Business As Unusual: ArtServe
The executive director of ArtServe discusses the impact of the coronavirus on the Fort Lauderdale arts incubator in the latest installment of this ongoing series.
Business backstory: For more than 30 years, Fort Lauderdale art incubator ArtServe has sought to advance arts for the social good. Jason R. Hughes was named executive director in September, after being involved with the organization for five years as vice president and president of its board of directors, guiding its mission to deliver programs that help artists contribute to the economy through business advancement and community engagement.
The impact: “We, of course, had to close to the public during the pandemic. Our small but mighty staff was able to immediately pivot to a successful virtual presence to keep artists and the public engaged, all of which we were able to do remotely.
“ArtServe is as one of America’s original ‘arts incubators,’ meaning we provide a variety of services to all types of visual and performing artists to help them succeed in the vast creative economy—from space in which to create their art, to classes in how to run their business, to shows in which to display their craft and be seen by the world. During this unprecedented time, one of the ways we have been serving artists is by including them in our ArtServe Live sessions on Facebook.
“From a short interview with Emmy-nominated Alexander Star on March 27 just a week after our COVID closure, to more than 100 shows later, our dedicated ArtServe Live crew has produced engaging, educational and entertaining episodes featuring interviews, how-tos, business skills workshops, concerts and collaborations with arts movers and shakers from all over South Florida and beyond.
“Today, we are also offering VIP private tours to our new exhibition, War & Hope. Curated by Syrian-American artist Tony Khawam of Khawam Galleries of Miami and New York, together with ArtServe curator Sophie Bonet, War & Hope showcases works by Syrian and Syrian-American artists who began a new phase of their artistic careers in response to the Syrian War. Their paintings weave contemporary images of the physical and virtual worlds together with emotions wrought by the war and memories from their cultural heritage. We’ve also created a first-ever virtual art exhibition facility tour with War & Hope, punctuated by adjunct online chats, performances and lectures available for free. This exhibition is an example of our innovative and socially conscious programming.”
The future: “Through the exploration, presentation and education of the visual and performing arts, ArtServe will continue to develop, advance and support our members, artists and the community. We do this with compassion, a focus on culture and a commitment to inclusion and diversity. We are an arts leader, driven by membership and philanthropy. That will not change.
“From a programming standpoint, we will continue, with WLRN public radio as a partner, to host ArtServe Live to connect more closely and directly with our diverse communities in ways we never thought were possible. We have people from all over the arts scene actually contacting us and wanting to be on the show. We have also enjoyed the ways we’ve been able to use ArtServe Live to amplify the work and share the talents of artists from all over South Florida and give them a stage they wouldn’t otherwise have had.
“Our focus will also be on building our membership and on philanthropy so we can continue to serve the community at the highest level in the future. That allows us to connect people, close opportunity gaps and strengthen communities. Philanthropy also allows us to generate positive outcomes for the community.”
COVID-19 insights: “I am so proud of the fact that we are an award-winning, nonprofit organization. Working with the staff now, on a daily basis, I have an even deeper appreciation for what ArtServe represents and how we positively impact the arts, artists and the community. I am more passionate than ever about pursuing new ideas and different opportunities that continue to promote what we do.
“I learned that I can truly tap into my entrepreneurial spirit and sales and marketing experience to make a difference at ArtServe. We have the potential to create a positive future for so many deserving and talented artists, for the arts industry and for the entire community—a challenge I humbly accept. I think every aspect of my career has prepared me for this moment, and I am grateful for the opportunity to make a lasting impact.
“In a world of divisiveness, social isolation and unrest, ArtServe is needed today more than ever. We need the community’s support to fulfill our mission, so we encourage the public to become a member and consider ArtServe in their philanthropic donations.”