“During my 30 years at Americans for the Arts, I have had the great privilege to visit and learn about a different community nearly every week. While they differ vastly from one another, there is one common strength I have observed: the arts have made a profound impact on the health of each community.”
Robert L. Lynch, President, Americans for the Arts
What started in the Fall of 2013 as a monthly happy hour that took place "Every Single Second Thursday", Every Single Artist Lounge (ESAL) began as the brainchild of Mason Martin, current Project Manager for the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville (CCGJ). With the mission of building community amongst the artists in the Jacksonville area, the Cultural Council extended an invitation to "every single artist in our area, so that we may alert you to opportunities". Interested parties would meet at The Volstead in Downtown Jacksonville to exchange ideas, network, and learn about opportunities available to them.
While the event garnered a fair amount of success, visibility, and engagement, by 2016 participation and involvement had waned. A need to reimagine a plan of attack for rebuilding momentum became evident. It was then that Mason enlisted the help of Patrick Fisher - former Community and Collaboration Manager for the CCGJ - to breathe life back into the initiative. At that point it was determined that ESAL needed to be open to all age groups (not restricted to the 21+ requirements of the venue), it was decided that a different venue would be chosen as a host location from month to month, and finally, local artists would serve as regular co-hosts of the event.
Photo Credit: Toni Smailagic
The original artists asked to take on the task of co-hosting were Mal Jones, Ingrid Mathurin, and Toni Smailagić. They, along with Patrick, hosted the first revamped event at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in March of 2017. That first co-opted event attracted over 50 attendees and the event has been thriving steadily ever since. Now, nearing the end of 2018 and another year of growth and development for ESAL, the reigns are in the capable hands of Mal Jones, Kandice Clark, and Khalil Osborne.
This Tuesday, October 9th, Every Single Artist Lounge will be gathering at Space 42 for the monthly networking event. This week we sat down with Kandice to get to know more about the event and find out just how much of an impact it has for our Artist Community and on Jacksonville as a whole.
What exactly is Every Single Artist Lounge (ESAL)?
Every Single Artist Lounge is a monthly gathering of artists and creatives that takes place at creative venues within Jacksonville’s Urban Core. It is a place to share artist opportunities, upcoming events, and to share ideas. One of the most valuable happenings at ESAL is that artists and creatives are meeting each other and building relationships that create more shows and opportunities. In short, Every Single Artist Lounge is the place to be for every artist the second Tuesday of each month!
How did you first get involved with ESAL?
Last year, one of the hosts Ingrid Ruth moved to pursue her art career in New York. At the same time that ESAL was looking for a new host, I just had my first Black Opal The Art Experience that was attended by several Cultural Council members including Patrick Fisher who coordinated ESAL. Black Opal is an art exhibition focused on introducing emerging artists of color to a larger audience in the arts community and the very first show was well attended and successful. After Black Opal, Patrick asked if I would consider hosting ESAL and I was over the moon! I believe he saw value in my passion to connect emerging artists to a larger platform. ESAL and my mission on Zenslayfu.com to connect artists and help them grow are reflections of each other. This opportunity has done for me what I hope the Artist Lounge does for other artists which is [to] elevate their experiences in their art career.
What are the ways in which you think gatherings like ESAL contribute to the culture for artists living and working in Jacksonville?
ESAL contributes to the art culture by introducing opportunities to artists living and working in Jacksonville. Many times artists don’t know what opportunities are available to them and how many organizations truly support and need artists. Bringing organizations and artists together makes connections that can create other events, exhibitions, and partnerships that we can look forward to which is what ESAL is truly about.
ESAL is often held in various locations month to month. How do you determine where the event will take place and why is it important to feature different locations?
The main focus is that the venue is a creative and culture forward space. The spaces that ESAL take place in range from art studios and small theaters to museums. Featuring different locations is important because it gives many creatives the opportunity to enter spaces that are new to them and/or may not be accessible to them on a normal day. ESAL also helps the venue to reach a new audience in the art community and share what role they play in the community and why artists are important to them.
What growth and improvements have you seen in ESAL since its inception.
ESAL has grown into an event that is anticipated and respected in the art community. Every month creatives look forward to coming to the Artist Lounge and sharing their upcoming events. We are proud that they feel it is important to share at ESAL and recognize it as a great place to promote. We have also had a lot of excitement from organizations to host ESAL.
What challenges have you and/or your fellow coordinators faced throughout ESAL's development?
The biggest challenge has been finding ways to fund new components that we would like to add to the Artist Lounge. We want to be able to provide the best experience to our creatives and create more opportunities [for] them. We hope in the future we will be able to acquire funding that will allow us to be more flexible on adding new things to ESAL.
What sort of support has ESAL received from the business sector?
The most valuable support we have received is from the venues that allow us to convene in their spaces. Each venue has shown excitement and an eagerness to provide a pleasant experience to ESAL patrons. We are also very appreciative of our biggest supporter Brunet Garcia which sponsors ESAL. Brunet Garcia takes a special interest in groups that are doing service in the community and we are happy they recognize the value of having the Artist Lounge.
How do you see ESAL growing and expanding further in the years to come?
I believe ESAL has the potential to grow beyond the urban core and into other communities. We have so many art focused venues in our city that a large part of the art community has not been introduced to. I see ESAL also taking place more than once a month and having a year end celebration in the future. I hope for ESAL to be able to document the opportunities, events, and interests discussed at our meetings in a newsletter or blog that is accessible throughout the month.
Why is it important for artists to participate in this kind of gathering?
It is important for artists to participate in social gatherings like ESAL because it helps to “curate” what we want our art community to be! We want our art community to be all inclusive and in order for that to happen we must continue to connect and converse with each other. Each artist is like a representative of the community they live in so this means not only are artists becoming connected but whole communities are building relationships. There’s also a lot of value in connecting creatives of all levels together and creating exchanges that help all involved grow.
We'd like to thank Kandice for her participation in this interview. We'd also like to thank you for reading.
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