Aug. 26, 2002 – Paintings, handcrafts, produce, music and lots of culinary delights were on the menu at Whim Museum's Starving Artists Day on Sunday, when more than 60 vendors showcased their wares on the lawn of this historic property.
Lily Alvarez, coordinator of the event said all of the 65 spaces were sold out. "I think vendors are looking for venues to display their products because there is no Harbor Night since the cruise ships have pulled out." She said the next scheduled event is December 1st. "It promises to be much bigger," she said.
Draped on a clothesline, strung from a mahogany tree to a flowering pink shrub, was a stunning display of handbags by Jeanne Hughes' Calabash Creations. Hughes, a resident of St. Croix's east end, collects calabash gourds and animal hides to create purses of varied sizes, shapes and vibrant colors. The gourds are cut, trimmed with pigskin or cow leather, and painted with whimsical nature scenes and abstracts.
At $3 per adult and children free, Whim's Starving Artists Day is an excellent activity for families on a Sunday afternoon. Kids ran free as they tumbled in the grass. Mothers pushed baby strollers. Elders perched their chairs under shady trees.
Lloyd and Antoinette Bolling said they had just returned from a three-month visit with family members in the South and came out to buy fresh vegetables from the farmers and grab lunch. Lloyd Bolling searched for an ice-cold glass of maubi.
Visitors strolled, some stopping to greet friends, others looking for a super deal. A couple was seen darting back to their car to offload four paintings. When asked where they got the gold-framed treasures, they said the items were 50 percent off at the Museum Store.
The Museum Store was voted the Best Place to Take Visitors and the Best Place to View Local Artwork in a January 2002 newspaper poll.
Nancy Fisk, education director at Whim, said Sunday’s crowd was not as large as previous events, but it was always fun to see the reaction of visitors as they browse the assortment of displays. "There are some really beautiful things out here," she said, as she pointed to a painting of the Creque Dam, a natural landmark on St. Croix's north side. She said the sparse crowd allows visitors to have an intimate experience. "It’s been steady all day," she said, pointing to the packed parking lot.
George Rodriguez said he began to delve into his art form about two years ago after a friend commented about a mocko jumbi stilt-walker he had painted. Though he had been dabbling in paint as a hobby for more than 30 years, he never thought of sharing his memories with others. His collection of more than 20 scenes from his childhood memories of St. Croix conforms to his collection's theme, "Remember When Things Were Like This…"
His collection, which includes the Creque Dam flowing over its retaining wall flanked by lush green foliage, drew some visitors into its tranquil scene. His mediums range from charcoal to watercolors to pencil.
"I came out here for people to experience the past that some may not have seen," said Rodriguez, who said the elderly enjoy his renditions of the past. These included scenes of ladies buying fish by the bayside, a young man perched in a coconut tree and a donkey-drawn carriage, a popular mode of travel as late as the '70s.
"People can see the work and reminisce of the days of before. Even if I don’t make a dollar, I am happy to be here." "Macho," as he is known throughout the island, said was his third time displaying at the Whim event.
For history buffs Whim Museum offered a glimpse into the past. Thelma Clarke, elegantly dressed in a red plaid madras skirt with her matching plume-tied headwrap, offered tours of the Greathouse with its mahogany furnishings.
Visiting with family on St. Croix for two weeks, Nicholas Weber felt his day at the Museum was a great experience. "It's fun, it's cool," said the John Yates Middle School student, who enjoys art and plays the trumpet with his school band. He posed for a picture with Clarke to show his friends when he gets back.
Along the walkway was a sunny display of jams, jellies and marmalades, making irresistible a taste from an inviting jar of mango chutney served on tidbits of French bread.
Hugh Ward said his wife fell in love with the island in 1983 and the British couple decided to make it their home. As owners of the Hilty House, his wife experimented with the local fruits as she sought new delicacies for her bed-and-breakfast inn. That was the birth of "Jacquie's Jamming," a collection which includes tamarind jam, passion fruit jelly and mango jam.
One could dance to the steel band music that filled the air or could sit under a shady tamarind tree and enjoy story telling by musician Wayne "Bully" Peterson.
Eight-year-old Alexander Henderson Elementary student Omar Alexis meticulously walked the grounds with his basket of fresh limes, sugar apples, avocado and soursop. One could not resist buying his shiny fruit as he politely asked for a sale.
Michael and Orlando Francis said they come out to assist their mom, who sells oils and fragrances. "It's really nice," said Michael as they joined friends on a picnic bench. Their friend Andrew Loe said he dropped by for a family outing after attending church, and it was his first visit.
Centrally located was the food court, an array of tents and picnic benches where one can savor roti from the Roti Masters, La-Verne Bates' old-fashioned candies and pastries, Empress Vege's vegetarian cuisine, frosty fruit smoothies and St. Joseph Cub Scouts' Caribbean entrees.
Other vendors displayed Haitian arts, assorted plants, ice-cold sugar cane pieces, ruby red watermelon, toe rings, face painting, t-shirts and ceramic tiles.

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