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Art Lives on the Other Side of the Track

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Vaughn TuckerIn a little known area in the city of Lauderhill known as Deepside, a group of artists are proving that creativity does indeed thrive on the other side of the tracks. Housed at the Lauderhill Arts Center (LAC) the artists, including six from the Caribbean, have brought art exhibitions, poetry, dance, performances to the community whose past history was defined as crime drug-ridden. Today, the LAC has helped to transform the area.

“The Lauderhill Arts Center has revitalized the area,” said Karl ‘Jerry’ Craig, a Jamaican artist who has been at the Center for several years. “The once crime-ridden area is now much safer and cleaner. “The city of Lauderhill has been tremendous in helping us. And, in fact, they are responsible for this space,” added Craig.

The Center was developed and supported by the City of Lauderhill, Florida and includes working studio space for visual and performing artists, a gallery, and classroom/workshop areas. Adjacent spaces feature creative movement at the Jubilee Dance Studio and a spoken work cafe dubbed Write Side Poets. Besides promoting the artists’ work, LAC also hopes to stimulate community participation and development.

Brainchild

The brainchild of former Lauderhill Commissioner Dale Holness, the LAC came into being when the city commissioners were pondering what to do with the strip mall hugging the corner of 19th Street and 54th Avenue.

Instead of tearing it down, local politicians along with community activists and Judi Hamilton, Chairman of the Art Culture Tourism (ACT) Board, an advisory board to the Lauderhill City Commission, decided to help develop a cultural voice for the area.

“In working with Commissioner Holness we looked at tearing down the mall, but it was too expensive to do that. We decided instead to change the dynamics. Artist Tonietta Walters is really the one who came here and started this whole thing as an incubator space for new artists. But over time, it became a space for working artists, run and managed by the artists themselves,” said Judi Hamilton.

“Everything happens on the east side of the county, so I want to develop the west side. My goal is to develop Lauderhill as the epicenter for local artists, a marketplace where they can showcase and sell their work,” Hamilton added.

Vaughn Tucker, the first artist to take up residence at the space, is grateful for the environment that has inspired his artistry.

“As an artist, I am inspired by my homeland Jamaica. I try to capture life in my paintings, so I am always inspired by people, flora, landscapes in my surroundings. The play on colors and styles that I experiment with allows my expression of freedom and joy. I focus on relationships and the community that exists around me,” said Tucker.

Carol-Anne McFarlane also takes cues from the Deepside community.

“My work addresses some of the things that happen in this environment,” said McFarlane, an American born to Jamaican parents.

As a Lauderhill resident, McFarlane focuses on the power play between some of the identity, power, and gender issues that takes place in communities such as this.

According to the artist, “Being in this space has helped me expand. I confront the way men and women relate to each other and the misconceptions that one has about the other.”

Activism

Jamaican-born visual artist and jewelry designer Corinne Wakeland also expresses her activism through her work. The former jewelry design instructor at Jamaica’s Edna Manley College of the Visual Arts incorporates African and Asian symbols in her creations as she uses the media itself to guide her visual storytelling.

“My inspiration with painting comes from the paint itself, and textures. And because of my jewelry design background I like design, shapes, color, texture, and geometrics. African symbols and Asian designs also influence my work. I am an activist, a feminist, and I often express my thoughts on certain subjects through my work. I am at the stage now where I am trying to bring all these things together that will reflect my voice,” said Wakeland.

Like Wakeland, Craig taught at the Edna Manley College of Visual Arts, and in fact, headed the school for a number of years. His paintings also has symbolic meaning. He experiments with texture, collage, and symbols representing world cultures. The use of found objects, organic material, and fiber gives his pieces the weight of rich tapestry as he traces the roots of African, Caribbean, and native peoples.

Adding to the cultural voices at the LAC are Louis Louissant, Jean Ermann Desimots, Liliana Gerardi, Cristina Keller, Alex Altidor, and Maya Schonenberger all influenced by their native homelands Haiti, Venezuela, Argentina, and Switzerland.

It is hoped that through the interaction between the artists and community the area will be revitalized.

Indeed, the community of artists at LAC plan to further enhance the neighborhood with the development of a sculpture garden and expanded activities beginning with the first annual Chalk Walk planned for April 13.

“The festival will involve teens from the community working with the artists to help design various murals along the sidewalk in front of the center. We will look at the completed work, judged it, and award prizes to the participants,” Wakeland explained.

“This is the kind of outreach the Center wants to foster. I want to change the whole dynamic south of Oakland Park,” Hamilton remarked.

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