Do some good, save some dough


You can save $100 a night at the St. John Westin by donating a few hours of your time to help the Virgin Islands National Park.

The Westin will credit you if you head out to the Park and put in a couple of hours doing things like picking up debris or maintaining the trails. The Westin is offering the deal in partnership with the Friends of the Park. To get in on it, mention it when you check in.

The Inquiring Iguana heard about the offer via a travel blog, but when he checked the Westin's Web site it said the offer was good through 2011. A call to the reservations desk at the resort got confirmation it's being offered this year, too.

A shuttle bus takes volunteering Westin-ers to the Park twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday.

Fresh talent on display at gallery

Michael Banzhaf, a talented jewelry designer and musician, is launching an exhibition at his Cruz Bay gallery featuring three of the island’s creative artists.

Thomas Sunset

Bob Phillips: St. Thomas Sunset, oil on linen

Painter Bob Phillips is showing scenes which demonstrate his love for sailing. “I take my studio with me and paint on calm waters,” explains Phillips. “I am particularly fascinated by St John’s mountainous topography and the movement of cloud shadows over land and sea. Throw in a few sails and I’m in heaven.”


Joan Farrenkopf’s inspiration is fired by sunrises and sunsets. “A painting … is a meditation to observe and paint the powerful color that nature teaches us.”


Seventh Wave sterling silver 14kt

Thomas O’Donovan: Seventh Wave Bracelet Sterling Silver/14K

Sculptor and goldsmith Thomas O’Donovan is showing his wearable art. “I often imagine the small pieces I create as monumental forms within a living environment; a ring made on a scale that becomes a portal, an entryway.”

The Banzhaf Gallery is hosting an opening reception Friday from 6 to 9 p.m.

Where to go shopping on St. John


Shopping is not the first thing that pops into your head when you think about visiting St. John.  That's what beaches and iguanas and sun are for.  But for some travelers, well, they just gotta.

"There's not an abundance of shopping on St. John," 10Best.com agrees, "but nevertheless there's ample opportunity for visitors to stock up on beachwear, souvenirs, trinkets, and unique gifts."

The list is heavy on art, collectibles, and clothing. 

Number 1 is Bajo El Sol in Mongoose Junction. "Paintings, collage, jewelry, sculpture and ceramics are just a few of the art forms you'll find, by celebrated local artists such as Aimee Trayser, Deborah St. Clair and John Holub."

"One thing you won't find in St. John are chain stores like Starbucks or the Gap," 10Best.com advises. "Just cute little boutiques selling creative items like dyed cloth, house wares made of tropical woods, and beautiful locally-made sculptures, and jewelry."

St., John Editions, is one of those gems, a small business in on the road to Mongoose Junction. "This charming little boutique specializes in tasteful women's clothing. Owner Molly Soper carries a selection of swimsuits, cotton dresses, straw hats and inexpensive jewelry."

Coral Bay artist lights up

George Hollander's talent is making the unique from the mundane.  

Goodyear.light11beCase in point: Goodyear – New Year!, a one-of-a-kind light sculpture fabricated from a collection of common old tirews.

"Almost no one regards natural surroundings as ugly or unappealing, but when it comes to man made objects we are less certain of our own reactions," the Coral Bay artist told the St. John Source in 2009.  Hollander has no such uncertainty as he accommodates the everyday into his art.

The lights-and-tires sculpture is his latest annual effort to mark a new year. The German-born artist made it by stacking nine tires and topping them with a Plexiglas-spiked dome made from half a marine buoy. He then wrapped Christmas lights around the piece. Its core lighting comes from florescent bulbs.

He crafted New Year's sculptures in 2009 and last year.  You can see them here, along with the more traditional handmade light fixtures he produces for homeowners and architects.

Park seminar schedule released

A sure sign that the winter season is upon the island is announcement of the Friends of the Park's schedule of workshops, hikes and various activities.  The 2012 season begins in January and includes oldies but goodies as well as some new opportunities to learn about the island, its history, and its charms.

Among the 35 offerings on the list are familiar things like Tropical Light Photography on March 25, Native Arts and Crafts on Jan. 5, and Kayak the Mangroves of Hurricane Hole, April 7. Pepper Sauce Making is scheduled for Jan 4.

One new offering for 2012 is a presentation by archeology interns Feb. 22.  They will talk about burial customs of the Taino people at Cinnamon Bay, where human remains have been found.

The activities' instructors are locals who donate their time and skills.  Fees for the classes begin at $25 for Friends members nd $35 for non-members.  You can call 340-779-4940 to make a reservation.

Sloop Jones: colorful talent

Pic_sloop_2(From the archives)

Sloop Jones is a man of many colors, two names, and lots of talent.  Born Terry McKoy, he picked up the "Sloop" nickname in college and went into business with his partner, Jones, in South America several decades ago.  So when he came to St. John more than 20 years ago, he named his company Sloop Jones.

Working in Guatemala, Jones said he was struck by the vivid colors of the Mayan Indians, and their contrast with his grey suit, white shirt, and black shoes. He said, "Theirs' was a life full of color. The color in my life was limited to a sliver of silk (a tie)."  That was a push that eventually brought him to St. John, in a studio far out on East End, where he and his other partner, Barbara Alperen built a business designing and hand-painting shirts, dresses, skirts, hats, rugs, pillows and more. His artistry and execution are first class; his palatte rich in vibrant yet relaxing colors.

While you can find some of his clothing for sale in Cruz Bay, driving out to East End for a visit to the studio/store is not to be missed. Jones took time one afternoon to show me around, and we began talking about how he got from El Salvador to East End.  

St. John Blues Festival begins Wednesday

Fest The annual St. John Blues Festival kicks off Wednesday night, with five days and nights of topflight performers offering blues, soul and maybe even some reggae.

This is the ninth year Steve Simon has organized the event.  He is a longtime island resident with a huge talent and love for music.  It's Simon who also, for years, hosted Sunday afternoon jam sessions at the Beach Bar.

This year's edition of the Blues Festival, sponsored by Johnnie Walker, is bigger than ever with not just one, but TWO, big concerts at the Coral Bay ball field, Friday and Saturday nights.  (Ticket information is here.)

Friday night's lineup includes Grady Champion, Candye Kane, and Albert Cummings.  Saturday's presents Moreland & Arbuckle, Reba Russell, Curtis Salgado (pictured) and The Big Band.

"All of the acts are off the charts.  These are the best voices in the blues," he added.  Simon especially looks forward to Salgado's set. "Wait until you see the horn section and the lady backup singers, too.  They are just killer!," Simon said. "I always book my heroes (for these concerts," Simon told the St. John Sun Times. 

But before the big shows on the weekend, four of the island's restaurants – in Coral Bay and Cruz Bay – will be hosting many blues musicians.  Here's the lineup for those no cost events:
Wednesday, Opening Party  

Sun Dog Cafe, 7:30 pm to 11:00 pm
Starring: Mitch Woods & The Rocket 88's

The Beach Bar, 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Starring: Live Blues music all evening

Island Blues, 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Starring: James Cobb

Shipwreck Landing, 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Starring: Dave Gerard & Groove Thang
Island Blues, 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Starring: Mojones Red Hot Rockn' Blues

The Beach Bar, 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Dave Gerard & Groove Thang


Shipwreck Landing, 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm
Starring: Jimmi "Prime Time" Smith

Island Blues, 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Starring: Mitch Woods


The Beach Bar, 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm
Starring: Surprise Celebrity Blues Artists

St. John artist presents a flute fest

The New Year brings the a special event to Elaine Estern's regular weekly wine-and-music gallery receptions.


Tonight, starting at 5:30 p.m., Rich Greengold and Katha Riccardi of St. John Flutes will perform.  They will be joined by St. John artist Michael Banzhaf and Sue Grimm of New York.

This is the second time the quartet has performed together at Coconut Coast Studios, just up the road from Gallows Point overlooking Frank Bay.  Click here for a map.

They will be playing at the Sunset cocktail party Estern hosts each Wednesday. "Enjoy live music as the sun dips below the sky," she said. "This will be a performance you won’t want to miss!"

Artist Lisa Etre profiled

Longtime St. Johnian Lisa Etre has been painting for decades.  As a co-founder of the Pink Papaya gift shop in Cruz Bay, her bright, island-inspired paintings, prints, place mats and coasters went to the states in  many a suitcase. 

Now, she’s moved on from supplying the shop, but she continues to create new works – which you can see on her web site (http://www.lisaetre.com).  In an interview with the with the St. John Source, she described how she’s also moving into new media, including handmade books, jewelry and masks.

(Read the Source story here.)