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Art Students Hoping to Transform History

Art Students Hoping to Transform History

CAHS art  students take in their surroundings at Government Hill with Trust board member Felipe Ayala and AP art teacher Susan Edwards.The St. Thomas Historical Trust led top art students from Charlotte Amalie High School (CAHS) on a history trail through old-town Charlotte Amalie Wednesday to launch a project that will culminate with an art exhibit and scholarship money for a budding CAHS artist.

Students will create a piece of artwork, using any medium but with a historical subject, and enter it into the exhibit to compete for the award.

Trust board member Steven Bornn looks forward to a good mix of learning and creativity that can be enjoyed by the artists and by local and visiting exhibit-goers.

“This is not just another humdrum boring history project … art is a great way to learn history,” said Bornn, who’s also chair of the trust’s educational outreach. “Wouldn’t it be great if guests arrived in Charlotte Amalie and they could see our kids with easels painting; and wouldn’t it be lovely if these kids could turn other kids on to art?”

Students from the advanced placement art course at CAHS were fascinated by the tour as they pondered what they might portray for the exhibit. Would it be the fine detail of hand-forged scrolled pintle shutter dogs, the warmly toned ochre-and-yellow brickwork next to oysterish blue bitch stones, a fanciful imported balcony rail, or a crumbling old tree-veined house?

Or would it be the lucky end-of-walk sighting that elicited the most enthusiasm and picture snapping: a newly unfurled baobob flower, a pure white saucer-sized puffball that had opened yesterday at sunset and would die within hours?

To show the students how artists have translated history into art, both decorative and fine, Trust board member Felipe Ayala took the group to Haagensen House, where Pissarro rural scenes and Danish military portraits hang next to English botanical prints of local palms.

Ayala told them to look at their town with an artist’s eye that would take in man-made and natural details and see the old mahogany and baobob trees as being just as important, historically and currently, as the carefully crafted homes and step streets.

“This town is so rich in details. No two houses are alike, and each one is based on the individual creativity of the owner. Once you start to see these details, they start to haunt you,” enthused Ayala.

He explained that he had started his historical journey when he worked with preservationist, historian, and art teacher Edith deJongh Woods on an inventory of the historic buildings of Charlotte Amalie.

Susan Edwards, chair of the CAHS art department and an AP art teacher for the participating classes, says this year’s students are working on projects ranging from architecture to self-portraiture and will also be exhibiting on March 5 at the Caribbean Colour Art Exhibition sponsored by ArtVI.

She and her students will review and choose sites based on the tour and then take their easels and materials out on the streets to start their historical artworks.

STHT is seeking an exhibit space and local sponsors for the scholarship. For more information, contact Debbie Avery via email.


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