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Search results for music makes its mark

Music Makes Its Mark

Written by Shawana Brooks, Guest Contributor

Ducasse Overstreet and Shawana Brooks

Ducasse Overstreet and Shawana Brooks

They Are Leaving On A Jet Plane

Overstreet Ducasse is going places. Literally. Before settling in to conduct this interview, his upcoming trip to Bristol, England is consuming most of his attention. He fields phone calls from collectors and other concerned parties. His feet glide with the confidence of artistic ownership across the canvas in his extended studio… unable to contain his genius to his 12 x 12, which is completely covered in pieces of antiquities, frames, and scraps that only Ducasse can identify. It’s in this mixed media artist’s treasure trove – a mixture of dumpster diving, collectables, and good-natured friends endorsing use of their ex-valuables – that Street (his more familiar name) will create his signature art. He’s in the process of creating two new works to take to England. Their subject matter, the current politicizing of gender subscription and referendums on bathrooms. It’s tricky material, and Ducasse himself admits, “It’s the first time I created a piece, and I’m like ‘oh my god, I’m 50/50 on this one’.”

protect-ya-neckThat is the pinnacle for what Ducasse’s work normally does for viewers. Pushes them to re-examine their ideals and beliefs. In this case its him being pushed, and he’s delighted. His face thwarted by pensiveness, examining the piece on the floor. It’s an unspoken rule of acceptance in Labs (CoRK Arts District, East Building) that if an artist is in their mode, they can create as they need. Street is in need, as he spills over into the common area next to his studio. One of the four artists he currently shares with is Roosevelt Watson III, fellow LIFT exhibitionist and DEEPressionist member, a movement Ducasse, Watson, and visual artist Adrian Rhodes started, to help define the state of arts and culture in Jacksonville around 2004. The name gives it away a bit, and Ducasse is still heavily attached to it, and little less to the group, as each is making a respective name for himself. He swiftly ends the phone conversations to dive back into dialogue with other studio mate, international artist Zac Freeman. He’s deep in deliverance with tales of his good fortune to go on this residency/exhibition, in part sponsored by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. I wait to hear his catchphrase “I’m serious”, one that if you are familiar with his vernacular, cognates your attention. He wants you to understand this is no mistake, he is not being rewarded, and this is the result of years of hard work. I listen to his plan of attack. Ducasse is not worried on the surface. His infectious laugh and bravado relish the opportunity to make his debut. Thriving on pressure, deadlines are still his bigger motivator and foe. He readily admits to not always being able to paint for the sake of making a mark. He pushed himself and others to these limits just a few months ago, turning in his artwork, “Protect Ya Neck” to the Cummer Museum, mere days before the opening of LIFT: Contemporary Expressions of the African American Experience. Instead of turning it away, the Museum made room for it. Why would they do this for Overstreet? He proven he’s worth the angst.

Take It From Me……Patrons Just Don’t Understand

The Work of Art

The Work of Art

If deadlines can be his antithesis, he is also fiercely motivated by competition. Ducasse is unsure, but has heard that street artist, Banksy, is the current artist on exhibition at the Cultural Center in Bristol. If Banksy is not directly exhibiting at the Cultural Center he does have a direct connection to our sister city. They have crafted an award-winning walking tour of his murals and celebrate his humble beginnings. Bristol can teach our cultural leaders a thing or two about celebrating their homegrown talent. Banksy’s identity is still well hidden, and Ducasse is hyper aware what displaying his work in an international gallery means on his resume. The bar is set high.

The confidence of showing in a reputable museum, such as the Cummer Museum, in his adopted city of Jacksonville has given him new resolve. He jokes “If there was anyone to choose” referring to him being a key player in the success of this exhibition.

It’s true, Overstreet has become synonymous with art excellence in a way that many black artists in Jacksonville envy, which is the stigma of being a “black artist.” This is no dalliance to Overstreet. He doesn’t try to present his art outside the color lines. But he doesn’t actively base his artistic decisions on them. Though he identifies as an African American, he knows his perspective is one of an immigrant. He also has a difficult time with African Americans not being celebrated directly.

This isn’t the first time he’s exhibited in the Cummer Museum; he stole the show in Jefree Shalev’s Our Shared Past. He was especially sought after to participate. He’s aware of why those opportunities are afforded to him. Being the first isn’t always glamorous, but he knows he hasn’t had to do that in LIFT. The exhibition is historic in many different ways, and Ducasse isn’t the only stand-out. He remarks that this is one of the best exhibitions he has been in thus far in his life. “Everyone brought their ‘A’ game.”

When asked about a favorite artist or a piece in the Jacobsen Gallery besides his own, he sits back on the couch and takes a few minutes before replying. People gravitate towards Overstreet’s criticisms. His voice can be the dissenting one in a room of co-conspirators. He starts to gush over the realization that he is exhibiting with a former classmate, Thony Auippy, and his former professor, Dustin Harewood. He gets emotional. All the LIFT artists have interesting connections to each other.

“Thony for some reason has left a mark in my heart. There is something about his soul that you can feel, he is a genuine dude. But I’ve never been a fan of his ART, until now. I’ve found canvases in the trash (at CoRK) with his name on it. Now I love his work. His art takes it to the next level. It was powerful for me to stand in front of it,” says Ducasse.

This is thematic for many of the artists in LIFT.

Oooh Baby I Like it Raw

Studio Stuff

Studio Stuff

Overstreet has been feeling the call for the next level for years and has made the most out of every opportunity afforded, “You can’t count nothing out.” He paces the wooden floors looking at the work on the ground and speaks of how he loves this time. Process. He feels like an hour glass; his demeanor resembles one too. Standing in a T-shirt of his own design and the traditional American artist garb of painted lived-in jeans. Overstreet is leaving in a few days and obviously wants his best work with him for display.

It was in 11th grade when the young artist overheard people looking at his award-winning art. At the time, he was focused on drawing hyper-realistic figures. Unknown to them, he heard two dissenting critiques to the work. “It was so photo realistic, some people thought it was amazing, the best they ever saw. The other was so what? He just took a picture, anybody can do that,” he started to think outside of the expression on his subject’s face.

“What was I drawing? It was definitely a process to try and figure out how am I going to exhibit what I’m thinking versus using images from other people to exhibit what I’m thinking.”

He figured out a way to marry the figurative to the expressionist. He also transferred from paper and pencil to found objects and acrylics, mixed media.

Now with just a few days to get it all together, Street is slightly worn. It reeks and parallels problems that Augusta Savage had with preserving her work for the 1939 World’s Fair. Savage was offered several opportunities as an artist. They were either revoked once knowing her racial background, or she was unable to participate because of her socio-economic situation.

Overstreet is suffering from the latter. The thin budget for this sizable opportunity has caused him to seek fundraising in support of his trip. Had he already had the funds for proper shipping, he might be enjoying these few days for packing. Instead, he’s diligently trying to pull out MAGIC that he should keep on reserve. Either the community will step up with funding for Overstreet Ducasse to present the best of himself, or he will be forced to manifest two new paintings to fill up that space. So many times this is the case for artists here. Either they must leave to be appreciated, or they stay and suffer the lack of direct sponsorship. At least Overstreet has the advantage of being popular in the community he serves and might not have to create these two paintings after all.

Man In The Mirror

LIFT continues to play a significant role in the theater that is arts and culture in Jacksonville. Overstreet is unbothered by our local color. A recent creative sabbatical to upstate New York gave way to discomfort. Riding in scenic Philadelphia made him long for the occasion of being hurled an obscenity during the late, late nights of his neighborhood of Riverside. Overstreet makes his peace with those incidents. Since his arrival in the U.S., he’s lived mostly in Florida, with some time in California. Still new to exploring America, the proud Haitian was not prepared for the racial division that he witnessed. Though Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’s lyricism and James Weldon Johnson were not integral to his existence as a young man, they have had their place artistically. Over the years of exhibiting in Black-themed shows, like the annual Through Our Eyes exhibit at Ritz Theatre & Museum, where he was first recognized as a professional artist here in Jacksonville, Ducasse was already aware of James Weldon Johnson from past research. He deliberately stepped away from the lyrics of Lift or his personal inspiration and focused on music itself.

“Hip-Hop is more influential than any art class I took in my life.”



He is subconsciously listening to a soundtrack for his trip, the Beatles playing on a loop in the background. Earlier, Street was listening to fellow travel-mate Mal Jones, something he’s done for years. Again, no accident he feels they are going on this trip together. He’s used music, and in works of art he’s created for this exhibit, like my favorite “Racism”, he explores words and their meaning, asking viewers to look at RACE I AM and RACE IS HIM.

Overstreet does not think art should be high brow. “We all have blindspots, no one is perfect.” He wants you to connect to his art, in fact he demands it. The high-functioning introvert, though slightly now more known, still hides in plain sight amongst viewers looking at his work. Overstreet mentions his favorite thing, besides all the amazing programming for LIFT, is talking to visitors of the Museum.

“Art should not be intimidating. It should not just suit the elite. I like to talk about the work. I’m much more comfortable doing that than just talking about myself. There is no fear to that.”

I have seen it with my own eyes. People clamoring over the work with the artist directly behind them listening or waiting to join. Their surprise that the picture on the wall (of the Artist) is in direct conversation with them now. Attending a TEDx Panel on (Re)Defining Art brought up a statistic that over 90% of people appreciate art but only 29% revere artists. Tssk Tssk. The National Endowment for The Arts released a statistic in 2013 that artists represent 1.4% of the labor force, but they have an outsized role as entrepreneurs and innovators who contribute to the vitality of the communities where they LIVE and WORK.

The Jacksonville community has changed in the three months this exhibition has been up, and Overstreet is changing too. The life-long animal aversionist recently conquered his fear by adopting a three-legged cat. He ponders his growth in now finding joy in a creature who’s happy to see him. How silly he was to fear animals for 40 years. He’s happy knowing that kindness. “I’m growing!” he spits jollily. We remark how empathy has a way to do that. How art does that!

“If you can fear anything, don’t let them make you fear art.”

Art can be fearful. It represents a truth that this life is not the same for everyone, sometimes for no fearful reason at all. The fact that this reality exists and needs to be validated is scary. Scary to know that now we are seeing this truth through art in a place that is safe and comforting. Frightening. For what can we do to make sure this art has a stronger presence and doesn’t get destroyed for lack of conservation and support of the artists who create it? It would be Savage if this happened. On the 23rd of this month we send one of our best off to go find success across international waters. The British aren’t looking their best with Brexit. I’m sure Overstreet will bring back a tale or two of fortuitous destiny.

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Ready or Not

As a way to continue the conversations around LIFT, the artists involved, and the content of the artwork, this series of blogs will be looking at the artists’ work moving forward, their future exhibitions, and the direction their artwork has taken since creating pieces for the LIFT exhibition.


The Rooms Where it Happens

Firmly nestled in one of Jacksonville’s esteemed boroughs, Springfield, all things are stirring around the house. Springfield is the home of Porchfest, a new mural, and soon two new breweries; it’s redeveloping. The neighborhood feels different, and Anthony Aiuppy, Thony to those who know him best, loves this area. He is proud to call Jacksonville his home. Thony’s home studio is marginally off limits to his beautiful children, who are currently demanding his attention. Melissa, a pianist and a teacher, is managing the chaos of expressive artistic children who range in ages. The oldest and youngest tinker around with the ivories showing off their skills, while Melissa and her middle child rest comfortably on their couch. Artists are all around, figuratively and literally, as the Auippys are quite the art collectors themselves.

Thony’s paintings are in good company on the walls. There are works of art from artists Steve Williams, Tom Hager, and Madeline Peck Wagner. “We don’t really have storage for paintings, so I just hang them around my house,” he says. Paintings cover their walls from the living room to the den and flow into their kitchen. The paintings in the place where he eats show Thony’s real hunger. He has been experimenting with his Worker Series.

Since September 26, 2016 he’s been doing weekly art classes with children. He does not deny he has been influenced; he is elated by the full circle of now being in an exhibition (LIFT) with his former and favorite art professor, Dustin Harewood. He is upping his technique. More colorful backgrounds are occurring than the muted palette he has been establishing as his signature style. It feels exciting and new, but still Thony. He’s marrying his Southern Gothic narrative to his Worker Series.

“I know what it’s like to work a graveyard shift. I didn’t go to college until I was 25. My creative process comes from my background in manual labor. Making art is a manual labor job.”

The physicality in artmaking is always there. Yet it is not the perception. [Artists are still lampooned as if they are young men in Paris, sitting idly, and drawing beautiful women.] In Thony’s truth it is more like being a blue-collar worker. There is physical labor that goes into using the tools to building frames, stretching canvases, and mounting them down. “There’s a lot of sweat and blood.”

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

The father of three is already focused on his artwork for 2018. “I am going to continue my theme with the ‘Workers’, but more like in the narrative form, like the paintings from the Cummer Museum.” His smaller works are snapshots of that southern living, and paintings like the ones in LIFT, let him give a fuller narrative to his art. “I like the way that both of them work. It kind of fills in the space. There is something going on in that space.”

At the time of this interview, Thony was getting ready for two shows, one solo. In the exhibition Till We Have Faces at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, he will be revisiting more than 50 of his paintings. The other is a group show, A More Perfect Union: Explorations for Human Rights, which opened February 3 at the Space Gallery. Thony loves the idea of displaying art close to home. A mixture of southern landscapes, plantation houses, drawings, and his Worker series will line the walls of the Karpeles, while in A More Perfect Union, he will be reunited in displaying art with fellow LIFT artists Overstreet Ducasse, Princess Simpson Rashid, Chip Southworth, and Roosevelt Watson III. By the end of February all three shows will come down.

Working Day and Night

“An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening” – Chinese Proverb

A friend recently inquired about how he juggles it all – “It doesn’t feel like it’s a lot when you are doing your calling.” Thony credits the Cultural Council for allowing him to take the Creative Capital workshop. Out of it he developed some creative planning skills. “That really helped me to schedule and maximize the time I have,” he said. Thony would rather paint in the morning rather than at night, the time where most artists thrive, but he knows that’s when he needs to be resting.

“We plan our lives. We have a family monthly calendar. I have a weekly planner and then within it I have a daily calendar, so I know what days I have studio time and I know what days I have a date night, and I know like, family.”

As the coffee maker goes off in the morning, “I hear that thing, I’m up. I’m awake, alert, and I got coffee.”

Even his studio time is well-calculated, “From about 5 or 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 or 8:00 a.m., that’s studio time.” He lives by his own adage, “If you don’t plan it, I don’t think you will be able to do much.” And there isn’t much Thony isn’t doing. Not only is he in a successful and nationally-recognized exhibition, he himself was recently acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, as the J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Educator. This is where Thony has shifted his focus. Less nostalgia than necessity has Thony seeing Jacksonville as one big “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.

His choice is for the Downtown Core to become the main place for arts education integration; he’d love art to be a focused core subject. STEM is picking up STEAM, and if you are on Laura Street on a weekday, you will see yellow school buses filled with curious children flooding the doors of MOCA being welcomed by “The Weaver” educator. At 36, teaching is Thony’s true calling.

“They made a mistake in the 70s and now they are like arts should be core subjects and they are cramming it down kids throats! You have a whole generation of adults in this city who never ever got arts education. It was stripped from schools, there were no field trips.”

Art appreciation has to be taught and developed; what happens when those adults have children? Most don’t have cultural context to identify how the arts could affect the community. The arts are viewed as soft subjects or inferior; this can be your perspective if your exposure to art was taking a liberal arts class to pass your undergraduate studies. Arts aren’t valued and artists even less as Thony sees the issue, “There’s a problem here!” There was an incident recently at MOCA where a photo was viewed as indecent. The community came out and showed their support and stood with MOCA, which rolled into a believing-in-MOCA campaign. Thony’s belief is that incidents like this can be tempered in the future by more art education.

“I like educating kids, but also adults. Part of teaching to me is to equip parents so that if they don’t know a style or certain artists, they won’t be dismissive of art.”

That might be the most important thing Thony will ever do for the city, “Like ever!”

You Betta Work

“Our city has no identity,” says Thony. He knows there is no perfect solution to fixing this problem… well maybe one. “Stick around instead of just dipping out. OK. Instead of trying to go to a larger market where the resources are tapped out, stay here. Yes there are some hoops, but you can basically do whatever you want to do creatively.” There is this perception of Jacksonville being a big little town or the next big city. He is preaching to the choir, “This city has opportunities, but you have to get to the point where you make your own.” Thony is beyond committed to making this a better community. “I’m in place I would have never thought I would be last year,” referring to his new gig at MOCA.

In 2015, Thony was hustling, he had several exhibitions, “I was creating a ton of work.” He was teaching adult classes, teaching at Reddi Arts, art camps, and at University of North Florida. He wasn’t satisfied, but he kept pushing. Being a demonstrating artist with the Cummer Museum, especially during the VSA Festival had its privileges.

He was affected by teaching in communities where poverty is abundant but not always evident. When your socioeconomic status is light your awareness of that can be dulled by your environment. He learned a lot working with those students. “I didn’t know not to say boy.” It was a learning lesson for all. It made his intensity for justice grow deeper. He is trying to live by the words of MLK by not judging someone by the color of their skin but the content of their character.

You can see that in the work in LIFT, particularly in the piece Stony the Road. It was at one of those “hustling” exhibitions where then Cummer Museum Director Hope McMath gave him the beginnings of what LIFT would be. She vocalized her intention for his work to be a part of the exhibition. Maybe that is why Thony was one of the first artists to fully complete his work. At the shared meeting of participating artists, all were dumbstruck around the room when he voiced he was finished. Most of the artists were in the middle of their works, and one had not even begun.

He is under no allusion that Jacksonville will be adopting these thought processes anytime soon. As an exhibiting artist he knows the necessity of doing exhibitions outside of your city. But you will not hear him bad-mouthing Jacksonville in the process. A very audible voice came to Thony while at church off of McDuff Avenue. It said, “You need to be for the city.” It freaked him out and rightly so. Ever since graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design, he has tried to leave Jacksonville. The old mafia cliché wouldn’t turn him loose; he was locked in. His belief is that as a society we place an intrinsic value on art but not on financially providing sustainability. He recounts a story of a gallery (X Nylo) where he used to help curate shows and provide the necessary resumé-building skill of exhibiting artists in Springfield. “I loved doing that, providing opportunities for artists. But dollars… money.” It’s no secret that galleries are hard to sustain here. The collector’s list is short, and the perception again is people think they cannot afford to buy artwork. “There is no market, unless your gallery is also attached to a frame shop.”  The gallery had two seasons and then ran out of resources. “Shops close up. You have to have the lights on and have a key for someone to see your stuff.”

This is the reality. There are artists here short-selling others but that goes with educating. Thony is ready to teach.

“I could go anywhere I want to, but here I get to stay and I get to play, and I have a part to make something happen. I’m here to live, work, and make cool stuff.”

Thony knows he is being called; Jacksonville needs an Ambassador to say, “I am staying here,” but who?

Greatest Love of All

The assimilation of a general blanketed whiteness in America has denigrated the Sicilian heritage of the Auippy name, “It originally had an “a” at the end, but at Ellis Island they Amercanized it, and put a y.” Auippa no more. This country has had a long history at removing culture and heritage by attaching last names to its non-citizens. Some are immigrants, others were forced into assimilation never having the opportunity to immigrate; forced to continue to bear the name of their former oppressors as now inclusionary citizens. America’s history has never been as shiny as we would like to remember it. “They actually mention my Great Uncle in the movie CasinoJoey Doves.’ I’ve got it bad on both sides. On my Mom’s side I’m like 16th-generation descendant of Jessie James. Bad blood. But we don’t talk about that,” he laughs. Yes family history is complicated and rarely do we like discussing our faults.

Museums can be safe spaces to engage these difficult topics. The background of art opens the viewer up to feelings that are often not vocalized. It’s why Thony appreciates the programming the Cummer Museum has offered during the run of LIFT. It’s in one of these programs he forged a deeper bond with artists Ingrid Damiani, Princess Simpson Rashid, and Roosevelt Watson III. “I gained two sisters and a brother.” They performed under the tutelage of Folio Weekly’s Best Actress of 2016, Barbara Colaciello. Thony reflects on how this exhibition changed his world and his view of community. Not only do you need an “I” but you need a “U” for community.

“I think that [Martin Luther] King hits it, and I personally aspire to it; I want it to be my default. I love people. I hope people are honest enough when I’m being a jerkface. Some of the LIFT stuff is unconscious bias, but YOU have to learn from that.”

Museums and libraries are learning how to help people curate those conversations. Barbara Colaciello will again weave something together for the closing day of the exhibition to be held on February 12, 2017. Too often, Black heritage is told by others, who shape the narrative based on their perspective, creating an inauthentic view of our collective history. Though contemporary elements are necessary to help redevelop that intention, it is good to reach out to the greater community and ask a question before assuming you have the answer. As LIFT is getting closer to lifting off, other exhibitions around the city, like the black-women-centric-focused exhibition KESHA: A Black Female Experience of Identity and Race, at the Main Library in the JMS Gallery on the 1st floor, will continue those conversations. It will be interesting to see how Jacksonville will be viewed in a few months. History is happening here all the time. Thony hopes to see more progression and inclusion. He is focused on birthing new collectors. The children of today will be his future,

“That’s why I’m in the job I’m at. I am on a mission to provide more opportunities for families to get engaged in the cultural world around us, mainly through Contemporary Art. It’s the most diverse.”

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You Can Get It If You Really Want It


Go across the pond and you will find the name Harewood in a grand abundance. Here in Jacksonville, there is only one that is on everyone’s lips at this moment, Professor Dustin Harewood. The name is getting much notice, and his art is a standout around our city. Murals line walls in Springfield and across the newly-formed Phoenix Arts District. In the past two months Dustin’s face has been on the cover of Folio Weekly (twice in the last six months), mentioned in the Resident, and  he was featured in a full-page spread article in JACK Magazine. He was recently interviewed at the local on-air news syndicate Channel 4. Social media fame is on the rise yet he still gets mistaken for fellow artists Overstreet Ducasse or Roosevelt Watson III. Puzzling? Though they all share similar characteristics and are artists, the only true thing they have in common is the perception of the color of their skin. Is this lack of identification because he has been focused on exhibiting overseas, like in his homeland of Barbados or that of his wife’s homeland, Japan? Or is it because he’s been shepherding sheep for the past 12 years as a professor of art at FSCJ Kent Campus? The misidentification can be troubling to the tenured teacher, but for now his mind is focused on his stewardship.

From the moment a visitor walks into Professor Harewood’s classroom it’s clear how much Dustin loves the kids. A student working an on upcoming project interrupts our interview to get his attention. No apologies are necessary, and the student is quick to give a shout-out to the readers of this blog. Dustin gives solid advice without directly telling where the creative process should take him. “We’ll see how it turns out,” he says as he constantly pulls on his beard and peers through narrowed eyes. These are all tell-tale signs that Dustin has a secure critique in mind about the work in front of him. “Oh, now see this is a little different. Let’s see where it goes. Now it’s all about how well you paint it.” The student launches into why he chose the pattern and recounts what was said in an earlier class, ready to defend or amend his choices. It’s obvious the student wants a firmer hand, but Dustin is a master at evading this trap. No Jedi Masters here, he doesn’t want to put his creative mind onto the students. He’s walking the difficult tightrope of leading without influencing.

“Every artist starts off being influenced by someone but the longer you continue to investigate and analyze how you’re doing that, you will hopefully find yourself in an original place. In my head the stuff I’m doing right now is very original.”

Coming off the success of a pop-up exhibition in San Marco it’s hard to not agree. Dustin is always looking to stay the student, “I move between three things so that the work doesn’t get boring, or feel contrived.” Two out of those three things are combined in an original way: it’s the first time he made the art speak to each other (for the LIFT exhibition) his Floating Heads, which he started very early in his career, and the non-objective abstract art (try saying that five times fast).

“Trying to find your voice is fine, nothing wrong with influence. Sometimes the mistake is when you present yourself as a full-blown developed artist and you have not taken the time to quietly develop your craft.”

Get Up Stand Up

Dustin has been developing his voice since coming out of graduate school and moving to Jacksonville in 2004. “These past 2 years I think I’ve been finding my stride. The work I’m making now is the best I ever made, which is exciting. I assume when I hit 80 I will be producing that fire.”

That is exciting. Several artists throughout history received more fame and recognition as they got older just like one of Dustin’s art heroes, Gerhard Richter. “Artists who take the time to mature have a different quality to what they’re making than a prodigy; it can be a mixed blessing to get too many accolades too early.”

“One of the reasons I think Jean Michel Basquit might have committed suicide/overdosed (considering your perspective) is because he believed his career was washed up. People were commenting that his best work was done. This is not discussed. I don’t think he coped well.” Dustin has the credentials to give this commentary: he came to Jacksonville right after he garnering his MFA. Born in New York, Dustin’s family moved back to their homeland of Barbados when he was eleven.

“My parents are both Barbadian but they met in New York. That was supposed to be the big move back. Get this nice big yard; everything is happily ever after but mmm…  My Dad came back to the United States.”

Dustin, his sister, and Mother stayed behind. There was a lot of competition to get in the only University on the whole island. His father valued education and wanted his children to move back to America with him in North Carolina. Dustin was accepted into North Carolina Central University (NCCU), a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). “Barbados was 95% black.” It wasn’t a culture shock to continue to be in a space dominated by other folks that resembled his identity. “My dad purposefully felt I should go to a HBCU because they would nurture me more and I’m glad he did that.”

University of North Carolina Greensboro would be the follow-up to his undergraduate studies. There he developed relationships with two students, Tonya Lee and Barrett Fiser. They were a year ahead of him and convinced Dustin to put Jacksonville on his radar. Graduate school did look different from Dustin’s youth, “UNCG is the first time I remember being the only black person in a lot of my classes.”

His dad, a better advisor than most counselors, knew it was important for his son to get the full scope of America. 12 years later Dustin looks around to see he is again an anomaly. He is the only black Professor of Arts in all of Jacksonville, Florida. Sure there are instructors sprinkled around but no other fellows for this fellow. When he first moved here it was a shock; now it’s a reminder of how much progress has not happened here. Among academics it’s barely discussed.

“I owe a debt to my parents because they were putting me in a position to succeed. They exposed me to arts which are unusual for West Indian parents – they are normally like no, no. You need to be an Accountant.”

The classes he took at Brooklyn Museum when he was seven years old have put art at his core. Dustin wants to be here in the classroom. He’s invested in the success of his students. “For a lot of artists it’s about them and what is next for me, which is understandable, but in this job it’s about this community of artists. A win for them is a win for me.”


Being an invested art teacher among a faculty that isn’t widely diverse has isolated the professor from the black art community. The art world is nothing if not connected. Dustin is working a different circuit. He hasn’t exhibited in other black-themed artist interest shows in the past. Not that he hasn’t wanted to. “It made me realize that it was a problem and it might be time again to reintroduce myself,” but the art intellectual hadn’t found the right fit for his work in that context. Then along comes the Cummer Museum. Dustin being chosen to be a part of LIFT: Contemporary Expressions of the African Experience comes at no surprise, but his apprehension to commit at first does.

“I had to rethink about what I was doing to make sure I was adding dialogue to the show. One of the first floating heads exhibits I did was of famous reggae artists (Lee Scratch Perry, Buju Baton, Sizzla), one of the first political shows I did. I was asked, ‘Are these your friends?’ Even famous faces are misidentified or relegated to ordinary citizens when they are people of color.”

The representation is immediate entering the Jacobsen Gallery. Old and young black male images spring forward at you from works of Ingrid Damiani and Marsha Hatcher. Turning to the immediate left are three floating faces. While the Kendrick Lamar floating head and Peter Tosh are not always easily recognized most do identify the third, Nina Simone.

Nina turned her art into activism in a very less than subtle way during her heyday, but you would have to know who she is to enjoy the subtlety in Harewood’s artwork. “There shouldn’t be a novelty to exhibiting. We have to be interesting as contemporary artists period. Or you will unwillingly brand yourself as such.” A sample from Kanye West’s, “Blood On the Leaves” is what reminded him of the depth of Nina’s lyricism. “I didn’t start off thinking of Nina, and I didn’t want go to images like Billie Holiday. I was a little apprehensive.” The chills he felt when he heard her voice solidified his choice. Nina’s commitment to unapologetic blackness interfered with her artistic success, something that can be parlayed on to contemporary black artists of today. To be labeled as a black artist or not to be is always the question.

It Goes Down In The Diem

LIFT has been fantastic. I love that we are in this thing.” Harewood is exuberant when speaking about the caliber of artists who are in this group show. He has respect for each of them. The cross-connections continue to be abundant. Harewood has previously been in a group show with Rashid and Ducasse but has seen how his recognition has increased since the exhibition of LIFT debuted. “People here didn’t really know me. The Cummer Museum put me on this beautiful platform. But then, what do you do with that? I would be a fool to sit around waiting for someone to do that again. I’m very grateful to run with the ball the Museum gave me.”

Dustin is clearly no fool. While other artists are clamoring over what they view as limited artistic opportunities for a living artist here, he believes it’s important for artists to innovate their own. Carpe diem their talent and find ways to exhibit past the lack of galleries that our artistic talent craves. It’s what he did with his latest exhibition, How To Now.

“The people who complain about it need to shift their focus and think about the advantages. We are in the circumstance that there are a bunch of people here who are interested in art. Find innovative ways to introduce the art. Instead of talking how it’s (Jacksonville) not like New York or Atlanta, we can talk about the opportunities; there are so many possibilities.”

This might be why Dustin Harewood admires fellow LIFT artist Hiromi Moneyhun. Dustin and Hiromi have a lot of connections beyond art, of course the most superficial being she is Japanese and so is his wife, but it was the art that forged their bond. “You can put this down in my article that I am the biggest Hiromi Moneyhun fan!” He is not alone. Dustin was instrumental in presenting and curating Hiromi’s first solo show. “I’ve always been a huge fan of hers. With Hiromi it’s not about the glitz and glamour it is all about the work. The quality. The craftsmanship. If you are serious you are constantly developing your craft.” The studio that sits in the back corner built into his classroom decorated with new works in process that Dustin shoos my peering eyes away from shows he is that serious too.

I Am The Upsetter

The recent Art Ventures grant recipient did not grow up with familiarity with “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”. He became familiar with the song once he got drafted for this show. This was the first time he even dealt with James Weldon Johnson as a subject matter.

“The emphasis of my secondary education was West Indian. Even some of my U.S. History gets sketchy now and again. When I came over here I realized I was missing something, I realized it after the fact. I would have to self educate.”

Hidden history is no mystery in our educational system. LIFT serves as the symbol of the novelty with which African American history is treated. Trotted out most during February and vapidly disappearing the rest of the year. “I love that it didn’t open in February,” although it does close that month. Dustin is aware that you have to distinguish yourself outside the protective bubbles we create for our own comfort. A lesson learned once he re-adapted to his American roots. In plain sight with no angles Dustin is always his artists’ keeper, “Do they need to know as long as I am helping them? No one needs to hear about it. I’m quietly doing what needs to be done.” It’s commendable that in an often, at times opportunistic self-serving society Harewood is fine with unsung heroics. I’m glad to shout it out for him.

As our interview comes to a close The Professor is called to arms one more time. This time he is helping a student to shape her portfolio for graduate school. He surveys the art and tells her the strongest images to submit. The help that his former graduate classmates gave him comes back up in conversation. He doesn’t forget the hand they extended to help form his life. He uses the best of the resources available to him to create art opportunities for his students and also curates shows at Kent Campus and selects specific artists around town to exhibit. That is viewed as unusual amongst artists, but Dustin is undeterred. He once made work for an exhibition out of town but it left a bad taste in his mouth. It was a missed opportunity in the fact that he created art but now he doesn’t feel like it belongs to his body of work. “I won’t do that again. I never show it.” This lesson was important to learn for visual communication. It is why Dustin shares his criticism and creativity with anyone who chooses to engage him if they are smart enough to listen. It is refreshing to see he has no fear with giving things away.

“No one can take what is mine. At this point I don’t want to regurgitate. If we are so creative, why are we so standard with our practices? Are we really that innovative?”

That is a good question Professor, but while we are waiting for the answer Dustin will be planning his next move.

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Behind the Curtain

Written by Shawana Brooks, Guest Contributor

shawana-and-marsha-sitting-at-the-penny-tableSomewhere, Over In Mandarin

Marsha Hatcher is not easy to read. First impressions with her can leave you misconstruing her high-pitched, southern, at times mumbling, monotone drawl for disdain. Her pokerface can have you wondering, if her deep dimples are there in support, or in spite of you. Her warmed melanin often mistaken for cold heartless steel. In big company, she can be a woman of few words. An oil can would not do much to unlock her jaw; what is needed is patience. Her body language is never expressionless, her doe eyes often hidden by sunglasses, show her true observations. Her thoughts don’t always leave her brain to get to her mouth. She takes that time to pick up a brush to tell a story. Hatcher says people don’t need to know her, they just need to know her art.

“It’s not about me. I’m behind the scene. This is what I want you to look at. Don’t look at me.”

She is indeed the wizard. But who is that masked woman behind the art, who doesn’t need accolades? Though she’s gotten plenty, including The Community Foundation’s Art Grant (2004). Her first show as a professional artist out of college was an international one. A solo exhibition, in Spain, handpicked by a Naval Officer’s Wife. Marsha makes artwork so personal she never imagined anyone looking at it. She still hides in plain sight. The best reward she feels she can get is for someone to look at her art and never need to know who created it. “Just say the work is gorgeous. I’m ok with just that.”

If I Only Had The Words

Marsha is not a writer. Words are not her enemy, but neither are they a comforting friend. She knows she is an introvert, an extremely shy child all through her adolescence, up until college. “It probably doesn’t show now,” Hatcher says jokingly.

“I used to never instigate a conversation. People make me uncomfortable. You don’t need people to create art. If I wanted people around me, I painted them. They don’t talk, so I don’t have to talk.”

She’s worked hard on her conversation etiquette. It was at college that the Georgia native made friends and met her husband of almost 40 years. The then Williams, not yet Hatcher, heeded advice given to her, “You are so shy! You are never going to have any friends. I tried really hard to break out. I could create my friends, so it didn’t bother me. I was a wallflower, I observed. But I knew it had truth to it.” Something innate to her Virgo nature.

She is by no means anti-social, just self-sufficient. That trust in self to start something and to finish it is why she stayed in college, when her then boyfriend dropped out to join the Navy. Hatcher has entertained the thought of a speechless existence. One where she iterates her disdain for “Jumping through hoops, having to get together images, I despise writing, even a bio. I’d rather use my imagery.” And with that, she is content. Her heart can be found in the art she produces. Beautiful faces that look like they are content to never utter a single word. “They don’t need to talk. They are saying enough.”

Merry Ol’ Land Of Jax

Her journey to the River City has led her down a colorful stony road across blue, red, and green bridges. After living abroad, she came to Jacksonville in 1989. Her husband was stationed here, and it felt close enough to her childhood existence in Georgia. The new mom stayed to herself and found solace in her creations. Raising two boys didn’t leave a lot of time to focus on the selling of art. The exhibition overseas was, by all means, a successful one. But besides that she had only sold one other piece of art, in high school, a picture of a dog for $120.00. She didn’t have the artwork to show when she was offered the exhibition in Spain; she created at least 20 pieces in a few months. Though it was thrilling exhibiting her art, she went back to life as usual, finding work at a private art gallery here in town. She was fulfilled to stay on the sidelines. Her bubble busted quickly.

She would create her art and hang it in her home, until someone close to her pointed out how selfish she was being. Selfish? This had not occurred to her. “They really put me in a guilt trip, said God gave you a talent and you don’t share it.” It weighed on her. Marsha was not yet aware of how Jacksonville had few opportunities afforded to a woman artist, especially a black one. This conversation ignited the flame that lies at the heart of her notoriety as an artist living and working in Jacksonville today, her tenacity.

“If you have a talent it’s not for you. If you get pleasure you should want to give it to other people. My art felt like writing in a diary. It was personal.”

She felt obligated to show her artwork outside her comfort zone. “If you are to be an artist, you have to exhibit.” Marsha didn’t wait for things to be handed to her like before; she fought to make them for herself. “I find it hard to say no, when its art-related. Sometimes I know I can do a better job. Not bragging, I have the tools. I’m detail-oriented and particular. I hate it. I can’t leave well enough alone. I don’t want it good. I want it perfect!”

We’re Off To Start Exhibiting

stanza-iMarsha didn’t exhibit again professionally until Through Our Eyes. At the time its home was at channel 7, not yet at the infamous Ritz Theatre & Museum. “Somebody told me they featured black art there. When I came here no one knew I was an artist.” They know now, if still unknown to them physically, her art does precede her. It is housed in several prominent collections along the First Coast. All three of her paintings have been sold from LIFT: Contemporary Expressions of the African American Experience (Stanza I, Stanza II, and Stanza III). She has been a founding member of several artists’ coalitions over the years, the now disbanded JCAAA  (Jacksonville Consortium of African American Artists), where she met most of the successful black artists creating here today. It has been reformed under the leadership of artist Suzanne Pickett, and is rebranded the JCD (Jacksonville Cultural Development Corporation), which recently was awarded an Arts Alive Grant from PNC.

Reluctantly her focus shifted to the business of art. She has served as President of The Art Center Cooperative (TAC) also home to fellow LIFT exhibitor Princess Simpson Rashid. It is expansive, with two locations in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville. One in the newly-minted “Cultural Corner” in

Hemming District acts as studio, gallery, and storage space to more than 20 artists. The other resides in the not-so-engaged Jacksonville Landing. TAC doesn’t quite get as much love as other art studios, such as CoRK Arts District. Its time is coming with more attention being focused on our burgeoning art scene. She’s an anomaly, an artist who feels sick if a deadline is not met. Yet falls right back in line by lending to the stereotype of the bleeding heart. Her difficulty in keeping to the “No” when having it declared is where I find her, at her home studio, hard at work on one such project. I’m greeted by the whines of woodworking, the screeching jig, of a jigsaw. She’s been commissioned to make six awards for an event. She doesn’t know what organization it’s for. It doesn’t matter, though all she knows is that she was asked to create them. That’s enough for Marsha.

Hatcher's City Scapes in Progress

Hatcher’s award cityscapes in progress

If I Were Queen Of The Artists

She’s “Sexty. Sexty years old,” words Hatcher references to describe her age. She defines herself as a black woman, “I like black. I am not the one to switch up (ethnic terms) depending on the season. We done been through some names. Negroes, Colored, African-American.” Though her work is figurative, she focuses on the upper half of the body; she considers herself a portrait artist. Her dining room doubles as a work station. The table is scratched barely through the finish. It’s worn from her constant crafting. It’s right here she crafted the three pieces entitled Stanza I, Stanza II, and Stanza III. Their magnetic gravitation is anchored directly under the sign in the Jacobsen Gallery, centered above is the title of the now nationally-recognized exhibition, LIFT: Contemporary Expressions of the African American Experience. The magic of those pieces are still in the hands of their master.

black-chronicleTowards the right of the table sits imagery similar to LIFT. Faces of black-skinned boys and girls seep through copies of a newspaper past its prime, The Black Chronicle. She shares the complexity of the supposed easy task. Its evolve-ment disgruntles her personal process. “It’s not always a good thing. It doesn’t stop (ideas). I can keep on.” The usual low lull in her voice is replaced by squeaks of admonishment. “Though I never know when to stop.” Her southern drawl is laced with artistic discovery. Hatcher is proud of the work she completed for LIFT; of the thousands of pieces she’s done in her lifetime these are in her top ten percent. Artists are all fairly hard on themselves and don’t always think their work has hit the mark. She is inspired by artists like Elizabeth Catlett and Augusta Savage, and her fellow LIFT artists too. In reference to the exhibition she says, “I think its exceptional (LIFT). It’s edgy and its controversial, but it’s relevant.”

Hatcher is not accustomed to making art that can be viewed as political. She thought hard about what she wanted to put on the walls of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, “I tried to give a glimpse of the truth, not so much in the face like Overstreet’s works; I didn’t want to shake the finger.” She prefers subtlety.

“I never have been one to use my canvas as a sounding board. I prefer not to do that. I want to keep it balanced, not all truth. I got to paint what I can live with.”

She is glad there are other simple perspectives, like Chip Southworth‘s three paintings involved in the exhibition. “You look at the work and you can get it,” yet she admits she wishes she could get a little deeper. “Roosevelt (Watson III) has A LOT going on. But he puts it all together, like a puzzle, and then you see how they fit. Y’all too deep! Don’t be doing stuff that I don’t know what you are doing!” Her overall concern with LIFT is representation “One thing that motivated me as a child artist is I didn’t see any faces that looked like mine. If so, they weren’t pretty faces.” I have personally heard a story of a child in the Jacobsen Gallery who looked at Mrs. Hatcher’s work and said aloud to his caregiver, “His lips look like mine.” Doesn’t seem like much when you are used to seeing your image in everything you do. But here in that rarity, in that moment, it means EVERYTHING. This where the exhibition shines its most bright, on our faces.

There’s No Place Like Home

Though finding continued success, Hatcher was disillusioned with the art scene for quite a while, weary of just exhibiting here in Jacksonville during the month of February. “It’s patronizing. For a long time I refused to do any shows. That’s when they come looking for black artists.” The negative reception for a black-themed show is disappointing. No one is opposed to criticism, this distinction is not that.


Hatcher’s penny table

LIFT will close on Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12, 2017. Lincoln holds a special place in the Hatcher household, as his face dons the copper coinage of a penny. “As long as I’ve known my husband, he has not been too proud to pick one up. We have five-gallon bottles filled with them.” Recently Marsha decorated her kitchen table in homage to her husband’s hobby, a beautiful table with pennies decorating the top. A creative fiend, she recently tackled a deck chair from scratch and is getting ready for another art exhibition with artists Annelies Dykgraaf, Cookie Davis, and Princess Simpson Rashid, at Reddi Arts, located in San Marco, in November.

Marsha doesn’t know how to stop.

“There was a time when, like Picasso, I painted a ‘Blue Series’, but it was just because I had a lot of blue paint. People always want to add more. They want a story to everything you do. I’m not a storyteller. There’s not a way to everything.”

When first focusing on her current work, she let the song dictate the images. She became absorbed, as greats do, and later pulled it back because, “Well, deadlines.” On my way to this interview I told a friend who I was going to meet. She said “Who?!?!” But once I described the art, she knew exactly to whom I would be speaking. After interviewing Marsha, I know this is exactly how she likes it. No notoriety. That isn’t how I like it. I think her name should be as recognizable as the Fuller Warrens and John Stocktons of our community. More so once you realize their history. In a hundred years will there be a Marsha Hatcher bridge? Symbolically she has been one for the art community and the black art community. Yes there is a big difference. She figures a hundred years down the line she will have that last laugh. Intellectuals will try to construct a criticism of her work but she will know better. She laughs, “Let them agonize for days!”

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The Weekend is the Time for FUN!

This weekend is going to be packed full of great events!   With the Riverside Arts Market, the Fine Arts Festival at Boone Park, the Citrus Cel Animation Film Festival, FREE Admission to The Cummer, and the HEAL Zoo Walk for Autism, no one should be bored this weekend!   To make it simple, we have a breakdown of all the activities.

Riverside Arts Market:

Every Saturday from 10am-4pm, under the Fuller Warren Bridge, local artisans, farmers, and food vendors set up their fare for all to enjoy!   There are activities for all ages, live performing artists, and tons of fun to be had.  Robbie Hazen and “The Riot” will be on the River Stage at 11:45, Wingfeld will be on the Hilltop Stage at 11:30, the explosive feats of Dallas, the Human Volcano on the Roundhouse stage, acrobats, face painting, balloons, belly dancers, and more!

Jacksonville Fine Arts Festival at Boone Park:

Come out to Boone Park this Saturday and Sunday for the first annual Jacksonville Fine Arts Festival, hosted by the Avondale Merchants Association, LLC.  This is an outdoor, juried art festival.  Come out and support Jacksonville’s cultural arts.   All profits from the festival will be donated to local nonprofits with a focus on the arts and art education.

Citrus Cel Animation Film Festival:

Beginning on Friday with an opening reception at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, this festival makes a great start to the weekend!   The Up & Cummer’s are hosting this event that is open to the public.  Come see “The Art of Storytelling” featuring storyboards and art, followed by three films at the 5 Points Theater.   The weekend will continue with two workshops for kids at the Museum, free admission to the “The Art of Storytelling” exhibit, and lots of films at 5 Points Theater.

HEAL Zoo Walk for Autism:

Go out to the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens this Sunday for the HEAL! First Coast Zoo Walk for Autism.   There will be fun, music, and games, and you will be walking for a great cause.  The Museum will be facilitating an Arts for All mural.   Jaguar Football Players and The Roar Cheerleaders will lead the way, and Radio Disney will provide musical entertainment.  So come out and support these terrific kids!   All proceeds from the event will go to fund Autism programs throughout the First Coast.

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens:

With all the other great activities going on this weekend, we thought it would be nice to give everyone the chance to stop by for FREE.   Come for a few minutes or all day, we will have plenty to do for everyone.   From 10:30-noon, we will have our Art for Two class for ages 3-5, for $10 per child (and accompanying adult), as well at workshops in collaboration with Citrus Cel.   The kids will love our Make Art Now projects you can take into the gardens and there is something for EVERYONE in Art Connections, our interactive education space.  We will also be offering half price Family memberships ALL WEEKEND!   Take a look at all the benefits of being a member.

So, if you need help planning out your weekend, we have made an easy schedule so you don’t miss anything you want to see!

Friday Night
5-7pm – “The Art of Storytelling” Reception at The Cummer Museum
8pm, 10pm, & 11:30pm – Films at 5 Points Theater

9:30-11:30am – Little Squirts Animation Workshop at The Cummer
10am-4pm – Jacksonville Fine Arts Festival at Boone Park
10am-4pm – Riverside Arts Market
11:30 – Wingfeld on the Hilltop Stage at RAM
11:45 – Robbie Hazen and “The Riot” on the River Stage at RAM
12-2pm – Stop Motion Puppet Fabrication Workshop at The Cummer
12, 2, 4, 6, 8, & 10pm – Films at 5 Points Theater

10am-4pm – Jacksonville Fine Arts Festival at Boone Park
7:30am – arrive at the Zoo to register for the First Coast Zoo Walk for Autism, walk begins at 8:30am
1, 3, 5, & 7pm – Films at 5 Points Theater

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