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Art Exhibit to Benefit Fort Christian Preservation

Artist Shansi Miller greets community members at Sunday's exhibit grand opening.The St. Thomas Historical Trust continued its efforts to reopen the monument with a Sunday art fundraiser featuring the paintings of local artist Shansi Miller at Yacht Haven Grande.

Called "The Lady in Red Visits," the collection is a series of oil paintings set in various St. Thomas locales – each featuring the central "Lady in Red" that Miller said represents the beauty of downtown Charlotte Amalie and the vibrance of the close-knit community that lives within it.

"I think we have a beautiful town and I wanted to capture it with the people that live and work in it today," Miller said Sunday at the exhibit’s grand opening ceremony on St. Thomas. "I think people think the town is closed down, but it isn’t – it has its own life and I wanted to show that and the connection that we have to each other."

The series, which features sets of six to 10-inch paintings, took four years to complete. Miller said her primary model spent time knocking on the doors of each building pictured in the series and getting to know the people that lived in them, or nearby.

"Each of the people in the paintings have a connection to the location – either they live in the house, or work in the location, or live nearby," Miller explained. "So, this is really about connection and loving one another – sometimes, we lose sight of the simple things in our life and how very important it is for us to talk to one another, to be kind to one another and the Lady In Red, as the visitor, really is showing us how necessary it is for us to start opening our doors to one another again."

Miller said that in doing the series, she also wanted to support the Trust’s efforts to help reopen the fort, and encourage people to begin reinvesting in the town.

"Our town is gorgeous, it’s a gem – there are very few places on the planet that look like this," she said. "We want to encourage more people to help fix up the buildings, to reinvest, and to promote that connection that we all have to one another."

A patron browses the 'Lady in Red Visits' exhibit at Yacht Haven Grande.The exhibit opened Sunday and runs until Feb. 1. It is open daily during from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Books, prints and greeting cards from the series will be on sale and exhibit curator Priscilla Hintz said Sunday that the proceeds will all be put toward the Historical Trust’s Fort Christian Museum revitalization project.

"I have a lot of personal memories of Fort Christian myself, and Shansi, the artist, painted there, she exhibited there when there was a gallery space at Fort Christian – and for us Virgin Islanders that grew up here, there is a real sense of urgency to reopen the fort again and have the young people of the islands come again and experience the history of the fort," Hintz said. "The government and the Legislature have been working hard to make this happen and the Historical Trust has continued to be a part of it and wants to help as much as possible."

The Historical Trust also will host a cocktail party and lecture on the history of Fort Christian from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday at the exhibition’s space at Yacht Haven Grande. The featured guest speaker will be Dolores Jowers, Fort Christian’s former curator and director. The Historical Trust will also provide an update on the status of the Fort, and its recent agreement with the V.I. government to conduct tours and support the ongoing rehabilitation efforts.

Admission to the fundraiser is $50 per person.

Fort Christian has been closed for renovation since 2005. Tuesday students from E. Benjamin Oliver Elementary School students toured the fort, marking the first school tours since the 343-year-old fort was closed to the public. (See story link below.)

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