“We need space for people to make and present their work. If we can’t express our cultural heritage, we will lose our cultural heritage.” This important call to action came from wood sculptor and engineer Kurt Marsh Jr. as he described his efforts to form an artist co-op on St. John during the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery gathering in St. Thomas earlier this month. CERF+ executive director Cornelia Carey joined leaders in government, business, and civil society to plan long-term strategies to address hurricane recovery and the effects of climate change in the Caribbean. “During this fourth gathering of CGI, it was heartening to see that arts and culture were featured heavily as important contributors to well-being, resilience, and the future of the Caribbean. From community mask-making projects to cooperative clay studios (and lots in between), artists are critical players to recovery, the economy, and the long-term future of these islands,” notes Cornelia.
While in the US Virgin Islands, Cornelia also spent time on St. John visiting with artists whom CERF+ assisted after Hurricane Irma in 2017. She met with Kaye Eichner, whose studio was severely damaged in 2017 by Hurricanes Maria and Irma and who is now back to work again. She also visited Casey Giakas Pottery and Pottery in Paradise Studio and Gallery, where she and ceramic artist Gail Van de Bogurt offer classes and a cooperative workspace in Coral Bay. As Cornelia notes, “While Bill Clinton described the Caribbean as ‘ground zero’ for climate change in his speech, every artist I met is optimistic about the future. It’s very clear that they’ve taken the hard lessons learned from Irma and turned them into action, creating a stronger future for themselves and their communities.”