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HomeNewsArchivesSEASON GETS TRADITIONAL GREETING AT ARTS ALIVE

SEASON GETS TRADITIONAL GREETING AT ARTS ALIVE

Nov. 25, 2001 – "Mamma bake a Johnny cake, Christmas comin'," sang Nicky Russell as he and Janet Reiter musically put holiday shoppers in the mood at the Arts Alive Arts and Crafts Holiday Festival at Tillett Gardens this weekend. The festival, celebrating its 21st anniversary, featured 28 exhibitors who showed off and sold everything from paintings to jams and cookies, along with live entertainment from start to finish.
As Arts Alive founder Rhoda Tillett said, "The days after Thanksgiving are traditional Christmas shopping times."
For years, Arts Alive fairs also were held in March and August, but "There's more competition now — other fairs, feasts and art galleries — so we have concentrated on just a November fair," Tillett explained.
The theme of this year's festival was "Proud to be made in the USVI." Survey the garden complex, Tillett said, "Ninety-five percent of everything here is made here. We have a lot of creative talent here, and this is our way to keep the local economy growing."
Holiday shopper Douglas Dick enjoyed looking at some of the local artwork. "We come every year and wouldn't miss it," he said, referring to himself and his wife, Charlene.
Tillett Gardens resident artisan Jason Budsan displayed his tropical-scented candles, mango being the most popular, and showcased a new gel style for the Christmas season in red, white and blue. "I call it my sea, stars and stripes," Budsan said. Inside his crowded studio and shop, Budsan added, "Fairs, where we bring people in to see the arts and crafts, are always successful. I've seen a good mix of people — those living on sailboats, hotel guests, a vast majority of locals — repeat customers and new faces."
Budsan's candles are part of Caribbean X 3, a creative venture packaging his wax works with St. Thomas perfume blender Gail Garrison's island fragrances and St. John "Mango Momma" Cheryl Miller's jams, jellies and hot sauces.
"I work with middle-school kids from the Coral Bay School to recycle wood and make the gift boxes we use to hold the products," Miller said. The trio of products can be purchased at a variety of locations throughout the Virgin Islands as well as sent by mail as gifts.
Great big tropical medley cookies — made with oatmeal, mango, walnuts and raisins — were a hit from Grandma Sandy's Cookies at the festival. "This year, we're also doing corporate gifts, packaging the cookies with teas, coffees and stuffed animals and putting the business logo on it," owner Sandra Davis said. "Then, the business sends the gifts to their employees or customers.
Davis added, "We're also creating unique gift baskets for the holidays. It might be cookie sheets, a selection of cookie cutters and cookies, all in a decorative basket."
A fascination with old-time ways and sayings led Lockhart Elementary School art teacher Jacqueline Buckley to embark on a greeting card project with her class. "I put old-time saying in a hat and let each child pick one out," she said, "then they had to decide how to illustrate it."
Some of the sayings that the youngsters illustrated in colorful, humorous ways: "Boar hog put in gold teeth" and "Empty barrel make most noise." Buckley selected a handful of the best from her third and fourth grade classes that participated in the project and had them printed as greeting cards. "The best part is that the cards are blank inside, so you can use them all year long," she said.
Holiday wreaths and ornaments made from wild tamarind pods were among the items displayed by Monique Purguy. "A customer once asked me if I'm sure to get all the seeds out of the pods, and I told her 'yes'," Purguy said. To some, wild tamarind is a nuisance plant that takes over a garden, but Purguy has tamed it for tropical holiday decorating.
With their Christmas tree all set up and decorated, the Williams children — Jasmine, 15, Jessie, 11 and Leigh, 8 — offered many holiday items for sale that they had spent the last few weeks making by hand. "We have ornaments, calendars, coloring books, pins and candy canes with felt reindeer heads covering them," Jasmine pointed out.
The Williams siblings weren't the only young people exhibiting holiday crafts. At another table, 10 young entrepreneurs from the Kids-N-Business program were selling their wares. "I like making my own money," program participant Mary Joe Edwards, a 6th grade student at Kirwin Terrace School, said, tending to customers at their table set with books, toys and assorted goodies.
Jamila Harris, former president of Harris Associates, a public relations and marketing firm in Atlanta, and a teacher at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School, began the Kids-N-Business program 10 years ago and brought it to St. Thomas when she moved to the island three years ago. "We have over 100 children in the program, ages 6 to 17, and recruit from all the area schools," she said.
In the afterschool program, the youngsters study Spanish, computer science and "not only how to develop projects they're interested in to make money, but also about the stock market and investing," Harris said.
Sunday afternoon brought the announcement of award winners and the presentation of prizes. The David O'Neill Best of Show in Fine Art award, a $300 prize donated by Austin Advertising in honor of the late visual artist, who was a graphic designer at the agency, went to exhibitor Granville Christopher.
The John Lovatt Best of Show in Craft award, a $100 prize donated by John and Claire Foster, went to Gerard Lehner. The late Lovatt, a caricaturist, created the Iggy the Iguana logo that is used to promote Arts Alive festivals and concerts.
Christopher, a retired V.I. policeman, exhibited miniature handcrafted scenes with buildings and accessories all made from local woods. "I use native mahogany, genip, guava, sea grape, cashew and yellow cedar," he explained.
The polished wood items were assembled into historic settings — the Tortola wharf complete with boats holding miniature fruits and vegetables, St. Anne's chapel in Frenchtown with windows open and tiny pews inside, and a Carnival Village with each booth filled with foods and crafts. "These are scenes from the '40s and '50s, when I was growing up as a boy," Christopher explained.
Lehner orchestrated a hands-on area at the festival where children created their own original prints. A fine artist, he also showed his own prints, sculptures and pendants.

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Nov. 25, 2001 - "Mamma bake a Johnny cake, Christmas comin'," sang Nicky Russell as he and Janet Reiter musically put holiday shoppers in the mood at the Arts Alive Arts and Crafts Holiday Festival at Tillett Gardens this weekend. The festival, celebrating its 21st anniversary, featured 28 exhibitors who showed off and sold everything from paintings to jams and cookies, along with live entertainment from start to finish.
As Arts Alive founder Rhoda Tillett said, "The days after Thanksgiving are traditional Christmas shopping times."
For years, Arts Alive fairs also were held in March and August, but "There's more competition now -- other fairs, feasts and art galleries -- so we have concentrated on just a November fair," Tillett explained.
The theme of this year's festival was "Proud to be made in the USVI." Survey the garden complex, Tillett said, "Ninety-five percent of everything here is made here. We have a lot of creative talent here, and this is our way to keep the local economy growing."
Holiday shopper Douglas Dick enjoyed looking at some of the local artwork. "We come every year and wouldn't miss it," he said, referring to himself and his wife, Charlene.
Tillett Gardens resident artisan Jason Budsan displayed his tropical-scented candles, mango being the most popular, and showcased a new gel style for the Christmas season in red, white and blue. "I call it my sea, stars and stripes," Budsan said. Inside his crowded studio and shop, Budsan added, "Fairs, where we bring people in to see the arts and crafts, are always successful. I've seen a good mix of people -- those living on sailboats, hotel guests, a vast majority of locals -- repeat customers and new faces."
Budsan's candles are part of Caribbean X 3, a creative venture packaging his wax works with St. Thomas perfume blender Gail Garrison's island fragrances and St. John "Mango Momma" Cheryl Miller's jams, jellies and hot sauces.
"I work with middle-school kids from the Coral Bay School to recycle wood and make the gift boxes we use to hold the products," Miller said. The trio of products can be purchased at a variety of locations throughout the Virgin Islands as well as sent by mail as gifts.
Great big tropical medley cookies -- made with oatmeal, mango, walnuts and raisins -- were a hit from Grandma Sandy's Cookies at the festival. "This year, we're also doing corporate gifts, packaging the cookies with teas, coffees and stuffed animals and putting the business logo on it," owner Sandra Davis said. "Then, the business sends the gifts to their employees or customers.
Davis added, "We're also creating unique gift baskets for the holidays. It might be cookie sheets, a selection of cookie cutters and cookies, all in a decorative basket."
A fascination with old-time ways and sayings led Lockhart Elementary School art teacher Jacqueline Buckley to embark on a greeting card project with her class. "I put old-time saying in a hat and let each child pick one out," she said, "then they had to decide how to illustrate it."
Some of the sayings that the youngsters illustrated in colorful, humorous ways: "Boar hog put in gold teeth" and "Empty barrel make most noise." Buckley selected a handful of the best from her third and fourth grade classes that participated in the project and had them printed as greeting cards. "The best part is that the cards are blank inside, so you can use them all year long," she said.
Holiday wreaths and ornaments made from wild tamarind pods were among the items displayed by Monique Purguy. "A customer once asked me if I'm sure to get all the seeds out of the pods, and I told her 'yes'," Purguy said. To some, wild tamarind is a nuisance plant that takes over a garden, but Purguy has tamed it for tropical holiday decorating.
With their Christmas tree all set up and decorated, the Williams children -- Jasmine, 15, Jessie, 11 and Leigh, 8 -- offered many holiday items for sale that they had spent the last few weeks making by hand. "We have ornaments, calendars, coloring books, pins and candy canes with felt reindeer heads covering them," Jasmine pointed out.
The Williams siblings weren't the only young people exhibiting holiday crafts. At another table, 10 young entrepreneurs from the Kids-N-Business program were selling their wares. "I like making my own money," program participant Mary Joe Edwards, a 6th grade student at Kirwin Terrace School, said, tending to customers at their table set with books, toys and assorted goodies.
Jamila Harris, former president of Harris Associates, a public relations and marketing firm in Atlanta, and a teacher at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School, began the Kids-N-Business program 10 years ago and brought it to St. Thomas when she moved to the island three years ago. "We have over 100 children in the program, ages 6 to 17, and recruit from all the area schools," she said.
In the afterschool program, the youngsters study Spanish, computer science and "not only how to develop projects they're interested in to make money, but also about the stock market and investing," Harris said.
Sunday afternoon brought the announcement of award winners and the presentation of prizes. The David O'Neill Best of Show in Fine Art award, a $300 prize donated by Austin Advertising in honor of the late visual artist, who was a graphic designer at the agency, went to exhibitor Granville Christopher.
The John Lovatt Best of Show in Craft award, a $100 prize donated by John and Claire Foster, went to Gerard Lehner. The late Lovatt, a caricaturist, created the Iggy the Iguana logo that is used to promote Arts Alive festivals and concerts.
Christopher, a retired V.I. policeman, exhibited miniature handcrafted scenes with buildings and accessories all made from local woods. "I use native mahogany, genip, guava, sea grape, cashew and yellow cedar," he explained.
The polished wood items were assembled into historic settings -- the Tortola wharf complete with boats holding miniature fruits and vegetables, St. Anne's chapel in Frenchtown with windows open and tiny pews inside, and a Carnival Village with each booth filled with foods and crafts. "These are scenes from the '40s and '50s, when I was growing up as a boy," Christopher explained.
Lehner orchestrated a hands-on area at the festival where children created their own original prints. A fine artist, he also showed his own prints, sculptures and pendants.