DeWitt Cooper lll is the co-founder and creative director of CooperMorgan Dance Theatre, Inc. With a passion for dance, quality, and enrichment he has helped to build onto Jacksonville's dance community through mentoring young dancers not only in their craft but in their educational pursuits. Cooper's long love for dance has grown to be stepping stones to success for others.
CooperMorgan has high expectations for their students and in exchange for being CM quality they provide professional training, guidance, and students leave their experience with CM fulfilled, experienced, and reaching their goals. CM seeks to not only be an example for their students but to the entire arts community through acknowledging leaders and nurturing future leaders.
If you ever meet Cooper you'll automatically notice his poise almost as if he is always in dance mode! It's easy to imagine that dance is always on his mind which makes for a valuable mentor. His love for the entire art community and his success in building a dance company is inspiring! His dedication to his craft and it's future in our local community leaves no room for failure. I can't wait to see what CooperMorgan Dance Theatre has in store for Jacksonville's dance community and to watch his young mentees lead locally and beyond!
Giandra Shepard inside of Studio Zsa Zsa Lapree
Giandra Shepard is the owner of Studio Zsa Zsa Lapree located in downtown Jacksonville. With the mission of acceptance and advocacy for black artists, the vibrant colored Studio Zsa Zsa Lapree hosts monthly shows featuring new artists and other creative experiences. Giandra strives for her venue to serve the community and to be a place for artists who may feel overlooked to introduce their art to the community. In the heart of downtown, Giandra has turned her little corner of Bay Street into a lively environment to celebrate black artistry.
I'm always in awe of black women representing the arts through curating, advocacy, and creating spaces. Though the art market has grown to be more inclusive, it still lacks the representation of curators and gallery owners of color. To meet a peer building a platform with similar interests is exciting and I look forward to seeing her gallery grow and talents mature.
Zsa Zsa Lapree will host two art events in October that are open to the public. "Painting with Ki" is a 90s style painting class that will take place on October 6th under the instruction of Kiandra Jones and "PUSHA Kings Road Edition" , an art show that will take place on October 27th put on by Ashley Dickerson. (Flyers attached )
Rolando Kallead as his character Moxie Mopp
Rolando Kallead is a visual and performance artist whose visual art is just as lively as his performance art. Donning the name Moxie Mopp, he entertains as a drag performer at Metro Entertainment Complex, and as a visual artist, Rolando lets the paintbrush dance across canvas to create offbeat individuals and abstract artworks. He often creates sketches mirroring the quirky style of his paintings. Rolando finds himself utilizing his artistic skills to develop interesting and eclectic personas, wardrobes, and scenery for Moxie Mopp to embody. Taking pride in both of his mediums, he makes it a priority to ensure they are both represented properly and that it is known that he is more than one type of artist.
How many people are really living their truth? Whatever that number may be, there is no question that Rolando is one of them. I met Rolando in 2017 and immediately learned of both of his mediums even though his physical, visual art is what captured my eye when meeting him with his art besties Gabriela Corley and Perla Reyes. A glimpse at his social media shows you into his world of amazing transformations, art, craftsmanship, and a variety of personalities he is able to portray. What I find most impressive is that he is able to flawlessly navigate between both mediums creating passionate performances and striking, large scale paintings.
On August 31st, there's a chance to see Rolando's character at work as he preforms at Metro Entertainment Complex in a show centered around popular teen movies. Rolando also looks forward to more art opportunities and shows showcasing both of his talents.
Kaitlin June Edwards
Kaitlin Edwards is a visual artist who has recently joined the Jacksonville art community. Kaitlin works in a variety of mediums from ink to digital art and concentrates her work on women of color who reflect her life experiences. In 2013, Edwards graduated from the Art Academy of Cincinnati and since has primarily worked as a freelance illustrator working on book covers and other forms of illustration work. Kaitlin looks forward to being an active artist in Jacksonville and learning more about Jacksonville's art community. For Kaitlin, it is important to bring forth images that positively and properly portray men and women of color.
When I saw Kaitlin's work, I immediately fell in love! Her art oozes #BlackGirlMagic and expertise all wrapped up in bold lines and mesmerizing colors. Kaitlin and I have been in contact several months before she moved to Jacksonville and in that time I learned how important a career as an artist is to her. I look forward to seeing Kaitlin make her mark in Jacksonville's art community and being another artist who serves our community through art and diversity.
Self Portrait, Amari Leath
Amari Leath is an emerging photographer living in Jacksonville, FL. Leath often captures the city's people and architecture in his favorite color scheme of black and white but, his body of work features a versatile palette of colors and techniques. Among his artwork are images enhanced with vibrant, contrasting colors and complimenting additions. Since discovering his love for photography, Leath has immersed himself in the art community and found his own sense of style. Vigorous self study and unrelenting practice are credited as his building blocks to becoming a talented photographer. Leath feels compelled to change other young people's lives through education and mentoring which is one of Leath's biggest motivation to grow in his photography career.
Amari Leath is one of the most motivated, young artists that I have ever met. In a rather short period of time he has shown everyone he meets that photography is what he wants his life's work to reflect. Leath went from inquiring about how he can show his work to immediately taking part in Jacksonville's art community. I literally see him everywhere now! Being a fairly new photographer has not deterred him from showing his work or from being engaging. His willingness to ask for help and to continuously find materials and artists to study excites me because it is a clear indication of his objective. He wants to learn, he wants to grow, and he wants to be the best photographer he can be!
Perla Reyes is a Hispanic visual artist living and creating in Jacksonville, Fl. Her works are most often created in acrylic and oil paints to canvas but she is not afraid to venture into other mediums. Most recently she has shown her versatility by venturing into installation art.
If you ever see Perla's work, you won't easily forget it! Her art features vibrant colors and bold lines that create women that give off a confident and unfazed vibe. Often times her quirky clique of women are equipped with unforgiving "clapbacks" to unwanted advances that women face daily. Perla intentionally gives an ode to her own heritage that she proudly represents by making the women resemble women of her own culture and they often speak Spanish as well. Her way of bringing artistry and real life women issues together is simply amazing. Each time you see a piece of Perla's artwork you see her talent, comedy, and daily struggles brought together in bright hues making her work effortlessly appealing to all viewers.
I met Perla for the very first time at an Art Walk. Small, bright colored canvases with outlines of women sporting mischievous smirks were displayed at a table that made me cross the street for a closer look. At the table sat Perla and two of her friends who are also talented artists vending art and jewelry. Upon meeting the trio I knew I had to work with them in some way and asked for their contact information. That small interaction grew into Perla showcasing impressive, large scale versions of her characters alongside the works of her friends Gabriella Corley and Rolando Kallead at Black Opal. Since then, Perla has been in many showcases and her style and process has evolved. The way her art has evolved and with her eagerness to grow Perla will surely meet her goals and continue to impress us all!
Paul Kellam is a visual artist from Jacksonville, Fl. He is best known for his Eastern world inspired characters and animation ready artworks. Most of Paul’s work is done digitally though he is skilled in several mediums. It is common to catch Paul with his sketchbook in his hands full of illustrations and ideas.
Paul believes he’s always known that he wanted to be an artist, recalling days of scribbling on wallpaper at the young age of 5 and trying to talk his way out of trouble. Though Paul says his exposure to art was limited as a child he has grown to be an impressive artist. He is continuing to hone his artistic skills and hopes to see Jacksonville’s art community spread and nurture under-served areas.
Jodie Smith is an author in Jacksonville, Fl. While writing is often seen as a task for others, writing has always been her passion and her therapy. A book of her collected thoughts and poetry titled "The Book of Real Shit" is how Jodie decided to introduce the world to her talents and inner self. Behind the cover of the raw titled book are the real emotions that not only Jodie has experienced but that many have endured in their black experience.
I've known Jodie since high school and she has always had a commanding presence. The talent she shares in her book easily matches her spirit. In 2017, I had the pleasure of working with Jodie at Black Opal when she captured the ears and thoughts of many when she performed her cleverly titled poem Negus in Plastic from her book. Since that experience I have grown more interested in her work and seeing where her talents will take her. Allowing herself to literally be read in an open book is a gift to us all and allows us to realize that we do not experience the hardest parts of life alone. Her brave unveiling is the openness we should all strive to achieve.
Tatiana Kitchen is a visual artist from Jacksonville, Fl. Also know by the artist moniker Phoenix, Tatiana’s works feature a vibrant palette of colors, shapes, and whimsical beings. She is talented in a variety of mediums including acrylic and digital work but her primary medium is watercolor. With a lifelong interest in art and dedication to her craft she has grown immensely over the years.
I met Tatiana several years ago at a co-op space for artists and artisans. Considering we didn’t exchange many words that day, there was no way to know we would grow to know each other so well. Her work has always been vivid and captivating but she continues to evolve her style and skill every year. It has been such a pleasure to watch her grow as an artist and friend.
Tatiana has work that is currently displayed at Jax Makerspace and along The Landing’s mural walls. You can also witness Tatiana painting live on April 19th at Art Battle.
I met Steven Westbrook Adams at "Ah La Life" in February curated by Khalil Osborne. In a room full of art and onlookers his photography managed to stand out amongst the crowd. That night, he was featuring only black and white photography which made his work even more intriguing. I knew from looking at his work that he was someone that I'd love to meet and to watch grow artistically.
Later, I learned that the "Ah La Life" exhibition was his very first show and his first time going through all the motions that artist go through in preparation for a show! As a young and emerging photographer, he has already established a great portfolio featuring soft yet strong images. With goals to display his work in other exhibitions and a hunger to grow, Adams is sure to reach impressive heights.