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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, May 30, 2024


Nov. 14, 2001 – Marking or making 21 years has traditionally meant coming of age. So, you could say the Arts Alive Arts and Crafts Holiday Festival at Tillett Gardens coming up over the Thanksgiving weekend will be a "grown-up" affair.
But that doesn't fit — the festival is a family event, and always has been.
The first holiday festival — called a "fair" back then — was in 1981, and that does make the one coming up No. 21. But that's just counting the November fairs; until a few years ago, there also were similar events in March and August, and the "50th annual fair" was celebrated some five seasons ago.
For these and other reasons, "coming of age" wasn't the idea that came to Rhoda Tillett's mind as she pondered the possibilities for making this festival something special. What worked for her — thanks in part to inspiration provided by a poster from the 1984 fall fair — was "nostalgia."
And so, the 2001 festival, set for Nov. 23-25, will feature a "nostalgia tribute" to all of the artists and artisans pictured on the poster who exhibit or visit this year's event. On Sunday, Nov. 25, at 4 p.m., there will be a recognition ceremony, followed by a reception.
"Actually, it's a tribute to all of our long-time and long-ago participants, whether they happen to be on this particular poster or not," Tillett says.
Among those pictured in the group photograph are Brooks Brown, Princess Cureton, Susan Edwards, Bertha Gotterup, Edie Paljavcsik Johnson, John Jowers, James Kerr, Enid Kimmel, Glen Maddox, Hugo Moolenaar, Leah Norton, Kendall Shoffner, Geraldine Smith, Page Winter, and the late Arona Petersen and Eric Winter. "There are a couple more whose names I just cannot remember," Tillett confesses. "It would be wonderful if they would just show up and reintroduce themselves!"
Moolenaar has the honor of having performed as a moko jumbie at every Arts Alive fair that's ever been. In the early days, he, his wife, Natasha, and their young children, Juanita and Hugo Jr., would all step out on their stilts together. The kids are grown up and on the mainland now, but Moolenaar keeps the tradition intact — at the 1 p.m. Sunday time slot that has been "his" from the start.
For Norton, who appears on the poster as a clown but today is a "wire wrapper" jewelry designer, the approaching fair is a homecoming of sorts. She recently moved back to St. Thomas after years of living in California, where she honed the jewelry-making skills she had begun to develop earlier on the island. According to an admirer of her work who wrote her a letter of reference, Norton today "can rightly be called one of the top five wire wrappers in the country. To own a piece of her jewelry is to have a true work of art, as many Hollywood stars have recently discovered."
Also returning, after a year's absence, will be visiting New York artist Gerard Lehner. November 14, 2001Throughout the festival he'll be showing children how to create original art using a simple printmaking process that transfers the shapes of objects into impressions on paper using pressure from the rail of a rocking chair. He'll also have other materials on hand for kids to put their creativity to work — and he invites the curious to "bring an extra shirt or two … with or without coffee stains," to see how to turn them into something new.
Lehner will be showing his own fine art, too — his often-whimsical prints, sculptures in flexible clear plexiglass and "wearable art" pendants. Anita de la Cruz will show oils and batiks, and Delbert Landat will exhibit oils.
'Art Under Cover,' 'Proud to Be' crafts
On the fine arts front, this year's festival is breaking new ground. In addition to the individual artists exhibiting, six local galleries will show works by the artists they represent. The artwork will be displayed on the walls of the former restaurant in the garden complex — hence its title, "Art Under Cover."
The participating galleries are The Blue Turtle, Coconut Coast Studios, The Color of Joy, Mango Tango, MAPes MONDe and the Pissarro Gallery. In addition, Tillett Gallery will be open throughout the fair. "For those interested purchasing fine art — for themselves, their corporate space or for holiday season gift giving — we are literally offering one-shop shopping from the best galleries on St Thomas and St. John," Tillett said.
For the festival's crafts component, "Proud to Be Made in the USVI" is the theme. Among the exhibitors: Granville Christopher (miniature houses), Gail Garrison (custom-blended fragrances), Wendy Gatcliffe (holiday crafts), Grandma Sandy's (homemade cookies), Bridgette Julius (handmade cards and gifts), Kids 'N' Business (children's crafts), Sharon Masinina (crafts and ceramics), Cheryl Miller (hot sauces, jams and jellies), Ida Nibbs (shell pictures and plaques), Leah Norton (wire-wrap jewelry), Vince Peterman (hand-blown glass), Monique Purguy (knitting), Rosemary Sauter and Tammy Chamberlain (local crafts), V.I. Montessori School (students' crafts), Jeanne Webb (handmade teddy bears), Bill and Heidi Windell ("parrot" hanging planters made from old tires), Nayda Young (original-design clothing).
Resident arts and crafts businesses in Tillett Gardens will be taking part, too — Aphrodite Art Studio, Caribbean Herbals Candle Studio, Ninth Life Gallery and Ridvan Pottery Studio. In the Tillett Gallery silkscreen studio, Albert "Sonny" Thomas will demonstrate and explain the technique of printing the maps and other artwork of his mentor, the late Jim Tillett. Students of art teacher Frances Rutnik regularly paint in the garden on Saturday mornings, and they'll be doing so as usual during the festival.
The exhibitor whose work is judged Best of Show in Fine Art will receive the $300 David O'Neill Award, presented by Austin Advertising in honor of the late visual artist and actor who was a graphic designer at the agency. The Best of Show in Craft winner will receive the $100 John Lovatt Award, presented by John and Claire Foster in honor of the late caricaturist whose work includes a mural in Tillett Gardens painted on the inner wall of the building housing the beauty salon.
A piece of Lovatt's work will be available for purchase at the festival. It's a framed drawing by Lovatt, one of two in Tillett's personal collection. She doesn't particularly want to part with the caricature of local musicians but is selling it in order to raise funds for Arts Alive. The not-for-profit organization is the presenting arm of the Tillett Foundation; each year it produces the arts and crafts festival, eight concerts and the young people's classical music competition that are held in the garden complex.
Art for the ear and the appetite, too
There will be live music throughout the three days on the Arts Alive stage.
On Friday, guitarist Bill Eastern will play from noon to 1 p.m.; steelpannist Andrew Douglas will perform from 3 to 4 p.m., and The Sun Kings (Steve Richmond on guitar, Barry Adams on piano, Jake Adams on drums) will play from 5 to 7 p.m.
On Saturday, Nicky Russell and Janet Reiter will play guitar and sing from noon to 2 p.m.; Nayda will present a fashion show at 4 p.m.; and Stevie Legend will play the guitar from 5 to 7 p.m.
On Sunday, moko jumbie Hugo Moolenaar will perform from 1 to 2 p.m.; the folk group Harmony Dem will play from 2 to 3 p.m.; and Sally Smith and her Surprise Symphony will close things out from 4 to 6 p.m.
If past festivals are any indication, other musicians will drop by and sit in from time to time throughout the event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Other artists are expected to stop by and sit in throughout the three days. When no one is performing live, there'll be recorded holiday music playing on the so
und system.
Food also will be in good supply. Café Amici is taking over the former restaurant for the weekend and will be offering a "Best of the Mediterranean" menu from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. all three days. Vendors will have local food and drinks and ice cream treats. The Pub — the new bar in the garden — will be open into the evening, too.
The festival is Friday through Sunday, Nov. 23-25, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It's open to the public without charge. Exhibitor applications are still being accepted on a space-available basis. For more information, call 775-1929 or e-mail to tillett@islands.vi.

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