Art & More
The ArtServe building on Sunrise wears many hats.
By: Tom Swick
Photo By: Kara Starzyk
You’ve surely driven past the green, pink and purple arches – an estimated 50,000 cars cruise (or crawl) down this stretch of Sunrise Boulevard/Federal Highway every day – and you may have wondered what the building is all about.
“ArtServe has two main purposes,” says president and CEO Jaye Abbate. “The first is to support local and emerging artists, to help them grow and practice their profession so that they can turn their art into a business.” This assistance, Abbate explains, extends to all the arts, not just the visual ones, and to organizations as well as to individuals. She sees 25-year-old ArtServe as “Broward County’s arts incubator.”
Local artist Michael Jude Russo won artBRAVO!, the juried fine art competition held this past November, with a mesmerizingly beautiful and larger-than-life snake charmer’s basket made from recycled materials. (The two snakes were constructed from Russo’s old running shoes.) Russo, who describes his work as “green mixed media,” is happy to pay the $120 annual fee to be a member because he believes that ArtServe “is connecting with the people who can connect with the art.” He had let his membership lapse, but returned after Abbate came on the scene, encouraged by her conviction that artists need to be able to make a living from their art.
The second purpose of ArtServe, Abbate says, is to “create cultural experiences for the community.”
The benefits of supporting art, she believes, go far beyond the artists themselves. “Most successful cities are ones that have an artistic community. Companies are not going to move to an area that is without great cultural opportunities.”
ArtServe moved to its current location 14 years ago, taking over the one-story building on the south side of Sunrise that had served as a branch of the Broward County Library. A downsized library still operates inside two days a week, its patrons getting exhibits along with their books. The building is also a polling place, so voters get exposed to art.
“Today it’s quiet,” Abbate explains on a Friday morning in the gallery. “Along this side we have painting classes Tuesdays through Thursdays.” For most of January, the gallery is occupied by “Fluidity”, a multimedia show that has “a dance/visual installation.”
Two small meeting rooms to the side are hung with paintings by ArtServe members who rented them for individual shows. The gift shop sells works – paintings, sculptures, jewelry – made by members. The jewelry you see on sale at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts is also made by ArtServe members.
“Fifty percent of what we do,” Abbate says, “is out in the community.” One of the higher profile activities was ArtServe’s Brunch on the Beach, last June and July, in which participating restaurants exhibited artworks and hosted art happenings.
She tells of the general manager of the GALLERYone Doubletree who came in one day just before the boat show and said he needed art, local art. “I don’t just want a painting on the wall,” she remembers him saying, “I want it to feel like a gallery.” Says Abbate: “It was a good way for our artists to be seen.”
She notes that, with the improved economy, people are buying and renovating houses again. “I want them to know that there is high-quality, original art by people who are up-and-coming – and they can buy it here.
“People have board meetings here,” she says, “bridal showers. The Victoria Park Homeowners’ Association meets here. I want to bring some of these groups in, especially those whose members have discretionary income.”
But, she emphasizes, ArtServe is not just a place to see – and perhaps buy – art; it is a place where people can participate in art.
Walking past the library, she points to the dance studio – “one of our most-used spaces.” Not only can the public come and learn to dance – Latin, ballroom, ballet, etc. – but dance teachers who need a space in which to hold classes can rent the studio at a very affordable rate.
In addition to the painting, drawing and dance classes, ArtServe offers acting, photography and even philosophy classes. The Gold Coast Jazz Society, which has its office in the building, hosts jazz jams the first Friday of every month. “They’re free, in the gallery,” Abbate says. “Anybody can come and jam with them.”
She continues: “A community resource is how I see the place – a community resource and an economic engine.”
A little farther along, she opens the door to the auditorium, which – like the gallery, the dance studio, the classroom, the conference room, the offices – can be rented. It hosts everything from cabarets to religious services (Jewish on Friday evenings, Christian on Sunday mornings). “Last night a film group had their monthly meeting in here.”
Still, she says, the building is underutilized. “A massive community resource,” she expands her definition of it before lamenting the fact that many people in the community remain unaware of it.
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I've said it many times on this blog, ArtServe is an important organization in Broward County and I strongly recommend every artist to become involved and take advantage of all ArtServe has to offer. GL