Expanding the Building Arts Institute

Commitment by Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism, Inc. (CHANT)

In 2019, Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism, Inc (CHANT) and its partners committed to expand the Building Arts Institute, a workforce development program that provides training in woodworking, stonemasonry, and historic preservation in St. Croix. CHANT aims to stem the loss of traditional art forms and address the loss of historical buildings in the town of Frederiksted, as well as build human capital and strengthen the local economy. Through this expansion, CHANT will build and furnish a new one-story workshop and training facility, offer new classes, and add 40 new trainees to their program. This commitment aims to support at-risk unemployed young adults, from low- to moderate-income households through a paid apprenticeship model. The project will create employment opportunities for young adults in the building trades and historic restoration to enable the enhancement of housing and incorporate arts in community revitalization.



Expanding the Building Arts Institute



Est. Duration

1 Years

Estimated Total Value



Latin America & Caribbean



Commitment by

Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism, Inc. (CHANT)

Partner(s) of the Commitment Maker(s)

Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands; St. Croix Foundation for Community Development; Calidad Builders LLC; O'Reilly Plumbing and Construction; U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Public Works; University of the Virgin Islands

Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism, Inc (CHANT) and its partners commit to expand the Building Arts Institute. They will build and furnish a new workshop and training facility to expand and grow their curriculum and support an additional 40 trainees. Through this expansion they aim to reestablish a vibrant artisan and entrepreneurial community that is locally driven, to stem displacement, redefine gentrification, support resiliency, and preserve the rich history.

CHANT’s current facility is a multipurpose cultural center that houses the Building Arts Institute on the second floor and a first-floor community space that hosts community gatherings, art exhibits, book signings, spoken word presentations, and youth arts summer program. Through this commitment, CHANT will build a one-story structure at the same location to accommodate larger training classes and new classes such as Introduction to Woodworking, Woodworking 2, Advanced Woodworking, and Introduction to Historic Restoration. CHANT has secured architectural drawings and building permits for the new facility. Construction of the expansion will take approximately four months and students will participate in the construction project as a part of the Historic Restoration training. CHANT fundraising campaign design is nearing completion and will be launched in June 2019. CHANT has submitted applications to federal grant programs and are actively searching for additional philanthropic funders.

With the new facility, CHANT will be able to support 40 additional trainees over 12 months. CHANT’s trainees are at risk unemployed young adults from 18-30, from low to moderate income households. CHANT will pay all trainees a living wage for their participation. This model works to attract and retain participants who have financial commitments and family obligations. The project will result in creating a pipeline and employment for trained youth in the building trades and historic restoration, to enable the enhancement of low to moderate income housing, as well as deploy the arts in community revitalization specifically supporting the restoration of the “Free Gut” neighborhood.

Q3 2019: Construction Schedule
Request for qualification for contractor; site preparation; acquisition (donation) of building materials.
Foundation and structural walls – stonemasonry training component and hand-on training
Plumbing and electrical rough in
Roof framing – includes training in framing- Woodworking 2 trainees

Q4 2019: Final Finishings
Fabrication of historic shutters and installation – Intro to Woodworking trainees
Final finishings including bathroom fixtures and tile; electrical fixtures. Trainees will participate an all aspects under the tutelage of licensed practitioners.

Q3 2019 & Q1 2020: Training
Training Curriculum Intro to Woodworking
Introduction to the Building Arts Institute
Introduction to Traditional Woodworking
Introduction to Turning
Introduction to Fretwork (Gingerbread)

Q4 2019 & Q2 2020: Historic Restoration Training Program Curriculum – Level 2
Safety in the Workshop
Business Skills Training
Lead Safe Work Practices
Architectural styles
Vernacular Buildings in our Historic Districts
Building Framing & Exterior


St. Croix is uniquely poised to promote nature and heritage tourism with magnificent landscapes and a deep authentic culture dating back several hundred years. However, the island remains caught between the legacy of environmental devastation from Hurricanes Hugo, Irma, and Maria and the economic disaster wrought by the closing of a major industrial facility on island. As a result, one of its major towns, Frederiksted, located on the west end of the island has struggled to chart positive economic pathways for residents.

Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism, Inc (CHANT) launched a project in 2017, “Invisible Heritage: Identity, Memory and Our Town,” to stem the loss of traditional art forms and address the loss of historical buildings in the town of Frederiksted, as well as the need to build human capital and strengthen the local economy. The Building Arts Institute is the workforce development component of this program and provides training, using an apprenticeship model, in woodworking, stonemasonry and historic preservation. To date fifteen (15) at risk youth between the ages of 17-30 have been trained, and 80% have gained full time employment in the public and private sector.

Graduates of the CHANT program will participate in the restoration of historical buildings in Frederiksted, including “Free Gut” (roughly 3 square blocks), which is the birth place of many activists who fought for human rights, economic rights and free speech for African Americans. The area consists of one- and two-story, wooden, vernacular houses built on rubble foundations with hip roofs, many of which are in danger of being lost. The Free Gut neighborhood dates to the 1770s, when recently freed Black men and women managed to purchase land and build homes in this undeveloped urban area. The preservation and restoration of this critically endangered neighborhood will not only revitalize the town, but also allow for the documentation and interpretation of the history of significant residents and their roles as founders of the African American Civil Rights movement on St. Croix and the mainland United States and contributing to the cultural heritage tourism offerings of the island.

Partnership Opportunities

CHANT is seeing funding to close their funding gap of $200,000. They are also seeking partners with technical expertise in historic preservation and woodworking. Finally, the trainees will produce products such as furniture that can be purchased and displayed in individual homes or businesses. CHANT is therefore looking for media or connections to artisan markets to support the sale of products. CHANT has a deep understanding of the history of St. Croix in addition to the resources necessary to create workforce programs focusing on high risk youth and/or historic preservation. CHANT shares this knowledge and expertise with other organizations by providing training, business counseling and through cooperative agreements with other organizations. CHANT is committed to “development from within” and will share best practices, collected data and training resources.

Progress Reports