(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 www.viacstx.com.
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.”