Just when you thought things were about as dead as they can get in the summer on these islands, what should Tillett Gardens on St. Thomas come up with but a day-long "August Alive Garden Party."
Set for this Saturday from 11 a.m. to sunset, it will showcase work by some artists who don't often exhibit on their own, let alone together, plus entertainment in the form of a singing competition, a fencing demonstration and live jazz to close out the day.
Visiting visual artists who will be setting up on the courtyard include three who have had their own solo shows at local galleries in the last year or so – Alexis St. John, Peter "Pita" Gonzalez and Kendall Shoffner. In addition, Cheryl Miller will show off her pepper sauces; Gail Garrison, her tropical fragrances; Bridget Julius, her original greeting cards; Bonnie Kemp, her painted pillows; and Dorothy Riley, her paintings.
Tillett Gardens tenants who will be displaying their creative output are painter/sculptor Marsha Stein, ceramic and bead artist Lynn Paccassi-Berry, fellow bead artist Sandy Simpson, candle-crafter Jason Budsan, beautician Debbie Milliner and seamstresses Teri McIntyre and Toni West. The Tillett Art Gallery continues to feature contemporary Cuban and Haitian paintings along with local artists' work, and Polli's restaurant will be serving up its regular Mexican and American menu items.
As an extra added attraction, a number of vintage original Jim Tillett paintings and silkscreen prints will be on exhibit and for sale.
Between 2 and 3 p.m., youngsters from The Blades Fencing Club on St. Thomas and the St. John Fencing Club will demonstrate their skills (and invite new members for the season that gets under way for both clubs in September).
And from 3 to 4 p.m. vocalists including Jo-Jo Sanders, Cheryl Thompson, April Newland, Christina Harper and Denise Blyden will share their singing talents and vie for audience applause. Whoever gets the most will received a gift basket of items produced by Tillett Gardens artists and artisans.
Local entertainer Sally Smith will be on hand to provide accompaniment on the Arts Alive grand piano, but singers can also use their own tapes or CD's. Familiar Broadway refrains wafted through the garden complex Thursday afternoon as several of the soloists met with Smith to rehearse. However, Stein, one of the August Alive organizers, noted, "Anyone can just sign up Saturday and sing."
After the competition, Smith will stay at the piano for the concluding performance art of the day – live jazz from 4 to 6 p.m. by the Sax Cymbals. This will be "the five-piece trio," band leader/saxophonist Rusty Vellek said — with Rhett Simmonds on bass and Dean Prince on percussion plus Robert Luke on a little more percussion.
Stein said tenants in the arts complex like to do the Saturday mini-fairs "because it's fun." And the one this weekend, she added, will be an opportunity for visitors "to see how we've been working this summer to spruce up the gardens." There are, for example, flowers everywhere – live bougainvillea and other blooms in pots and Stein's own painted hibiscus blooms and other flora adorning benches, storage boxes, trash bin frames and even building walls.
Paccassi-Berry, another organizer, noted, "We've only skipped one Saturday Garden Party – last month. We'll be continuing with monthly parties straight into season."
This one in particular will be "a chance to do some early holiday shopping – and take advantage of summer sales, at the same time," Arts Alive producer Rhoda Tillett said.
Taking a break in the rehearsing Thursday, Thompson recalled that some years ago, "singers and piano players used to just come out to Tillett Gardens on Wednesday nights with their favorite music and gather around the piano and sing." Saturday's musical get-together might just be the motivation to get those kinds of gatherings going again, she said.

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