Home News Local news Island Expressions: Janet Cook-Rutnik

Island Expressions: Janet Cook-Rutnik


March 14, 2008 — When Janet Cook-Rutnik moved to St. John in 1969, there was no art scene. Today, Cook-Rutnik is recognized as an artist who forged the way for the dozens who now belong to an ever-growing artists' colony.
Cook-Rutnik said she was always an artist.
"I discovered I was an artist in nursery school," she said.
She's worked in many mediums, but lately she's involved with multimedia art. Her latest works will be on display starting Thursday in an installation at Mixed Media gallery in Red Hook.
"It's totally multimedia — video, audio and photography," Cook-Rutnik said.
The Albany, N.Y. native honed her craft all through school, heading off to various colleges to take all the art classes she could. She was studying at the State University of New York at Albany when she and husband, former Licensing Commissioner Andrew Rutnik, decided to head south.
While her husband worked at Cinnamon Bay Campground, she painted at Maho Bay Beach.
"I thought my real life had begun," she said, laughing a bit at the memory.
Like many newcomers, she had a variety of jobs. She and her husband managed Lille Maho, a guest house at Maho Bay. She worked at At Your Service Travel Agency, and in 1976 opened the Art Project, a gallery in Cruz Bay. In addition to her own art, she sold works by other artists.
Alas, the Art Project was a bit ahead of its time, and Cook-Rutnik branched out into arts and crafts from around the Caribbean.
"It was more successful because it was more tourist-oriented," she said.
After selling the Art Project, she continued her artistic career, and in 1987 she opened another Cruz Bay gallery, the Plum Tree.
She sold that too, but her reputation as an artist continued to grow. She's exhibited all over the Caribbean and on the mainland.
Cook-Rutnik said she's worked in watercolor, pastel, acrylic, collages, seriographs, and now, multi-media.
Along the way, she and Andrew Rutnik had three children. Amos is now 37, married and with two children. Sophie is 27. Both live on St. John.
A third child, Ruby, died in a car accident in 1996 while a student at George Washington University. In her memory, the Rutniks organized the Ruby Rutnik Softball Tournament, held every April around her birthday. This year, the event will be held the first weekend in April.
Cook-Rutnik was also instrumental in founding Pine Peace School, which went on to become the Gifft Hill School.
As for her future, she said she's really excited about new projects. "I'm interested in doing interventions, performance art and installations," she said.
For more on Cook-Rutnik's work, visit www.cookrutnikart.vi.
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