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Thursday, August 11, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesLOOKING FOR ECONOMIC DIVERSITY? GROW ART

LOOKING FOR ECONOMIC DIVERSITY? GROW ART

In addition to the great benefits of art as education, communication and spiritual recreation, it has tremendous potential for revitalizing an economically down-trodden area.
Having just returned from Fredriksted and the post-inaugural ceremonies for newly elected Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James, I am once again hoping that the arts will be recognized as the breath of fresh air that can bring life back into this sad skeleton of a once-proud and serenely beautiful seaside town.
Nothing increases property values and stimulates economic growth faster than the influx of working artists who create studios, workshops and galleries out of formerly abandoned, unused or debilitated buildings, storefronts, warehouses, etc.
This "gentrification" process has been well-documented all across America and exists from north to south, east to west — Soho in New York, Santa Monica in Los Angeles, the Torpedo Art Factory in Alexandria, Va., Old San Juan in Puerto Rico and Taos, N.M., to name a very few.
One of the most interesting areas that offers considerable comparison to the Virgin Islands is South Beach, Fla. This is the lower part of Miami Beach, that became totally derelict and dangerous as the older winter residents died off or were unable to maintain their properties, and the area fell on hard times.
Gradually the eccentric Art Deco-style two- and three-story hotels became more and more rundown or abandoned, attracting riff-raff, drunks and drug dealers. The city was encouraged by many to raze and clear the area of all the buildings, in an attempt to rid it of the undesirables.
A struggle began between the city and a group of preservationists, led by the late Barbara Capitman, who realized what a national treasure existed in this small, 20-block neighborhood with its incredible proliferation of 1940s style Art Deco buildings.
This style of architecture had all but become extinct in America. Nowhere else does it exist in such a concentrated or beautiful setting — right on the ocean. Many of the hotels look like fanciful cruise ships oddly sitting on the beach, or old-fashioned Hollywood sets from a bygone era.
The preservationists battled the politicians, and in the 11th hour won out. That was around 1968, and gradually over the next 20 years artists moved into the (then mostly NOT rehabilitated) buildings. Slowly the developers came on their heels, and one by one the hotels are being restored.
Right now it is one of the hottest spots in the sun, and the same "condo" you may have been able to buy five years ago for less than the price of a car is worth $500,000 today.
Cafes, restaurants, flower shops, book stores, grocery stores, galleries, decorators, clothing and furniture retailers, food shops, and almost any small business offering goods and services to a thriving local community and an affluent visiting one are there making a very good living.
Because this place is accessible to all of America, Canada and Mexico by car, the chances of it becoming overwhelmed, overcrowded and overdeveloped are great.
The same is not true here, as we will continue to enjoy a certain prestige by virtue of the distance and required air travel.
We have architecture of far greater interest historically and aesthetically. Our beautiful towns are set on the water and lined with palm trees. Of special note is Frederiksted with its distinctive gingerbread architecture, a result of its unique history.
The town, which was founded in 1751, was nearly washed away by a tidal wave in 1867, and lost more buildings in the historic Fireburn labor revolt of 1878. At the time of rebuilding, the ornate Victorian style was in vogue, and the picturesque gingerbread architecture that dominates Strand and Queen streets dates from then.
With its breathtaking sea view and wide streets full of empty but awe-inspiringly handsome buildings in all stages of dishabille, it is the perfect place to grow art.
St. Croix can also boast another great town, Christiansted, with its own impressive history and excellent city plan dating back to 1747, a botanical garden, a golf course and THREE museums, all of which go begging for the support of more visitors, more attention, more operating capital.
Every time I visit St. Croix, and particularly Frederiksted, I am dumbfounded by its laconic, fading beauty and saddened by its strange abandonment. I fail to understand what is going on there.
Are you as baffled as I am, or am I missing something? Can someone please explain this strange mystery to me?

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In addition to the great benefits of art as education, communication and spiritual recreation, it has tremendous potential for revitalizing an economically down-trodden area.
Having just returned from Fredriksted and the post-inaugural ceremonies for newly elected Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James, I am once again hoping that the arts will be recognized as the breath of fresh air that can bring life back into this sad skeleton of a once-proud and serenely beautiful seaside town.
Nothing increases property values and stimulates economic growth faster than the influx of working artists who create studios, workshops and galleries out of formerly abandoned, unused or debilitated buildings, storefronts, warehouses, etc.
This "gentrification" process has been well-documented all across America and exists from north to south, east to west -- Soho in New York, Santa Monica in Los Angeles, the Torpedo Art Factory in Alexandria, Va., Old San Juan in Puerto Rico and Taos, N.M., to name a very few.
One of the most interesting areas that offers considerable comparison to the Virgin Islands is South Beach, Fla. This is the lower part of Miami Beach, that became totally derelict and dangerous as the older winter residents died off or were unable to maintain their properties, and the area fell on hard times.
Gradually the eccentric Art Deco-style two- and three-story hotels became more and more rundown or abandoned, attracting riff-raff, drunks and drug dealers. The city was encouraged by many to raze and clear the area of all the buildings, in an attempt to rid it of the undesirables.
A struggle began between the city and a group of preservationists, led by the late Barbara Capitman, who realized what a national treasure existed in this small, 20-block neighborhood with its incredible proliferation of 1940s style Art Deco buildings.
This style of architecture had all but become extinct in America. Nowhere else does it exist in such a concentrated or beautiful setting -- right on the ocean. Many of the hotels look like fanciful cruise ships oddly sitting on the beach, or old-fashioned Hollywood sets from a bygone era.
The preservationists battled the politicians, and in the 11th hour won out. That was around 1968, and gradually over the next 20 years artists moved into the (then mostly NOT rehabilitated) buildings. Slowly the developers came on their heels, and one by one the hotels are being restored.
Right now it is one of the hottest spots in the sun, and the same "condo" you may have been able to buy five years ago for less than the price of a car is worth $500,000 today.
Cafes, restaurants, flower shops, book stores, grocery stores, galleries, decorators, clothing and furniture retailers, food shops, and almost any small business offering goods and services to a thriving local community and an affluent visiting one are there making a very good living.
Because this place is accessible to all of America, Canada and Mexico by car, the chances of it becoming overwhelmed, overcrowded and overdeveloped are great.
The same is not true here, as we will continue to enjoy a certain prestige by virtue of the distance and required air travel.
We have architecture of far greater interest historically and aesthetically. Our beautiful towns are set on the water and lined with palm trees. Of special note is Frederiksted with its distinctive gingerbread architecture, a result of its unique history.
The town, which was founded in 1751, was nearly washed away by a tidal wave in 1867, and lost more buildings in the historic Fireburn labor revolt of 1878. At the time of rebuilding, the ornate Victorian style was in vogue, and the picturesque gingerbread architecture that dominates Strand and Queen streets dates from then.
With its breathtaking sea view and wide streets full of empty but awe-inspiringly handsome buildings in all stages of dishabille, it is the perfect place to grow art.
St. Croix can also boast another great town, Christiansted, with its own impressive history and excellent city plan dating back to 1747, a botanical garden, a golf course and THREE museums, all of which go begging for the support of more visitors, more attention, more operating capital.
Every time I visit St. Croix, and particularly Frederiksted, I am dumbfounded by its laconic, fading beauty and saddened by its strange abandonment. I fail to understand what is going on there.
Are you as baffled as I am, or am I missing something? Can someone please explain this strange mystery to me?