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Artists Dena Stewart and Stewart Stewart relocated to Miami Beach from New York City in 1987 because the South Florida Art Center (Art Center/South Florida) offered them studio/exhibition space on Lincoln Road for under $100 a month. That was when Lincoln Road had 104 empty storefronts and aside from the other artists, very few people walked on the Road each week. To attract a “crowd” the artists held monthly gallery openings, parties, and performance events. To fund these activities, Dena and Stewart, and a group of like-minded civic activists, incorporated as Deco Echo Artists’ Delegation and became an IRS designated 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, eligible for grants and tax-deductible donations – the mission being to raise awareness of the Arts and Culture in Miami Beach.
When Hurricane Andrew hit and devastated a good portion of South Miami, sparing Miami Beach, Deco Echo Artists’ Delegation changed its mission to using writing and visual art as tools of intervention, prevention and education to address community issues and improve the human condition. With its new mission, the organization was renamed Center for Folk and Community Art (“CFCA”).
CFCA’s programming is project-driven: For each project, CFCA artists facilitate their original, nationally acclaimed model workshop outreach program Telling Stories Through Visuals (“TSTV”)* with groups of people who are impacted by a specific social challenge.
TSTV is a process in which people of different ages and backgrounds write about their experiences and feelings relating to a particular issue. They’re then asked to visualize what they wrote and shown how to illustrate their stories.
These printed stories and related artwork, each on a separate piece of canvas, are crafted into movable tapestry panels that are introduced at seminars to stimulate dialogue, generate awareness of both the day-to-day physical and emotional realities of certain health and social issues, educate the public about their own vulnerability, attract audiences that can help to facilitate the necessary changes, and help bridge the gap between impacted populations and the greater community.
CFCA artists also facilitate training workshops to teach educators and healthcare professionals how to adapt TSTV activities to address challenges in their communities. CFCA art project themes include, but are not limited to:
Bullying – From the perspective of bullies, victims and those who watch but do nothing, this project (updated from 2006-2007) encourages behavioral analysis and positive change. (current)
Teen Relationships – Part 1 and Part 2 – Reasons for dysfunctional relationships are discovered and teens explore ways for themselves to have positive relationship experiences that build self-esteem. (2014, 2015)
Prejudice An expansion of Culture Clash project – the root of prejudicial feelings are delved into and resolved with more tolerant attitudes (2013, 2014)
Culture Clash Feelings are explored and attitudes change as participants express their views about people who don’t look like them or share similar values. (2012, 2013)
Civility … or the Lack of It! In writing and illustrations, teenagers tell how they would like to be treated and suggest ways to lessen their anger when they don’t receive the respect they expect. (2011, 2012)
Art to Cope Non-artists of all ages experience the creative process and learn to use art to handle stress. (2010)
I Can’t Forget … But I Don’t Remember What Alzheimer’s awareness project involves individuals with early-stage dementia, family members, friends and caregivers who write stories and create illustrations to relate their own experiences. They also learn an art process to stimulate communication. (2010)
The ART of Manipulation Youth learn to consider how art influences our thoughts, our feelings and consumerism. (2009)
I’m an Artist, Too! Developmentally challenged adults use art to describe their lives. (2009)
Gang Culture & Violence Teens use art to describe their personal involvement with death, guns and criminal behavior, providing insight into the complexity of their lives, their values and dreams. (2008)
Bullying Bully-victim dynamics are explored, utilizing writing and related illustrations to explain behaviors. (2006, 2007)
A Picture of the County A series of tapestry panels that focus on prevalent issues affecting each of the 13 districts in Miami-Dade County, FL. Issues include gentrification and change; and diversity in a mixed socio-economic, racial and ethnic community. (2004, 2005)
Art From The Heart – An American Tapestry People nationwide related how their lives had changed after the 9/11 attacks. This Tapestry debuted at the New York City Public Library on the first anniversary of 9/11, followed by exhibitions at the Capital Children’s Museum in Washington, D.C., and at the Miami-Dade Library and Government Center. (2002, 2003)
Abuse and Violence in a Teen Dating Relationship An empowering project for young women and men who employ the written word and illustration to relate their experiences with and feelings about verbal, physical and sexual abuse. (2001, 2002)
When I Look Out My Window An environmental awareness project for elementary school children. (2000)
Everyone Should Have A Home People who have lived on the streets relate their experiences and feelings to help others understand their plight and ease their situation. (1999)
LIVING With HIV/AIDS People of all backgrounds and ages infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS use art to describe the impact of virus. Prevention program in Miami-Dade County’s public schools. (1997, 1998)
Building Bridges-Healing Our Community Members of diverse ethnic and racial groups relate their personal experiences with and feelings about people who do not look like them. (1996, 1997)
Tobacco, Alcohol & Substance Abuse Youths relate their own experiences with first- and second-hand substance usage and learn how their actions are influenced by ad campaigns, television and peer pressure. (1997)
All About Crime At-risk youth and juvenile offenders relate their experiences with crime. This mural was first previewed for Attorney General Janet Reno during a National Youth Crime Watch conference. The project was featured on the nationally-syndicated TV show HARD COPY in 1996. (1995, 1996)
The Pledge: An Earth Anthem Mural Children visually interpret peace, friendship and harmony. This mural was a backdrop for First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s nationally televised Summit of the Americas address. (1995)
Growing Older – A collaboration of senior citizens and youngsters ages 10-13, designed to bridge the generation gap. This mural was unveiled during a White House Conference on Aging. A video documentary of this project, co-produced by WLRN-TV (PBS) was used as a training film by the Chicago Department of Health. (1994, 1995)
Love Can Build Anything – Trauma from Natural Disaster Depicts the emotions of children before, during and after Hurricane Andrew. A backdrop for President Clinton’s nationally televised town meeting in Homestead, FL in 1993, it was signed by the President and First Lady to support this community project which helped youngsters cope with their personal traumas. The mural is on permanent display at the International Weather Center at FIU, FL
CFCA workshops highlight the thought process and creativity of individuals ranging in age from five years to senior citizens. Participants often include those with physical and learning disabilities. Since its inception, more than 8,500 individuals have participated in CFCA workshops and seminars, its tapestry exhibitions reaching millions of people.
“Train the Trainer” program venues have included: Arts at St. Johns, Arts & Healing seminar; Miami Beach Women’s Conference; Academy of Educational Development, a Ford Foundation-sponsored symposium on HIV/AIDS Stigma, in Washington, DC; Voices for a Violence-Free Community Conference, Hilton Head, SC; First Steps Beaufort County conference, SC; Florida International University’s Learning and Beyond Conference; Lion & Lamb Peace Foundation Conference on Crime, Bluffton University, OH; New World School of the Arts, Miami; U.S. Conferences on AIDS in Miami, San Diego and Dallas; and State of Florida Department of Health’s Disease Intervention Conference, Orlando.
CFCA Highlights and Program Recognition:
*Telling Stories Through Visuals was selected by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in consultation with NEA, NEH and the Institute for Museum & Library Services as a model program that effectively combines the visual arts with social services. It is featured on the Creative Partnerships for Prevention website created under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. (1999)
CFCA’s Telling Stories Through Visual program is featured as a Lesson Card entitled “Rebuilding Lives Through Art” in the SRA/McGraw-Hill Curriculum Connections Open Court reading and language arts program – Imagine it!, a comprehensive literacy tool used in schools in more than 50 countries around the world. (2008)
Telling Stories Through Visuals is one of six programs featured in “ART WORKS! Collaborations That Change Lives,” a publication of the Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community. (1998)
Telling Stories Through Visuals was featured as a model program in “National News Reports” and “AIDS/STD News Reports,” nationally-subscribed newsletters published by CD Publications of Silver Springs, MD. (1999)
CFCA received more than a dozen proclamations from Miami-Dade County, FL, and the cities of Miami Beach, Dallas and San Diego in recognition of their ongoing community outreach. (Over 1994 – 2011 timespan)
CFCA co-founders Dena Stewart and Stewart Stewart received The Key to the City of Miami Beach in appreciation of their ongoing community service. (2009)
CFCA produces project videos that are presented on SyndicatedNews.NET – SNN.BZ, a fully licensed online journalistic news-gathering website with global viewership.
CFCA was incorporated in 1988 as Deco Echo Artists’ Delegation and received IRS nonprofit 501(c)(3) designation May 1993. CFCA created Telling Stories Through Visuals (“TSTV”) outreach programming in 1993 to fulfill all components of its Mission. An official d/b/a (doing business as) Center for Folk and Community Art was filed on March 14, 1996, and is renewed when required.