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Projects : Transfer Collaboration

The Transfer project is a collaboration begun conceptually in 2001 and actualized through planning grants in 2003 from the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts. Exhibitions were presented in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 to commemorate the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the US government on March 31, 1917, now known as the US Virgin Islands. This project is a collaboration between artists, Janet Cook-Rutnik, Edgar Endress and scholar, Lori Lee. In 2006, writer, Edgar Lake joined forces to create biographical sketches of Virgin Islanders whose images and stories, gleaned from the VI archives in College Park, Maryland, were brought back to life from dusty boxes sitting just outside the nation's capitol.

The first exhibition was presented on St. John at Sólo Arte and consisted of 2 videos and an installation of life size figures, drawn from tiny archive photos of that era. In the same year another presentation, site specific and unique, was presented at the 17th century Fort Christian in St. Thomas. The following year Transfer was presented in two locations simultaneously in Frederiksted, St. Croix, at Fort Frederik, another historic structure from colonial times, and the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts. This exhibition consisted of multiple pieces in various media, transparencies of the original 2" portraits blown up to 4 x 5 foot images. These ID's were issued to the first Virgin Islanders traveling from the US islands, who were required to get these special travel passes because their status was not yet determined. While the islands had been claimed by the US the people were not yet vested with citizenship. In addition to these 4 by 5 foot images, reflected in shadows on the wall, were paintings with collaged photos of the day, and videos that documented the journey of present day immigrants. The following year, the 90th anniversary of Transfer, 2007 was commemorated in the creation of two new videos one of which included actual footage from the 1917 ceremony looped with a repetitive image of Virgin Islands women and children dressed in the gauzy white dresses of the day, waving the American flag back and forth to the sound of a bell chiming. This mesmerizing image was projected on a suitcase, which spoke of the impending exodus this new frontier provided for islanders seeking prosperity, education and opportunity on the mainland. Posters of three of these inveterate travelers, who left to return decades later were given out to the public. A video was created by award winning Chilean video artist, Edgar Endress, which deals with the symbolism inherent in water and the sea, a metaphor for the migration passage in the Caribbean.

Funding has been provided by the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts, Virgin Islands Humanities Council, Virgin Islands Cultural Heritage Institute and Enhanced Education. This is an ongoing project. A new edition is planned for 2008. Interested parties, sponsors and supporting institutions are invited to contact cookrutnik@gmail.com or eendress@gmail.com or Janet Cook-Rutnik, PO Box 348, St. John, VI 00831. Telephone - 340-693-8069 or T/F 340-775-9014.


Transfer 2011