“This came at exactly the right time,” said Dave Lawrence, CEO of the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County.
He was speaking June 19 at the opening reception for the council’s summer exhibit, which marks its inaugural Artist Innovation Fellowship Program.
“We’re so thrilled to be here,” he said. “It was a challenging year for everyone. Tonight is a night of jubilee, to celebrate Juneteenth and the five artist recipients of the Fellowship Program.”
Those artists – visual artists Anthony Burks Sr., Isabel Gouveia, Amy Gross, musical artist Joshua Lubben and choreographer Donna Murray — were awarded $7,500 grants to work on their vision over the past pandemic year.
The Artist Innovation Fellowship, funded in part by the Klorfine Foundation, focuses on personal creative growth and the belief that an entire community will benefit through investments in creative individuals. It is designed to address the pursuit of innovation in either existing avenues of creative expression or through the pursuit of new ideas and projects.
The evening opened with Palm Beach Gardens spoken word artist Kimberly Smith, who recited her original work, Juneteenth 1865 — A Ripple in Time, followed by a musical set by the Lubben Brothers: Joshua Lubben and his triplet brothers, Tom and Michael Lubben.
Murray, a Jupiter-based dancer and choreographer, premiered her original work, Landscapes.
The Lubben triplets, classically trained musicians and folk artists from rural Idaho, take inspiration from Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.
They performed three original songs, “When You’re Gone,” “Dance For Love” – released on Veterans Day 2020 as a tribute to all veterans, inspired by the words of Civil War soldier William Straub — and “Charleston Massacre,” their musical response to the 2015 mass shooting in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., where nine African-American worshipers were killed.
“It’s an incredible gift to be here tonight,” said Joshua Lubben from the stage, “especially after a year when all live music performances were canceled. The pandemic gave us time to sit and think.”
“A folk song is what’s wrong and how to fix it,” he said, paraphrasing Woody Guthrie.
Mixed-media and fiber artist Amy Gross’s work transports viewers into a fantastical natural world, one of her own making and imagination.
Trained as a textile artist specializing in children’s products and toy design, Gross moved to Florida in 2000 and began experimenting and combining Photoshop and photography with her intricate beaded fiber sculptures replicating nature.
The Delray Beach resident’s fascination since a young age with stereoscopes brought her to a point where she shoots the same image of her intricate creations on two cellphones, mimicking the left and right eye, resulting in a single 3-D image.
One can view her painstakingly detailed designs of yarn transformed into moss or printed fabric designs disguised as leaves and tiny glass beads reimagined into the most delicate of spores.
“My embroidered and beaded fiber sculptures merge together the natural world and my own inner life,” she says in her artist statement. “My sculptures are conglomerations of my encounters with living things filtered through my experiences and recreated as invented plants, animals and fungi.”
“I want them to seem alive but clearly not be, presented in clean, white spaces like artifacts,” she says.
Anthony Burks Sr., whose works were recently acquired by the Norton Museum of Art for their permanent collection, creates visually stunning portraits utilizing colored pencils, watercolor and pen and ink.
“It’s been a dream of mine to have my work at the Norton,” says Burks, who was born and raised in West Palm Beach. “To leave my legacy here is very powerful and meaningful.”
His visually striking series of colored pencil drawings of women in profile, titled Natural Beauty, is paired with a men’s series titled One Love.
Burks says it’s the connection with his subjects that allows him to convey their essence.
“Soulful,” is how he describes his work, and says he gets inspired by everyday surroundings and people he meets. His first love is portraying animals, although for this show his human portraits take precedence.
“It’s an honor for me to create these portraits,” he says.
Burks feels the need to create viscerally. “I have a drum beating in my head and can’t rest until I get it out,” he says.
He credits the Cultural Council and Lawrence specifically, for opening doors to more visual artists.
“I’m very grateful and honored for this opportunity,” Burks says. “It’s a blessing.”
Also on display are works by Lake Worth Beach-based artist Isabel Gouveia, who uses abstraction and representation to symbolize mutations in the ever-shifting natural environment through painting, printmaking, installations, mosaics, and digital media.
The exhibit is free and open to the public. It runs through August 27 at the Council’s headquarters at 601 Lake Worth Ave. Guests are encouraged to RSVP at palmbeachculture.com/AIFP.