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.
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.
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.
Unconditional love can only blossom as a result of being honest with ourselves about the subject for which we harbor our emotions and feelings. Romanticized ideas cannot be sustained or developed to unconditional levels if we are not willing to fully accept a person, place, or thing for everything that it/they are while also being acutely aware of everything that it/they are not. We have to chisel away any facade that prevents us from seeing a person, place, or thing for who/what they/it truly are, blemishes and all.
Writer Tim Gilmore has a deep connection with Jacksonville, both past and present. The deeper Gilmore delves into the complexities of Jacksonville's history and identity, the stronger his voice becomes as he advocates for the city he calls home. But, as much as Gilmore advocates for Jacksonville, he is also critical of its improvable shortcomings and vocal about topics and events that sometimes make others uncomfortable. As a purveyor of history, Gilmore refuses to tuck away the darker side of Jacksonville's history into crevices where they can never be discussed or analyzed further.
Lily Kuonen is a visual artist who works in between painting, drawing, installation, and constructed elements. She has shown her work in solo and group exhibitions on three continents, in four countries, and in 18 different U.S. states. In less than 15 years of actively showing her work, Kuonen has participated in 85+ exhibitions. This figure is even more remarkable when you take into consideration the fact that for nearly seven of those years Kuonen was an honor student pursuing an undergraduate degree from the University of Central Arkansas followed by a graduate degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design. And, since 2011, she has worked full-time at Jacksonville University, where she is now Associate Professor of Art and Foundations Coordinator.
As an artist, Kuonen casts tradition aside. She continuously examines and redefines the mediums and processes through which she creates. In 2009, Kuonen coined the term PLAYNTING (play + painting) to characterize her studio practice, which involves integrating painting with additional forms, materials, surfaces, and actions. Kuonen has worked with a number of non-normative materials, including saw dust, ratchet straps, peg board, and cinder blocks. Her fascination with a material typically continues even after a series is complete. It isn't uncommon for materials from one series to be repurposed for a future series.
Being Invested in the Success of Others - 10 Questions with Writer Laura Chow Reeve, Recipient of the 2017 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers
"Butterfly in the sky. I can go twice as high..." If you're of a certain age group, the chances are high that you're already singing the lines that follow those words - as well as affectionately reminiscing about the television series for which those words served as the opening line to the theme song. That show was PBS's "Reading Rainbow," hosted by LeVar Burton.
From 1983 until 2006, "Reading Rainbow" served as an educational and entertaining production that encouraged children to read. The show provided elementary level discussions around themes, and book recommendations were made by children who participated in the program. Imagine how you would feel if you were one of the countless children turned on to books and reading through the series and years later you heard LeVar Burton reading YOUR work on a publicly published platform. That's the story of writer Laura Chow Reeve.
We do not have the fortune of choosing every situation that life bestows upon us. Because of that, at various points in our lives we find ourselves facing personal tribulations, seemingly unsurpassable obstacles, and overwhelming adversity. Though we may not be able to control what situations life presents us, we do have the ability to choose how we respond to these circumstances.
Struggles and challenges not only test our character but can also build our character. What we overcome, and who we grow to become as a result of what we endured, can be crafted into a narrative that serves to both differentiate us from and connect us to others. Such is the case for guitarist and singer-songwriter Raul Midón.
Midón and his twin brother were born prematurely in a rural hospital in New Mexico. As a result of their early arrival, the two newborns were placed inside an incubator. Doctors neglected to provide the twins with the necessary eye protection, which led to the brothers losing their eyesight.
It's a little after 8:00 PM on Wednesday, October 5th. It is the first Wednesday of the month, which means Art Walk in downtown Jacksonville. The Coniferous Cafe on West Monroe Street is hosting an event to support the launch of "Nick Name," a local zine. It's drizzling rain outside but inside it's dry and a group of supportive twenty and thirty-somethings are gathered to warmly support the evening's programming.
Part of that programming includes a stripped-down performance by Rania Woodard. A shy and gentle smile is on the face of the 23 year old singer/songwriter as she stands in front of the crowd, most of whom smile back at her affectionally. The crowd of people are not strangers to Woodard's work. They patiently await for her to begin her set and when she does they sway and sing along to her words and melodies.
Woodard plucks the opening notes of "Still," a song she released last year under the moniker LANNDS. Since its release, the song has received a considerable amount of attention in the indie-electronic scene. Woodard's guitar is tuned and her amp is dialed in so that the notes she plays are both haunting and soothing - think the opening notes of Jeff Buckley's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."
Putting the Emphasis on Process - 10 Questions with Visual Artist and Arts Integration Specialist Natalie Hyder
Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) has made a pledge to revitalize education through use of the arts. In an effort to support this goal, DCPS created the position of Arts Integration Specialist and hired artist and arts educator Natalie Hyder to serve in the role. Going into the 2017-2018 academic year, four schools in Duval County were designated as arts integration schools. Those schools include Hyde Park Elementary School, Hyde Grove Early Learning Center, John Love Early Learning Center, and Brentwood Elementary School. Within these schools, it is the mission of DCPS to facilitate a cultural shift, improve teaching and learning, and ensure the success of every student enrolled.
Hyder received her undergraduate degree in studio art and art history from Florida State University in 2008. In 2016 she completed graduate school at the University of Florida, where she studied art education. Hyder served in the classroom as an arts educator for eight years until she moved with her husband from Tallahassee to Jacksonville in the summer of 2017.
Upon arriving in Jacksonville, Hyder became involved with Lift Every Student, an arts integration initiative being led by Any Given Child Jacksonville (AGC), the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville (CCGJ), and DCPS. Through this collaborative program, four artists will instruct students in art integration projects while co-teaching with DCPS teachers. Many artists applied for this paid opportunity and ten artists were selected to go through arts integration training provided by The Kennedy Center. During the two-day training session, artists developed residency plans that could be implemented within the classroom to meet curriculum standards.
With a population of nearly 900,000 residents, it should come as no surprise that there are many different opinions on the type of city that Jacksonville, Florida should aim to be. Among the sea of opinions, however, one voice recently proclaimed thoughtful and forward thinking sentiments. That voice belongs to City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche. During her Installation Ceremony, which was held on June 29, 2017, Council President Brosche stated in simple yet bold terms that she aims for Jacksonville to be "the best city in the world for a child to grow up in."
Now the question comes, what metrics do you employ when quantifying or qualifying how well a city serves its youth population? Sherrod Brown, Co-Founder and Director of The Posh Factory Performing Arts Center, believes without question that one such indispensable metric is a child's access to and instruction in the arts. The Posh Factory offers dance training and education in the style of ballet, jazz, modern, and hip-hop, as well as vocal and musical theatre training. The organization does not believe in turning away any child that has a passion for music, dance, or acting. Brown and his co-founding partner, Rashon Horne, raise funds to support children of low and no income families through tuition scholarships.
Brown's career as a performer has taken him around the world. Notably, he has performed with Mariah Carey, Miley Cyrus, and Debbie Allen; and he has appeared on BET, ABC, and the Disney Channel. No matter where or with whom Brown performed, how his skills and passion could be applied in his hometown of Jacksonville to positively impact the community remained on his mind. It was out of this desire to serve that the Posh Factory was established.