“The World Hand” Combines Arts and Social Issues

The Safety Zone office manager and assistant to the executive director, Cecilia Bartley, shows off the agency’s new stair lift outside their office in the Lumberyard Complex.

The Safety Zone’s fund raising art show, sale and silent auction, “The World Hand,” which ran from Saturday, Jan. 28, through Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Caneel Bay Resort, was a successful merger of social issues and the arts, according to executive director Iris Kern.

“The gala was wonderful,” she said. “It was a really gracious, comfortable and well-attended event. It couldn’t have been any better.”

This was the fourth time that The Safety Zone held its major fund raiser at Caneel. The agency held a yearly auction at the Westin Resort and Villas for four years before that. The link between the arts and social activism is a close one for Kern.

“I almost got my master’s degree in Art,” she said. “I did get my undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland in Art. But it was the 1960s, and I had a social conscious, so I switched.”

“I have always been interested in the arts and have a lot of friends in the arts,” continued Kern. “The event was an opportunity to really bring together my two passions—social issues and the arts. I was able to utilize the arts for social causes, which I think is a pretty terrific marriage.”

Since launching the first auction fund raiser eight years ago, the pieces included in the show have grown in number and quality.

“We were delighted with the art this year,” said Kern. “There was work from all over the world.”

The Safety Zone, the domestic violence and victims of crime agency on St. John, raised approximately $20,000 at the event, which was about half of the funds raised last year.

“Although we sold a considerable amount of art, we did not sell the high end items that we sold last year,” Kern said. “We are happy with what we have though.”

The funds will be used to hire additional staff.

“We absolutely need to hire more staff,” said Kern. “The number of persons that we are seeing has increased dramatically, and despite the fact that I am getting older, two people simply can not do what we are doing.”

There are only two full time employees at The Safety Zone, as well as a part-time outreach worker.

“I have not been able to clone myself,” Kern said. “There are times when I have to be in court, and I just can’t be in two places at one time. We desperately need more staff.”

The agency, which recently relocated to the Lumberyard Complex, has just installed the island’s first stair lift, bringing them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Legally, we are supposed to be handicapped accessible,” said Kern. “In good conscious we couldn’t have an office where everyone has to walk up 17 stairs.”

Handicap Accessible
The lift, which is electrically operated, is capable of holding up to 400 pounds, and has already come in handy since being installed about a month ago, Kern added.

“We are delighted to be able to offer this lift,” she said. “People have already used it and say that it is comfortable and efficient.”

Kern is applying for a grant to cover the cost of the stair lift, but was able to purchase the unit with a little community help.

“Our landlord was good enough to put up the money up front for us, so we wouldn’t have to wait for the grant to come through,” she said. “The owner of the company came down and installed it himself, which was his gift to us.”