June 25, 2006 – – The Caribbean Museum for the Arts is housed in an historic circa 1780 building overlooking the Frederiksted waterfront. Founded in 1994 by Candia Atwater, the center is striving to enhance the community's appreciation of a diverse array of art.
With plans for second-floor galleries and the addition of its artist-in-residence program – not to mention each art class and exhibition – the center is growing into a vibrant community, where artists and those interested in art can experience, learn and celebrate the arts.
The art center's administrator, Susan Wall, explained that the artist-in-residence program is for accomplished artists who don't live in the region. They can stay at the center and hold lectures and workshops there on every aspect of the artistic process. The residency program is funded through local grants.
The center also seeks to stimulate young artists with after-school and summer programs, like the clay workshop that is presently ongoing.
Little Jayme Colbert is just two-and-a-half years old, but she is enjoying making clay sculptures just like the rest of the class.
"I made a pot with a cover and I made a dog, too," she said in a soft voice after removing a blue-and-white pacifier from her mouth. "Mommy made a turtle and a penguin." Jayme's mom, Denise, said she recommends the class to everyone. "We are having a ball; it's all about stress relief."
The classes are held in the center 's front room, located at No. 10 Strand Street.
Students hunch over five tables molding, remolding and perfecting their sculptures. There are 22 novice artists, a mixture of children and adults.
"The parents are very helpful," said Sara Lee Hayes, the local potter who is conducting the four clay workshop sessions.
One parent was busy putting the finishing touches on one piece as her children, Ariel 4, and Dionara, 7, watched intently. "She likes to take apart as much as she likes to create," the mother said gesturing toward Ariel.
Brothers Meral and Malik Williams, 12 and 9, respectively, were enjoying the class, too. The boys pointed out the pieces they made. "It's kinda fun, playing with clay," said Meral.
Hayes agrees that working with clay is calming for the mind and spirit. "Clay is very forgiving," she said. "If something doesn't look right, you can change the shape, just squish it up and start all over again."
Hayes also noted that clay figures have been shaped by all civilizations from the beginning of time. "It remains a part of history," she said. Hayes, who has taught clay making on St. Croix for more than a decade, said her students' clay figures are in many homes across the island. "The parents will never throw them away," she said with a smile.
For teens and adults who want to learn drawing techniques, local artist Jane Akin is offering beginning drawing workshops beginning Saturday, June 24, and continuing every Saturday in July.
Using props, students will learn principles of design, line variations, value, texture, shadow and perspective.
Looking towards the future, Wall said the center will soon open its own clay studio. "There will be wheels and a kiln and people can take pottery classes or experienced potters can come and use the equipment," Wall explained.
The center plans to offer avenues for residents and visitors to experience and learn every phase of artistry, from training to be a curator to a variety of artistic mediums.
"We want to offer year-round programs for whatever people want to do in the arts," said Wall. "We are here to help you discover the artist in you."
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