@ School: Apprentice Art Students Brighten Frederiksted

From bottom up, Katherine Bishop, Cherise Finney and Victor Cepeda paint the parade mural.Art students, working as apprentices, helped bring new and bright colors to the town of Frederiksted as they completed a large mural Friday. Seven students spent three weeks working on a parade-themed mural to be hung over an old mural on King Street that has seen better days.

The whole mural is painted on 20 plywood sheets 3/4 inches thick, that will be nailed to the existing wall, covering an area 12 feet by 64 feet. It will be treated with a protective coating. The mural will be installed over the existing mural across the street from Kentucky Fried Chicken, which was painted 10 years ago by Good Hope students.

The students are working under the guidance of artist Lucien Downes, artistic director of the project. Downes, a self-taught local artist now based in Atlanta, said they are well ahead of the scheduled three-week completion. Work on the project began July 11 with students working Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Downes said the students are dedicated and serious about their work.

“When this is done they’ll have something to be proud of,” Downes said. He allowed them to be creative and let them work things out themselves.

The mural, done in acrylics, has colorful mocko jumbies, quelbe dancers and Rising Stars steel drummers in a carnival parade. The sky is royal blue and the buildings are in bright primary colors. In the lower half there are the backs of heads depicting parade watchers.

Victor Cepeda, a 2013 graduate of St. Croix Educational Complex and a student at the University of Turabo studying industrial design, said he was very happy to be called to work on the mural. A couple of years ago he worked on a mural at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport under the direction of art teacher Cynthia Hatfield.

“I liked doing this project, showing the locals and cruise ship passengers the potential of student artists on St. Croix,” Cepeda said. He said he drew the buildings, which were challenging at first, working on a large scale. “Even on this scale it’s different for me, but it’s working,” he added.

Cherise Finney paints a panel depicting the Rising Stars.Cherise Finney, a 2013 graduate of Complex and psychology student at the University of the Virgin Islands, said she was happy to be able to do something worthwhile during her summer break. Finney, doing the jumbies, said the scale was challenging for her at first, but she learned to move her arms and hands and be more fluid. She added she liked how they all worked together to bring it together and the way the mural is turning out.

“I feel honored and like the idea that I’m known now,” Finney said.“I can look back and say I did this.”

Katherine Bishop, a 2011 Good Hope graduate and a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, said she liked to do community art projects. She had also worked on the airport mural. She said she loved working on the project that was very well planned.

“I’m glad I had the opportunity here on St. Croix to do this mural,” Bishop said. “And I’m glad I got a job in my field.”

Nellisa Benjamin, Julian Bishop, Annie Hoffman and Joshua Jeudy also participated in the art project.

The student artists will be paid a stipend for all services rendered to complete the project.

Elizabeth Keith, creator and coordinator of the project, said the purpose of the project was to create community involvement and jobs for students and local artists.

She said the students did a fabulous job and the organizers have plans for more murals, with the next one planned for Christiansted.

An unveiling reception will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Aug. 17 at the Strand Street Courtyard, and will be open to the public.

A local licensed contractor is scheduled to have the installation completed by the end of August. Mike Gelardi created a video of the project and will install a computer chip on the mural for an Internet access site.

The project had a successful fundraiser through the online site gofundme.com. Major local sponsors of the project are the Artist Guild of St. Croix, Strand Street LLC, Marshall and Sterling Insurance, Ka-Ma-Kris Hardware and Benjamin Moore Paint Store.

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