Art and Environmental Conservation: Sarah Crooks Flaire and Green Revolution

Green Revolution is an innovative museum exhibit designed by the Smithsonian Institution. The Museum of Science and History of Jacksonville, FL received all of the necessary design files and instructions digitally, and constructed the exhibit from recycled and repurposed materials found within the community. Composting, green energy, gardening and climate change are some themes of the exhibition.

Environmental artist Sarah Crooks Flaire is partnering with MOSH for the display of several of her creations in the lobby and within the exhibit. Crooks Flaire uses repurposed materials to create unique works like three-dimensional butterfly collages created from tin cans and large murals made from recycled decorative fabric. Beasts of Burden, a 16-foot hand-sewn fabric tapestry, for example, reflects on the importance of water and ways our culture has tried to twist the natural flow. Visitors are invited to participate in an evolving sculpture of hand silkscreened paper butterflies, symbolizing transformation and the interconnectedness of all life. This artwork, Transmigration II will change throughout the 4 month exhibit.

After attending the recent Convening Culture conference, Sarah Crooks Flaire spoke with the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and shared some of her work from this exhibition that bridges art and environmental conservation:

I recently attended the first Convening Culture Conference in Vero Beach FL, where it was exciting to see other artists and organizations bringing the arts and environmental conservation together. The current exhibition Green Revolution: Renewed at the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville FL exemplifies what the conference was all about: making change possible through creative collaboration.

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“Prayers for Transformation” butterflies

"Prayers for a Transformation" visitors pinning butterflies at the MOSH.

“Prayers for a Transformation” visitors pinning butterflies at the MOSH.

This collection of work incorporates recycled materials chosen for their symbolic associations and material potential. I chose to focus on a few products made from trees (paper, shipping pallets, cardboard), aluminum and petrochemical greens. Trees continue their lifecycle by becoming butterflies in Prayers for a Transformation, a site specific interactive collaboration of silkscreened butterflies . Visitors are encouraged to print their own butterflies onto recycled paper, decorate and state a wish for change while pinning them into the larger flock. By actively engaging visitors in a creative recycling process their attention is focused on changing their habitual patterns of consumption. A pdf version can be downloaded from the Museum of Science and History website. Changing over the course of four months, this shifting flock of monarchs migrate through various life forms.

"Whirlpool Feet" etching with collograph by Sarah Crooks Flaire, 22”x22”

“Whirlpool Feet” etching with collagraph by Sarah Crooks Flaire, 22”x22”

With this work I’ve asked, “How do I touch the earth? What am I wearing? Heavy shoes? Barefoot? How do I quiet my own voice and open to other lives? How do we create a new narrative? By understanding my vulnerability versus packaged perfection, by shedding my skin in order to grow, I redefine what I hold onto and ultimately what I give away.” This to me is the essence of our Green Revolution, where by changing my own lifestyle and by changing our habitual patterns of consumption and waste we become part of the whole through an even exchange.

"Quetzal sittin’..." by Sarah Crooks Flaire, recycled aluminum , vhs tape, and plastic greenery 22”x13”x4”

“Quetzal sittin’…” by Sarah Crooks Flaire, recycled aluminum , vhs tape, and plastic greenery 22”x13”x4”

Recycled soda cans become caterpillars and the ultimate rainbow in Quetzal Sittin’ on da Chain of Being. Images of imperialism are transformed into the background of a new narrative in giant 16’ tapestry drawings like Red Pearl River and the Beasts of Burden, sparking a discussion about how we connect with nature.

"Red Pearl River" by Sarah Crooks Flaire, charcoal and gesso on cotton with waterbased dye and handsewing cotton thread.

“Red Pearl River” by Sarah Crooks Flaire, charcoal and gesso on cotton with waterbased dye and handsewing cotton thread.

"Trailwalker State Bird Series" by Sarah Crooks Flaire, 22”x22” etching with unique inking on paper, chine colle' with recycled pallet frame hand made by Olivier Flaire

“Trailwalker State Bird Series” by Sarah Crooks Flaire, 22”x22” etching with unique inking on paper, chine colle’ with recycled pallet frame hand-made by Olivier Flaire

In 2009, I read an article about the “State of the Birds” report published by the Audobon Society. In it they warned that in less than fifteen years, 50% of our state birds will not be able to live in their own state due to habitat loss. This series of etchings is my response to the question of how they will adapt to a more urban lifestyle. By contrasting organic and artificial my art creates a surrealist sense of what the world would be like if we keep synthesizing nature rather than protecting it. My work invites a dialogue about what our relationship with nature would be like if it were one of communion, rather than domination.

The Green Revolution Exhibition runs through May 4, 2014.

Crooks Flaire has created mixed media work for the Jacksonville Public Library, healing centers, corporate environments and private homes. She recently won best in show at the Florida Museum for Women in the Arts for a 22′ installation of life-size intaglio self portraits. To learn more about the artist visit crooksflaire.com or themosh.org

CultureBuildsFlorida.org will be spotlighting the connections between art and environmental conservation throughout 2014. 

Art Talk: Guiding Success with Richard Cuff

Richard Cuff with Ashlyn after she is fitted for her violin. Image used with permission of Richard Cuff.

Richard Cuff with Ashlyn after she was fitted for her violin. Image used with permission of Richard Cuff.

by Tim Storhoff

Guiding Success is a kindergarten to college pathway initiative, and The J.H. Walker String Ensemble is the only voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) orchestra program in the State of Florida. I spoke with Richard Cuff, who started these programs, about his work using music to unlock the potential of pre-kindergarten students that will allow them to have success through college and beyond.

What inspired the creation of Guiding Success?

Guiding Success unfolded over a number of years as a result of several failed attempts to find the perfect cultural fit.  The program was originally called No Strings Attached and the inspiration for this program initially came from my daughter, Korah.  Now a sixteen-year old, soon-to-be-junior at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Korah began reading on her own at eighteen months old.  By the time she was two years old she would walk around the house pretending to play the violin. She initially started studying violin at four years old. As a gift for her fifth birthday we gave her a violin as we threw her a surprise birthday party at the home of her violin teacher. This was her first private lesson. On the way home from her first lesson she was very excited and she asked if I would buy a violin for all of her friends in her kindergarten class as she called out each of their names. At first I said to her that there was no way that I would do that; but even while one side of brain was saying no, the other side of my brain was calculating the cost and mapping out the structure of the program.  By the time my daughter was ten years old our program had begun to take shape and was first featured in this news clip.

Four years later I was hired to serve as consultant to the Jacksonville Symphony Association and take on the role as manager of the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra (JSYO).  As orchestra manager, having the opportunity to see for myself from the inside out, I understood why there was very little minority participation in the JSYO.  I eventually designed, developed and launched two programs to increase minority participation in the JSYO.  The first program, Jump Start Strings is still being managed by the Jacksonville Symphony in six different elementary schools and the second program, Guiding Success, I continued to work on after my contract ended with the symphony ended.  In 2011 we partnered with All About Kids, Inc. to create the All About Kids VPK Music Academy. That summer we began with four students and today we have 35 students in the program with the expectation to increase that number to 74 by the end of this summer.

Ivan shows his form during a class on proper bowing technique.

Ivan shows his form during a class on proper bowing technique. Image used with permission of Richard Cuff.

This is the only Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) orchestra program in the state. Why is it so important to get these children involved at the pre-school level?  

Most professionals agree that the best time to get a child involved in music education is around five years old. Very few professionals start earlier than that because of the challenges that come with a young child’s behavior. This poses a special challenge for minority children because by the time they are exposed to music at a later age in public school (if at all) they have also been exposed to the surrounding culture of rap and R&B that often makes listening to classical music unappealing. However, by beginning as early as three-years old we are able to capture the child’s mind while it is still shaping the child’s likes and dislike. Another major benefit is that at this young age the children do not become easily bored with repetition; in fact, they enjoy going over the same songs and basic lessons again and again. By the time they are four years old these children have habitually developed the discipline to begin learning the techniques that will help them master the skills to play the violin at a third grade level even before they are out of the K-5 kindergarten level.

How will that help guide them to success through college?

Each child, at the beginning of the program, learns the Rules of Music and the Musicians Pledge and repeats them on a daily basis.  These rules and the pledge sum up how this process helps guide them to success through college: 

Rules of Music – “Feet on the floor, hands to yourself, eyes on the teacher, ears open, and mouth closed so that you may breathe and relax.”
The Musician’s Pledge – “Because I am a well-behaved musician, I listen and follow directions, use self-control, respect people, instruments, and materials, and always do my best.”  

Initially it takes the parents and music mentors to remind them of the importance of the rules and the pledge, but eventually they become ingrained into the child’s mind and become the foundational tracks onto which everything else is built.

This is certainly not a solo act and it’s not every day that you see a program like this. Who are some of your partners and key people on your team?  What is your secret for success? 

If there is a secret for success it would be that we began in the early learning environment by partnering with All About Kids Preschool owned by Joann Walker, a retired Duval County Public School teacher.  She has been providing quality childcare for twenty five years and was will to underwrite the cost of the program in the first two years.  Ms. Walker already had a great relationship with the Department of Children and Families, the Duval County Early Learning Coalition, and the United Way’s Success By Six program.  This created the perfect environment in which we could build our program.  The next step was to get the buy-in of the parents and get them to understand that our program would treat the parent as the child’s first teacher and greatest mentor, holding them accountable for the child’s success.  Within the first few months we began to see evidence that the program was destined for success.

What method are you using to help the children learn so quickly; are you using any special type of music curriculum?

The moment Ms. Walker and I agreed to start this program I called on my good friend Andy Bruck, a violinist with the Jacksonville Symphony. Andy started playing violin as a child for over 45 years ago and fully understood the challenges we faced. He was also instrumental in helping me to launch the Jump Start Strings Program. He researched best practices, incorporated proven techniques, and even develop a special music notation system that helped accelerate the rate at which the children could learn to read music. We have a proven method that works and we now call it The Bruck Early Learning Music Method.

Guiding Success is now a couple of years old. Can you speak to some of the successes or impact the program has already had? 

The program is impacting the children in several ways. You only need to sit through one group practice session to know that the confidence level of the children is off the charts.  They have also developed a love for learning and sharing what they have learned with each other. One of our greatest success stories is Cedric Livingston (we call him Ceddy Bear). When he came into the program, because of being in an unstable protected custody environment, he was a shy introvert and would not talk much nor participate in class activities. After about three weeks I noticed he was beginning to clap his hands ever so slightly. Today Cedric is one of our best students. His out-going personality and brilliant smile would not give you a clue that this talkative, fun-loving, six-year old was once a shy three-year old introvert. All of our students are excelling in class as kindergarteners; our two oldest students (2nd grader and sixth-grader) are excelling as well.  After only four months in our program, then 5th grader Sarah auditioned on violin for Lavilla School of the Arts and was accepted, and this year, 2nd grader Daija will be auditioning for the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra.  There are now 35 students (a few of them adults) that are taking either daily or weekly music lessons. In the summer of 2011 we started with four students.

In addition to musical training, the program also provides other useful resources to the students and their families. How is something like a college savings account reinforced by the musical aspect of the program?

We teach our students and their parents that practice does not make perfect because, “You were perfect when you walked in the door.” Practice makes improvement. It is improvement in every area of life for which we strive. Our mission is to encourage literacy through entrepreneurship and the arts. This literacy component includes financial literacy as well as literacy for health and wellness. A college savings saving account allows us the help the parent and the child develop the habit of saving while at the same time developing the mindset to incorporate other wealth-building principles including investing and home ownership.

On the set at Fox 30 Action News during the morning show. This was the first public television performance for the students. Photo used by permission of Richard Cuff.

On the set at Fox 30 Action News during the morning show. This was the first public television performance for the students. Photo used by permission of Richard Cuff.

How do you see Guiding Success moving forward in the future?

I see Guiding Success becoming a statewide initiative and a national model. The program will become voucher-based and serve as wraparound funding to supplement VPK dollars on the State level and Head Start dollars on the Federal level. Each of our centers will feed into local public and private K-5 programs. Ultimately, I see Guiding Success being responsible for the State of Florida truly being known as a State of the Arts.  

The Division of Cultural Affairs truly believes that “Culture Builds Florida.” How will this program benefit Florida economically and otherwise as you work on expanding it to be statewide? 

This program will benefit Florida economically because as more people are encouraged to invest private dollars into early childhood education initiatives more of our young people will choose to stay in school rather than drop out, blighted buildings will be turned into rehearsal halls, parental involvement will become the norm rather than the exception and recidivism will become a thing of the past as the path to prison is circumvented by giving our children a clear path to college. It is well-known that for every dollar invested in early childhood education the state will see a return of $7 dollars. But that ROI is not only a monetary return it is also a return in social capital. Through Guiding Success we are building better citizens and equipping future leaders who now have a gift that can never be taken away and can only flourish in this positive environment.  

To learn more about Guiding Success and the J.H. Walker String Ensemble or to contact Richard about bringing this program to your community, visit guidingsuccess.org.

Spotlight On: The Future of Arts and Culture Districts in Florida

by Bob Evans

I might dispute the claim that a river is the only feature missing from Tallahassee, but I won’t dispute that Johnny Cash lyrics always make a salient point. In a recent Emerging Leaders Blog Salon post at the Americans for the Arts ARTSblog, “Another Wide River to Cross: Incentivizing an Arts District in Tallahassee,” my colleague, Tim Storhoff, gives some excellent commentary as to why a centralized arts district can be a defining factor in the overall health of a city. The truth is that these arts and culture districts provide a community with a meaningful sense of place and purpose, the likes of which cannot be easily replicated.

Map of the Bradenton Riverwalk from http://www.realizebradenton.com

At the behest of the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, I’ve done some research on the subject of arts and culture districts. I found that these areas, intended to create a “critical mass” of places for cultural consumption, have 4 major outcomes:

  • Attracting artists and cultural enterprises
  • Fostering cultural development
  • Encouraging economic growth
  • Fulfilling community needs – both rural and urban

These outcomes are condensed from the National Association of State Arts Agencies Policy Brief on State Cultural Districts, which naturally also defines the state’s roles.  Currently, 12 states have enacted legislation for arts and cultural districts, but Florida is not among their ranks. Overall, I feel like the recognition, facilitation, and cultivation of these districts by the state is the most crucial part of the process.

Originally, I was unclear if the catalyst of these districts came from a grassroots or local effort or from the state; was it a top-down or bottom-up approach? Through my research, I discovered it was more of a growth from a younger program to an older program, where the criteria are established first, and grants, funding, and tax incentives are added later. The current models in states like Texas and Maryland support this.

Maryland is especially receptive to these districts, and has provided admissions and amusement tax exemption, income tax credit, and property tax credit for these districts, the most of any state. The benefits of these districts are astounding. Towson University conducted an economic impact study of these arts districts in Maryland, and found that “an estimated 1,621 jobs, $147.3 million in state GDP, and $49.8 million in wages were supported on average annually between 2008 and 2010.”

Florida has some excellent examples of arts and culture districts, from the Bradenton Riverwalk, to the Tampa River Arts and Channel Districts, Jacksonville’s CoRK District, Miami’s Design District, and on. But as of right now, there are no local or state systems to provide a forum for communication, nor are there direct tax incentives for these areas. If Tim’s dream comes true, there will be a vibrant district right in the middle of Tallahassee, and, as he theorizes, “If Florida’s policy makers can experience the benefits of an arts district firsthand, perhaps a statewide system can be implemented.”

Right now, it’s hard for anyone to see long term benefits of giving tax breaks, especially to relatively new programs. It’s going to take time, and we need to be cautious, which is exactly why states like Texas have adopted the certification-only approach without incentives. It’s a great way to test the efficacy of the program. But, as for the future, I’ll just have to defer back to Mr. Cash: “I don’t know. I can’t say. I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way.

Spotlight On Robert C. Broward

by Jennifer Hoesing

Robert C. Broward

The work of architect and Florida Artists Hall of Fame inductee Robert C. Broward has literally changed the face of Florida.

He began his career in 1949 as an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright during the construction of Florida Southern College, and his work as an author continues to this day. In sixty-one years of architectural practice in Florida, Broward has produced diverse designs including small homes and chapels, as well as large warehouses, office buildings, churches museums, movie theaters, high-rise buildings, oceanfront residences and corporate headquarters.

His love of nature, particularly in Florida (where has been a lifelong resident), inspired his organic architectural methods. In his work, design and sustainability parallel a commitment to environmental stewardship. Methods of building, materials, site conditions, orientation to the sun, rain and other natural phenomena were major considerations in Broward’s work. In just one example, he often designed rainwater collection to create spilling effects as a decorative and sonic element, celebrating frequent rainstorms in Florida.

Unitarian Church, Jacksonville, 1965. Image courtesy/used by permission of Robert C. Broward.

As a teacher, mentor and author, Broward contributed to architectural scholarship by influencing the careers of two generations of architects. He taught for four decades in academia as Adjunct Professor of Design at the University of Florida. He wrote the definitive scholarly work on Henry John Klutho’s Jacksonville structures. Now in its second edition, the book features of 500 photographs of the early twentieth century architecture that revived a city ravaged by fire. Broward published in numerous magazines, books and newspapers, and an entire issue of a national architectural journal was devoted to his work.

In 2011, Broward was elevated to the prestigious American Institute of Architects (AIA) College of Fellows, the highest designation in the architectural profession. In February 2012, he was inducted info the Florida Artists Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Jacksonville Historical Society. His prolific career has produced a legacy of outstanding architecture throughout Florida and beyond.

Spotlight On Jacksonville Comedy from The Florida Memory Blog

by Katrina Harkness, blogger for The Florida Memory Blog

Portrait of Oliver Hardy

Portrait of Oliver Hardy from The Florida Memory Project

You might not think of the words Jacksonville and comedy together. But in the early years of American movies, Jacksonville, Florida, experienced a brief turn in the spotlight as one of the hubs for filmmaking on the east coast.

The Vim Comedy Company, based in Jacksonville and New York, was one of several film studios operating in the Jacksonville area in the first three decades of the 20th century. Before going out of business in 1917, it employed such stars as Oliver “Babe” Hardy, Ethel Burton, Walter Stull, and Kate Price, as well as Swedish-born director Arvid Gillstrom.

Oliver Hardy began his film career and rise to international fame in Jacksonville, first at the Lubin studio, then with Vim and his own production company, and finally with the King Bee studio, which took over Vim after its repeated financial troubles.

Motion picture scene from "Strangled Harmony"

Motion picture scene from "Strangled Harmony," from The Florida Memory Project

Hardy, Price, and many of the other Jacksonville actors made permanent moves to Hollywood soon after the political atmosphere in Jacksonville turned against the movie industry due to accusations of fraud, ties to political corruption, and fear of endangering the public welfare with elaborate stunt sequences staged without city approval. The film Bouncing Baby shows stunts shot in the streets of Jacksonville.

Motion picture scene

Motion picture scene from The Florida Memory Project

In a recent episode of the TV show Downton Abbey, Mrs. Hughes was surprised that Carson knew who Theda Bara was. Who was Theda Bara and what was her connection to Florida?

Today’s post features content from The Florida Memory Blog. The blog, launched earlier this month, makes resources from the State Library and Archives of Florida available to the public and encourages the study of Florida’s rich history and culture.