A&E: Meet Craig Johnson, ArtServe’s New Executive Director

Craig Johnson Via SFGN

Craig Johnson, the new executive director of ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale, has big plans for the arts incubator celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020.

“ArtServe has a remarkable history serving as a resource center for artists of all disciplines and genres, with deep roots planted in the community. The foundation has been laid for an ArtServe 2.0,” Johnson said. “Now, the idea is to build upon that legacy and reposition ArtServe as not only an arts incubator, but an arts laboratory where we bring artists together with stakeholders and merge arts and science and technology.”

Johnson immediate got to work after arriving in South Florida six months ago, holding focus groups and listening sessions with diverse segments of the local arts community.  
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“It’s our responsibility now, if we are to reach a new generation, to demonstrate the value of the arts beyond the natural beauty and explore the realm of social responsibility. That’s how we will create a longevity for arts in our community.”

Johnson, a native of New Jersey, came to Fort Lauderdale from Winter Park in Central Florida, where he founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering diverse dance organizations, including the region’s first African American company.

“I think we did our job,” he said, “and after 17 years, I was ready to do more beyond dance.”

Three weeks after responding to the job posting at ArtServe, Johnson was hired and he couldn’t be happier.

“It’s a paradise,” he said of his new home. “South Florida is incredibly exciting, especially Broward County. One of the reasons I wanted to be here is the state of the arts in Broward County. It’s a vibrant place and there’s a level of excitement to collaborate and bring people together through the arts.”

Johnson resides in the lively FAT Village neighborhood with his partner of 25 years, a professional dancer, and he is committed to continuing ArtServe’s embrace of LGBT artists and the area’s sizable LGBT community.

“I am that community. One hundred percent. One of the experiments I’m most interested in is how the arts bridge our differences. It’s not just about race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. We can use arts to create greater levels of understanding between our communities, so we can ultimately achieve a connected humanity.” 

The results of Johnson’s initial efforts will be on display beginning Oct. 9, with the opening reception scheduled for Oct. 12. A family-friendly event is planned for Oct. 26 with pizza, art activities and special performances.

Featuring a curated sampling from the visual and performing arts, the 30th Anniversary Season Preview will give audiences a sneak peek at upcoming thematic exhibitions including the African Diaspora “Roots of the Spirit” exhibition, a Women’s History Month exhibit, the environmentally-conscious “Changing Landscapes” installation, “Emerging Art from War-Torn Syria” and more.

For more information about ArtServe events and programs, go to ArtServe.org.