The School of Visual Arts and Careers meets in the Fort Christian Museum. So, when the students were assigned to create designs for a silkscreening project, it’s not surprising that one youngster decided to depict the fort’s distinctive clock tower.
Jared Etsinger — at 11 years of age, the youngest student in the class —never dreamed that his clock tower design would end up mass-produced on 6-inch ceramic tiles.
Jared, who’s now 12, says he settled on the clock tower as a subject for his pen-and-ink design “because it was an easy thing to draw, and because it was right there. It’s the most obvious thing about the fort.”
His teacher, Edie Paljavcik Johnson, decided to silkscreen the clock design in four versions, each showing a different time. (The actual clock has not worked for decades; those who gaze up at the tower do, indeed, see the hands in different positions on each face.)
The designs were used for gift tags to be sold with packaged greeting cards bearing artwork by other SVAC students. The teaching point of the project was to combine the design, production and marketing of artwork.
For the school’s winter exhibit last year, it was Johnson’s idea to combine the four silkscreened clock faces as a single piece of artwork. When Jared’s mother, journalist Jean Etsinger, saw the square configuration of the combined images at that show, “it seemed a natural design for a tile,” she says.
She found that the tiles could be produced locally by TOPS and secured a Virgin Islands Council on the Arts mini-grant to help cover the cost of producing about a hundred of them. Each has cork backing for table use and a hook for hanging. Proceeds from sales will benefit the two not-for-profit entities based at the museum: SVAC and the Friends of Fort Christian.
SVAC is an afterschool and summer visual arts program open to high school students. Founded in 1983, it has met at the fort for all but the year after Hurricane Hugo, when structural damage forced a temporary move. The Friends of Fort Christian provides support for programs and projects presented at the museum.
The tiles are being sold in downtown St. Thomas at the museum gift shop, Going Caribbean, the Camille Pissarro Gallery and MAPes MONDe; in Nisky Center at Noah’s Ark; in Havensight at The Pirate’s Chest (Paradise Point) and Southern Exposure; and in Red Hook at The Color of Joy.
To fort museum curator Dolores Jowers, a big part of their appeal is the fact that “the design was done by a young student, and that it reflects something that’s historic and yet supports a current cause.”
SVAC, she says, “is one of the most consistently successful youth programs in the Virgin Islands. The fact that the school represents a place where kids from all over St. Thomas can get together in the arts and prepare for a profession is very important.”
Although his art is being marketed throughout St. Thomas, Jared says he doesn’t see himself as a career artist at this point. “It’s just a hobby,” he says.
That may put him in the minority among his SVAC colleagues. Six students graduated from the school in August, school director Phebe Schwartz says, and “every single one is now in college majoring in art or attending a professional art school.”
The fact that the fort tower clock doesn’t work strikes Jared as “kind of sad, since it’s something we look up and see every day, and so do our visitors.” His opinion is, “I think they should fix it, whoever ‘they’ are.”


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