I Want To Live In A Way That My Love Speaks Louder Than My Hurts - 10 Questions with Polymath Al Letson
In the spring of 2007, on the soundstage at Austin City Limits, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) launched an initiative titled Public Radio Talent Quest. The objective of the initiative was to identify a new generation of public radio "on-air" talent. The talent quest was designed as a competition between Public Radio Exchange (PRX) and Launch, with each entity responsible for recruiting three original and compelling voices and then working to develop pilot programs for presentation to CPB. Jacksonville Native Al Letson was one of approximately 1,400 hopeful contestants to enter the competition.
In July 2008, Letson and Glynn Washington were named as the winners of the competition. Letson, who had cut his teeth as a poetry-slam veteran, writer, and educator in Northeast Florida, received $200,000 to refine and further develop his pilot program, State of the Re: Union (SotRU), an hour-long program whose stated mission was to "show listeners how we are more alike than we are different and the many ways our differences are celebrated."
In 2014, State of the Re:Union and WJCT were honored with a Peabody Award, an annual award that was first given out in 1941 as a way of honoring the most powerful, enlightening, and invigorating stories in television, radio, and online media. SotRU was recognized for its grassroots reporting while also holding itself to high standards of quality and value.
I've been working to develop an annual general fund giving campaign for the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. Visual artist R.Land, who is originally from Jacksonville, created a 2018 design in connection with the campaign. We commissioned fine art screen printer George Cornwell to create 100 limited edition signed and numbered 16"x20" prints of the design.
This afternoon I stopped by George's studio at CoRK Arts District to shoot some footage of George at work. There are eight colors in the print, which means eight different screens and 800 swipes of the squeegee.
Early Education is a Responsibility Shared Equally Between Teachers and Parents - 10 Questions with Lucy Chen, Pianist and Chair of the Music Department at Edward Waters College
Dr. Lucy Chen migrated from China to North America with her parents when she was seven years old and her family settled in Canada. Chen had a natural love for music as a child and she was drawn to classical, pop, and jazz. It was out of this love of music that a young Chen began taking piano lessons at the encouragement of her mother.
Chen's parents took her schooling very seriously. They viewed music as an important academic subject and because of that, her musical pursuits were not that of a hobbyist. During her adolescent years, Chen spent four-hours each day practicing. She dreaded the long hours of practice but remained dedicated to her development as a musician. It wasn't long before Chen's music teacher asked her to take part in piano competitions. Having access to the arts at an early age set the trajectory for Chen's adult life.
Recently, I was interviewed by Sarah Clarke Stuart for Jack Magazine. The article was about why individuals should invest in the arts. Here is an excerpt:
"But why should we invest in the arts in the first place? According to Fisher, if we want to thrive, not only as a community but within the larger culture, history tells us that art is key. “If we think of any point in time in which society has had massive advancements, when you come down to it, the arts have always been at the forefront. What allowed the Renaissance to happen was a system of patrons and artists. Art was funded by the top echelon of society. They knew it would advance society at a whole. There is intrinsic value in investing in the arts that cannot be denied.” When you have a strong and vibrant arts scene, you have a strong city. “It’s not so much a charity as a way to move the city’s economy forward,” he says. But it goes beyond the benefits of the economy; it’s an investment in community building, education and inventive thinking."
The entire article can be read HERE.
This evening I attended an exhibition featuring the works of three senior students within UNF's Ceramics Guild; Tracy Tanner, Josh Scott, and Devin O'Connor. The show was held at Space 42. All three ceramists created their works using traditional wood fire kilns.
Wolf & Cub is a boutique located in the heart of downtown Jacksonville. They offer a curated selection of independently produced products, interesting goods for the home, and men's and women's apparel. Last night they hosted For the Love of Munny, a Kidrobot vinyl toy exhibit and holiday toy drive. 24 artists from the region participated in the show, altering and painting the vinyl toys to reflect their artistic ascetics.
I added a new piece to my collection as a result of the exhibit. I purchased a piece by Mark Creegan, a visual artist and arts educator who teaches at Florida State College at Jacksonville.
This Friday, the Space Gallery hosted 5 & Under, a show exhibiting over 400 pieces from artists of our region, all priced under $500. The show really hit a sweet spot for Jacksonville's art market. As a result of that, it seemed like a LOT of pieces sold during the opening reception.
Below are two of my favorite pieces from the exhibit.
There is an age-old adage used to warn the young about the dangers of being overly inquisitive or experimental. The earliest known printed reference to the saying appeared in 1873, in James Allan Mair's A Handbook of Proverbs: English, Scottish, Irish, American, Shakespearean, and Scriptural; and Family Mottoes. It was listed as an Irish proverb and believed to have developed from words written by British playwright Ben Jonson in 1598. That saying is, "curiosity killed the cat."
Keith Marks doesn't believe that curiosity is a dirty word. In fact, he believes that it is a character trait that should be both celebrated and nurtured. This is what led him to co-found Avant Arts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that explores the arts outside of genre and expectation in an attempt to create a more adventurous community of art appreciators. Fostering curiosity and rewarding it when found is woven into the culture of Avant Arts and serves as a guiding principle for Marks and his co-founding partners.
Marks and audio engineer Moe Ricks recently launched Avant Radio, with the tagline "Curious Music for Curious Minds." The weekly radio program is featured on the airwaves of WJCT 89.9 FM and airs on Thursday nights at 11:00 PM. Shows are themed, curated, sequenced, and then contextualized with the aim of educating and exposing people to new music, cultures, and ways of thinking as it relates to musical tastes. Recaps of the program and selected playlists can be found on Avant's blog.