There’s a lot of talk these days about Hollywood becoming the new mecca for the arts in south Florida — just look at all the events at the ArtsPark at Young Circle, The Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, the new galleries popping up around Harrison Street and other spots.
But to the people who run the show at the Art and Culture Center/Hollywood, there is no return to Hollywood as the Center of the Arts.
“We don’t believe that art ever left the city of Hollywood,” said Joy Satterlee, Executive Director of the Center. “Like every place, all of South Florida is going through a finding period, a transition. But while we may have seen a little bit of a difference in Downtown Hollywood, the Art & Culture Center has always served as a magnet for community interactions, for art exhibitions, and art education, since it opened in 1975.”
Originally, the Art & Culture Center was located at the beach, at 1301 South Ocean Drive, and it moved to its current location, its permanent home, at 1650 Harrison Street, in 1992. There is a fascinating history of the founding and the building itself, which has been designated as a significant historical structure by the state of Florida — The Broward Trust for Historic Preservation honored the Center in 2008 for its stewardship of the Kagey Home — available online here: https://artandculturecenter.org/history. (A print copy can also be obtained at the Center.)
A collaboration of public and private efforts, the Art and Culture Center/Hollywood remains a 502(c)(3) non-profit organization supported by both government and the community. In 2016, the Center received an ArtsEd Forever! award from the Broward Cultural Division for Exceptional Service & Outstanding Contributions to Arts Education in Broward County. In 2015, the Center was honored as 2-1-1 Broward’s “Non-Profit Organization of the Year – Arts” at the Fifth Annual Non-Profit Academy Awards.
While she is adamant that there has always been a strong presence of all the arts here, Satterlee conceded that things may have indeed changed since she first arrived at the Center, in 2002. For one thing, she recalled, there were a lot more galleries in downtown than there are today.
“Hollywood has always been a city of the arts,” noted Satterlee. “Mara (Mara Giulianti, former Mayor of Hollywood) had that vision. She was a big supporter of arts and culture, and her vision did come true. But most of the gallerists were renting, and when you’re not your own landlord, when you’re dependent on other people’s property and you have to meet those expenses…well, you have to sell a lot of paintings to pay the rent.
“We’re presenters of art, and a non-profit, so it’s a very different business model.”
Development Director Jeff Rusnak, who, like Satterlee, has been with the Center for many years, concurred.
“Hollywood always was a space for local artists in Broward County,” he said, recalling such hubs as Warehouse 57, the Arts Academy and other local businesses on Harrison and the surrounding streets, where people would gather to make, show, perform and collaborate on all kinds of arts — visual, performing, poetry and more.
“When Wendy (Glazer) was the executive director, she was one of the preeminent curators in South Florida, and Hollywood always had that reputation, because of the Center and Wendy. If you have a great curator, you attract great artists and that’s what we’re doing here now, with Laura (Laura Marsh, the current Curator of Exhibitions.)“
Rusnak, who has always lived in Plantation, recalled how he would come to Hollywood because that’s where the people who were making art were.
“Hollywood was always where the vibe was,” he said. “We never lost it; it just changes over time. Every area finds its niche.”
One of the areas that Satterlee feels is contributing to the “new” Hollywood art vibe is that there are more artists actually living here than ever before.
“It started in Miami,” she believes. “Many artists and gallerists have been priced out of the market, they’re working out of their homes, and there are less brick and mortar galleries. However, a lot of those that have been priced out of Miami are coming here, and many of them are moving their residences here as well, so in that way, we are kind of having a resurgence here in Hollywood.”
While the City focuses on bringing a new audience and a new generation of artists to Hollywood, the Art and Culture Center continues to do what it has been doing for 40+ years, as it says in its mission statement: Cultivating creativity and the support of the arts in our community through education, innovation, and collaboration.
Arts education has always been a major focus of the The Art and Culture Center/Hollywood, which officially changed its name about three years ago from The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, dropping the of to clarify that although it is located in Hollywood, it is for everyone.
Deputy Director Susan Rakes, who coordinates the Education program, joined the Center in 2003. An educator by training, she has taken the program from some dance and drawing classes to a multi-disciplinary curriculum.
Today, that curriculum includes a full range of classes for children and adults. For children, classes include various forms of visual arts, such as
drawing, painting and designing, theatrical and acting skills such as projection, stage presence, improvisation and articulation, dance skills, stage presence, musicianship and vocal technique.
There are after school and Saturday classes as well as Summer Camp programs in visual and performing arts, complete with stage performances and gallery exhibitions. There are field trips, off-site after-school programs coordinated with partner organizations and free Family Days. Private and small group lessons are also available for children, teens, and adults of all ages and skill levels in piano, guitar, voice, movement and dance, theatre, art and writing.
The entire upstairs of the building is devoted to the young artists, and consists of a gallery filled with an ever-evolving exhibit of art by local students, and the Distance Learning Arts Studio, where virtual visual and performing arts educational content is shared via internet and conferencing capabilities to young children through high school students in remote locations.
“It’s a great opportunity for an organization to make a mark on arts education and have a far reach doing it,” noted Rusnak.
“Where we are now, we have reached our physical limitations,” noted Satterlee. “We are hoping that the GO bond is approved, as it will give us the opportunity to enlarge our facilities, to add education programs for the need that the community is demanding, build an additional 4000 square foot building with five different types of classrooms, and add more adult programming plus more exhibition and performance space.”
“Space limitation has always been a consideration as to the number of offerings we can provide,” agreed Rakes. “We do have plans in our future to be able to offer more options for early education through the senior populations as we grow the Center’s reach and expand our building size and capacity.”
This year, said Rakes, the newest initiative for the Center is the introduction of an early childhood arts education program, starting kids as young as three.
“Participation in the arts during the early education years helps facilitate learning and social-emotional growth,” she believes. “Young children learn best from exploring and interacting with the world around them, and the arts provide abundant opportunities for experimentation and discovery. The incorporation of arts in early education has many benefits and children’s involvement in arts-infused instruction and activities enhances development in many areas, including sensory and motor skills, language skills, math skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, and creative expression.”
Besides their reputation for its interesting, immersive and unique exhibitions, The Art and Culture Center/Hollywood is also known for its interesting, immersive and unique fundraisers.
“We are a non-profit who holds many many fundraisers,” noted Satterlee proudly.
Most recently, the Center hosted the 11th version of its Glam event; this year, it was Glam Goes Surreal. The Glam events, unlike the others, are always held at the Center, inviting people who might not otherwise actually visit to experience the place first-hand. Themed entertainment and costumes prevailed.
“We started theming a few years ago,” explained Satterlee. “First it was Hot Hollywood Glam, the Hollywood Red Carpet, then Hot Havana Nights. We never thought that people would dress up, but now people look forward to it — or coming to see the people that do!”
Also in February was the 11th Annual “Exposed” exhibition and fundraiser, coordinated by Curator Marsh. For each ticket sold, an exhibiting artist donates a piece of art.
“We always pay our artists — we believe that artists deserve to be paid,” she declared. “Then they donate pieces for this fundraiser.”
At the end of the evening, after food, drink, and entertainment, tickets are drawn and each ticket holder gets to choose and take home their choice of available pieces until the last piece is claimed. There are usually about 100 pieces in the drawing.
The entire team gets involved and they all agree that most people seem pleased with their bounty and say that they don’t recall anyone ever going home really unhappy. After the event, Marsh will share the contact info of each artist with the winner of their piece.
“It’s up them if they want to take the initiative to get in touch,” said Marsh, adding that the entire process is, she believes,” a very interesting, intimate, experience.”
The Center continues to come up with innovative and interesting fundraisers. It’s put a spin on the traditional golf tournament by hosting one at night, using glow-in-the-dark golf balls, and turned a boring luncheon into Cuisine For Art, honoring a local celebrity who “provides enrichment in the cultural arts” and getting elected officials including Mayor, Commissioners and other government personnel to serve the food.
“It’s critical to get the political class into our world,” stated Rusnak. “We need government investment in the arts, so we need those elected officials in our space. Our fundraisers are always entertaining, multi-faceted and fun,” he said.
Going forward, The Art and Culture Center/Hollywood continues to focus on expanding its reach to the people of Hollywood and beyond. Rusnak continued, “We are involved in so many different ways of bringing art to people beyond just a gallery experience,” he explained. “The image of the tortured artist working alone is no longer valid, and that’s what this space is. Here, the artists teach, they curate, they collaborate on public art projects. That’s the definition of an artist today. The reality is, you have to come up with a way to make a living and still get to do your art.”
“I find South Florida interesting,” Marsh agreed. “It’s really the first place I’ve lived where a lot of the artists focus on community, collaborate, and do a lot of outreach. In this region, it seems that the isolated artist model doesn’t really exist anymore.”
Marsh noted that one of the new exhibitions, “Frimaire is the Color of Adolescent Sunset”, which opens on March 15, features the work of artists who are full-time professors and museum administrators. The show illustrates that artists who also teach or work for or with other artists feel at liberty to take creative risks and work inter-disciplinarily.”
Satterlee maintains that although the art scene in Hollywood continues to experience the same natural transitions that occur in any entertainment or arts district, alluding to Wynwood, Fat Village, the Mass District, MiMo and others, that there is enough population to support multiple art destinations, and that The Art and Culture Center/Hollywood will maintain a concerted effort to do what it does best: to continue to serve and to be an integral part of the City of Hollywood.
“It’s part of our mission statement,” she reaffirmed. “The support of the arts in our community. Community is one of our core values,” Rusnak agrees.
“Every city needs an art institution,” he said. “Hollywood was was one of the first to identify that. Without an identity in the arts, you’re not considered a ‘real’ city. Branding as an arts community, that brand that a city gets, it’s critical to for a city. It attracts young people, it attracts families, it’s good for property values, it attracts professionals into the space.
“So yes,” he concluded. “When you think of all those things, yes, that way…I think we’re a pretty big deal.”
The Art and Culture Center/Hollywood is located at 1650 Harrison Street and is open Tuesday – Sunday. For more information on the Center or any of its programs, visit https://artandculturecenter.org or call 954 921 3274.