via ArtExplosion

ArtsUnited, the local visual, performing and literary arts organization, isn’t just planning a party to celebrate its 20thanniversary. The group will mark the occasion with a special month-long festival, including exhibitions, poetry readings, book signings and artist roundtables in locations across Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park and Wilton Manors.

 “Our membership includes more than 120 artists representing virtually every discipline—from painting, sculpture and photography to poetry, fashion design, music and dance,” said ArtsUnited president Chuck Williams. “We’re especially proud to showcase so many talented artists at our 20thannual ArtExplosion. We are offering something for every art lover.”

The festival officially kicks off this Saturday at 7 p.m. at ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale with an evening of art, fashion, music and entertainment.

Guests at the gala opening reception will be treated to an exhibition of dozens of beautiful art works representing a variety of different media and created by local, national and international artists. 

A special, one-night-only erotic art show will be on display and award-winning airbrush artist and reality show star Avi Ram will turn musclebound models into walking works of art. Photographer Dennis Dean, a longtime ArtsUnited member, said the erotic art is always popular and one of the biggest draws at the show.

Later in the ArtServe auditorium, Fashion Reaction, hosted by local fashion expert Max Tucci from “America’s Next Top Model,” will showcase formal, casual and swim wear created by local designers, including the Carlos Marrero Collection, Isaac Martinez’s IM Project, Laurie Phoenix’s Skitzophrenic and Paul Michael’s GETT WETT. 

Singers Chad Johnson, Lenora Jaye and Drew Acevedo will also perform throughout the evening.

 “It’s going to be a wonderful evening,” promised Siegi Constantine, the organization’s secretary, public relations chair and self-described cheerleader. A patron of the arts and LGBT ally, she added, “Our membership includes so much more than just painters and photographer. Our goal is to change that perception during our 20thanniversary season.” 

Other highlights of the festival schedule include “A Sense of Pride: Thou Art Woman,” an artists’ roundtable on Jan. 11 at NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale; “Nightbirds: Photos of NYC’s Dynamic Club Culture Personalities, 1986 -1995” by Michael Fazakerley, opening Jan. 20 at the Stonewall National Museum Wilton Manors Gallery; a book signing featuring artist Timothy Leistner on Jan. 22 at the Oakland Park Library; and the official closing party and winners exhibition on Jan. 26 at Yule Lounge in Wilton Manors. 

In addition to ArtExplosion, ArtsUnited also mounts monthly exhibitions featuring member artists at the Bona Italian restaurant gallery in Wilton Manors and produces a major LGBT-themed show each June for Pride month.

Tickets for ArtExplosion are $15, including the opening gala, Fashion Reaction show and awards ceremony. A $25 VIP package includes a special reception at 6 p.m. with champagne toast and reserved seats for the Fashion Reaction show and awards ceremony. Tickets and a full schedule of ArtExplosion events are available at ArtsUnitedFlorida.com.