In the time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, millions of artists around the world have found a way to reach people virtually. Especially during a pandemic that prevents us from exploring art physically, we need creative inspiration more than ever to distract our minds from stress. Since we can not attend art walks in person, many galleries opened their doors virtually. GNV URBAN ART continues to introduce Florida Top 10 Urban Art Destinations (following all the distancing rules) through our online tour supported by a grant from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.
You can read about our first tour to St. Petersburg and attend a Virtual Art Walk on Saturday, April 11. We also covered Miami Art week in two parts: outdoor and indoor. Probably inspired by the Wynwood bustle and being so close to the #1 street art city in Florida, Fort Lauderdale has completed numerous public art programs, both private and commissioned by the government.
Public Art in Fort Lauderdale
The Public Art and Design of Broward Cultural Division was launched in 1976 and completed over 260 public artworks located throughout Broward County as a museum without walls. Browse their collections listed below:
Among them Port Everglades that have established a reputation as a modern, guest-friendly facility with a dynamic public art display. In addition to more than 25 original paintings and prints, an art collection in and around the cruise ship terminals includes murals by regional artists. The most recent painting, “Avian Odyssey”, is by Miami based Ernesto Maranje who depicted a hummingbird and ibis, both native Florida birds. These birds symbolize the Port’s connection to nature. They can be seen by cruise passengers, boaters and anyone else visiting Port Everglades. Check out Port Everglades’s video documentary detailing the mural’s journey.
Another Miami artist, Jen Stark, created an outdoor mural at the NSU Art Museum, commissioned by the museum and generous gift of Tina and Carlo Bilotti, by exchange. Jen Stark’s artwork mimics intricate patterns and colors found in nature while exploring ideas of replication and infinity. Although Stark is most recognized for her paper sculptures, she has explored a variety of media including traditional murals.
One block aaway, underpass at Riverwalk Garage Downtown Ft. Lauderdale you can see a Florida Panthers themed mural. In just 4 days, Carrie Bennett scaled this 20 x 34 foot wall on this busy street to help market Broward County’s amazing hockey team.
“The Florida Panthers commissioned me to create this mural downtown Ft. Lauderdale in conjunction with Riverwalk Inc to further their marketing through public art initiative. This project was an exciting piece for me to be apart of, and allowed me to brighten this spot of downtown Fort Lauderdale, among all the downtown rejuvenation taking place in this area! I worked with the Panthers Design & Marketing team to create a design with striking panther imagery and bold color to bring a strong presence to the space. I enjoyed the challenge, especially swaying 20 feet in the air over oncoming traffic atop my scissor lift! The community response was very positive, and we followed this mural with another similar mural inside the BB&T Center where the Panthers play.” – Carrie Bennett.
Carrie Bennett is an artist, art director & educator from Lighthouse Point, Florida. She is a painter, chalk muralist, & arts editor for both Lighthouse Point & Pompano Magazine. Bennett directs art workshops, chalk festivals & public art collaborations in her local community while teaching art full time to k-8 students.
Going to the Flagler Uptown, you can find a neighborhood where almost every building has a painting or two. We got a chance to speak with wonderful Clare Vickery, Founder and Director of Grace Arts Center, Inc who is responsible for the colorful transformation.
Interview with Clare Vickery of Grace Arts Center
Since 2011, the center’s programs evolved out of community outreach. The gallery business was started by Vickery in 2005. Visual artists, musicians, actors, dancers and writers/filmmakers/poets exhibited or performed their works in the gallery. Since 2014, Grace Arts FL (social media handle) programming occurs in many venues in collaboration with different cultural arts organizations in South Florida.
What is the mural project and who is involved?
The mural project began as an initiative that also included private foundations (like PNC’s Grow up Great program to fund the murals in Hallandale Beach at the language training academy), private companies (like Glavovic Studios, MAC Fine Art and various breweries and restaurant owners who paid to install murals on their buildings) and individual donations (residents who wanted to meet the artists and see more ‘street art festival’ like events). Grace Arts is also focusing on urban design engagements with street art to create more vibrant gathering spaces and facilitate economic development in urban neighborhoods. COAT was the name of the mural initiative beginning in 2017 and it has morphed into other projects like the ‘Street Art Regatta’ to merge marine and mural enthusiasts and interests and bring attention to efforts to preserve Florida’s fresh and sea waters.
What are the goal and mission of the project?
The goal of ‘COAT’ was to join various artistic innovators and creative businesses to co-curate a number of murals in one block or several blocks such that the entire area could become a ‘public gallery’ or ‘museum’ for browsing by the public as they also visited the businesses. The Miami Hispanic Cultural Arts Center in historic Spring Garden neighborhood has evolved into a push for an “Avenue of Hispanic Arts” along the Miami River front in an effort to continue to preserve the vernacular architecture of this very old neighborhood which has pressures to develop. A major bridge is being overhauled and a park area under it could be curated with Latino-American art. Vickery worked with the late Pedro Pablo Pena to do several murals in the parking lot of the historic ‘White House of Ballet’ aka ‘The Warner House’ and hopes to work with the current Executive Director, Eriberto Jimenez, to create a wonderland around the building, down the abutting street to the bridge park. Efforts like these are planned once a year in various other South Florida cities.
How many murals were produced in total?
Ten murals 2017, three in 2018, four in 2019, and we hope to do 3-4 in final quarter with the Street Art Regatta
What is your favorite part about the project, what do you personally enjoy the most?
First of all the artists, of course, are so fun to watch as they figure out how to create an image on a wall that meets the needs of the client – the property owner – that is not ‘commercial’ but a true piece of public art. That’s where I work with the various ideas and create an aesthetic that is authentic and cannot be construed to be a ‘sign’ but a piece of art meant to beautify the area and create a sense of place. Second, I love to watch the creative process of installing the colors and sometimes we find out that something isn’t working quite right and have to change midstream and the outcome is always better than what we started with! Third, I love the way people slow down their movements to look at the art and especially when there are a number of images, how children, in particular, react to ‘wondrous’ color and lyrical imagery. Fourth, I like to see the neighborhood literally ‘come alive’ with improvements to properties and how different property owners and tenants come out and interact with the images and begin to sponsor events to support the local businesses and artists as a result of the mural installations – the public gallery created in their midst.
How do you select artists?
I do research and of course, I have ‘favorites’ which to me blend a bit of architecture and art in their work – as well as poetry. I am always looking to blend a local with international talent. What are the criteria? I’m careful to work with property owners who will respect the artists and artistic process. I like to work with Artists that are kind, authentic, bold yet elegant in the way their images tell stories and respectful to the local vernacular architecture and history.
What is the plan for the upcoming years?
Well, 2020 is one for the history books indeed! We think the Street Art Regatta will really lift the spirits of people should we be able to get that done given the gathering and other travel restrictions – and we are working on a projection mapping project with the regatta to further engage the community and the use of technology. Perhaps as well a large bridge lighting project integrating elements of street art storytelling with 3-d projections and original live theater elements to the delight again of residents and visitors to Fort Lauderdale and South Florida. We are also looking to reopen a gallery and studio space with two other long-established design and fabrication businesses in 2021. We welcome collaborators!
Thank you, Clare, for sharing your story with us. We wish you more successful projects in the following years and many great collaborators!