Nov. 28, 2002 – The Compass Point Arts and Crafts Festival on Saturday and Sunday will offer a traditional kick-off to the holiday shopping season with a new twist or two.
Since 1980, Thanksgiving weekend has been synonymous with the Arts Alive festivals held at Tillett Gardens. But after 22 years, "Rhoda Tillett feels she needs more time for herself and has placed the future of the holiday event in the hands of someone who can give it new life, new energies," says Norita Lee, publicist for the event to be held at Compass Point Marina.
Pamela Wilson, owner of directions@compasspoint, a small business support service, took on the challenge, and the marina on St. Thomas's East End has been designated the new home of the annual holiday event. The change of venue will give the festival more room and maximum visibility, Lee says.
Anyone in the mood for holiday shopping — for others or for themselves — will be able to choose among a wide selection of hand-crafted items. The festival is "the best reason in the world to do all your Christmas shopping right here at home," Wilson says.
When Jim and Rhoda Tillett arrived on St. Thomas in 1959, he was searching for the right site to set up a silkscreen studio and art gallery. That turned out to be an old Danish farm located in Estate Anna's Retreat across from what is now Four Winds Plaza. What the couple did with the property would change the face of the arts scene on St. Thomas for the next four decades.
While Jim concentrated on his artwork, Rhoda managed the gallery and boutique that sold his silkscreened maps, fabrics and clothing fashioned therefrom. As the property was transformed into a public showcase for the visual and performing arts, Rhoda realized that Virgin Islands artists had few venues to exhibit and sell their work, and so she created Arts Alive, the presenting arm of the not-for-profit Tillett Foundation, and began producing thrice-a-year weekend arts and crafts fairs.
From 1980 to 2001, the Thanksgiving weekend fair — eventually rechristened the Arts Alive Arts and Crafts Festival — has ushered in the holiday shopping season on St. Thomas.
The festival's new home has been around for three decades itself. "Robert and Doris Allyn are celebrating the 30 years of ownership of the Compass Point Marina and are pleased to host the arts and crafts festival," Lee says.
Constructed in 1972, the marina was early on a haven for houseboats as well as charter vessels. The complex grew as the East End of St. Thomas developed, and today 83 charter boats are based there.
Originally known as Treasure Seaport, the area soon attracted artists and artisans, and 1976 saw the opening of its first restaurant, the Fish Market. The eatery was one of the few on the East End, and the specialty was, of course, fresh seafood.
Taxi drivers soon discovered the Fish Market, and business boomed. The problem was, there was no room to expand. Then the Allyns had the opportunity to purchase a World War II landing barge. Adapted to look like a riverboat, it seated 60 patrons.
"It provided a great view, al fresco dining, gentle breezes," Robert Allyn says, "but unfortunately the salt water caused a problem with the hull." The "problem" was that the barge took on water. It was pumped out several times; twice it sank, and twice it was raised and fixed again. Finally, with costs mounting, it was abandoned.
Over the years, artists and artisans have come and gone at Compass Point. Today many of the tenants are in the marine industry. Two fixtures of the community are restaurants — Raffles and Dottie's Front Porch (the home of "happy fat" desserts).
The now-to-be annual Compass Point Arts and Crafts Festival, continuing the tradition of the Arts Alive fests, will offer residents and visitors a one-stop opportunity to shop for locally made fine and folk art and more. The offerings this weekend will include paintings, pottery, jewelry, photography, toys, ornaments, carvings, candles, fragrances and foods.
"We have 54 exhibitors slotted," Lee says. Among them are:
Anita M. de la Cruz – bilingual children's books, artwork
James O'Boyle – children's books
Cheryl Miller – island hot sauces, salsas
Jeanne Webb – hand-crafted teddy bears
Leah Norton – handmade jewelry
"Dingo" – hand-crafted holiday cards, paintings
Bridgett Julius – hand-crafted gift cards, stationery and more
Kay McKean – handmade ornaments and wooden sculpture
Heidi Windell – Christmas ornaments
Casa Rustica – Mexican pottery
BJ Arnold – photographs
"Aphrodite" – oil paintings
Lynn Paccassi-Berry – ceramics
Jane Clemo – soft sculpture moko jumbies
Kay Cook – wire-wrap jewelry
Geraldine Encarcion – homemade vegetable soaps
Jacob France – flame-worked glass
Karen Isaacs – frozen drinks, doilies
Jeffrey Lange – photography
Dorothy McCurdy – children's clothing
Ray Miller – ceramic tiles
Vance Wilson – walking sticks
"Felix" – wood sculptures
Jason Budsan – hand-crafted candles
Merry Phillips – hand-crafted Christmas ornaments
"The entertainment list still is growing, too," Lee said, referring to the performing arts aspect of the festival that also continues the Arts Alive tradition. The talent on tap for the ongoing live music both days includes Rob Paper, Harmony Dem, Two Blue Shoes, Jay Comier, Narvdo and Rob Knuekel.
Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Special guests for the official opening ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. Saturday will include Santa and Mrs. Claus and Tommy Starfish.
"Whether you come by land or by sea, Compass Point is easy to reach," Lee notes. "The dinghy dock has been made available for the convenience of boaters who will be exhibiting or just attending the event. The marina is also handicapped accessible has ample parking."
For more information, call Wilson at 715-0600 or Lee at 775-9112.

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