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Feb. 4, 2003 – For the second year, the Safety Zone is partnering with artists from many lands to present an event that is a fund-raiser for the St. John agency and at the same time a world-class exhibition of fine art and artisan work.
Last year, Iris Kern, Safety Zone's founding executive director, named the first show "The World Hand," signifying that the art work represented "the creative impact of the hand on an international level." And she found a welcoming assist from Brian Young, general manager of Caneel Bay Resort, who enthusiastically agreed to have the resort's main dining room lounge and hallway serve as the gallery.
This year, it's more of the same. Literally.
"The guests at Caneel loved last year's show," Kern recalls. "It was a beautiful, quality, appreciated exhibition. All of that was sufficient reason to do it again. And this year it's more international, with more art."
Last year's show was to be up only for the opening gala and the following day. However, Kern said, "the Caneel guests spoke to the management, so they let us keep it up for two additional days."
This year, that's the plan from the get-go. There's a gala opening reception on Friday night, then the work will be open to public viewing during the day on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Represented are seven artists from Australia, one from Africa, one from the Orient, one from Europe, several from the U.S. mainland and more than 30 from throughout the Virgin Islands.
Kern, who studied art as a graduate student before deciding to pursue a career in social work, said: "I felt that last year's show was the best art exhibition I've ever seen in the Virgin Islands. This year I think the show is every bit as exciting as last year's." She added: "This is an artist's show, not an art show. There's very little commercial in it."
That is to say, the works were not produced with marketing to a mass audience in mind; hence, art appreciators can expect to see cutting-edge, as opposed to cookie-cutter, concepts as well as execution.
Works from abroad "are still coming in every day," Kern said on Monday, "and almost all of the artists have at least two pieces. We know there are at least three items in the mail that haven't arrived yet. When the show opens, it will probably have about a hundred works."
The poster promoting the show pictures one of the works to be displayed — a triangular work of quilted fabric art by St. John artist Maria Cusimano-Kohl titled "With a Woman's Hands." It's one of two quilted pieces she'll be exhibiting.
Kern said that Cusimano-Kohl "pounds island flowers and ferns to get the colors for her dyes, and dyes the fabrics, as well as the hand and machine-stitching, herself."
As was the case last year, Kern drew on the assistance of a friend on Tortola, June Bibby, who has annually put together "the largest arts and crafts show in Australia" for more than two decades. From Down Under, the exhibition will include:
– Two mixed media works by Jane Stapleton consisting of watercolors depicting wolves "so detailed they look like photographs" with fetish collages at the sides; and watercolors of two monkeys from her "Pirates of the Caribbean" series.
– A miniature sarcophagus about 14 inches in length by Margaret Proctor that has a cat's face, and which opens to reveal a little mouse gifted to the honored personage; and 10 polymer "dolls" of cats and "meercats" (also known as prairie dogs) about 8 to 10 inches high that are decked out in ornate fantasy costumes.
– Two fairy figures about 3.5 feet high by dollmaker Chris Boston.
– Cloisonne jewelry by Robin Phillips.
– Color etchings by Janet Ayliffe.
– Leather collage landscapes of St. Thomas and St. Croix and leather bags with landscape designs by Bob Craven.
From Zimbabwe is a Shona sculpture of a female figure by Mbare.
From the U.S. Pacific Northwest are two abstract oils by Donald Laurent Dahlke, who lived for years on St. Croix and returns regularly to paint and exhibit in the territory; and two oils by Mel McCudden that Kern describes as "very haunting."
V.I. artists represented include:
From St. John – photographer John Baldwin, jewelry-maker Michael Banzhaf, painter Jean Booty, painter Kimberly Boulon, photographer Kevin Chipman, painter/collage artist Janet Cook-Rutnik, mosaic artist Lisa Crumrine, fabric artist Maria Cusimano-Kohl, painter Mary Davis, painter Helen Eltis, painter M. Lisa Etre, painter Leah Flippen (showing limited edition prints), ceramist Mark Hansen, painter Bente Hirsch, painter Rachelle Kaufman, painter Lee Eng Khauv, photographer Pam King, painter Andrea Leland, kinetic sculptor Larry Lipsky, a sculpting duo working under the name Mexicali Rose, cloisonne artist Robin Phillips, painter Deborah St. Clair, wood-turning artist Avelino Samuel, sculptor Hermon Smith, painter Kat Sowa, painter Patty Tacquard, painter/dollmaker Mandy Thody-MacDonald, mix-media artist Aimee Trayser, painter Ursula Trudeau, jewelry maker "Tutu Much," sculptor John Van de Water and painter Patricia Whitehead.
From St. Thomas – painter Cathy Carlson, painter Mace McDowell, photographer Greg Miller, painter Eunice Summer and multimedia artist Jonna White.
From St. Croix – painter Jerry Cajko, painter Maud Pierre-Charles and charcoal artist Mike Walsh.
The exhibition also includes several pieces donated by galleries and two collages donated by St. John residents Erna and Roger Killion that were done by his late mother, Helene Killion.
Many of the local artists will be on hand to discuss their work. Prices range from $80 (for a wood sculpture) through $10,000 (for the poster artwork).
This year, there will be a mini-catalogue of the show, with a page devoted to each artist represented, Kern said.
While the artists selected what they wished to exhibit, "they submitted it to a jury for selection," she said. "However, the quality was so good that not much got turned down."
Kern said while some artists have donated their work, "for most, it's a 50-50 split. The goal is to make it a win for everybody." In the case of works sent from outside the territory, she said, "the artist pays for getting it here, and if it doesn't sell, we pay for sending it back. So — we want all the foreign art to sell!"
Expanded services, increased need
Safety Zone, founded by Kern a decade ago as St. John's not-for-profit agency to assist victims of violence, domestic abuse and other crimes, has expanded its presence on the island in two respects in the last year. In August, it opened the doors of Lucy's Place, a shelter for battered women and their young children, and in December, it opened The Phoenix, a resale shop offering clothing, furniture, housewares and other items.
To keep both operations going, as well as to maintain Safety Zone's other client and community services, Kern said, funds are desperately needed — as always.
"We are ongoingly desperate," she said. "We need, we need, we need. We have existed for nine years on faith, and every year we have managed to maintain ourselves, but we need to do more." The shelter opened in a partially completed state because "we did not get a large enough grant to finish it," and is "desperately in need of expansion," she said. "And it needs a washer and dryer. And the shop needs an air-conditioner."
At the art exhibition, visitors will have an additional opportunity to make a contribution to the cause. They will be greeted by a three-dimensional angel recycled from a local drug store's Christmas display and bearing a sign that reads "Earn your wings. Help us complete our shelter."
And, Kern said, the angel has an angel: An anonymous St. John resident has offered to "m
atch dollar for dollar all donations up to $2,500."
When, where and how to see the show
The exhibition opens with a gala reception Friday night from 6 to 10 p.m. that will include champagne, hors d'oeuvres, chocolates and music by Mike Banzhaf on flute and a trio. Tickets are $50 per person and $85 per couple. They are available in advance at the Safety Zone offices or may be purchased at the door.
On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the show will be open to public viewing from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with no admission charge.
Kern said that art purchase on the opening night or subsequently will remain on exhibit through the end of the show, unless acquired by visitors who are scheduled to depart before the show closes.
For more information, call 693-8213.

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