The art box gallery St Maarten/ St Martin

Island Inspiration

Explore St. Maarten/St. Martin’s diverse arts and culture scene and immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry that defines the island’s cultural landscape.


Written by Daniella De Windt



St. Maarten/St. Martin, sometimes called the “Little Miami of the Caribbean,” is known for its rich and colorful culture. With over 100 nationalities spread over just 37 square miles, it is no wonder that the island’s arts and culture scene reflects its status as a true Caribbean melting pot. This diversity can be seen in everything, from the music on the streets and in nightclubs to the symbols and colors in visual art, the words in poetry and books, and the moves in theater and dance.



Eye-Catching Artwork

When we think of art, we usually think of visual artworks: paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, and other works that tell a story without words.


These visual stories can be found at The Art Box Gallery in Simpson Bay. Here, you can find unique artworks from mostly Caribbean artists — internationally recognized and still on the rise — and beautifully handcrafted jewelry by the gallery’s owner, Zdenka Kiric.


Also in Simpson Bay is the new and improved Artcraft Cafe Gallery. In this gallery and gift shop, you can see creative soul Tes Verheij’s bright and colorful work and find great souvenirs to take home some Caribbean color and spirit.


Another prominent artist is Paul Elliott Thuleau. Inspired by his travels throughout the Caribbean over the past 20 years, he has published a book, Caribbean Cabins, which celebrates the facades of colorful and iconic Creole shacks.



Sweet Sounds

Music has always been an important component of St. Maarten/St. Martin’s culture. Whether walking around a store, dining at a restaurant, sitting at a bar, taking a taxi, or relaxing on a beach, you’ll hear music all around. Not only are Caribbean music styles such as calypso, merengue, reggae, zouk, or soca immensely popular; but so are more international genres such as afrobeat, R&B, hip-hop, jazz, pop, and rock.


King James is undoubtedly one of St. Maarten/St. Martin’s biggest musical talents now, and one that demonstrates the importance of Carnival for the island’s music scene. Born in St. Thomas but growing up in St. Maarten, King James has made his mark in the industry, winning the 2018 and 2019 St. Maarten Carnival Road March titles and the 2019 Groovy Soca competition — both important musical milestones for emerging local talents. Besides setting the local music scene ablaze with his songs “Jookin’ Meh,” “My Team Lit,” and “Doh Tell Me Dat,” King James also lit up the stage with several big names in the industry, including soca kings Machel Monatano and Bunji Garlin and reggae icon Buju Banton.


A more up-and-coming talent to look out for is Fire Coral Band, a relatively new trio on the scene. Band members Jacob Streefkerk, Maxime Matser, and Cherienne Bardfield have different ties to the island and the music industry; yet they found musical synergy while jamming together as friends. Their refreshing pop fusion and original compositions can be heard in some of the best live music venues on the island, and they will have you looking out for them anytime you are in the mood for some sweet tunes.



Parties in Paradise

Speaking of venues, St. Maarten/St. Martin’s nightlife is characterized by its plethora of nightclubs, bars, and casinos. With so many hot spots to listen to music, drink, or dance the night away, there is something for everyone — every week, month, and year.


On Monday, locals and tourists head to Red Piano’s iconic “Church on Monday” band night. Salsa-lovers dust off their dancing shoes every Tuesday for Soggy Dollar Bar’s Latin Night. Wednesdays call for Lotus Nightclub’s famous Ladies Night, and on Thursday, both ladies and gents make their way over to Nowhere Special’s Ladies Night for live music. And that is just a few of the island’s nightlife options on weekdays. From Friday to Sunday, everyone is out and about; and there are almost too many boozy brunches, beach parties, live music performances, and late-night fetes to choose from.


If partying in unique locations is your thing, you might be in luck. Every single month, fans of electronic music take chairlifts to the elevated deck at Rainforest Adventures for mesmerizing views and a party above the clouds. Another one-of-a-kind monthly event takes place in a true jungle oasis at Loterie Farm’s Treehab Pool Party.


If the 37 beaches are not enough reason to return, St. Maarten/St. Martin’s annual cultural events might be. More than 20,000 visitors flock to our shores yearly for the world-renowned St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, which combines sailing and partying for some “serious fun.” In March, techno and house music lovers travel far and wide to attend the SXM Festival, where world-class electronic music meets impressive art — and maybe even more impressive party locations, such as villas, boats, and beaches.


Of course, we can’t forget about Carnival, arguably the island’s most important cultural event. Since two countries share the island, St. Maarten/St. Martin boasts not one but two annual carnival celebrations. The first Carnival of the year takes place in February on the French side, and the second one starts in mid-April on the Dutch side, giving visitors two opportunities to experience this authentic Caribbean affair, complete with colorful parades, unforgettable concerts, delicious food, and a whole lot of bacchanal.


In 2024, the Department of Culture of St. Maarten is hosting a monthlong cultural festival from Constitution Day on October 14 to St. Maarten Day on November 11. The intercultural event will celebrate St. Maarten’s diversity, history, and heritage with music, dance, food, and a parade.



Island Stories

Words help us understand the world around us. So why not seek out some of the island’s best wordsmiths while you’re here? If you’re looking for a casual yet powerful evening, check out the monthly open-mic poetry nights at Rusty Rocket. Here, you’ll hear some of
St. Maarten/St. Martin’s best poets express themselves. Who knows? They might inspire you to take the stage and tell your story.


If you prefer to discover the island’s literary scene from the comfort of your hotel room or beach chair (cocktail optional), there are plenty of local writers to choose from. Lasana Sekou, arguably the island’s most prominent wordsmith, wrote 13 books of poetry, monologues, and short stories and is the founder of Nehesi Publishers, publishing over 100 books by first-time writers and acclaimed authors from St. Maarten/St. Martin and throughout the Caribbean. You can find some of these writers at the annual St. Martin Book Fair every first weekend of June.



Powerful Performances

Looking to be swept away by talented performers? Or would you like to learn from the best? The National Institute of Arts (NIA), founded by Clara Reyes and Arlene Newhouse, offers dance, theater, and music classes to adults. NIA also frequently organizes outstanding performances where you can see local talent in action.





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