Maintaining A Connection To Your Environment - 10 Questions with Mixed Media Visual Artist Crystal Floyd
Visual artist Crystal Floyd uses found and re-purposed objects to assemble mixed-media curiosity cabinets and three-dimensional installations. Floyd approaches her work in a manner that is similar to an anthropologist. She exhibits an inquisitiveness for the natural world and how we as humans interact with it. Her creative process incorporates elements of art, history, and science, with research, collecting, and cataloging playing integral roles in the development of a piece. Floyd's curios, dioramas, and displays allow viewers to examine and mull over individual components found within the work, while the pieces themselves represent a larger narrative.
As an artist, Floyd has the ability to create scenes within her work that are completely familiar yet entirely foreign at the same time. Vintage images and items, succulents, insects, and objects found on the shorelines are elements that are present throughout her work. These materials create feelings of wonderment, nostalgia, and impermanence.
Floyd's connection to the natural world extends beyond her work as an artist. She is currently working to launch a new business venture, Lazy Jay's Tour Company. Through this endeavor, Floyd will share with others the places and activities that she believes make this region uniquely special. Tour packages will vary based on an individual's interests and abilities, but patrons can expect to visit natural springs, lesser known beaches, and both the state and national parks that are sprinkled throughout Northeast Florida.
Lily Yeh was born in southwestern China in the province of Guizhou, one of China's most diverse territories. The region is relatively undeveloped economically, but rich in natural and cultural resources. Yeh, who was raised in Taiwan and moved to the United States in the early 1960s, has dedicated more than 30 years of her life to urban alchemy. Her lifework is to use art as a vehicle and promote imagination and collaboration as tools to transform decay into vitality; and trauma and despair into hope and joy. Alongside members of the neighborhoods and villages in which she works, Yeh implements projects that foster community empowerment, improve the physical environment, promote economic development, and preserve indigenous art and culture.
Yeh studied classical Chinese painting during her formative years growing up in Taiwan. She received her Bachelor of the Arts (BA) degree from National Taiwan University in 1963. Later that same year, Yeh migrated to the United States to attend the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated from the private Ivy League university with her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in 1966.
Yeh worked as a studio artist and in academia after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. She served as an Instructor of Art History at West Chester University for two years before pivoting to an Assistant Professor role, and eventually one of a tenured Professor, at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Yeh didn't embark upon her first public art project until 1986, during which she founded The Village of Arts and Humanities, an organization rooted in artist-facilitated community building.
In 2002, Yeh founded Barefoot Artists, a non-profit organization that aims to train and empower local residents, organize communities, and take action for a more compassionate, just, and sustainable future. The organization, which is made up of a network of volunteers, travels to international destinations and uses art to advance initiatives focused on imporving health, education, and economic development. The name is derivative of the barefoot doctor system, set up by Mao Zedong in 1960s China, which gave farmers basic medical training to bring health care into rural areas.
There are certain words in the english language that have a clearly identifiable definition and form. For instance, if you were asked to draw a chair, regardless of your artistic abilities, there is a high probability that the image rendered would be of a piece of furniture used for sitting, most likely with four legs and back support. Other words, which either have more complex definitions or are open to broader interpretations, would result in a wide range of different images. Cool is one such word.
What does it mean to be cool? The word itself is abstract in nature and how it is defined is subjective to a person's perception and lived experiences. As a personal attribute, coolness is an amalgamation of how one looks, how one thinks, and how one behaves. When we think of coolness embodied, we often think of individuals who maintain their poise and composure, even when faced with overwhelming circumstances that are outside of their control. All of this combined leads me to conclude one thing, Princess Simpson Rashid is cool.
My introduction to Rashid occurred shortly after I began working at the Cultural Council. In August 2016, Rashid was one of several visual artists who participated in a story telling event, facilitated by Barbara Colaciello, at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. The event was in connection to "Lift: Contemporary Expressions of the African American Experience." Rashid, clad in a leather jacket in the style of James Dean, Marlin Brando, or Arthur Fonzarelli, was joined on stage by fellow artists Thony Aiuppy, Ingrid Damiani, and Roosevelt Watson, all of whom took turns telling personal stories - stories that touched on exposure to the arts at an early age, how they embarked on their careers in the arts, and triumphs and tragedies they have experienced along the way. Rashid, an abstract painter and printmaker, spoke with a cadence that gave the illusion that her rhythm is set by an internal, well tuned metronome
10 Questions with Dr. Tru Leverette, Associate Professor of English and Director of African American Studies at UNF
Dr. Tru Leverette is a shining example of what an educator can, and should, be. She is passionate about her role as an educator, and you realize this within a few moments of being in her presence. Access to knowledge transforms an individual, and Dr. Leverette believes that it is not her responsibility to tell her students what to think, but rather, it is her responsibility to equip them with the tools that will enable them to think for themselves.
Dr. Leverette is an Associate Professor of English and the Director of African-American/African Diaspora Studies at University of North Florida's (UNF) College of Arts and Sciences. She has authored a number of articles and essays, including "On Being Brown," which was published in "Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out." Dr. Leverette is currently working on an edited collection titled "Against the Grain: Iconoclasts of the Black Arts Movement", which is under review at the University of Georgia Press.
On Thursday, July 13, Dr. Leverette was part of a panel discussion hosted by the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) in connection with the Ritz Theatre and Museum. The event was in support of the traveling exhibit "Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of First," which is on display at the Ritz until Monday, July 31. In addition to Dr. Leverette, the panel, which was moderated by Shawana Brooks, included visual artist Roosevelt Watson III and visual artist/arts professional Hope McMath. The theme of the panel was art as a means of self expression and identity, with a focus on the particular impact art has had on African American communities and the civil rights discourse.
Knopf & Sons Bindery has operated in Springfield for over 50 years. You'll find the unassuming shop off Florida Avenue - surrounded by a mix of commercial buildings and modest homes. When the wind is just right, the smell of bread and croutons wafts across the street from Duval Baked Goods. You wouldn't know it by driving by, but inside the walls of Knopf & Sons, employees, many of whom are either family members or come from the adjacent neighborhood, are printing materials for some of the biggest names in the global marketplace.
Knopf & Sons started as trade book binder, meaning a different business printed the books and they then assembled the pages and covers. Their clients consist of globally recognized brands, such as National Geographic and Rolls-Royce. As the marketplace changed the company saw a need to change with it. Their business model evolved into a full-service publisher, which led to the development of a new brand, OnLine Binding.
Still operating out of the same building, OnLine Binding is a full-service company, offering independent publishing, layout, digital printing, binding, and distribution. They even operate an online bookstore. The target audience for OnLine Binding is different than Knopf & Sons because instead of Business to Business, OnLine Binding markets their services to individuals interested in self-publishing their works.
The services of Knopf & Sons and OnLine Binding are not reserved for writers alone. Visual artists in Jacksonville, such as Kue King and Daniel Newman (in collaboration with Aaron Levi Garvey of Long Road Projects), have used OnLine Binding to create tangible portfolios and beautifully constructed artist books. Their services can also benefit arts organizations, non-profit organizations, and Jacksonville's small businesses because, in addition to books, the company also prints marketing materials such as door hangers and calendars.
Cheyenne Williams is the Marketing Manager at OnLine Binding. She is also the granddaughter of the founder of Knopf & Sons. In addition to her work as a service provider within the industry, Williams is also the President of the Florida Writers Association, an organization she has been involved with since 2010.
The June 28-July 4 issue of Folio Weekly Magazine features a cover story that focuses on Mal Jones, a hip hop MC, events coordinator, mentor, and arts ambassador. Jones hosts the The Lyricist Live, a monthly open mic cypher, which started in 2011, set in the streets of downtown Jacksonville during Art Walk. During the event, MCs step out of the crowd and up to the microphone to showcase their lyrical skills. The environment is supportive and aspiring rappers are given the opportunity to artistically express themselves and hone their craft.
Jones created The Lyricist Live as a way to pay tribute to the forefathers of hip hop, a musical genre with roots that trace back to the 1970s and the Bronx, New York. It is no wonder that this genre resonates with Jones, because he himself was born in the Bronx in the mid 70s. Jones has helped develop Jacksonville's hip hop scene, making him a centerpiece within that community.
The Lyricist Live has a zero tolerance policy for cussing and fighting. Jones, who isn't shy about promoting the importance of a well rounded vocabulary and exposure to the arts, has served as a mentor to Jacksonville's youth and emerging MCs. One MC that felt the effects of The Lyricist Live and was influenced by Jones is Flash the Samurai.
Kandice Clark was born and raised in Jacksonville. In her adult life, Clark has worked as an employee in the corporate world, holding jobs in the beauty industry and with financial institutions. Clark found that a certain part of her was left feeling unfulfilled no matter how well she performed in those settings. This led Clark to reflect on her path and contemplate what professional endeavors would support her pursuit of self actualization.
Clark, who is married to visual artist Christopher Clark, is crafting a life that is creative, eclectic, and vibrant. It is Clark's objective to have the benefits of her efforts extend beyond herself. She is working to grow a community and better connect creatives of all disciplines in this massive geographic city she calls home. Clark, who operates under the name Zenslayfu, a persona given to her by a friend, is immediately focused on Jacksonville's emerging artists and how she as an individual can serve this growing community by providing direction and opportunities for development and exposure.
The fruit of Clark's effort will be visible to the public on Saturday, July 8 in the form of a collective art exhibit titled "Black Opal." Clark served as curator of the show, which will be hosted by The 5 & Dime in downtown Jacksonville. "Black Opal" features the work by several previous 10 questions interviewees, including Jasmine Dukes and Christa Fatoumata Sylla.
Clark is also a newly appointed co-host of the Cultural Council's Every Single Artist Lounge. You are invited to join Clark, along with her fellow co-hosts Mal Jones and Toni Smailagic on the second Tuesday of every month to participate in an informal networking event. The meetup is open to artists, creatives, and arts professionals of all disciplines and career levels. July's lounge, which is scheduled for Tuesday, July 11, will be held at BABS' LABS in CoRK Arts District.
Deborah Reid is a visual artist, private attorney, and lecturer. Artists' rights is a common theme present throughout Reid's work. Reid has practiced law for over 36 years and is focusing her attention on providing legal services to artists. Reid is able to provide an array of customized legal services for artists and members of the creative community, including:
Reid is passionate about her work. She is the creator and presenter of "Law: Artfully Explained Seminars." Within this series, Reid presents lectures titled "Copyright or Wrong?," "That's (not) Fair," "Contracts for Creatives," and "Art Speaks!." Through these seminars, Reid translates legal concepts into images and common terms to educate artists on areas of the law that most directly impact their practices.
In 1899, Jacksonville's James Weldon Johnson wrote the poem "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing." Johnson's brother, John Rosamond, then composed original music to accompany the poem. On February 12, 1900, a choir of 500 schoolchildren at the segregated Stanton School, where JWJ was Principal, sung "Lift Ev'Ry Voice and Sing" as part of a celebration of Lincoln's birthday. Eventually, "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" was adopted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as its official song.
Change the time and location to the 1920's and New York City. Harlem, a predominantly African American neighborhood in the northern section of the Manhattan borough, is experiencing a literary, artistic, and intellectual movement. A new black cultural identity was cultivated as African Americans exercised their birth-given right to expression and self-actualization. At the center of this movement are poets, playwrights, and authors such as Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston, to name a few. As part of an older generation of artists, James Weldon Johnson, who by this time relocated to Harlem with his wife, continues his role as an educator, this time serving as a mentor to emerging and mid-career writers.
By 1929, the movement made its way to Jacksonville's LaVilla, one of Florida's first black urban neighborhoods. Ashley Street, which was commonly referred to as the "Great Black Way," was lined with entertainment establishments. These nightclubs and theaters played host to iconic jazz and blues musicians such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holliday. In 1946, a 15 year-old Ray Charles, prior to his stardom, moved to LaVilla to stay with family friends after the death of his mother. For over a year, Charles, only a teenager at the time, performed at the Ritz Theatre as a pianist. This cultural activity led to LaVilla being nicknamed the "Harlem of the South."
In 1947 the City proposed the development of the Jacksonville Expressway. The 18-mile path of concrete and asphalt cut directly through LaVilla. The placement of the Expressway was intentional, serving to avoid areas deemed most valuable and to eliminate "blighted" neighborhoods and act as a barrier to stop the spread of "blight." By the 1960s, families who resided in LaVilla were displaced as their homes were demolished by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to expand the Expressway. This displacement and demolition continued through the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Through it all, one thing could not be deconstructed or displaced - the intrinsic human desire for self-expression. Though the buildings no longer remain, LaVilla's cultural contributions run deep in Jacksonville's identity as a city. The words and music created by the Johnson brothers rippled through time and continue to be celebrated to this day.
There is a new generation of artists who are now carrying on the torch that was lit by the the Johnson brothers 100+ years ago. These artists are leveraging their artistic crafts to preserve Jacksonville's history and culture while paying homage to those who came before them. Akia Uwanda is one such artist.
Jasmine Dukes may not be a name you recognize yet, but the person behind the name is someone whom you should familiarize yourself with sooner rather than later. Dukes is an emerging visual artist who calls Jacksonville home. After graduating high school Dukes enrolled at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2016, graduating Magna Cum Laud. Dukes will leave Jacksonville for Tallahassee in the fall of 2017 to start classes at Florida State University (FSU), where she will pursue her Master's degree in Art Therapy.
Dukes's work examines one of the oldest discussions in the history of psychology, the relationship between nature and nurture and how that relationship contributes to the formation of self identity. Through the artistic process, Dukes conducts self audits of who she was, who she currently is, and who she is becoming and her work serves as a surreal representation of self evolution over time. Dukes's connection to Mother Nature is a prevalent theme carried throughout her body of work and is depicted through the use of saturated colors and stylized portrayals of plant and animal life.
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