No Place to Create in the VI

Better resources and facilities needed for aspiring young artists

DENAE FLEMING

 ST. CROIX – In a society so rich and diverse in culture we find many ways of expressing ourselves as a people. Sweet combinations of various art styles connect us in ways that express how people feel, think and live. Whether it’s through music, dance, paintings, photos, videos, or illustrations, people as a whole interpret and obtain unique perspectives. They in turn share their own creative twist in hopes that someone can relate to and respect it.

 “It is strange that only around carnival time we tend to see a lot of art in a cultural aspect,” said Albert Hazard. Born in California, but a a resident of the territory since 1971.

 Hazard primarily started in the ceramics area of arts. He had accomplished 30 years’ of experience in teaching art and retired in 2003.

According to Hazard, art is all around us.

“We take it for granted and think that it is not important. Art is very important because without it life would be bland. Life would simply be black and white,” Hazard said.  “Students need some way to express themselves and an outlet to help develop their talents.”

Hazard has heard many parents say they don’t think arts are as important as other subjects. However, he believes that we have a lot of talented and gifted children in the Virgin Islands.

Although Hazard is retired, he has dedicated his time to St. Croix Educational Complex High School because they were in need of an arts instructor. His passion for art and his love for the future generation is why he agreed to come back to Complex and help students see a window of opportunity through the arts program.

Many believe the stigma in our society in the Virgin Islands that says we cannot make a living in the arts.

Ceramics foundation arts instructor, Dwydale Dariah. begs to differ.

“When people think of art, all they think about is drawing and painting; there is more to art than that,” said Dariah.

Dariah believes that as a career, the arts department is not taken seriously. Children are being discouraged out of pursuing their dreams because there is a lack of education as to how far arts can really take talented and inspired students.

Dariah was born in St. Lucia and has been an arts instructor for 13 years. He admires seeing each child’s  unique talents.

It saddens Dariah to see the drift in arts within the school system. With the lack of teachers and supplies it nearly seems impossible to facilitate students’ desires to get seriously involved in their passion for arts in the community.

“I believe 60 percent of the community could be better if there were better supplies and facilities to accommodate the youth of today. There is a trickle-down effect to things here,” Dariah Said. “If we as a people find more positive things for young people to do that will actually benefit them, we wouldn’t see as much crime and violence because they will be actively engaged.”

He stressed the need for more instructors, but feels that one reason the territory won’t receive any from abroad is because most won’t leave the mainland where there is better pay to come to the territory where resources are limited as well as income.

“For the sake of the children, we need change” Dariah said.

Marcus Castillo
Columbus College for Arts and Design Graduate Marcus Castillo

A student who wanted to pursue his dreams in the arts, Marcus Castillo, revealed his perspective on the matter.

“The possibility of students who leave the territory to reach opportunities and coming back home with the knowledge, skills, and talents is very small,” Castillo said. “If students can’t achieve their art potentials here because of limited funds, staffs, and supplies, at least inform the students that there are options outside of the territory although I feel as a diverse community we should have been able to provide for students who don’t have the privilege of going abroad.”

Castillo is a recent graduate of Columbus College for Arts and Design in Ohio, and one of the first from the territory to attend the college.

He was born in Dominican Republic but was raised in the Virgin Islands. Upon graduating from the St. Croix Educational Complex High School, Castillo made the decision to leave St. Croix to go to the mainland to acquire his Bachelor’s degree.

According to Castillo, It was a tough move to leave family and friends. The University of the Virgin Islands didn’t have a sufficient program that would help him the way he envisioned. Because of his move to the mainland he is currently working as an illustrator doing what he loves and has a passion for.

He did come back to the territory to do work, and when that backfired, he felt it was best to stay in the United States where he had more opportunities.

“I had a strong support system from family and friends,” Castillo said “but the man that helped me get where I am today is Mr. John Jones.”

Artwork by Marcus Castillo
Artwork by Marcus Castillo

Mr. Jones was Castillo’s art instructor throughout his high school life. He educated Castillo and pushed him positively in his talents and abilities because he saw the potential in him.

“The territory could do better with more multi-centers where children can go to feed their creative imaginations. Giving them something constructive to do, helps minimize idleness in the youth and provide them with something to do other than steal, fight, and get into trouble,” said Castillo. “I found an escape from a stereotype as a young man through my passion for arts; others should have that chance as well.”

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