Arts & Culture St Maarten


St. Maarten/St. Martin’s artists tantalize the senses, inviting you to experience this beautiful island through their creative perspective.


By Riselle Celestina


St. Maarten/St. Martin has always been a cultural melting pot, inspiring many to express their appreciation and love for the island through art. Over the last few years, the island has seen an explosion of colorful murals, hit songs, breathtaking canvases, and even videos by new emerging artists joining the long list of well-known local talents that have been inspiring us with their creativity for years. The pandemic surely helped many come out of their shell and express themselves creatively, and it definitively enticed one of St. Maarten/St. Martin’s most popular bands to return home.



Named after a neighborhood on the island, Orange Grove has long been drawing huge crowds with their addictive sounds and amazing stage presence. It’s not reggae. It’s not rock. Even better, it’s a great blend of ska, reggae, rap, and rock. To keep it simple, Orange Grove performs music that’s loved by the band with lyrics centered on their favorite topics. With songs like “Easy Love,” “Right One,” and “Blessed,” the band has entertained for years with lyrics derived from their island life.


After a long stretch in The Netherlands, where they produced album after album with hit song after hit song, Orange Grove is finally back on the island, hopefully for good.


“I had been living in The Netherlands for 25 years and always knew that I’d be returning home one day, no matter what,” explains St. Maarten/St. Martin–born lead singer Michael Maidwell. “With everything that has been going on with the pandemic, I did not want to get stuck in The Netherlands and not be able to travel back home to my family.”


Download Orange Grove’s latest album, Ganja Rock, which is sure to get you into that good island vibe.


Another local artist to look out for is Tamillia. This young, beautiful, and amazingly talented singer, songwriter, and composer started her singing career at the tender age of 8, appeared on France’s The Voice Kids, and has recently signed with a record label. Like many of her generation, 19-year-old Tamillia can be found on popular social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, where she posts regular videos of her singing — whenever she is not mesmerizing audiences at live events all over the island, that is.



St. Maarten’s nightlife has long been compared to that of Las Vegas, and with the many neon lights, bustling bars, and flashy casinos, it is easy to see why. But you don’t have to wait until dusk to enjoy the island’s party life. The party scene on St. Maarten starts early, usually on the beach where you can dance under the blue skies with your feet in the sand to music by international and local DJs like Outkast, Ajay Raw, King Kembe, Stov3, Maestro, and Big Boss. Take the chairlift to the elevated deck at Rainforest Adventures to marvel at spectacular sunsets while you dance to pulsating house and techno music at the monthly Elev8 event, and when night falls, get down to music by live bands at the many pubs, clubs, and bars all around the island.


If electronic music is your vibe, then the annual SXM Festival is a must-attend event. Described as five days and nights of tropical bliss, this event pulls a large crowd of techno and house music enthusiasts from all over the world, making both sides of the island its playground. From sprawling villas to deserted beaches, this festival changes location daily, bringing to each one world-class electronic music and mind-blowing art. The 2023 SXM Festival took place from March 8–12.


For those interested in events with a more cultural aspect, carnival is an obvious must-do. The island offers not one but two Carnival celebrations. The Carnaval de St. Martin is from February 10–21, while the Dutch side Carnival starts on April 16 and continues well into the first week of May. Enjoy colorful parades, pageants, exciting calypso competitions, Caribbean Flag Fest, lots of mouthwatering food, and well-produced concerts with international, regional, and local talents. If your travel dates to St. Maarten/St. Martin do not correspond with the carnival dates, don’t worry. There are many other cultural events happening on both sides of the island throughout the year.



For those seeking a more laid-back and sensual vibe, check out monthly poetry nights at Rusty Rocket. The Poets Lounge started in 2014 when a group of young St. Maarten/St. Martin poets realized that the island was missing a sustained outlet for themselves and other poets to express their talent. The open-mic event happens the second Wednesday of every month.


One participating poet is the lovely Rochelle Ward, an award-winning poet, teacher, and blogger who’s long been captivating audiences and readers with her work at literary festivals and events in Anguilla, Dominica, St. Maarten/St. Martin, and Nevis. She also writes under the name Faizah Tabasamu, and her latest poetry book, Tangle, has been called “haunting” and “sensual.” Her poetry can also be found along with works by other island poets in Where I See the Sun and on her blog Saltfish and Lace, where she writes on topics such as hair and beauty care, Caribbean lifestyle, the environment, and books she has reviewed. Find Rochelle at the annual St. Martin Book Fair happening every first weekend of June.



Art touches all five senses — we hear melodic music, smell handmade soaps and perfumes, experience the sense of touch during dances like Kizomba or salsa, and we taste sumptuous flavors at the many restaurants and culinary events on St. Maarten/St. Martin. But it’s the sense of sight that is most often associated with art, and St. Maarten/St. Martin has no shortage of talented visual artists who captivate and tantalize our emotions through colorful paintings, beautiful sculptures, and more.


Galleries are plentiful on the island, and The Art Café is one that’s not to be missed. Vivid canvases depicting different aspects of island life on St. Maarten/St. Martin, art made from waste, and beautiful pottery can be found at this gallery and art school, located on Front Street above Honeypot Reserve. Take the brightly colored stairs from the parking lot and walk into a world of hues. Here, you will find the artists behind the art café. Tes Verheij, a painter and longtime supporter of the art scene on St. Maarten/St. Martin, along with friend and business partner, potter Lauery-Ann Fairbairn, welcome you to unleash your inner artist by participating in their pottery or painting classes.


Tes is also a driving force behind an initiative called Artists United SXM. Together with local talents like fashion and print designer Zillah Duzon, Recycle Art SXM founder Nascha Kagie, and art teacher Annemiek van Kerkhof-Pothuma, among others, they have launched the All You Need Is Art window exhibition, where shop owners donate window spaces to display art by some of St. Maarten/St. Martin’s artists. You can enjoy this unique exhibition in Philipsburg in and around Royal Palm Plaza, and especially at Sheer restaurant, whose owner has long been an avid supporter of local arts.


The Art Box Gallery in Simpson Bay is another gem where you can find impressive works of art by local and international artists, including gorgeous jewelry by the owner of the gallery herself, Zdenka Kiric.


If cultural art is more of what you seek, step into the St. Maarten National Heritage Museum and support their efforts to promote, protect, and study aspects of the island’s history, culture, and natural environment by purchasing a beautiful memento from their gift shop.


While on the topic of cultural art, Sir Roland Richardson has long been among St. Maarten/St. Martin’s most respected local artists. His beautiful paintings of the red flamboyant tree are a staple in many galleries across the island. Nature and the local fauna are what inspires this artist with more than 50 years of experience. A recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the French government and a Knight of the Order of Orange Nassau by the court of the then-queen of The Netherlands, Queen Beatrix, are just a few of the honors in Sir Richardson’s name. He and the brilliant Ruby Bute serve as the unofficial matriarch and patriarch of St. Maarten/St. Martin’s art world.


Founded by Clara Reyes and Arlene Newhouse, the National Institute of Arts, better known as NIA, offers classes in dance, theater, and music to adults of all ages and children as young as two months old. The institute has taught many of St. Maarten/St. Martin’s talents, some of whom have ventured outside of the Caribbean, where they have excelled in dance and other forms of art and have become well known and respected in the international art scene. NIA, located at the John Larmonie Center in Philipsburg, hosts and organizes frequent outstanding performances on the island.


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