Column: Where Are the Arts in the ‘Arts and Entertainment District’?

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Last week I sat down and wrote my article for the Wilton Manors Gazette. However, I was a week early due to my miscalculation as to when the next edition would be published. The main topic had to do with our Art-less & Entertainment District along Wilton Drive. What a difference a week makes!

A discussion at our City Commission meeting this past Tuesday had to do with public art and the possible creation of an arts committee. The Mayor and City Commissioners were all promoting the topic. At first I thought my email server was hacked by the Russians, who, after successfully hacking the DNC and Hillary’s servers, had now turned their sights on Wilton Manors.

Seemed a bit suspicious that after such a long time, our city’s elders start singing the praises of art and its value to our community the same week as my mistimed article on the subject. Whatever the reason, I was very happy to hear the discussion and look forward to the recommendations by city staff. Bravo to our Mayor for initiating the discussion and for the support demonstrated by our City Commissioners.

What follows is the remainder of my initial article, minus an introduction that had to do with our February full moon and other ramblings that now seem dated and irrelevant.

As my gaze returns back down to earth from looking up at the winter sky and the bright Snow Moon of February, I am thinking about the color red . Maybe it has to do with Cupid making his rounds for Valentine’s Day, but I think it has more to do with a firehouse. If anyone has recently driven west on Commercial Blvd. through Tamarac, you will know what I am talking about. It’s hard to miss. Tamarac has a brand-new firehouse with the most striking, wonderful, and very firehouse-red art installation adorning the front of the building. Bravo Tamarac! Now can someone please help our Wilton Manors city government get the art bug?

Looking at our drab outdated firehouse just off Wilton Drive in the heart of our Arts and Entertainment District, one might understand more about the vision issue. If we can’t have a new firehouse somewhere else in our city, why can’t we at least make the building look fabulous? Our city had the vision to create the Arts & Entertainment District along Wilton Drive, but that’s where the vision ended. We have the entertainment, but where is the art? Tamarac has gone after public art installations throughout their city. However, here in our Island City, it would be very hard to find any public art installation anywhere.

A few residents and business owners have worked hard over the years to bring art to the Drive. Constance Ruppender brought about the Art in City Hall Project along with the successful creation of Gallery 21, the art gallery space in the former Women’s Club alongside Hagen Park. Anthony LoGrande continues to champion the cause, along with Tom Rossetti and others.

The Stonewall Museum adds exhibition space and plays a vital role in archiving our history. Many have asked for the creation of a Municipal Arts Board or Council. Others would like to see the city’s non-profit organization, The Island City Foundation, become the means to go after funding from sources like the Broward County Cultural Division and the state’s Division of Cultural Affairs. It’s time to see the addition of major public art within our Arts & Entertainment District. And why stop there? Let’s include our city parks and other areas throughout the Island City. This will do so much for our community, our businesses and will make a huge difference in the daily life of our city.

Embracing community art projects helps build a more cohesive and lively community, a sense of identity, and pride amongst residents. In addition, a vibrant arts program would help attract visitors, new residents, and more businesses to our city center, something that has been talked about for many years in many different forums, but has never quite happened.

And lastly, the arts are just plain good for us. Involving art into our daily lives helps improve our health, our psychological well-being, and our creativity as a society.

Seems exactly what Wilton Manors needs to make life even better here…


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