ArtsBunker Launched in Wilton Manors

Former FATVillage artists flee higher rents.

ArtServe President Jaye Abbate calls ArtsBunker a “classic boom and bust” story played out countless times in the art world.

Artists move into an area and improve it but rents are eventually raised higher than many artists can afford, forcing them to move out and start the whole cycle all over again.

The most recent episode involves FATVillage in Fort Lauderdale and the foundation of Arts Bunker at Equality Park in Wilton Manors.

Arts Bunker is a collaborative between Chuck Loose, Jim Hammond and Jessie Melero. They sublease one of the buildings located in the back of the property from Equality Park and that organization rents it from the Pride Center.

“We opened three years ago but it’s only been the last year it has taken off,” said Loose, who owns Iron Forge Press, a screen printing business.

Jessie Melero, owner of Phoenix Productions, which produces props and costumes, said ArtsBunker offers him plenty of space to work and plenty of interaction with other artists.

“There’s just so much diversity here. It’s just so overwhelming sometimes. I meet more creative people here than I have anywhere else.” And more events at ArtsBunker, like “I Was There 2,” which took place May 14 and featured gig posters of rock bands, bring in even more people.

Loose said ArtsBunker hosts at least one art show a month, workshops and a monthly art sale –

Bunker Bazaar is held the first Saturday of every month from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and features handmade and local items for sale.

Most of it is free, part of ArtsBunker’s community engagement, and way “to give back,” said Jim Hammond, who owns Puppet Network, a design, consulting and production firm that specializes in puppets. He also recently started Live Animation Studios, which produces mostly mobile-based content. Currently, he says he has 30 productions under development and is in talks with PBS and the Travel Channel.

Hammond is confident ArtsBunker won’t be priced out of its non-profit controlled building but asked local leaders to do more to help other artists stay in the areas they improve and keep gentrification from forcing them out. “While I love going to Starbucks, you don’t need a Starbucks on every corner.”

Visit Facebook.com/ArtsBunker for more information.


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