Necessary Tools for the Public Artist:
Creative Artist Advancement Program
By Lisa Turano Wojcik
How would you interpret the word “diversity” by acting it out? How could you use theater skills to bring an urban issue to the attention of a community to effect positive change? And how could you convince a local government agency to pay you for your art? These are some of the questions answered – among many others – through the Broward Cultural Division’s Creative Artist Advancement Program.
Creative, ambitious individuals from all backgrounds - painters, sculptors, architects, writers, actors and filmmakers who possess keen interests in contemporary urban, historical, aesthetic and technological issues - enrolled in the workshop series this spring. The five-and-a-half-day professional development program took these creative individuals through the business skills required to partner with community redevelopment agencies and the creative ideas needed to produce art projects that bring renewed life to public spaces.
Broward County arts consultant Elizabeth Wentworth, who recently was engaged by the city of Dania Beach to write its cultural plan, characterizes CAAP as “An excitingly innovative way of connecting artists with community, government and, most importantly, commissions; the end result will be more inviting environments and authentic place-making.”
The most recent CAAP series kicked off on Friday, April 26, and was followed on the weekend by a two-day workshop, “Public Art and Design,” chaired by Lynn Basa, a renowned Chicago-based public artist. Participants explored the basics of public art through a day of lectures, panel discussions, presentations and hands-on activities. On day two, Lynn and local painter and instructor Henning Haupt expanded on the topic with a day of critiques and sample presentations to demonstrate the artist selection and review process.
Marie L. York, senior fellow with the University of Florida’s Center for Building Better Communities, gave a “Community Design” workshop on May 4. Artists learned what community design means, what it does for redevelopment areas and what cutting-edge work is happening.
Barbara Schaffer Bacon, Massachusetts-based co-director of Animating Democracy, taught the third workshop, “Civic Engagement,” on May 11. She provided a perspective on how to identify community issues and opportunities and to formulate project goals. Bacon also explained ideas about civic engagement and how to build effective collaborations and partnerships.
“Starting and Funding Your Project” on May 18 was the last session, which was conducted by Marty Pottenger, a widely known solo performance artist and director. Artists focused on ways to initiate and fund their own projects in innovative ways. They learned where to procure funding for projects that can serve the needs of communities.
Broward Cultural Division Arts Administrator Grace Kewl-Durfey and Pottenger escorted CAAP participants on a walking tour of the Flagler Arts and Technology - “FAT Village” - area. Artists got first-hand experience in interacting with the community by engaging in an outdoor theater exercise: physically interpreting words that suggest social and community issues. This was much to the delight of passersby. Robert Wojcik, senior planner for the City of Fort Lauderdale Community Redevelopment Agency, assisted workshop leaders by describing ways in which individuals and businesses can approach local government agencies for grants and public art commissions which enhance community environments.
Judging from the reaction of the participants, CAAP is meeting its objectives. “CAAP covered all our concerns that for years were a constant ‘what if we could?’ Now, our strength and confidence has increased, we have the tools to reach our goals, and our work has a better chance to be seen,” said workshop participants Nazlly Fajardo and Nestor Guzman.
“The caliber of the speakers and their willingness to share their knowledge left us with tremendous interest in giving back to our communities, and to inspire others to do the same,” they added.
An additional workshop was offered on Saturday, August 10, “Engaging Community in Creative Ways.” Presented by Bacon, this experiential interactive workshop focused on techniques for cultivating good partnerships, conducting focus groups and interviews, mapping exercises, story circles and leading meetings. Artists discovered how they can help residents imagine more meaningful public art in their communities and how to promote the arts as a powerful catalyst for community, civic and social change.
“I have discovered a whole new realm of opportunities to explore,” noted workshop participant Jacklyn Laflamme. “Listening to the incredible speakers has motivated me to set new goals.”
Broward-based artists who completed the entire series of workshops were rewarded with an opportunity to apply for seed funding to create new art ideas. Letters of interest were submitted by June 7. Project proposals are to be submitted by October 29. Four $5,000 grants will be awarded at a reception on December 30.
The Broward Cultural Division will repeat the Creative Artist Advancement Program workshops in the future. For more information, contact Grace Kewl-Durfey at 954-357-7869, or visit http://www.broward.org/arts/Pages/Default.aspx, for the application and further details.