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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

New art exhibition showcases the USVI

A new art exhibition is on display in the Mandel Center for the Humanities, titled “V.I. Strong Too Caribbean to be American, Too American to be Caribbean.” This powerful display showcases “a series of photographs and interviews, with the purpose of highlighting the beauty, history, culture, and people of the U.S. Virgin Islands [(USVI)].”

On the exhibition’s website, artist Cyrenity Augustin ’24 notes that “The U.S. Virgin Islands is a place that, though filled with culture, music, history and life, is often left on the fringes of the public eye. When one does know of these islands, it is either reduced to a mere vacation spot, or is described as “Too American to be Caribbean, and too Caribbean to be American,” framing the Virgin Islander identity as one left in the in-between. Constantly consumed, and rarely included.” In this exhibition, Augustin aims to “highlight the wonderful story of the Virgin Islands, with this segment having a heavy focus on the island of St Croix.”

In an interview with The Hoot, Augustin noted that she “originally came across the Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Grant last year, and had immediately thought about doing a project focusing on the USVI.” Augustin noted that the VI aren’t “often talked about, both in a general context and in spaces meant to highlight the Caribbean, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to bring the islands into conversation. I ended up talking to my mom about the idea when I had it, and this past semester when applications were due, I was going back and forth on whether I should actually pursue it. When I was talking to my mom about it, she mentioned how excited my dad was about the project and that really solidified it for me. I wanted to create this gallery for them, and for them to see their home and their culture represented and celebrated.” In a framed note next to the meaningful photos, Augustin wrote that “this photo exhibition is dedicated to my parents, Curtis and Cindy Augustin. I hope that when you look at these photos, you are both filled with pride and reminded of home.”

When asked which photo she’s most proud of, Augustin noted that “it’s so hard to pick one.” She elaborated, saying that “each photo has an element that I’m proud of, whether it’s based on the photo’s aesthetics or the importance of the subject. However if I really had to choose, I think I’d have to go with either the machete photo or the photo of Nadia Batson.” Speaking on the photo of the machete, Augustin added that she “ended up taking [it] after I saw [the machete] laying across the rocks when visiting someone my parents knew, and knowing the symbolism and importance of the machete I wanted to make sure I had a photo of it for the gallery. It was just sitting there forgotten in the midst of conversation, and it really struck me.” She also noted that for the photo of Batson, she really appreciates the way that the photo showcases “the audience members’ excitement for her performance represented in their raised hands, framing her on stage. It’s a moment of joy captured and framed so viewers feel like they are there in the crowd too.”

Augustin noted that people should view the exhibition with an open mind, and a willingness to “learn more than you already know.” She hopes that as people view “VI Strong,” they “come to realize that the USVI is a wonderful place, and not just for its tourism appeal. There is so much history and culture that is brushed over and unexplored. Hopefully this gallery will help people learn more about the islands, and will lead to the U.S. Virgin Islands being included in more conversations and spaces.”

Editor’s Note: Social media editor Cyrenity Augustin ’25 did not participate in the writing or editing of this article.

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