Interior Library Exhibits St. John’s Mask-Making in Washington, D.C.


“Mask Making as a Tool for Community Expression and Healing in the Aftermath” Project Continues with an Exhibition at the U.S. Department of the Interior Library in Washington D.C.

The St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, community-made mask exhibition features a selection of 45 crafted and designed masks and is now open between 7:45 a.m. and 5 p.m., at the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Library, Monday through Friday, until Nov. 16.

Like all segments of Virgin Islands society, practicing artists as well as arts and cultural organizations were impacted greatly by the 2017 hurricane season. As a part of the recovery, the St. John Arts and Cultural Long-Term Recovery Group (STJACRC) was formed in March 2018. STJACRC, which includes such organizations as The Community Foundation of St. John, The St. John School of the Arts, St. JANco and the Gri Gri Project, initiated several outreach projects directly geared towards helping the arts and cultural community on St. John.

These initial outreach programs included collaborations with FEMA, the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts.

Book Project Mask #1

In May 2018, STJACRC initiated the project: “Mask Making as a Tool for Community Expression and Healing in the Aftermath of the 2017 Hurricane Season.” This project mirrored a variety of community public art and art therapy projects that have been successful in supporting the emotional and social recovery process after a disaster. Participating groups include the St. John School of the Arts, Julius E. Sprauve School, Gifft Hill School, St. Ursula’s Senior Center and others.

According to STJSCRC co-chairs, Priscilla Hintz Knight and Kurt Marsh Jr., “Over 500 people participated, and the masks were displayed as a temporary public art project in multiple venues during the 2018 St. John Festival season to help build community and introduce an aesthetic to the recovery that suggests both newness and is rooted in cultural heritage.”

“The DOI Library is so pleased to be able to display the mask-making exhibit in our reading room and vestibule display cases, George Franchois, director of the DOI Library, said. “The traumatic events that took place in the Virgin Islands in 2017 brought unprecedented pain and suffering to its citizens. It is wonderful to see a number of local and national organizations band together in promoting the use of artistic expression to allow these citizens to convey their feelings and experiences. These masks will remind those who view the exhibit of the hardships endured by the citizens of the Virgin Islands and the ways that acts of artistic expression can help with the internal recovery process.”

United Starts Department of the Interior Library exhibit of St. John masks

Mask-making has had spiritual and social functions globally, and mask-making and masquerading traditions have come to the Caribbean region via African and European cultures. This project proposes that the practice of mask-making can be therapeutic for the St. John community in the aftermath of the major hurricanes. Participants were encouraged to imagine new identities, new selves, new ways of being in the aftermath of the storms.

Contact Priscilla Hintz Knight at 690-9528 for further information.