The COVID-19 pandemic has robbed artists and performers of their audiences and the chance to earn a livelihood.
The St. John School of the Arts, like so many other organizations with a vital mission, is finding ways to adapt to the limitations we all face.
In the coming week, the school will open two new avenues to connect artists with audiences – an online art auction and a six-part online concert series – both featuring and benefiting local artists.
The Art Auction and Raffle is scheduled to be the first event, going live at 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 17. On sale will be works by more than 25 painters, jewelry makers, ceramicists, photographers, fabric artists and designers who live (or once did) on St. John.
The auction is an opportunity to benefit the artists, who earn 60 percent of the proceeds. The school will use the remaining 40 percent to continue to make its art education programs affordable for all.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Kim Wild, executive director of the school.
On Friday, Jan. 22, the school will present the first recorded online performance of its annual Sis Frank Concert Series, an evening of music by jazz pianist Garry Dial and singer-songwriter Terre Roche, nationally known musicians who have a home on St. John.
The series will continue with jazz and classical music from the faculty of the University of the Virgin Islands and special guests on Feb. 12; the Magnie family – Bo and Lauren, to St. John open mic fans – and friends on Feb. 26; jazz pianist Alex Brown and St. John steel pan virtuoso Victor Provost on March 5; jazz drummer Craig Holiday Haynes and friends on March 19; and the students of the United Jazz Foundation and the Caribbean Music Institute under the direction of Dion Parson on April 16.
The virtual doors to the concerts open at 7 p.m. with a live Zoom mingle with the artists, and the concerts will begin at 7:30.
Tickets to individual concerts or the series are available online at the school’s website.
Admission to the online concerts is free, but the school is relying on viewers to make a donation as grants do not cover the costs of the production.
The St. John School of the Arts has produced live concerts since the 1990s, but the upcoming art auction is the first of what planners intend to make an annual event. The auction offers the public an opportunity to acquire work by well-known artists including Janet Cook-Rutnik, Lisa Etre, Gail van de Bogart and Steve Simonsen, as well as works by artists that rarely go up for sale, like the pen-and-ink drawings of Theodora Moorehead. Viewers can preview the items online.
To place a bid, viewers must register, which they can do now. Bidding will remain open until 11:55 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14. Viewers also can purchase a $50 raffle ticket to benefit the school to win an original painting by artist Katia Moltisanti.
The St. John School of the Arts found ways to reach students following Hurricane Irma by offering free classes to all St. John students as part of an extended day program, but the pandemic has presented a new set of challenges. This year, the school has offered classes in dance, music, theater and the visual arts as part of in-school programs, online and, occasionally, live with social distancing protocols in place.
“We continue to do all that we can to keep our children engaged in the arts and bring our community together,” said Wild.
Although artists generally labor alone to bring their creations to the canvas, stage, screen or open-air, “It’s our presence that completes the cycle of communication,” Wild said.
“The advantage of going online is that we can go beyond our community,” Wild said. She hopes Virgin Islands residents will share the links to the auction and concert series with family and friends afar. “Sharing is caring,” she said.