(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.”

VIAC Receives TAP Grant from Interior Insular Affairs to Plan Architecture College

(Christiansted, St. Croix – July 9, 2021) – The Virgin Islands Architecture Center for Built Heritage and Crafts, Inc. (VIAC) is excited to announce that it has received funding for its Project Development Conference for Design, Construction and Curriculum from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.  VIAC received $286,310 for technical assistance to hire expertise to develop a feasibility study, convene the conference and produce a strategic development plan for design, construction, and curriculum.

“This funding is critical in helping us to meet our Phase One goals, and I would like to thank the Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs,” said VIAC Board Chair Mary Dema. “We will be hiring a Project Development Consultant and others in the near future to assist us in laying the groundwork for raising the $10 million needed for completion of this project.”

Old Barracks Property, Hospital Street, Christiansted, St. Croix

VIAC is a St. Croix non-profit, 501(c)3, with a focus on community economic development. Its mission is to transform the Old Barracks property on Hospital Street, Christiansted, St. Croix into an urban campus and educational institute that will teach, train, and certify Virgin Islands young people in the building arts of stone, wood, iron, and other crafts prevalent in Virgin Islands and other historic U.S. and Caribbean towns. The school curriculum is envisioned as a two-year program that will provide a Certificate for students in Architecture. It will support students interested in achieving a Professional Architectural Degree through partnerships with architectural schools in Puerto Rico, US, Denmark, and Ghana. VIAC also intends to train its students to own and operate businesses connected to these crafts and be the catalyst for a cultural economic development corridor in the town of Christiansted.

VIAC’s vision is community driven as the idea for an architecture school that focuses on the African Danish built heritage of Virgin Islands towns came from town plan charettes sponsored by the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority.  The community agreed that the development of a school that studied and recognized traditions while creating the opportunity for skills training, job creation, entrepreneurial activity and economic development could lead to the revitalization of Christiansted town.  Through collaboration in the centennial In Search of Identity Project, seed funding was provided by the Virgin Islands Legislature, the Historic Houses of Denmark, and the Danish government.

“We are grateful for the support of Governor Bryan, Delegate Plaskett, Senate President Frett-Gregory, Senators Vialet, Francis, Whitaker, VIEDA, the St. Croix Foundation, the National Park Service and many others in the community as we move forward to make this vision come alive,” Dema added.

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