Visual artist Crystal Floyd invited me to Bear Machine Studios this afternoon to view a custom 17' x 5' diffuser wall that she was commissioned to create. Bear Machine is a newly constructed recording studio owned by Ben Cooper of the band Radical Face. The band's origins are rooted in Jacksonville, but Cooper now resides in California. Radical Face gained considerable traction in 2007 with the release of their album Ghost, which featured the song Welcome Home.
The custom diffuser wall, which is used to disperse sound waves, is the largest piece that Floyd has created. It's also easily her most impressive work to date. Believe me when I say photos do not do the wall justice.
Being Comfortable In Who We Are - 10 Questions with Your Friendly Neighborhood Nerd, Robert "the Bobbo" Griffin
Imagine, if you will, that you're a child again. You spend your time enamored with comic books and action heroes; fictitious characters who routinely exhibit gallant behavior in page and on screen to serve as the defenders of good in the timeless battled against evil. Your love of these characters is woven into the fabric of your every day life, from the t-shirts you wear, the book bag you carry to school, the games you play on the playground, and even the themes of your birthday parties.
Now, let us pose a question. What effect do you think it has on a child's self esteem when they idolize these characters yet do not see their race or gender represented within the roster of protagonists? In 2011, the academic journal Communication Research published a study conducted by Kristen Harrison and Nicole Martins, two Indian University professors, titled Racial and Gender Differences in the Relationship Between Children’s Television Use and Self Esteem: a Longitudinal Panel Study. Harrison and Martins surveyed about 400 black and white students in Illinois, all 7-to 12-years-old and from lower-middle to upper-middle socioeconomic communities, over a yearlong period. The research focused on how much the kids watched TV and how that impacted their self esteem. What they concluded is that television exposure led to a decrease in self-esteem for white and black girls and black boys, and an increase in self esteem among white boys.
What contributes to this increase or decrease in self esteem? It's simple, representation. Children are affected when their race or gender are not represented or represented negatively in popular culture, whether it's television series, movies, comic books, or literature. Historically, young white boys have had greater access to positive media representation. This type of exposure helps young white boys believe that anything is possible, and that they can attain, achieve, and even be heroes. If popular culture reinforces gender and racial stereotypes, then exposure to media can impact how children of color, girls, gender nonconforming youth, or children with disabilities evaluate themselves or see their place in the world.
Robert Griffin, a man who has given himself the title Your Friendly Neighborhood Nerd, is an ardent advocate for diversity and inclusion within the arts and media, with a specific focus on nerd and geek culture. Griffin, who is also known to many as the Bobbo, is passionate about seeing more people of color (POC) and females working as illustrators, writers, and editors of comic books and animated series, as well as owning and operating comic book and hobby shops. He uses outlets such as his blog and podcasts, Geek Street Radio and Bobbo's Block, to spread his message.
On Friday I received a phone call from an emerging artist who had questions about how to approach showing her work. I regularly receive inquiries such as this in my role as Community and Collaboration Manager at the Cultural Council. This call was somewhat unique for modern times, however, because the caller didn't have a website, social media presence, or an email address. In fact, she didn't even have a computer. Because of that, I scheduled an in-person meeting and asked that she bring some of her work with her.
The woman's name is Marcie Wallace. She began drawing in 2013. In her words, she started doing it because it made her feel better. Ms. Wallace sits down at her table every morning and faces a blank page. She looks at that page until God tells her what to draw. Once she receives divine inspiration she puts color pencil to paper and begins.
Ms. Wallace is an outsider artist. Her approach to exposure is as non-traditional as her artwork itself. Twice a week Ms. Wallace staples her drawings to her jacket and walks around downtown Jacksonville exhibiting her work. She said people often stop and ask her for pictures, but she has never once mentioned that her work was for sale.
CoRK Arts District hosts an annual event called Open Studios Tour. Through this event, the general public is invited inside the private studios of some of the region's most talented artists. This year approximately 80 artists participated in the event. Strategically scheduled before the holiday season, it's one of my favorite events to attend.
Nicole Holderbaum is a Jacksonville based muralist. In 2016 she received at SPARK grant from the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville to fund the Jax Kid's Mural Festival. Through this participatory initiative, Holderbaum would outline large murals on panels and then invite Jacksonville's youth to paint the images as a community.
Later that same year Holderbaum received a PNC Arts Alive Grant to develop the initiative further. The result was the Jax Kids Mural Project. Building upon the principles of the original initiative, Holderbaum implemented the project inside schools within Duval County. Students work together to create and paint murals that add color to the interior and exterior walls of schools in vulnerable neighborhoods.
On Saturday, November 18, Holderbaum organized Color Me Kona: The World's Largest Coloring Book Party. The event served as a fundraiser for Jax Kids Mural Project and was held at Kona Skatepark, the world's oldest operating skatepark. Color Me Kona filled me with such a sense of pride in my community. The turnout was incredible and there were absolutely no barriers preventing anyone from participating and having fun. I applaud Holderbaum and her team of event organizers and volunteers. I consider this event to be one of the most successful initiatives I've attended since living in Jacksonville.
Musician Sarah Sanders performs under the pseudonym Mama Blue. A Jacksonville native who grew up on the city's eastside, she has performed extensively at venues and events in Northeast Florida since 2011. Through these performances, she has blossomed to become a staple in the regions music scene. It's not just Jacksonville residents that notice Mama Blue's talent. She performs in cities throughout the United States, bringing Jacksonville's rich history of blues, jazz, and soul to audiences across the nation.
In October, Mama Blue performed her way to being named the winner of the 2017 First Coast Blues Society's Regional Blues Challenge. Subsequently, she was invited to perform at the 34th Annual International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, TN. This event brings together performers, industry representatives, and fans from all over the world to celebrate the blues. The IBC is a worldwide search for blues acts that are ready to heed the call and perform at an international level.
Digital artist Troy Eittreim invited me for a private walkthrough of his exhibit currently on display at Florida State College at Jacksonville's downtown campus. The exhibit opened on October 30 and runs through December 8. I'll be writing a full review of the show for Folio Weekly.
November's Every Single Artist Lounge was held last night at WJCT Studios in collaboration with Phase Eight Theatre Company. This is a monthly networking event I organize for artists, arts professionals, arts organizers, and art appreciators. It is held on the second Tuesday of every month. Our average attendance is 40-60 individuals, with the group growing in size every month.
We are being bombarded through public platforms with rhetoric that is aimed at dividing and categorizing us based on our differences. It is being projected in both the United States and the world at large as imperious alienation and disparaging rants are somehow marketed and sold as nonconformist truth-telling. Such vile hyperbole is not only close minded, it's dangerous. It promotes xenophobia and strips the world of its humanity.
One of the issues that is repeatedly being discussed is immigration. Those who debate this topic oftentimes speak in statistics and exaggerated generalizations, overlooking the simple fact that immigrants are actual living, breathing human beings. When our fellow person leaves one area and migrates to another it is done in search of a better standard of life for themselves and their loved ones. Let us not forget the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, taken from Emma Lazarus' sonnet New Colossus, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."
Overstreet Ducasse, known to many as Street, migrated to the United States at the age of six. His father, a construction worker, was the first of his family to escape turbulence in Haiti, migrating to the U.S. in a refugee raft. His mother soon followed and the two settled in Miami before sending for their children. After arriving in America, a young Street attended a predominantly Hispanic and black inner-city public school where he was enrolled in an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. As a student, Street wasn't necessarily fond of school, but as an adult he credits the teachers who contributed to his education and helped shape him as an artist, such as his junior high drafting teaching, Mrs. Alexander, who taught him grid work and how mathematics are used to create perspective.
Saturday, November 4 was a day of art and culture in Jacksonville, Florida. There was an event to attend in practically every area of the city, whether it was an opening reception for a visual art exhibition, a mural expo in progress, a neighborhood block party featuring live music and art vendors, home tours of mid-century modern architecture, or plays and musicals performed by community theatres.