BY ALI BERGER
Crowds of people ditched the average Saturday night dinner & a movie to attend Fort Lauderdale’s very own Artwalk, held the last Saturday of every month in Flagler Village. Over the last few years, Artwalk has grown exponentially thanks to passionate and dedicated artists who are sincere in their attempt to represent their community and have a blast doing so. There is no shortage of creative expression in this unique venue. Everything from abstract art to provocative installations, live music accompanied by dancing, munching, sipping and grooving, and a sense of friendly unity that ties the audience to the artist can be experienced for free.
Flagler Village is made up of FATVillage, which stands for Flagler Arts & Technology, and MASS district, which stands for Music & Art South of Sunrise. These teeming districts house a hidden myriad of creatives, attracting people from all walks of life to their many displays of interactive and private art collections. FATVillage and MASS district represent an incredibly vibrant cluster of unique galleries, eateries, and local businesses.
As an arts journalist, I’m constantly on the lookout for new and reflective public art. Public art captivates and inspires us in dynamically unique ways, even if its importance varies depending on individual viewership. One thing’s for certain– FATVillage and MASS District are definitely reshaping the community in Fort Lauderdale. As the need for public art and connection intensifies, feelings of collective unity and a sense of belonging are solidified. People are seen being friendlier, happier, and more apt to brag about their town and all its cool happenings. Murals created by Herbert Galarza, Ruben Ubiera, Nate Dee and many more talented locals are currently on display, inspiring the community in new and exciting ways.
During this past Artwalk, I got to experience several special events curated by artists and their pals in their respective spaces. The first of which was the Shangri-La Showcase held at Radioactive Records. I was shocked first and foremost to learn Fort Lauderdale has its very own unique record store. Selected works by Mario Ruschel, Galen Todd Traxler, Rei Ramirez and many others have their eye-catching works on display, and during Artwalk were accompanied whimsically by Elle Herrera and DJ Sloan. Live art was also performed by Matthew Moranz.
Artist and curator, Kelcie Mcquaid told me how awesome it was to be involved with such a unique event.
Feeling like I was transported back to the 90’s, I grew even more nostalgic with, “The Last Take,” an interactive installation featuring a 1964 Lincoln Continental with the doors splayed open in front of a moving road projector screen. The installation is possible thanks to Broward College President, Emeritus David Armstrong. Armstrong was spotted chatting happily with the audience as crowds browsed in and out of C&I studios, eyes filled with wonder when they saw the Lincoln in all of its classically vintage glory.
Many warehouses and small galleries house some of the most impressive pieces around. Sculptures of bronzed, half-bodied naked women designed and created by the revolutionary Miami Body Cast(also the creative minds behind 1000 Mermaids Artificial Reef Project) can be found beneath tiny spotlights mixed in with abstract expression and other contemporary pieces.
You can find the legendary Mario Ruschel Burgoa in studio 113 amidst hundreds of his original pieces. Some of his paintings feature words blown up in neon blocks, forcing you to reconsider their meaning. A larger piece placed strategically on the back wall has silvery foil running through the right side, and when I asked Mario what the inspiration was for this he related:
“The foil changes with time, the wrinkles reflect differently. I was playing with the idea that your perception changes and your reality changes too.” The piece is untitled, because Mario wants his audience to assign their own meaning to his work.
Right next door to studio 113 are the longest standing FATVillage resident artists, Francisco Sheuat and Julio green. Green and Sheuat passionately triumph the art of recycling and upcycling using old coca-cola cans. Taking someone’s discarded garbage and making it beautifully new again redefines how we look at careless waste.
There is so much more that was felt and experienced during the unabashedly magical ARTWALK. It speaks volumes that artistic expression still has the ability to transcend cultural barriers and political views, a trope as old as ancient Greece and Rome. Even if art isn’t your thing, there is no mistaking the collective vibe of unity experienced when gazing at provocative photographs or silvery bronze mermaids cast out of plaster. The love and devotion that goes into pulling off this uniquevenue is reciprocated tenfold through audience participation. By supporting local artists and their esteemed work, an inner sense of belonging becomes a steadfast reality for locals and tourists alike. Once you experience the artwalk first hand for yourself you’ll instantly see why it has become our favorite community event of the month attracting upwards of 4,000-5,000 attendees monthly to Downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Flagler Village Arts Districts!
*Free parking is always available behind Sears on Federal & Sunrise in the two parking lots adjacent to MASS District. Click here for exact location.
Ali Berger is a staff writer and local arts journalist by night, and creative storyteller/copywriter by day. Follow her on twitter @laquadivine or instagram @alibchi