Sistrunk-A-Fair, a new week-long festival in the Sistrunk community of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, endeavors to make local Black creative histories more visible. Sponsored in partnership with cultural initiatives Art n Soul, C.R.E.A.T.E., Fort Lauderdale Art & Design Week (FTLADW) and The Art Fort Lauderdale Art Fair, Sistrunk-A-Fair will feature visual arts, performances, and historical archives about unsung visionaries from Fort Lauderdale, Pompano, Dania, Pearl City, and Hallandale. “We need something transformative, community-driven, and creative,” co-producer Emmanuel George shared. “This event feels special because it’s something that is more than just art, it’s to create a dialog through art.” The Sistrunk-A-Fair will premiere January 18th-26th, 2019.
The Sistrunk corridor, a small community 45-minutes north of Miami, is named after Dr. James Franklin Sistrunk (1891-1966) who established the first African American hospital in Broward County in 1938. The region is one of eight historic Black neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale. Decades of disinvestment and inequitable housing market valuations have exacerbated the steady decline of many of the communities along Sistrunk Boulevard, a major throughway in North West Fort Lauderdale. The Boulevard which runs from M.L.K Jr Avenue through several communities and toward more affluent neighborhoods at the edge of NE 6th street has gained notoriety as a region with great potential but few resources.
Though Broward County sits between West Palm Beach and Miami, cities with dynamic art scenes, artists who reside in communities outside of those metropolises struggle to gain recognition. “Broward has talent, and it’s discouraging that [local] artists have to go to other states or counties to show their work,” George offers. He and collaborator Al Huggins hope that the Sistrunk-A-fair, as well as other concurrent revitalization efforts, will foster a renewal of the Sistrunk community, a zone that was once considered a thriving Black business district. “A lot of redevelopment is happening in Broward County and in Sistrunk,” George continues “When you go to the east side of the train tracks you have Fat Village (Future Art Technology) it’s akin to Wynwood and Overtown. There’s an art walk every last Saturday and murals, but not much art on the westside, the real Sistrunk.”
Panel discussions, performances and visual art exhibitions featured in Sistrunk-A-Fair are included in the programming of landmark institutions including, The African American Research Library, The Midtown Commerce Center and Old Dillard Museum, among others. Two of the festival’s prominent exhibitions, We Love Art Too (The African American Research Library), and B.A.S.E.: Broward’s Artistry and Soul Experience (Dillard Museum), pay homage to the history of African American communities in Broward County. The event, primarily marketed through social media and by word of mouth, already boasts over 1.6 thousand Facebook followers who marked their interest in attending the fair. George and collaborators hope that the show will attract the attention of Art Basel attendees, a world-renowned contemporary art market in Miami. “[There are] many similarities between Art Basel and [Sistrunk-A-Fair], but this will happen in downtown Fort Lauderdale, in Broward, where there is no platform for Black creatives,” George notes. “Al and I had similar visions… to create a platform for Black artists and Black creatives in Broward County. It’s more than just to highlight Art Week, it’s to create something long lasting.”