VIAC Invites Community to Share Memories of Christiansted High School

at the Old Barracks On Community Collections Day

(Christiansted, St. Croix – October 25, 2023) — Did your parent or grandparent attend Christiansted High School at the Old Barracks on Hospital Street, Christiansted between 1935 To 1955? Did any of them work at the Old Barracks in the 1960s through 2000s? If so, we want to hear and collect your family’s stories for the Christiansted Old Barracks Storytelling Project.  VIAC’s Storytelling team is creating a multimedia presentation that tells the history of the 300-year-old structure in the heart of Christiansted, St. Croix that has been the center of events of significance from the Danish colonial period to the early American and 20th century period to the plans for its future into the 21st century.

The Virgin Islands Architecture Center for Built Heritage and Crafts, known as (VIAC) invites the general public to the VIAC Storytelling Project Community Collections Day on Saturday, November 11 from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the RTPark 64 West Conference Room at the University of the Virgin Islands campus.  Bring your parents and grandparents, bring any memorabilia that you have from those times so we can catalog and record them for our historical project.

Throughout the summer, the VIAC Storytelling Team of Monique Clendinen Watson, Monica Marin, Chalana Brown, Anurie Oliver and videographers Kevin Moolenaar and George Canon have been interviewing St. Croix elders who attended the Christiansted High School at the Old Barracks or who worked there at the Departments of Labor, Education and Public Safety. The project is funded through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands. The project includes educational outreach from the Virgin Islands Department of Education’s Division of Cultural Education to engage students in the intergenerational project.

On November 11, we will present a sneak peek of the project by sharing some of the interviews that we have collected so far and share our plans for the transformation of the Old Barracks Property into an educational center for historic preservation, architectural and building arts of the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean.  We will have some intergenerational activities with Virgin Islands students learning how to research, record and preserve history. We will also interview and honor Virgin Islands historian Karen Thurland for her published body of work that captures early and mid-20th century life on St. Croix such as Neighborhoods of Christiansted, Tradesmen of St. Croix and Masqueraders, Musicians, and the Old Time Crucian Christmas Festival.

Join the VIAC Storytelling Team for the VIAC Storytelling Project Community Collections Day on Saturday, November 11 from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the RTPark 64 West Conference Room at the University of the Virgin Islands campus.  For more information contact us at VIAC is transforming our past into our future.

VIAC Receives Save America’s Treasures Grant

November 1, 2023

(Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands) — The Virgin Islands Architecture Center for Built Heritage and Crafts (VIAC) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a Save America’s Treasures grant of $750,000 to begin shell construction of Building 2 of the Old Barracks Property on Hospital Street, Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

VIAC is one of 58 projects across the country that was awarded the Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Park Service (NPS) in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

“The VIAC Board of Directors and Advisory Council is extremely excited to receive this grant which will kick-off the rehabilitation of the Old Barracks property and begin its visible conversion into an educational center for the historic preservation, architectural and building arts of the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean,” said Board Chair Mary Dema.  “We look forward to our engagement with the St. Croix community as this project which originated with Christiansted Town Plan charettes comes to fruition,” she said.

“These grants preserve and conserve nationally significant properties and collections to tell a more complete story of America and its people,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams. “Preserving these historic places and collections ensures the generations of today and tomorrow can enjoy and learn from the diverse stories across time and place in America’s history.”

The Save America’s Treasures grants are awarded from the Historic Preservation Fund. The 58 projects in 26 states, the Virgin Islands and the District of Colombia that will receive the $25.7 million in total awards are required to match the grant money dollar-to-dollar with non-federal funding and is expected to leverage almost $60 million in private and public investment.

VIAC currently holds a lease on Buildings 1 and 2 of the Old Barracks Property.  Shell construction of Building 2 will entail rehabilitation according to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards.  The Old Barracks Property is a contributing structure of the Christiansted National Historic District.  Rehabilitation under this grant will include structural stabilization, clearing of debris and vegetation, repairing the interior, windows, and doors, repairing utilities and architectural and engineering services.

“VIAC wants to thank Governor Albert Bryan, Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, Senate President Novelle Francis, State Historic Preservation Director Sean Krigger, and US Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority Director Wayne Biggs for their support of this grant request,” said VIAC Board Chair Mary Dema. “VIAC continues to be a community driven project and I look forward to collaboration from all sectors of the community as it develops.”

Updated VIAC Board of Directors/Advisory Council

VIAC Board Members

Mary O’Reilly Dema – Board President. Originally from Rhode Island, Mary has lived on St. Croix since the mid-70s.  As an entrepreneur, she has owned and managed two iconic Christiansted businesses, Tranberg Travel in the 70s and 80s and Quin House Galleries from 1989 through 2014.  Mary is a founding member of the Christiansted Community Alliance and since 2018, first treasurer and now Board President of VIAC.

Donna Christian-ChristensenBoard Vice President. The Honorable Donna M. Christian-Christensen served the Virgin Islands as a family doctor and health care administrator for over 20 years before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and serving as Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress from 1997 to 2014.  Dr. Christensen served on the House Committees of Energy and Commerce; Natural Resources and Subcommittees on Parks and Insular Affairs; Small Business and Homeland Security.  Her public service to the Virgin Islands includes past tenure with the Queen Louise Home, St. Croix Environmental Association, Women’s Coalition of St. Croix, Central High PTA, Caribbean Dance Company and Faith Moravian Church. She recently established the Christensen Institute for Community Health and Empowerment; she chairs the IGT Scientific, Academic and Medical Council and is a board member of Consumers4QualityCare.

Jerri Weber Farrante – Board Secretary.  With a degree in economics, Jerri returned to her home island of St. Croix after the devastation of Hurricane Hugo to help in the rebuilding.  Jerri has managed the Law Office of Joel H. Holt for over 25 years. Jerri has an MBA from the University of Phoenix and shares the goal of seeing the historic towns of St. Croix revived and rejuvenated. She is a married mother of three.

Christiana Williams – Board Treasurer.  As President and CEO of Bank of St. Croix – United Fidelity Bank, Christiana manages branch operations on St. Croix.  A native Virgin Islander, she started her banking career at Barclays Bank in 1989 and since its founding in 1995, has worked in various capacities at Bank of St. Croix to include retail and electronic banking, executive administration, human resources, operations, and compliance.  Christiana has a B.A. from Allegheny College and has completed training in consumer and residential mortgage lending and commercial lending at Southern Methodist University and bank management training through the American Bankers Association.

Bo Manderup-Jensen – VIAC board member.  Bo is President and CEO of EU Consult International; Former Member of the Municipal Council of Vordingborg, Denmark, Chair of Denmark’s Liberal Democracy Programme, DLDP, former President of UNESCO Denmark, Former Director General and Chief of Staff of the European Parliament and Director at the European Commission.

Dr. Chenzira Davis-Kahina VIAC board member. Dr. Davis-Kahina is the Managing Director of Per Ankh Khamniversity Institute that promotes Culture, Healing, Arts, Technology and Spirituality for Life, Inspiration, Freedom and Education (CHATS4LIFE©) and former Director of the Virgin Islands Caribbean Cultural Center and adjunct faculty at the University of the Virgin Islands. Dr. Chen as she is known is an educator, artist, cultural and community activist, mother, and grandmother. She is President of St. Croix Toastmasters Club #933 and former President of the Caribbean Studies Association. She served on VIAC’s advisory board from 2018 to 2021.

               Robert “Bobby” Schuster – VIAC board member.  As a Math and Technology Educator for 34 years and an entrepreneur, Bobby brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the mechanical, electronic, electrical and telecommunications fields.  He has extensive hands-on knowledge in computer science, computer education, information technology, multimedia, and hypermedia environments, drafting, graphic design and simulation. A Vietnam veteran, Bobby who holds a Bachelor of Science in Math and Physics and an MBA, he is a problem solver accomplished in logistics, contract negotiation, general project management and operations.  He is fluent in English and Spanish.

Lee J. Rohn – VIAC Board Member is an attorney who has lived and worked in the Virgin Islands since 1984. Lee graduated from Sam Houston University in 1967 and the University of Texas School of Law in 1971. Lee is a community advocate, helping to form the St. Croix Community Foundation and supporting scholarships and other opportunities for St. Croix youth throughout the years. She is the recipient of the Dean Page Keeton Fellow award, the Stalwart award for community service, and the Marie Lambert award as an outstanding litigator. She has served in various positions with the VI Bar Association and was appointed to the Public Justice Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Advisory Council Members

Roland E. Roebuck is the retired Multicultural Programs Director at the DC Department of Human Services.  Roland is active an active member of the Virgin Islands Social History Associates, the UVI Caribbean Cultural Center, and the Afro-Latino Caucus.

Garth Rockcastle is a founding principal of MSR Design and leader of its Maryland Branch office.  He has served as a Professor and Head of Architecture at the University of Minnesota and Dean of Architecture at the University of Maryland.

Frandelle Gerard is the Executive Director of the Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism (CHANT).  She has served on the Public Finance Authority, the West Indian Company, the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development, the Caribbean Dance Company, the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix.  She is a former advisor for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

John Paul Huguley is the founder of the American College of Building Arts in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the Principal of Building Art, a for profit company that connects the graduates of the American College of Building Arts with clients in need of their expertise.  Building Art designs and builds with time tested techniques, materials, and craftsmanship.

Gerville Larsen is the owner of TALLER LARJAS, LLC, an architecture firm and art gallery located in Christiansted, St.Croix. He is a V.I. Registered Architect and a member of the American Institute of Architects. He is presently a National Trust for Historic Preservation Advisor, a member of the St. Croix Historic Preservation Committee and a former Chair of the St. Croix Landmarks Society. 

Mogens Morgen is a Professor of Architecture at the Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark.

Arne Hoj is head of the Royal Danish Academy School of Architecture’s Institute of Architecture and Culture.

Birthe Luel Formand is President of the Historic Houses of Denmark, which provided seed money for the In Search of Identity project.

Monica Marin is the Territorial Chief Curator for the Virgin Islands. She is a curator, artist, educator, arts administrator, grant writer and creative place maker. She is the former Special Projects Coordinator at the Department of Public Works.

Stephanie Chalana Brown is the Director of Virgin Islands Cultural Education at the Virgin Islands Department of Education.  Chalana is a photographer and cinematographer whose work explores coloniality and identity in the Caribbean, especially in that of her native Virgin Islands.

Ulla Lund is an architect and author of “When Architecture Tells the Story,” An illustrated large-format book on the architectural heritage of the Virgin Islands of the United States.

Bente Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille is Vice Chairman of the Plessenske Selsoe Foundation in Denmark and Board Member of the Historical Houses of Denmark, a Board Member of Round Tower, Copenhagen, and Church Deacon at the Trinity Church of Copenhagen.  Bente is the former National Expert for the Danish Ministry of Education concerning EU educational programs.

Michael Keldsen is an attorney and Member of the Danish West Indian Society of Denmark.

Kurt Marsh, Jr. (AIA/NOMA) is a woodworker, architectural designer, and community activist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and and Master’s in Architecture from Savannah College of Art & Design. A native St. Johnian, Kurt is the owner & principal of MAJJ,LLC, a design studio. He uses his firm to critique socio-cultural constructs regarding identity and culture in a “post-colonial” St. John. He is the Vice-President of St. JanCo, the St. John Heritage Collective and is serves on the VI Historic Preservation Commission, the VI Coastal Zone Management and other boards and non-profits.

Amal Ashur is an Architect MAA working with restoration, consulting, and cultural environments. Amal earned her Master of Architecture from Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark in 2017. Her master’s thesis: A Postcolonial Path – Sugar Mills from Taboo to Attraction, focused on the restoration and transformation of sugar mills at Castle Coakley, St. Croix. She is committed to the preservation of the cultural heritage of St. Croix.


(Christiantsted, St. Croix, USVI – June 5, 2023) – The Virgin Islands Architecture Center for Built Heritage and Crafts, known as VIAC, announced today that it has received capacity building funding from the U.S. Department of Interior Office of Insular Affairs.  “We are pleased to have been selected for a technical assistance grant from the Office of Insular Affairs,” said Board Chair Mary Dema.  The grant of $658,050 will provide funding to hire the short-term assistance of a Operations and Finance Director, an Administrative Assistant and a Grant Writer/Manager; to design and implement a pilot program in historic preservation trades education and a college student internship program and to launch a built heritage awareness campaign in the territory.

            “We are at a very exciting phase of project development as we will begin to build our organizational infrastructure and begin our collaboration with accredited institutions in Puerto Rico, the United States and Denmark to provide educational opportunities for youth from across the Virgin Islands,” she said. VIAC is a 501(c)3 non-profit located in Christiansted, St. Croix whose mission is to transform the Old Barracks Property on Hospital Street into an historic preservation educational center that will teach, train and certify Virgin Islands students in the historic preservation and building trades needed to revitalize aging Virgin Islands towns.

            Dema said that in 2022, VIAC completed its strategic development process which concluded that the project is feasible with phased renovation of the Old Barracks Property, with pilot programs in partnership with accredited local, regional, national and international institutions and with the development of an educational center that provides opportunities for students and community members of all ages who want to enhance their skills and preserve their properties. “We brought experts in architecture, the building trades, and in community economic development from the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the United States and Denmark together to design our way forward with this project and now it is time to do just that,” she explained. The VIAC Board consists of Dema as Chair, former Congresswoman Donna Christensen as Vice-Chair, Jerri Farrante as Secretary and Christiana Williams as Treasurer.  Other Board Members include Robert Schuster, Chenzira Kahina, Bo Manderup-Jensen and newly elected member Attorney Lee Rohn of St. Croix.  The VIAC Advisory Council which consists of local, national and international experts on architecture, trades education and culture recently welcomed Kurt Marsh, Jr. of St. John and Amal Ashur of Denmark to the group. For a full listing of board members and advisory council members and general information about the progress of the VIAC project, visit our website at

            VIAC will also launch its Old Barracks Storytelling Initiative this summer as it begins to document through research and interviews the people whose stories are part of the history of the Old Barracks Property. Our research team which includes Monique Clendinen Watson, Monica Marin, Chalana Brown and Anurie Oliver will be compiling research, narratives and doing interviews with the people of St. Croix who attended high school at the Barracks, or worked there over the years at the Departments of Public Safety, Labor and Education. “An important part of the VIAC project is the development of the story of the building complex which is three centuries old,” said Dema. “The developed project will include a museum/exhibit space that will tell the story of Christiansted, Hospital Street, the Old Barracks and surrounding neighborhoods. We hope that this space will become a valuable cultural resource for the entire Virgin Islands community.”


“VIAC would like to thank the Office of Insular Affairs of the Department of Interior for this important funding, said Dema. “We would also like to thank Governor Albert Bryan, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, Senate President Novelle Francis, Senate Finance Chair Donna Frett Gregory and other government and community leaders who continue to support this important project for St. Croix.”