their students about Panamanian art, history and culture.

The Creative Currents Art Summer Artist Residency has successfully run interdisciplinary expeditions to Portobelo, Panama for years.
Thank You, for helping me make my dream come true.

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