The Urban Arts Expo to celebrate culture, arts

Life Editor Lavette Williams

The Urban Arts Expo is sending out a positive message about Hip Hop and graffiti as well as bringing awareness to diversity. It is a celebration of culture, arts and cohesiveness.

The event has three sponsors including SET Magazine, Buffalo Rock and Helen Keller Hospital. It will take place April 26 at the Florence-Lauderdale Coliseum from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There will be spoken word, dialogue, live graffiti demonstrations and instrumentalists performing. Booths and displays will be set up, giving artists the opportunity to showcase their artwork, whether it be paintings, jewelry or stain glass.

Florence City Mayor and Ambassador of the Urban Arts Expo Steve Holt said he is not happy with the graffiti on the sides of buildings downtown, calling it “scribbles and scrabble.”

“That’s just vandalism,” Holt said. “It’s tacky and disrespectful. However, street art enhances the city’s look if it is planned and permission is granted.”

A co-organizer of the event and radio personality of WZZA-AM 1410 “Soul of the Shoals” Montrell Reeder said not everyone is going to like the same things.

“Everything speaks to somebody,” Reeder said. “This is what the Expo is doing, giving those who don’t know how to get seen or heard a platform.”

Anyone can participate as long as there is advanced notice. They can contact one of the organizers of the event at [email protected]

Booths will be sold for $25, and all of the money will go to the Florence-Lauderdale Animal Shelter, the UNA art department and the North Alabama Trackers, which is a non-profit organization that aids young athletes.

“It builds their courage up,” Reeder said. “It makes them know: Hey, I can build a presentation.”

He said artists always give their artwork to the middle man.

“It’s somebody in the middle that has got to really explain to us why this is worth so much,” Reeder said. “That’s kind of crazy because the person that created this is probably going to make the least. We got to figure out a way to help show these artists how to self-promote.”

Local artist Kerrigan Casey creates paintings inspired by urban culture – a culture she can relate to. She has participated in creating art her whole life. At first, she performed spoken word poetry but has been painting since late 2015.

Casey’s experience last year has a lot to do with her participating again this year.

“I really enjoyed having the opportunity to showcase my work publicly,” Casey said. “I also really enjoyed the diversity of art forms that were represented at the expo. It seemed this area really needed that.”

She said she absolutely believes the Urban Art Expo has that potential because the facilitators of the event are dedicated to motivating young artist.

“One of my favorite phrases is ‘Art is the Journey of a free soul’,” Casey said. “I live by it. I would encourage any artists that may find themselves confident to trust their journey. Your work is uniquely designed to be your own and revel in that. Study your craft and continue to fall in love with what you do.”

Local Musicians from Unique Kru, Royalty Records, the Midnighters and many other individuals are scheduled to perform at the Urban Arts Expo.

Royalty Records Musician Quay “QuayLUDE” Cage said each song they put out is unique.

“Every song has a story,” Royalty Records Producer Deshawn “DlocK” Louis said. “Every person under this label has a story to tell. Our songs are pretty much based on ‘everybody makes mistakes.’ We use that to fuel our music, it’s not all negative. It’s about where we want to head to.”

Cage and Louis said they have a lot of good that they want people to hear.

Along with several other places, Loaves and Fishes and the animal shelter will have a stand set up.

“I believe (the Urban Arts Expo) will enable us to tell our story and get information to a group of people that are not aware of what we do,” Loaves and Fishes Fundraising and Volunteer Coordinator Dave Davis. “The Expo will draw a crowd that do need our services, which we have found know very little about Loaves and Fishes except the thrift stores.”

Loaves and Fishes is an anti-poverty, hunger relief agency that provides food and support to 18,657 individuals or 4,651 families, according to loaves-fishes.org.

He said Loaves and Fishes participation in the event can bring light to Florence’s aid of the homeless.

“Our citizens are aware we have a homeless population, but most do not know what kind of help they are or can be given,” Davis said. “We see a group of the homeless regularly. I think (the Urban Arts Expo) is a great venue to showcase the talents of artists in the Shoals area. I am looking forward to being there for that reason also.”

Wendy Snitzer-Whitfield, the organizer of the event, said she wants people to feel free to express themselves.

“Everyone matters,” Snitzer-Whitfield said. “Everyone’s voice matter.”