Good Hope Country Day eighth-graders win V.I.-Puerto Rico Friendship Committee art contest

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ST. CROIX - Eighth-grade art students at Good Hope Country Day School claimed the prize in a competition designed to celebrate Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico friendship and the value of reading.

On Friday evening, the mural they painted was unveiled in its permanent spot: Over the entryway to the Hispanic Collection at Florence Williams Public Library in Christiansted.

For the art contest, St. Croix junior high and high school students were invited to develop the theme of this year's Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship festivities, "Celebrating our Culture, History and Friendship," while making it relevant to reading, books and the library.

The contest was sponsored by the Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Committee.

Schools that participated included St. Croix Educational Complex, Arthur Richards Junior High School, Good Hope Country Day School, Manor School and St. Joseph Catholic High School.

With artwork that featured St. Croix's Fort Christiansvaern on one side and San Juan's fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, on the other, Good Hope Country Day claimed the first place prize of $500 and placement of the mural at the Hispanic Collection at the library.

The mural shows beaches and palm trees on both islands, which are separated by an expanse of blue water.

The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico flags are on their respective sides, and in the middle, hands hold an open book. In the book, a woman dressed in cultural garb is holding a vegigantes mask, which appears frequently in Puerto Rico cultural celebrations and represents African culture in Puerto Rico, said Domitila Vargas, chairwoman of the Hispanic Collection Committee.

Arching across the top of the mural are the words "Virgin Islands" and "Puerto Rico," with "Friendship" spelled out underneath.

"I think we did a very well job, incorporating the things about St. Croix and Puerto Rico that are similar," said Julian Bishop, one of the eighth-graders at Good Hope Country Day who was part of the winning team.

"We tried to incorporate both cultures," said Caroline Flavia, who also was on the Good Hope Country Day team.

"It was fun," said Lindsay Wessel, also on the team.

The Good Hope Country Day students did not know what designs they were competing against, but they thought they had a decent chance in the contest, said Annie Hoffman, another team member.

Good Hope Country Day art teacher Suenita Banwaree said the entire eighth grade participated in the design drafting process, and eventually, the group came up with a plan.

"We kept it simple," she said.

The other entries in the contest are featured in a temporary exhibit next to the Hispanic Collection.

The process of acquiring the Hispanic Collection at the library was a long one, involving hard work, officials at Friday's ceremony said.

Ingrid Bough, DPNR territorial director of Libraries, Archives and Museums, gave a brief history of the work that the Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Committee has done to develop the collection.

The Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Committee started this project in 2006, acquiring space in the Florence Williams Public Library for the collection, she said.

In 2007, a dedication ceremony took place. In 2009, the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums acquired some Spanish books through the Library of Congress Free Surplus Books Program, Bough said.

In early 2011, the Division ordered 400 Spanish books to supplement the collection, with the review and selection made by the VI-PR committee. The VI-PR Committee sponsored a librarian from Puerto Rico to catalog the books into the local library system. To help raise funds, the committee held an Arroz con Pollo contest and food sale.

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage month 2012, there was a debut of COLECCIÓN HISPANA at the Florence Williams Public Library, Bough said.

The mural puts a final touch on the collection, and officials said new titles arrive periodically.

"The collaborative efforts to enhance and expand the Hispanic Collection has been labor intensive through the years, and is a demonstration of dedication and diligence in an effort to make a shared vision a reality," Bough said in a prepared statement from DPNR.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email

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