Good morning! With Spring right around the corner and St. Patrick’s Day coming up, this is my favorite time of year.
St. John has been a hub of activity lately. A couple of the highlights were the English Caribbean’s Women’s Fast-Pitch Tournament Qualifier at the National Park Ball Field and next to it, the community driven art project bordering the newly constructed playground. If you were in Cruz Bay last week, you may have stopped by the park to watch the softball games or helped to piece together the mosaic mural being created on the two walls encircling the kids’ playground.
The idea for a mosaic mural had been in the works for a few years. Friends of the Park wanted to incorporate art into a newly built park after Hurricanes Irma and Maria destroyed the baseball field in 2017. When the National Park Service made plans to build the next one close to the Visitor Center, former residents, Crystal and Sean D’Abbraccio were invited to design a mosaic mural along the wall outlining the playground.
With the help of student and adult volunteers, Crystal and Sean completed the mosaic mural in just ten days.
The end result has two parts: one wall an ocean with beautiful, vivid shades of blue and green, teeming with underwater life like turtles and fish. On the far end of the “ocean wall” is an iridescent mermaid sea spiral; the second wall displays a uniquely designed sun bursting with orange and reds and a colorful rainbow surrounded by butterflies and wisps of cloud.
Crystal and Sean D’Abbraccio are no strangers to making mosaics on St. John. Based out of Coral Bay, they ran Tiny Tile Mosaics for several years before Irma. Their “tiny tiles” could be seen at auctions and events. Also, they used to host workshops for local students.
Before that, they started the first mermaid experience business in the Caribbean. (passed along to another resident, you can still channel your inner Ariel and learn how to swim like a mermaid)
When Irma hit, Crystal and Sean lost everything and moved back to Massachusetts, where they continue to run Tiny Tile Mosaics.
Four years ago, Crystal attended a week-long workshop in Mexico with mosaic artist Laurel True. In this intensive mosaics class, Crystal learned how to create on a much larger scale. When I spoke with Crystal and Sean last week, she said her vision for a St. John mural came to her on the way home from the workshop.
The vision was there, yet the trouble was finding a location. With help from School of the Arts and Friends of the Park, a perfect location was found for this mural: in the park next to the kids’ playground, on a custom wall. Not only would this be a mural created by the D’Abbraccios, but by the community as well.
Crystal and Sean had most of the mural planned out before arriving. They designed it and wanted the community to put it together. Gifft Hill, Julius E. Sprauve, School of the Arts, and St. John Brewers are just a few that participated in making this vision come alive. Kids participating in VI Pottery’s youth program made butterflies, turtles, and fish for the mural at the studio in Coral Bay. Other students and School of the Arts volunteers helped break apart the tiles and attach the mosaics. Almost every piece of the mosaic was created by the local community.
Like Crystal said, “these kids (and volunteers) can come by when they’re old and gray and show their kids what they were a part of.”
The D’Abbraccios saw some familiar faces in their short visit. Before Irma, Sean was a teacher at Gifft Hill, and he was able to reconnect with a lot of his former students when they came to help with the mural. Because of Sean, they had some experience with creating mosaics already. On working side by side once again with former students, Sean said “it felt so good to see everyone – they’re island adults now.”
It really was a beautiful thing to see this inspiring mosaic mural being created next to the first sporting event held in the newly built park. The 2017 hurricanes soon followed by COVID brought a lot of hard times to Love City. Watching Crystal and Sean design the last section of mosaics and listening to the cheers from the softball game were the signs of a community healing.
Shoutout to everyone from Friends of the Park, School of the Arts, VI Pottery, Julius E. Sprauve, Gifft Hill, and St. John Brewers for helping to create a piece of art that reflects St. John’s identity. Also, a huge thank you to Dr. Steven and Jann Paul for their gift to the children and to the community of St. John.
All photos sourced from the Tiny Tile Mosaics Facebook page.
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