Free Gut, a historic neighborhood dating back to the 1700s with an empowering story to tell, will be the site of two very interesting summer programs this year as a part of Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism Inc. (CHANT’s) “Invisible Heritage: Identity, Memory & Our Town Project.” With a goal to inspire the critical and hands-on involvement of Frederiksted residents in the cultural and economic revitalization of the town, the two programs present a unique opportunity to learn and contribute for people ages 14-24.
The Free Gut Building Arts Institute kicks off a six-week summer intensive program titled “Introduction to Vernacular Construction and Repair.” It will train participants in job safety and the fundamentals of historic restoration and construction. It will run July 10 to Aug. 18 and is open to participants ages 16-24. Lead instructor David “Wayah” Hall says success means that “program participants acquire and grow new skills and find success in launching a career in the building arts and restoration.”
The Free Gut Summer School for Community Engagement is a four-week summer program for youth ages 14-24. Running from July 10 through Aug. 4, the program engages participants in workshops around public art and community advocacy topics. Rooted in the same fire that guided Virgin Islands activists like the Three Queens and Roy Innis, and with presentations by George Tyson, Sayeeda Carter, Dembaya Arts and other guests, this program will activate and inspire deeper and broader creative civic engagement of the town’s youth.
Participants will explore the story of Free Gut using art to understand what led this once-thriving black community to decline while gaining skills to dismantle those issues and vision together a brighter future. This program also features events and workshop sessions that are open to the community.
“Invisible Heritage” is a community project with a growing list of public/private partners including Monica Marin, curator; Gerville Larsen, AIA; Gustav James, commissioner of V.I. Dept. of Public Works; Kendal Henry, Director, Percent for Art Program NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; Vegan Ellis, master artisan; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church; and Dr. Chenzira Davis-Kahina, director of the Caribbean Cultural Center of the University of the Virgin Islands.
Focusing on Frederiksted, CHANT and its partners are seizing the opportunity to build a local, informed and active workforce pipeline in advance of the millions of dollars of public investments planned for housing facade and community arcade improvements. It is working to provide the education and certification necessary for Crucians to be eligible to lead the preservation investments planned in the years to come.
CHANT is organized exclusively for charitable, educational and community development-related purposes. These purposes include but are not limited to:
- The development of local nature and heritage tourism product providers
- The creation and promotion of nature and heritage provider resources, using the most recent technologies that will market and reserve the services of local tour providers
- The creation of educational outreach programs for schools and the public on Crucian cultural and heritage history and the island’s environmental systems