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.