ST THOMAS — Art, Architecture, History, and Culture Combine. Step off the streets of Strand Gade (pronounced gaw-day) and walk through the doors of 81C, a historic rum warehouse converted into an art gallery, coffee and wine bar, pop-up venue, and luxury loft in downtown Charlotte Amalie. Here guests gain free access to world-class artwork with a large emphasis on emerging Virgin Islands artists who depict the authenticity of life in the Caribbean.
81C officially opened its doors in October 2020 after a long road of renovations and restoration of the historic 1810 property. Owner Zack Zook purchased the building in January 2017 with the intention of renovating the space through historic restoration. Thanks to 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria and other setbacks that come with historic restoration, renovations took a bit longer than expected. Once renovations were completed, the space was not the popular rental that Zook envisioned. He reached out to Joseph Hewes and Augustin Holder to assist in the next phase of 81C. Their partnership unfolded organically, as the trio shared the same spirit and enthusiasm to do something extraordinary on the island.
They decided to split downstairs into two distinct spaces: one half to serve as a fine arts gallery and the other half to be a dynamic space where arts and retail could exist harmoniously. There, guests from all walks of life and socioeconomic backgrounds could come together through the creative arts. Hewes expressed that he loved the cross-cultural demographic that exists at 81C and that there is “diversity at any given time in the room.” “We wanted to bring people to the block; the pop-ups, events, and art gallery did just that.” In March 2023, they opened a coffee and wine bar that offers 100% vegan pastries; the success of this addition thus far has been promising.
On the second floor is a two-bedroom luxury loft used as overnight accommodations for visiting artists and other travelers. The space features 23-foot vaulted ceilings and beautifully highlights fine and local art. With its Soho loft vibes, it is the perfect space to host an intimate group of 10 to 12 people for a special experience. “81C is a shining example of what can be done to celebrate the architecture, culture, and history in a meaningful way,” said Hewes. Within 81C also operates a nonprofit organization whose founding purpose is to support local artists. Since its inception in 2017, 81C Arts focuses on helping the youth and delivering access to art to those who need it the most with its full-scale gallery exhibition program, youth outreach, and enrichment. Working with two art educators on the island, Dyonna Potter and Shem Matthew, 81C currently welcomes regular youth groups and class trips to the gallery. Their plans include continuing to work with the community to commission public artwork and collaborative workshops.
81C is located at 81C Konprindsens Gade in downtown Charlotte Amalie on Strand Gade, between Waterfront and Main Street. They are open Monday to Friday from 12pm to 8pm and for special events. To learn about the gallery, coffee and wine bar, and venue, visit their website at 81cvi.com or follow them on Facebook and Instagram at @81CVI
Written by Anquanette Gaspard email@example.com