CRAs get creative:
Improving the aesthetics of the everyday
By Rachel Galvin
Art is about more than just painting on a canvas, a photograph in a frame or a sculpture in a museum; it is about the beauty in our daily lives. Everything from the landscaping to the architecture around us can be considered art. The way something looks affects us as much as its practicality.
Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs) within Broward County have the task of ensuring that our communities make us feel at home and that properties not only provide spaces for activities, but also that their presentation is just as enticing. From making our streetscapes and properties more attractive to showcasing local artists, CRAs want to make sure their cities shine artistically.
At this time, a number of CRAs are busying themselves with cultural projects. Some have been in the works for years and are now nearing completion; others are in process and some are still in the planning stages.
In Fort Lauderdale, the CRA is revitalizing the Northwest Progresso Flagler Heights Community Redevelopment area, which Public Information Officer Petula Burks defined as Sunrise Boulevard to Broward Boulevard and 24th Avenue to Federal Highway. Since 2007, work has been under way to make changes to Sistrunk Boulevard, which is known for its music, art and culture. Sistrunk Boulevard was home of the Victory Theater, which hosted performers such as Ray Charles, Duke Ellington and Cannonball Adderley.
Burks said, “We are bringing arts and culture to the corridor, bringing that jazzy feeling back to Sistrunk Boulevard, unearthing those jewels that have always been here; they have just been overlooked.”
The CRA has installed new light posts, which she categorized as futuristic, arching over the street, almost interconnecting. It also has worked on streetscapes and medians; $15 million was spent on infrastructure, lane reduction, traffic calming, underground utilities, more on-street parking, wider sidewalks, decorative streetlights, median and landscape enhancements as well as new bus shelters.
People can see art shows at the Midtown Commerce Center or relive history at the Eula Johnson House Welcome Center and NAACP Headquarters. African American culture also is celebrated with various festivals in the area, including the MLK and the Sistrunk Historical Parade and Festival. Last July, the CRA launched the Midtown Summerfest in conjunction with the American Tennis Association’s championships and conference. Besides tennis, there was also live music, a kids' zone, vendors and food trucks.
In addition, Fort Lauderdale has been the site of many new programs and ongoing events. The CRA partnered with many others to hold Build A Better Block, which featured temporary street improvements, pop-up businesses, culture and entertainment.
On Fort Lauderdale Beach, a free event called Saturday Nite Alive showcases live entertainment along Route A1A from Hall of Fame Drive north to Castillo Street. This year, it will also include fire dancers, magicians, vendors and more.
Also new this year is Rock the Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival, which will transform the beach into a musical concert. Scheduled for April 14 and 15, this event will feature Kenny Chesney, the Avett Brothers, Gary Allan, Jake Owen, Eli Young Band, Gary Clark Jr., Michael Franti & Spearhead, Kip Moore, G. Love & Special Sauce, Gloriana, Sister Hazel and Mac McAnally.
While on the beach, art lovers will notice two giant fish. Standing more than 20 feet tall and 25 feet wide and made of over 20,000 recycled bottles collected from local events and businesses, this display on the corner of A1A and Las Olas Boulevard celebrates environmental sustainability. The work was designed and produced locally by Brandano Displays and Unique Rabbit Studios.
In Coral Springs, the CRA has successfully brought art into the community not only through public art and art festivals in the past, but also through the BizArt Festival, which took place in January.
“Last year, it rained,” said CRA Project Coordinator Elizabeth Taschereau. “This year, it was a lot of fun. There were a lot of attendees. There were food trucks and art. There were trolleys taking people to look at the [public art] sculptures in the city along Sample Road.” This free event, which was part of the city's year-long 50th anniversary celebration, was held at City Hall South.
In Lauderdale Lakes, the CRA not only wants to showcase the arts, but also the community’s diverse cultures.
“We are a small but extremely diverse community,” said J. Gary Rogers, executive director of the Lauderdale Lakes CRA. “There are over 100 languages spoken here. It is an interesting and dynamic mix. Asian and Chinese grocers, Thai bakers … so many different cultures in food supplies.”
In 2004 and 2005, Rogers said, a community-based planning session found that there was consensus that cultural identity and branding were important aspects of creating a healthy and sustainable community.
“There was recognition that the identification, celebration and promotion of diverse cultures was an important thing to do both economically and in terms of building community through branding,” Rogers explained.
Over the last six years, the CRA has worked with the Broward County Library Division to design, develop and open the Lauderdale Lakes Library/Education and Culture Center (ECC) in the community that is known as the “Heart of Broward” - a tagline developed through community planning and market analysis by the CRA and its team of consultants.
Public art on the outside of the building welcomes visitors and tells the story of Lauderdale Lakes in space and time. Created by artist George Gadson, the integrated art installation, entitled Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, includes a three dimensional bronze globe sculpture, as well as a granite sundial inlayed into the ground. People can tell the time by the way their shadow is cast. This aspect makes the onlooker part of the artwork. In addition, the globe helps bring across the message of diversity that is intrinsic to the area. Below it are seven plaques that tell about the history of the area as well. Broward Cultural Division’s Public Art & Design Program administrated the selection process for this artwork.
“This facility is best considered in context, that is, it serves as the centerpiece of the 30-acre Bella Vista mixed-use project and overlooks a ‘Village Green,’” added Rogers. He explained that the building, which was completed two years ago, includes a 20-station computer lab, a banquet hall with projection capabilities and sound that will accommodate 300 people, an executive conference room and more. The goal now for the CRA is to expand interest in the facilities. It is doing so by inviting non-profits to see and use the building free of charge - as long as the events are offered free to participants and also provide direct service to the surrounding community.
“It is like the story about Famous Amos walking around and giving out his cookies [until people realized they liked them and wanted to buy them.] The more people see the building, the more they call us,” Rogers said. “I'd like to see the point where we can charge people and have to turn them away. We [want to do] cooking demonstrations, movie nights … but, we haven't done all of those things yet. We just finished a parking lot expansion. We added 50 spaces. We are just getting on our legs. It is a beautiful [facility] and it functions quite well. Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University have classes here.” Broward College and others might do so in the future, he said.
Multiple projects in Pompano Beach are focusing both on renovating the old and adding the new. First, the CRA recently broke ground on the renovation of the Ali House, a historic property in Downtown Pompano on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard/Hammondville Road in the CRA's Northwest District. Within the house, there will be a gallery space with rotating community exhibitions and a permanent historical exhibition. In addition, there will be a multi-purpose space, an outdoor event/performance space, an administrative space and a conference room.
Also being renovated is the Hotel Bailey Visual Arts Center, which is located in the CRA's Northwest District. This center incorporates studios for individual artists to work and teach, an administrative space and public areas that include communal space, an exhibition gallery and two educational studios, which artists can use for teaching.
Meanwhile, the CRA is funding the Pompano Beach Cultural Center. Located at 100 W. Atlantic Blvd., where current city hall is now located, this center will have not only an exhibition gallery and media center with a learning center, but also a multi-use space for theatrical and other performances, plus other types of events.
Terrell Fritz, cultural arts consultant for the CRA and City of Pompano Beach, said, “I think that the City of Pompano and its CRA are [really diving into the] cultural arts with three new facilities. My role, as Cultural Arts Consultant, is to create a cultural arts master plan. I told everyone in town to think out loud and tell us what they would like to see. We are going to have events like never before. We are talking about multi-disciplinary storytelling, taking traditional storytelling and finding a new way to do it.”
Sometimes art simply means improving aesthetics in a given area. Hallandale knows this approach well. It is currently revitalizing its fashion row/art district by beautifying its streetscape, according to CRA Deputy Director Liza Torres, by putting in more curbing and attractive landscaping, adding better signage and making the road one lane, instead of two, to make it more pedestrian-friendly. With a budget of $600,000, the CRA has been working on this task for about two years and it is finally starting to be implemented. It’s is just one of the projects being worked on in the city.
Right next door, the Hollywood CRA has been working on the downtown Hollywood Mural Project, which began in August 2012. Organized by the City of Hollywood and Jill Weisberg of the Schrift & Farbe Design Group, this project allows artists to create diverse murals (10 in all) in downtown Hollywood, essentially making otherwise bland edifices come to life with vibrant color and meaning. In addition, the ArtsPark at young’s Circle has invited people into the heart of Hollywood since 2007 with its transformation of the park. The 10 acres of green space includes broad promenades, a playground with splash pad, an amphitheater and more. One feature is the Broward Cultural Division’s Public Art & Design artwork Millennium Springs, a water sculpture created by Japanese artist Ritsuko Taho that, interprets the life energy of the park’s Baobab tree along with the dreams of the City's founder. The park has a variety of classes and other programming in the Visual Arts Pavilion as well.
But one of the projects that is getting perhaps the most attention is the city's support of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival's $100,000 capital campaign for Cinema Paradiso Hollywood, a new movie theater to be located at 2008 Hollywood Blvd. The space will include a 110-seat theater with new technology while maintaining the charm reminiscent of the golden age of cinema.
In Dania Beach, the city commission created the Dania Beach Creative Arts Council Advisory Board in 2012. Wentworth Creative Management, an arts consultant firm, outlined a 10-year strategic Dania Beach Community Arts Plan that featured 10 main goals. These include preserving cultural heritage through documentation and exhibits, as well as establishing a historical museum. The CRA wants to attract artists by creating more spaces where they can live and work, and by adding more places to display their art or perform. The group even wants to help the film industry by streamlining permitting and assisting filmmakers with locations and related needs. The board hopes to add more public spaces for art – from putting works of art in public parks to adding murals on empty storefronts – and to do community outreach and art education.
“Dania Beach is the perfect city to build on its arts and antique community while maintaining its small town character and charm,” said CRA Consultant Elizabeth Wentworth. “The city has the enthusiasm to accomplish this and the understanding that arts can be a driver of economic revitalization and sustainability. First, the mayor and commissioners initiated and supported the development of an arts plan. Now, members of the community are showing their excitement by bringing strong support and participation to the newly formed Dania Beach Creative Arts Council Advisory Board. This is definitely a city poised to enhance its creative buzz.”
Lauderhill has been installing public artworks through the city and they are building a $12 million 1,200 seat performing arts center in Broward County’s Central Broward Regional Park located at State Road 441 and Sunrise Boulevard in conjunction with a 10,000 sq. ft. Broward County branch library, according to CRA Director Donald Giancoli. There will be space for arts groups, presentations and theatrical performances. This is in addition to the current Lauderhill Arts Center, which presents a wide variety of visual arts programs as well.
“We [plan to] have a whole range of traveling Broadway to local community shows,” said Giancoli, who added that the project should be complete by late 2014.
These projects represent just a few examples of the many exciting enhancements that CRAs within Broward County are transforming from dream to reality. Thirteen municipalities in Broward County have CRSs. Three cities – Hollywood, Lauderhill and Pompano Beach have two CRAs and Fort Lauderdale has three CRAs. For a map of CRA boundaries, click here. To learn more about what’s happening in your community, contact your local CRA.