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 CHANT’s (Crucian History and Nature Tourism) 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, according to CHANT.
The Free Gut Building Arts Institute kicks off a six week summer intensive titled “Introduction to Vernacular Construction and Repair”, to train participants in job safety and the fundamentals of historic restoration and construction. This program will run July 10 to August 18 and is open to participants ages 16-24. Lead Instructor David “Wayah” Hall shares his excitement for the project and 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 4-week summer program for youth ages 14-24. Running from July 10th –August 4th, the program engages participants in workshops around public art and community advocacy topics. Rooted in the same fire that guided Virgin Islander activists like the 3 Queens and Roy Innis, and with presentations by George Tyson, Sayeeda Carter, Dembaya Arts and other guests, this program will educate, activate and inspire deeper and broader creative civic engagement of the town’s youth. We 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: Identity, Memory & Our Town, is a community project with a growing list of public/private partners, including Monica Marin, Curator, Gerville Larsen, AIA; Public Works Commissioner Gustav James, NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art Program Director Kendal Henry, Master Artisan Vegan Ellis, Master Artisan; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and University of the Virgin Islands Caribbean Cultural Center Director Chenzira Davis-Kahina.
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. They are working to provide the education and certification necessary for Crucians to be eligible to lead the preservation investments planned in the years to come.