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HomeNewsArchivesAFRICAN STUDIES SYMPOSIUM INSPIRES ART SHOW

AFRICAN STUDIES SYMPOSIUM INSPIRES ART SHOW

April 10, 2001 – In a show two years in the making, works by 18 Virgin Islands artists will go on exhibit April 17-26 on St. Thomas before traveling to North Carolina, where they will be on display throughout the coming academic year.
The exhibition has been put together to complement the 12th Triennial Symposium on African and Caribbean Art of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association, set for April 25-29 at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort. Hosted by the University of the Virgin Islands, this is the first ACASA symposium to be held in the Caribbean.
The membership of ACASA comprises museums, universities, other scholarly organizations and individuals committed to the study of the arts in African, African-American and African-Caribbean cultures. Its last symposium, in 1998, was held in New Orleans. The 2001 symposium and the art show were scheduled to coincide with St. Thomas's greatest artistic claim to fame – V.I. Carnival.
Shira Sofer, who has been teaching art courses part-time at UVI for six years, was given the assignment of curating the exhibition. It's sponsored by UVI and co-sponsored by the V.I. Cultural Heritage Institute, with funding support from the V.I. Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, which will be its second stop.
To be accepted for inclusion, works had to reflect African, African-Caribbean or African-American themes. Collectively, the show has been titled "Africa in the HeART of the Virgin Islands."
The works will be exhibited in the Grand Galleria second-floor salon – the space that was once the ballroom of the historic Grand Hotel. The exhibition opens Wednesday, April 13, with a reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Many of the artists will be present, and the public is invited. Admission is free.
Who's represented, and with what
The participating artists and their works:
Myra Arin, St. Croix, 2 charcoal drawings.
La Vaughn Belle, St. Croix, 3 mixed media pieces.
Janet Cook-Rutnik, St. John, 3 assemblages.
Danica David, St. Croix, 2 mixed media pieces.
Susan Edwards, St. Thomas, 2 mixed media assemblages, 1 walking stick.
Jon Euwema, St. Thomas, 2 sculptural assemblages, 1 drawing.
Edney Freeman, St. Thomas, 3 shields.
Marcia Jameson, St. Croix, 1 oil painting.
Gerville Larsen, St. Croix, 1 painting/installation, 2 mixed media paintings.
Roy Lawaetz, St. Croix, 3 modular system acrylic paintings.
Elisa McKay, St. Croix, 2 mixed media paintings with applications.
Nii Ahene'La Mettle-Nunoo, St. Croix, 1 mixed media work, 1 etching, 1 oil painting.
Kuumba Leba Ola-Niyi, St. Thomas, 2 carved wood walking sticks.
Maud Pierre-Charles, St. Croix, 1 acrylic painting, 2 graphite and ink wash drawings.
Karen L. Samuel, St. John, 2 oil paintings.
Marie-Therese Servant, St. John, 3 local hardwood sculptures.
Afreekan Southwell, St. Thomas, 1 oil painting, 2 mahogany sculptures.
In addition, two acrylic paintings by the late St. Thomas artist Albert Daniel will be included in the exhibition. During the course of the exhibit, Magda G-Smith, executive director of the V.I. Humanities Council, will lecture on Daniel's life and work.
"We gave the opportunity for everybody to have three pieces in the show, but some chose to have fewer," Sofer said. Although that puts the count at 46 pieces, she said, that's the total "for now – we won't know for sure until we have the show hung."
The exhibit will remain up in the Grand Galleria through the Food Fair/Arts and Crafts Fair day on the Carnival calendar. Many of the works will be available for purchase. "Any that are sold must stay up until the exhibition here closes," Sofer said. "Then the artist will have the opportunity to submit another piece to travel to North Carolina." She noted that in a couple of instances, artists who had submitted works for the show later had the opportunity – and took it – to sell them. "They said they needed the money," she said understandingly.
The North Carolina exhibition will be in a museum, the Mattye Reed African Heritage Center, at A&T State University in Greensboro. The artwork will be crated for shipping as the Grand Galleria show is taken down, Sofer said, with a curator from the museum on hand to oversee the work. The museum has its own funding to transport the works to the mainland and return them after the show closes and is providing major sponsorship of the exhibition catalog.
"The pieces will be shipped immediately, even though the show up there won't open until the fall," Sofer said. The exhibition will remain up through spring of 2002.
Art of many media and meanings
The philosophical footprint for the the exhibition was "definitely to show the whole variety of art we have here," Sofer said. "Artists here are doing work that they cannot show here for lack of exhibition venues." She said the show will include representational Carnival scenes, portraits and depictions of day-to-day Caribbean life, "but we also have artists who do installations and assemblages and quite large works that deal with political or intellectual issues."
Some of the artists are formally trained; others are self-taught, she said. Some represent the European traditions in art; others focus on the symbolic images of their African roots. "And some embody all of the above, and more. Lawaetz, for example, incorporates elements from the Taino culture. Cook-Rutnik's work has been influenced by personal experiences."
After the evening reception on April 17, the gallery will be open daily except Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. "There will be someone sitting the show at all times, with price lists and information on the artists," Sofer said, noting that she would not mind some more volunteers to help.
Sofer, an Israeli native who holds a master of arts and humanities degree from New York University and interned at New York's Center for African Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem, worked closely with Dr. Conchita Ndege, director of the North Carolina heritage center, in putting the show together. "In the beginning it was me and her," Sofer said. "I started out going around to galleries and studios; I photographed work or the artists sent me photos."
The general criteria for acceptance were that artists had to be native Virgin Islanders or to have lived in the territory for more than 10 years, and that their work had relate to African or African-Caribbean culture. The selection process involved reviewing both the general body of work of an artist and the specific pieces proposed for the show, Sofer said. Artists had the option of creating new works or showing existing pieces.
Sofer, Ndege and Dr. Robert Nicholls, the UVI faculty member who is the local liaison for the ACASA symposium, submitted their recommendations to a panel of representatives of the Cultural Heritage Institute, VICA and other agencies for review.
A collateral task Sofer had was coming up with a viable venue for the exhibition – space available for nearly two weeks that was large enough with ceilings high enough and lighting good enough. "We are very, very glad to have been offered the Grand Galleria space. It's beautifully renovated, air-conditioned and wonderful," she said. And its use is being donated by H.R. Lockhart Management.
It was Jon Euwema, an architect by profession, who proposed the location and has arranged the lighting, she said. MSI Building Supplies has contributed materials to hang the show. Continental Movers on St. Croix is donating the crating of works on that island and their shipment to St. Thomas.
The Cultural Heritage Institute is hosting the April 17 opening reception, promising "an evening of art, community and music" open to the public. That night, there will be an a
fter-party at Marisol Restaurant, located on nearby Government Hill in historic 1854 Hus (which formerly housed Zorba's). The public is invited to this event, too, and there is no cover charge.
For more information about the exhibition, call the Cultural Heritage Institute at 774-9537 or the Historic Preservation division of the Planning and Natural Resources Department, at 776-8605. For information about the ACASA activities, call UVI's Nicholls at 693-1184.

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April 10, 2001 – In a show two years in the making, works by 18 Virgin Islands artists will go on exhibit April 17-26 on St. Thomas before traveling to North Carolina, where they will be on display throughout the coming academic year.
The exhibition has been put together to complement the 12th Triennial Symposium on African and Caribbean Art of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association, set for April 25-29 at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort. Hosted by the University of the Virgin Islands, this is the first ACASA symposium to be held in the Caribbean.
The membership of ACASA comprises museums, universities, other scholarly organizations and individuals committed to the study of the arts in African, African-American and African-Caribbean cultures. Its last symposium, in 1998, was held in New Orleans. The 2001 symposium and the art show were scheduled to coincide with St. Thomas's greatest artistic claim to fame – V.I. Carnival.
Shira Sofer, who has been teaching art courses part-time at UVI for six years, was given the assignment of curating the exhibition. It's sponsored by UVI and co-sponsored by the V.I. Cultural Heritage Institute, with funding support from the V.I. Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, which will be its second stop.
To be accepted for inclusion, works had to reflect African, African-Caribbean or African-American themes. Collectively, the show has been titled "Africa in the HeART of the Virgin Islands."
The works will be exhibited in the Grand Galleria second-floor salon – the space that was once the ballroom of the historic Grand Hotel. The exhibition opens Wednesday, April 13, with a reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Many of the artists will be present, and the public is invited. Admission is free.
Who's represented, and with what
The participating artists and their works:
Myra Arin, St. Croix, 2 charcoal drawings.
La Vaughn Belle, St. Croix, 3 mixed media pieces.
Janet Cook-Rutnik, St. John, 3 assemblages.
Danica David, St. Croix, 2 mixed media pieces.
Susan Edwards, St. Thomas, 2 mixed media assemblages, 1 walking stick.
Jon Euwema, St. Thomas, 2 sculptural assemblages, 1 drawing.
Edney Freeman, St. Thomas, 3 shields.
Marcia Jameson, St. Croix, 1 oil painting.
Gerville Larsen, St. Croix, 1 painting/installation, 2 mixed media paintings.
Roy Lawaetz, St. Croix, 3 modular system acrylic paintings.
Elisa McKay, St. Croix, 2 mixed media paintings with applications.
Nii Ahene'La Mettle-Nunoo, St. Croix, 1 mixed media work, 1 etching, 1 oil painting.
Kuumba Leba Ola-Niyi, St. Thomas, 2 carved wood walking sticks.
Maud Pierre-Charles, St. Croix, 1 acrylic painting, 2 graphite and ink wash drawings.
Karen L. Samuel, St. John, 2 oil paintings.
Marie-Therese Servant, St. John, 3 local hardwood sculptures.
Afreekan Southwell, St. Thomas, 1 oil painting, 2 mahogany sculptures.
In addition, two acrylic paintings by the late St. Thomas artist Albert Daniel will be included in the exhibition. During the course of the exhibit, Magda G-Smith, executive director of the V.I. Humanities Council, will lecture on Daniel's life and work.
"We gave the opportunity for everybody to have three pieces in the show, but some chose to have fewer," Sofer said. Although that puts the count at 46 pieces, she said, that's the total "for now – we won't know for sure until we have the show hung."
The exhibit will remain up in the Grand Galleria through the Food Fair/Arts and Crafts Fair day on the Carnival calendar. Many of the works will be available for purchase. "Any that are sold must stay up until the exhibition here closes," Sofer said. "Then the artist will have the opportunity to submit another piece to travel to North Carolina." She noted that in a couple of instances, artists who had submitted works for the show later had the opportunity – and took it – to sell them. "They said they needed the money," she said understandingly.
The North Carolina exhibition will be in a museum, the Mattye Reed African Heritage Center, at A&T State University in Greensboro. The artwork will be crated for shipping as the Grand Galleria show is taken down, Sofer said, with a curator from the museum on hand to oversee the work. The museum has its own funding to transport the works to the mainland and return them after the show closes and is providing major sponsorship of the exhibition catalog.
"The pieces will be shipped immediately, even though the show up there won't open until the fall," Sofer said. The exhibition will remain up through spring of 2002.
Art of many media and meanings
The philosophical footprint for the the exhibition was "definitely to show the whole variety of art we have here," Sofer said. "Artists here are doing work that they cannot show here for lack of exhibition venues." She said the show will include representational Carnival scenes, portraits and depictions of day-to-day Caribbean life, "but we also have artists who do installations and assemblages and quite large works that deal with political or intellectual issues."
Some of the artists are formally trained; others are self-taught, she said. Some represent the European traditions in art; others focus on the symbolic images of their African roots. "And some embody all of the above, and more. Lawaetz, for example, incorporates elements from the Taino culture. Cook-Rutnik's work has been influenced by personal experiences."
After the evening reception on April 17, the gallery will be open daily except Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. "There will be someone sitting the show at all times, with price lists and information on the artists," Sofer said, noting that she would not mind some more volunteers to help.
Sofer, an Israeli native who holds a master of arts and humanities degree from New York University and interned at New York's Center for African Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem, worked closely with Dr. Conchita Ndege, director of the North Carolina heritage center, in putting the show together. "In the beginning it was me and her," Sofer said. "I started out going around to galleries and studios; I photographed work or the artists sent me photos."
The general criteria for acceptance were that artists had to be native Virgin Islanders or to have lived in the territory for more than 10 years, and that their work had relate to African or African-Caribbean culture. The selection process involved reviewing both the general body of work of an artist and the specific pieces proposed for the show, Sofer said. Artists had the option of creating new works or showing existing pieces.
Sofer, Ndege and Dr. Robert Nicholls, the UVI faculty member who is the local liaison for the ACASA symposium, submitted their recommendations to a panel of representatives of the Cultural Heritage Institute, VICA and other agencies for review.
A collateral task Sofer had was coming up with a viable venue for the exhibition – space available for nearly two weeks that was large enough with ceilings high enough and lighting good enough. "We are very, very glad to have been offered the Grand Galleria space. It's beautifully renovated, air-conditioned and wonderful," she said. And its use is being donated by H.R. Lockhart Management.
It was Jon Euwema, an architect by profession, who proposed the location and has arranged the lighting, she said. MSI Building Supplies has contributed materials to hang the show. Continental Movers on St. Croix is donating the crating of works on that island and their shipment to St. Thomas.
The Cultural Heritage Institute is hosting the April 17 opening reception, promising "an evening of art, community and music" open to the public. That night, there will be an a fter-party at Marisol Restaurant, located on nearby Government Hill in historic 1854 Hus (which formerly housed Zorba's). The public is invited to this event, too, and there is no cover charge.
For more information about the exhibition, call the Cultural Heritage Institute at 774-9537 or the Historic Preservation division of the Planning and Natural Resources Department, at 776-8605. For information about the ACASA activities, call UVI's Nicholls at 693-1184.