At the start of the year, I was given the responsibility of developing our menu of programs to serve the community. One idea I had was to develop a regional arts and culture conference. In truth, I didn't know what I was getting myself into or how much work it would be for one person. But, State of the Arts was held on September 13 and it was my last day with the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. I cannot imagine a better way to end my tenure with the agency because I was surrounded by so many individuals whom I love and respect.
This spring, I had the pleasure of attending the LISC Community Development Awards where Peter Kageyama provided the keynote. Kageyama is the author of the book "Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places." I was so captivated by his keynote that I purchased Kageyama's book the following day.
This quote can be found in his book; "The lure of home - family, friends, history and the sense of comfort that comes only when we plant our roots in the very soil that spawned us - is a powerful thing. And when talent comes home after the journey, it comes home with experience and greater perspective of the world." That truth has resonated deeply with me since I read it.
It is with mixed emotion that I announce that I'll be resigning from the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, effective September 13, 2018. My last day with the agency will be State of the Arts, a regional art and culture conference that I’ve been working on since earlier this year. Those of you who live in Jacksonville, I hope you can join me at this event. I will leave Jacksonville to return to the city where I was born, Erie, Pennsylvania. There, I will serve in the role of Executive Director of Erie Arts and Culture.
In 2011, Robert Walker, who was born in Jacksonville but raised in Atlanta, was inspired by a hip-hop DJ to go beyond simply admiring photography to learning more about the artistic discipline. Though he held photographers such as Gordon Parks, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Richard Avedon in high regards, it was D-Nice, known by most for his role in the legendary 1980s hip hop group Boogie Down Productions (whose members also included KRS-One and La Rock), that made Walker feel as though he himself was capable of taking great pictures. D-Nice hit a patch of hard times in the 90s and early 2000s but eventually reinvigorated his career through his exploration into the world of photography. With every picture he posted, D-Nice would list the equipment he used when capturing the images. This insight served Walker as both inspiration and a source of education regarding the technical aspects of manual photography, camera bodies, and lenses.
D-Nice, albeit from afar, served as an educator to Walker. As a self-taught photographer, Walker turned to YouTube for additional guidance. He used the video sharing website as an open source platform to learn and gain wisdom regarding all things photography. But, Walker didn't start his journey with elaborate equipment. With limited resources available to him, Walker started his journey as a photographer using something that he already carried with him everyday, his iPhone.
June 1, 2018 was a very big day for me. As of that date, I am debt free.
I was a foolish teenager when I first enrolled in college. I enrolled in a for-profit school and took out private student loans to pay my tuition. Because I didn't have pre-existing credit, my interest rates were extremely high. Like many college students, I took out more student loans than I needed. The feeling of getting a refund check felt like free money.
I left the for-profit school after I received my Associates Degree in 2005 and I eventually transferred to Penn State University, where I graduated with my Bachelors Degree in 2008. After that, however, I spent seven years deferring payments... while my debt continued to grow.
I lived paycheck to paycheck for most of my twenties while working in the airline industry. I'd lay in bed at night overcome with anxiety thinking about my debt. It felt like a burden that I'd be lugging around with me for the rest of my life. It's not an overstatement to say that it weighed heavily on me.
The “Greenist” Products Are The Ones That Are Already Made - 10 Questions with Gwen Meking Whittle, the Artist Behind Aunt Gwen
In 2016, Gwen Meking Whittle spent nearly half a year traveling across the United States. Like William Least Heat-Moon, as documented in "Blue Highways: A Journey into America," and John Steinbeck, as documented in "Travels with Charley in Search of America," Whittle set out to discover the people and places that comprise the United States of America. Through her travels, she hoped to come upon a place that drew her in, a city where she could feel comfortable planting some roots. Her journey led her back to her home state of Florida, specifically though to the city of Jacksonville.
Whittle grew up along Florida's Treasure Coast in the relatively small town of Stuart. As a young adult, Whittle left South Florida in search of someplace different, a place that better embraced those who live on the fringe of mainstream in America's counter and alternative culture scenes. For at least a while, Whittle found what she was looking for in New Orleans. Perhaps it is worth noting that she left the Big Easy and eventually found herself in a city whose marketing byline is now "It's Easier Here."
If Duval County had a hip hop hall of fame Willie Evans Jr., whose real name is Niam Jones, would certainly be one of the portraits on display. He established himself as a solo MC before co-founding Asamov, a 904 based hip hop group, alongside DJ Therapy (Paten Locke), Ja-One-Da (Joe Cox), and Basic (Vladimir Decastro). Those who were present in Jacksonville's hip hop scene in the early 2000s fondly remember the super group for both their comical antics and the quality of the material that they produced. During live performances, each of Asamov's members took turns on the mic and all but J-One-Da rotated in as DJ.
In 2002, when albums were still tangible, the group released their debut album titled "The Blow Your Whistle EP." The album was released by 6 Hole Records, a record label based in Duval that released 20+ albums between 2002 and 2007. In 2005, Asamov released the acclaimed album "And Now...," which was nationally distributed and received positive reviews from sources such as Okayplayer, Billboard, and URB Magazine. But, at the height of their success, the group received a cease and desist order from the estate of late American science-fiction writer and professor of biochemistry, Isaac Asimov. This resulted in a name change, with the group then going by the name The Alias Brothers, also referred to as The AB's.
Portraying Narratives Through Many Lenses - 10 Questions with Multidisciplinary Artist Susan Gibbs Natale
Susan Gibbs Natale is not a Jacksonville native. In fact, she isn't even native to the South. She was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in the North. Natale spent her formative years in Brooklyn and on Long Island and a large portion of her adult life in Manhattan and the mountains of Pennsylvania.
Natale began visiting Jacksonville in 2012 to relocate her aging father-in-law and be near to her then pregnant daughter. Natale fell in love with the First Coast's creatively fertile grounds. She quickly became a part of the arts community by mounting initiatives such as a 20' air puppet and the Sparkmobile at ONESPARK, directing and performing in the Jacksonville Historical Society's annual "Halloween Party at the Casket Factory," and other community based projects, such as exhibiting with the Northeast Florida Sculptors at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens. Through these creative and communal endeavors, Natale blossomed as an artist.
Lena Shaqareq came to the US with her family as immigrants in 1993. She and her family are Palestinian but were living in Qatar, a peninsular country in the Middle East along the shore of the Persian Golf. As a teenager in Jacksonville, Shaqareq attended high school at the Stanton College Preparatory School, the oldest continually operating high school in Florida. After graduating high school, she enrolled at the University of North Florida (UNF) where she earned a Bachelor's of Arts Degree in Elementary Education. Shaqareq re-enrolled at UNF and obtained a Master's Degree in Adult Education, with a concentration in Teachers of English to Students of Other Languages (TESOL).
After completing her Master's, Shaqareq began working with the College of Education at UNF. There, she taught the undergrad TESOL courses and eventually became the ESOL Coordinator for the university. Now, Shaqareq serves as the President of Northeast Florida TESOL. She is also the Former Vice President of the Florida Chapter of the National Association of Multicultural Education.
Changing Hearts and Minds Doesn’t Happen Overnight - 10 Questions with Mixed Media Artist and Community Catalyst Tracie Thornton
Southern-born artist Tracie Thornton creates 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional mixed media works under the moniker Thorn. Her work combines post consumer packaging and textiles with printmaking and assemblage to create collages, sculptures, and wearable body adornments. The elements that Thorn uses in her work are every day objects that she has collected from all over, saving them from being discarded and eventually finding a way to give them a second life.
Thornton is gracious with her time. She currently serves on the City of Jacksonville's Art in Public Places Committee, who, along with Cultural Council staff, are responsible for overseeing the growth and management of the City's official public art collection. Additionally, Thornton founded Renewed Community Initiatives (RECi), a grassroots community service organization. In early 2018, RECi received a grant to fund several small scale-scale beautification projects in the Harborview neighborhood of Jacksonville. The projects will illustrate how small changes can make big differences. One project that is slated to be funded from this grant is a mural located off Soutel Drive. The organization is requesting that artists submit to them their qualifications to be considered for the project, which has a $2,500 budget. If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
Located at 2670 Phyllis Street is Space 42. A former industrial warehouse, this 22,000 square foot building now serves the community as a place where art, technology, and creative entrepreneurship converge. The ambitious team behind Space 42, which includes wife and husband duo Michelle and Kevin Calloway, are building upon multi-faceted aspirations to plant a beacon in the ground near the corner of Roselle and King in an effort to proudly transmit to the surrounding world that cool things exist there. And, in even larger terms, that cool things exist in Jacksonville, Florida.
It takes courage, foresight, imagination, and a healthy tolerance for risk to take on a project as substantial as converting a structure the size of Space 42. Truth be told, it's the type of conversion that pipe dreams are made of but few individuals actually have the vision and access to resources that allow them to pursue. That said, those involved with Space 42 are proving what is possible with the right plan of attack and the right team of associates leading the charge. Through it all, however, the team also acknowledges that there is a learning curve for this type of transformative initiative and it requires one to be adaptive, willing to admit what they don't know, and also okay with learning from trial and error.