The Virgin Islands Council on the Arts will re-open its St. Croix office at the Dorsch Center in downtown Frederiksted with a meet-and-greet event beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, giving the public an opportunity to mix and mingle with the newly appointed project coordinator for St. Croix, Kendell Henry, VICA Executive Director Tasida Kelch, and the VICA board of directors and staff.
Over the years, the Dorsch Center, at 604 Strand Street in Fredericksted, has been dedicated and rededicated since it was built in 1933 and dedicated as the Open Air Theater. In 1972, the Ninth Legislature of the Virgin Islands rededicated the theater in honor of the late Frederick D. Dorsch, an educator from Scottsville, Michigan, who moved to St. Croix in the 1930s. A school teacher, humanist and dramatist, Dorsch became well known for his civic enthusiasm and dedication to developing the artistic talents of St. Croix youth. He also served as school superintendent under the V.I. Municipal Council – now the V.I. Legislature.
Ravaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the Dorsch Center was renovated and rededicated in 2004. Dorsch’s widow and fellow educator, Delta Jackson Dorsch, was present for the ceremony, during which she was awarded a mahogany key to the Virgin Islands. A dedicated culture bearer and award-winning author in her own right, she was born on St. Croix in 1915 and taught in the St. Croix Department of Education for 38 years. She also served on the Commission for the Preservation of Virgin Islands Culture and was renowned for her gift of story-telling, which she believed helped to keep the Virgin Islands culture alive. Frederick and Delta were married in 1955 and shared one daughter, Helen, who lives on the U.S. mainland. Mrs. Dorsch died at the age of 95 in 2011.
Recently the Dorsch Theater underwent yet another mini-facelift, with the addition of a lighting system donated by the University of the Virgin Islands Reichhold Center for the Performing Arts on St. Thomas. Kelch said the organization is excited about the lighting system, which will now illuminate the entire outdoor auditorium.
“We were delighted to receive the lighting system, which was among the few things salvaged from the wreckage of the Reichhold Center, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017,” Kelch said. “We are very optimistic about being able to host evening performances and events at the Dorsch Center and are looking forward to catering to the artistic needs of artists and institutions on St. Croix once again.”
Project coordinator Henry was born and raised just a stone’s throw from the Dorsch Theater. He is a former elementary school teacher at St. Patrick School in Frederiksted, an 18-year veteran musician with the quelbe musical group, Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights, and coordinator of the Ay-Ay Cultural Dance Company, which has been teaching quadrille and masquerade dancing to St. Croix youth since 2004.
“I’ve lived in Frederiksted all of my life. I have long loved the scenery and everything about my hometown,” he said. “To be able to make an impact, to be a part of bringing live plays and performances to Frederiksted, is a dream come true.”
This year, VICA is celebrating 53 years of service to artists and educational organizations and other institutions in the Virgin Islands. Normal business hours – 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays – will resume, Tuesday.