Cultural Quarterly
Fall 2008
Volume XXI, Number 4
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Seeking the Self
The Art of Jonathan Green Festival
by Helene Foster

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The Cultural Foundation of Broward found an innovative way to promote the arts while introducing audiences to a vast array of cultural experiences. “Seeking The Self – The Art of Jonathan Green Festival,” celebrated the work of an important African-American painter through visual and performing arts events.

The Cultural Foundation reached out to numerous cultural organizations to create a broader cultural experience – expanding on the wide range of workshops, lectures and awards programs it has presented in the past to create a five-day festival to commemorate Green’s artistry, explains Roberta Young, president of the Cultural Foundation.

Cultural Foundation set a fabulous schedule of Jonathan Green events in collaboration with the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, the Gold Coast Jazz Society, Jubilee Dance Theatre, the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, the School Board of Broward County, FL, Symphony of the Americas, Riverwalk Trust, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Urban League of Broward County, Broward County Cultural Division, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and local art patrons.

“The idea for the Jonathan Green festival came to fruition after Melanie Camp, vice president of the Cultural Foundation, visited the Jonathan Green festival in Charleston,” explains Mary A. Becht, Broward Cultural Division director. “It was very elaborate and had tremendous ties to the cultural community.  Camp’s enthusiasm quickly spread throughout our community.”

Green is also an active part of the community, according to Sam Morrison, retired director of the

Aritist Johnathan Green
Johnathan Green

Broward County Library System, who was instrumental in introducing Nova Southeastern University to the project. “Jonathan Green is a personal friend of the Library,” he says. “He was involved in many fundraisers and events.”

A world-renowned printmaker and painter, Green’s work depicts the everyday life of the Gullah people and the rural marshes surrounding Sea Islands of South Carolina. A native of Gardens Corner, S.C., Green was raised by his grandmother and graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1982. In his paintings, he documents scenes of work, family, prayer, storytelling and other daily activities, while portraying a sense of history and spiritualism.

The schedule of special events had been set to honor this exceptional artist and to appeal to art patrons of all ages. The festival opened with a cocktail reception and a celebratory dinner presented by the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, rounding out the festival with workshops, seminars and viewings of the new documentary film Seeking, based on Green’s acclaimed painting of the same name.

Students across Broward County also took part in the celebration. Green will make stops at local magnet schools to interact with students and provide lectures. A month-long poetry contest invited all students in Broward Schools to share poems based on their interpretations of Green’s artwork.

The festival concluded with a concert by the Symphony of the Americas at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Renee LaBonte, executive director of the Symphony of the Americas, notes that the orchestra – now in its 20th year.

“The concert featured a portion of the Afro-American Symphony written by William Grant Still, and based on the painting by Jonathan Green,” she explains. It is truly a collaborative endeavor. “Members of the Jubilee Dance Company will also dance during the performance.”

“Seeking The Self – The Art of Jonathan Green Festival” brought the arts community together in a new way. The festival had a collection of events that appealed to several generations – from the budding art student to the most discriminating fine art enthusiast.

The Cultural Foundation of Broward is a not-for-profit organization that supports cultural programming, arts education, services and advancing the arts. 

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