Culturally, sometimes it feels like Broward County is the Robin Hood to Miami-Dade’s Batman. Miami’s got the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Rubell Family Collection, the Institute of Contemporary Art; the list of awe-inspiring art spaces in the city stretches on. From Art Basel to Ultra Music Festival and beyond, the 305 has landed itself center-stage in a show of world acclaim.
But those of us from the neighboring 954 must peer out enviously from behind the curtain. A minor opening act drawing lukewarm applause, we hover just out of sight; merely there to warm the audience up for the star who thousands flock to see. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride, or so goes the adage. Until now.
The tides of 2019 are already changing in the county’s favor. Sistrunk-A-Fair is launching a week of art events from January 17 through January 26. Thanks to a partnership between Art N Soul, C.R.E.A.T.E., and Art Fort Lauderdale, artists from all over Fort Lauderdale, Dania, Pearl City, and Hallandale will have their works on display.
A project six months in the making, Sistrunk-A-Fair is the brainchild of local curators Al Huggins and Manuel George. Huggins has been working within the art world for over a decade and he says the idea for the fair came to him and co-creator George in the form of a personal missive. “We want to create a platform for artists in Broward that normally wouldn’t get a platform to display their work,” says Huggins. “The Sistrunk-A-fair gives them that.”
Named after Dr. James Sistrunk — one of the first black physicians in Broward County — Sistrunk Boulevard is being restored from an area of empty lots and shuttered buildings back to Fort Lauderdale’s hub of business vitality, due to property investment increases first reported towards the end of 2017. Huggins and George’s art festival is sure to add to this expected economic revival.
Around 25 local artists will be showcased between the two key exhibits in the week of events: BASE and Art Walk. Among these will be Corrine Salmon, Nate Dee, Sean Simpson, Will Simpson, Frank Frazier, and Adewale Adenle. Huggins has worked with all of the artists who will be displayed in the past, so he’s hardpressed to pick one particular style as his favorite. “I’m very excited to see all of these artists that will be part of this event…This will be history in the making for the Sistrunk area, and for artists of color,” says the curator.
Relatively unknown creators will be featured alongside appearances by bigger names. Acclaimed sneaker virtuoso Van Monroe will be hosting a talk at the African American Research Library for Sistrunk. Monroe is famous for his customized sneakers featuring Barrack Obama that took him from broke and nearly homeless to a viral Internet sensation turned in-demand designer. Everyone from Spike Lee, “P. Diddy”, Hugh Jackman, Ellen DeGeneres, and Nicki Minaj own a pair of his customized kicks and the original shoes are being showcased in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Huggins explains the shoe maven will be there to inspire others with his story.
Spoken word poetry will also be an art form celebrated, as “AnniFLÓetry” at the Broward Performing Arts Center is set to close out the fair on January 26. Poets “May Reign”, QUICK2Love, Inc & FLO’etry (FLO4Me) Ent., Jerris “QUICKThePoet” Evans are hosting the performance that is best described as: “a nonstop energetic spoken word rollercoaster production.”
Marrying the intention to give a stage to local talent is Huggins and George’s overarching aim to bring a community together. “We’re trying to cover all aspects of community development. With the (Martin Luther King Day) organized clean-up and we’re also looking to add a few murals to Sistrunk.” Community members can also expect to see this as a re-occurring annual event, as Huggins is already planning on bringing back Sistrunk-A-Fair in 2020.
It may not be in the same world-class league as Art Basel, but the unspoken promise of what this cultural contribution could represent to a neighborhood brimming with diverse, undiscovered talent is equally important to the people of Broward County.
And as for the wider area’s “sidekick” persona to the metropolitan area to the south? He may be unjustly underappreciated, but Robin has the potential to one day surpass his superior mentee. Broward’s in the same boat.
Sistrunk-A-Fair. Thursday, January 17 through Saturday, January 26. Multiple locations throughout Northwest Fort Lauderdale. Visit sistrunkafair.com.