Bajo El Sol Gallery to Preview ‘Masks in the Aftermath’ Documentary

VI Strong Mask by William Stelzer

The “Mask Making as a Tool for Community Expression and Healing in the Aftermath” project continues Saturday, May 25, with a preview of the documentary film “Masks in the Aftermath,” the launch of an Indie Go-Go campaign for the documentary film and the book project. Crystal Fortwangler, the film’s director, will be present for a short Q&A.

Like all segments of Virgin Islands society, practicing artists, arts and cultural organizations were impacted greatly by the 2017 hurricane season. As a part of the recovery, the St. John Arts and Culture Long-Term Recovery Group (STJACRC) was formed under the fiduciary sponsorships of the Community Foundation of St. John and the St. John Angles in March 2018. STJACRC, which includes such arts organizations as The St. John School of the Arts, St.JanCo and the Gri Gri Project, initiated several outreach projects directly geared towards helping the arts and cultural community on St. John. The co-chairs of STJACRC are Priscilla Hintz Rivera Knight and Kurt Marsh Jr.

Book Project Mask No. 3

In May of 2018, STJACRC initiated a community-wide project entitled: “Mask Making as a Tool for Community Expression and Healing in the Aftermath of the 2017 Hurricane Season.” This project mirrored a variety of community public art and art therapy projects that have been successful in supporting the emotional and social recovery process after a disaster. The project targeted students, senior citizens and other community members, schools and organizations on St. John.

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STJACRC encouraged participants to imagine new identities, new selves, new ways of existing in the storms’ aftermath. Over 500 people participated in making masks, and the masks were publicly displayed and viewed by thousands of residents to help build community and introduce an aesthetic to the recovery that suggests newness and is rooted in cultural heritage.

The masks were also displayed at the Department of the Interior’s Library in Washington D.C. in the fall of 2018, and they were featured in the November 2019 magazine of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Although the mask-making itself came to an end, the project’s founders wish to continue to share their experiences and efforts to continue to use art-therapy programs as a tool for healing in the V.I. They are in the productions stages of developing a documentary film and book that will inspire continued healing through the arts.

On Saturday, May 25, Bajo El Sol Gallery in Mongoose Junction will show a preview of the film. In addition, the project founders will be taking pe-orders for the forthcoming book at a discounted rate. Residents who created masks are asked to come by and pick up those masks from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 25.

Book Project Mask No. 2 by student

“Through this mask-making project we have become particularly cognizant of the critical need for improved access to mental health. Our experience has shown us that art programs help communities heal and recover. We want to demonstrate the success of this project but also promote better access to professional art-therapy and mental health programs in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Rivera Knight.

Located at Mongoose Junction, Bajo El Sol Gallery is a hybrid art gallery and espresso, wine and dessert bar. As a gallery and events space, it is dedicated to offering the best in Virgin Islands fine art and cultural expression.

Contact Priscilla Knight at 693-7070 for further information.

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