St. John School of the Arts officials will dedicate the building in Cruz Bay in honor of the late Ruth “Sis” Frank, the school’s founder, on Satuarday, April 30.
Mark those calendars for Saturday night, April 30, at 7:30 p.m. for a truly memorable night in Cruz Bay.
St. John School of the Arts officials will dedicate the Cruz Bay building in honor of the school’s late founder, Ruth “Sis” Frank. While the school itself will maintain its name as St. John School of the Arts, the building will be named the Sis Frank Performance Hall.
The night will also feature Kat Sowa’s portrait of Frank, which was the centerpiece of the artist’s February show at Michael Banzhaf Gallery, unveiled in its new and permanent home.
Frank passed away on Thanksgiving 2010, leaving a hole in the lives of all who knew and adored her. The arts and music lover managed the St. John steel band Steel Unlimited in 1970, bringing the group to Lincoln Center and the Rose Bowl Parade among other esteemed venues.
Out of her dedication to Steel Unlimited, Frank launched what would become SJSA. Through private donations and fundraisers, land was purchased in 1981 and the building was completed in 1990 with mostly volunteer labor. By that time Steel Unlimited II was also formed, which wowed audiences across the Virgin Islands and Europe.
Since the inception of the school and up until her death last year, Frank was continually involved with arts education on St. John. Naming the building after the woman who not only lit the spark for the school, but also kept the flame alive, couldn’t be more fitting, explained SJSA executive director Jan Kinder.
“Sis has forever impacted the arts on St. John,” said Kinder. “Forty years ago, she created a bridge to bring arts education and opportunities to the children of St. John. And in turn, she gave a group of 28 youths the unforgettable experience of performing and sharing the island culture in the States and abroad as Steel Unlimited, the ‘Pride and Joy of St. John.’”
“The amazing part of this is that this took place in the early 1970’s,” said Kinder. “Over the years, Sis recruited and invited teachers and performers to join her passionate endeavor to offer music, dance and art education at SJSA. She also brought artists to St. John, starting the school’s concert series.”
Frank’s dedication to arts lives on through her lasting legacy, Kinder added.
“She has paved the way for the arts on St. John and she continues to do so as her legacy lives on,” said Kinder.
Even in her final days, Frank was always interested in the SJSA happenings, Kinder added.
“Sis loved jazz,” she said. “Her focus was on providing jazz at the Beach Bar on Sundays. Sis and I continued to discuss the daily affairs of the school on an on-going basis since her retirement.”
“She shared her insights and opinions even up until her final days,” Kinder said about Frank.
The SJSA board of directors unanimously voted to name the building after the school’s founder, explained Kinder.
“When I brought the idea up at a board meeting soon after Sis’ passing, I realized every member of the board was thinking the same thing including co-founders Elroy Sprauve and Rudy Wells,” she said. “We came up with a few choices and then voted. I’m happy to have her be remembered for generations to come.”
Those future generations will also enjoy seeing Frank’s vision for the arts school realized in full, Kinder added.
“Sis’ vision needs to be completed,” said the SJSA executive director. “From the beginning, SJSA was a three-phase project. First, to construct the building as we know it today.”
“Second, to expand the space for additional dance classes and musical theater, and build practice rooms to teach music and art lessons which are presently being conducted at the Lumberyard,” said Kinder. “The third phase was to build a theater for music concerts, dance performances, and drama and musicals. Originally it was to be built, as Sis would call it, ‘in the country.’”
SJSA will need the dedication and support of the entire community in order to see Frank’s vision come to fruition, Kinder explained.
“I believe this third phase is important for everyone,” she said. “I encourage all visionaries like Sis to join her vision, become a member of SJSA and ask how you can help keep the arts on St. John moving forward.”
For anyone who missed SJSA’s amazing musical production with professional actors, choreographers and dancers John Tartaglia, Michael Shawn Lewis, Rhonda Miller, Laura Barnoa and Donna Drake, April 30 is the chance to watch the very impressive show.
A DVD of “Dream, Wish, Believe” will be screened at 8 p.m. following the 7:30 p.m. dedication of SJSA building and hanging of Sowa’s portrait of Frank.
SJSA officials ask that attendees RSVP by Thursday, April 28, to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the school at 779-4322.