St. Johnian Avelino Samuel’s Work on Display at Charlotte Arts & Culture Center

Avelino Samuel pictured above with his art on display at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo provided by Livy Hitchcock. [hr gap=”1″]

Woodturning artist and native St. Johnian Avelino Samuel is no stranger to having his works on display. His beautiful vessels, whose smooth lines he expertly perfects at his home studio in Coral Bay, are featured in local galleries and have previously been displayed in various stateside exhibitions. But now, Samuel’s work is being featured more prominently than ever in an exhibit at Charlotte, North Carolina’s Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.

“This exhibition is a smaller group of people with a larger number of pieces, so there’s more focus on my work than other galleries before,” said Samuel.

Typically, his past exhibitions have featured two to three pieces, but at the Harvey B. Gantt Center exhibition, called Shaping the Vessel: Mascoll + Samuel, 10 of Samuel’s works are on display alongside 10 of fellow African-American woodturner John Mascoll’s creations. The exhibition runs from July 16 through January 16, 2017.

“There’s a combination of four or five pieces made specifically for the show, and other pieces I made within the last year,” said Samuel. “I was just trying to capture a wide range of work.”

The exhibit is curated by Charles Farrar, himself an African-American woodturner. The idea for Shaping the Vessel began with a common desire to promote black artists, who are a minority in the woodturning field, Samuel explained.

“Just as Michelangelo visualized David in a block of marble, Mascoll and Samuel ponder nature’s beauty, seeking what lies within each gift of wood,” says a press release issued by the Harvey B. Gantt Center. “The artists use a lathe to shape the vessel, yet much of the design, execution, and signature work of the two is accomplished after the turned vessel is removed. The elements of line and form are critical to their work but their artistry is unleashed through the tools, embellishments, and genius that only they possess.”

Samuel’s skill was born out of necessity during his childhood, when he would make new wood handles for broken tools, toys, and even trendy afro picks during the 1970s. He taught industrial arts at Julius E. Sprauve School, but it was a trip to the American Association of Woodturners symposium in 2000 that fueled his passion and inspired him to make the leap from functional woodworking to woodturning as an art.

“Everyone at Bajo El Sol gallery is very proud of Avelino Samuel’s many accomplishments,” said Priscilla Hintz Knight, director of the Bajo el Sol gallery, where Samuel’s works are sold locally. “In a rapidly industrializing and urbanizing Virgin Islands, where many traditional arts are being left behind, the hand-turned woodwork of St. Johnian Avelino Samuel stands out as one of the finest examples of a modern continuation of the islands’ proud tradition of local craftsmanship.”

To read more about Shaping the Vessel, visit