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April 23, 1993 - Image 88

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-04-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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The Arts Alive Festival in Tillett Gardens.

A Garden Of Delights
Graces St. Thomas

RUTH ROVNER SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

W

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Hotels and Resorts

ith its abundant
trees, splashing
fountain and native
flowers in bloom,
Tillett Gardens is appropri-
ately named. But this three
acre site in St. Thomas is
much more than a lush
tropical garden.
It's also a garden of the arts.
When tourists come to Tillett
Gardens — which is just a
short distance from the down-
town area of Charlotte
Amalie — they can watch silk
screen prints being made or
visit artisans at work in their
studios.
If it's a Friday morning,
they can watch painters at
their easels in the garden.
Or, depending on the time
they visit, they can also at-
tend one of the many special
cultural events presented
here, including open air
classical music concerts and
gala arts and crafts festivals
called Arts Alive.
"This is our 13th year of
Arts Alive," says . Rhoda
Tillett, who wears an Arts
Alive T shirt as she sits at a
, desk in the Tillett Art Gal-
lery, where she's busy plan-
ning the details for the
upcoming festival.
Casual and friendly, she
still talks with the trace of a
Brooklyn accent; she grew up
in Brooklyn. But for three
decades, she's been a long way
away. She's been living in St.
Thomas, and as co-fouonder of
Tillett Gardens, she's the
dynamo who manages the
many facets of this unusual
culture center in the tropics.
Yet Rhoda Tillett never
even intended to come to St.
Thomas. Instead, back in
1959, when she married silk
screen artist Jim Tillett, they
were planning to go to Viet-

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nam so he could teach silk
screen methods to the
Vietnamese.
The political situation was
heating up; their visas were
cancelled, and they headed
for Puerto Rico instead.
Because Jim Tillett had
heard about St. Thomas in
the U.S. Virgin Islands from
a friend, they came for a visit
from nearby San Juan.
"We fell in love with it im-
mediately," recalls Rhoda Til-
lett. Right away they started
to look for a place to settle.
When they saw an old dairy
farm for sale, they bought it
on the spot.
" It was a mess of rambles
and weeds and old barns,"

.

This is an unusual
culture center set
in the tropics.

relates Rhoda Tillett. But it
didn't stay that way for long.
Out of one barn, the Tilletts
created an art gallery and a
silk screen printing plant.
The other barn became a
boutique where arts and
crafts could be displayed and
sold.
Rhoda Tillett soon found
herself as busy as a Manhat-
tan executive, even though
she was on a tropical island.
"Jim was the creative one, so
he ran the studio and I
handled all the business
details," she says.
She still does. Founded in
1959, Tillett Gardens is by
now a well established center
for the arts. In Jim Tillett's
screen printing studio, one of
the key sites of the Garden,
visitors are welcome to watch
the screen printing in pro-

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