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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Independent Black talent push creative boundaries in Gainesville’s art scene

Black visual artists, songwriters and designers explore their stories through artistic mediums 

Local Gainesville musician JulyART performs a 45-minute set at The Hippodrome’s February edition of “Basement Sessions” Thursday night.
Local Gainesville musician JulyART performs a 45-minute set at The Hippodrome’s February edition of “Basement Sessions” Thursday night.

Gainesville’s local art scene is home to a diverse array of fashion designers, musicians, writers and artists. An important component of its culture is the Black creatives that have paved the way for many following in their tracks. 

The distinctness of these artists lie in the diversity of their work and messages. These mediums range from electric DJ sets to intimate art exhibitions meant for inner reflection and deliberation.

Through these unique methods, Black voices highlight the importance of local Black history and culture.

June Julyart, also known as ‘JulyArt,’ is a 27-year-old fashion designer from Lakeland, Florida. Despite his expertise, Julyart said he had to constantly work at evolving his craft.

“I had to learn how not to create like I did before,” Julyart said. “I practice [fashion design] for myself because I have to respect myself first and I need validation from me first.” 

In addition to fashion, Julyart also makes music. He said it’s universal, and listening to it can shape listeners’ moods.

“[Music] is beautiful,” Julyart said. “When I think less about creating, I create more.”

Leviticus Grimes is a 29-year-old local rapper, model and DJ. Grimes said he started DJing last year because clubs and parties didn’t play the music he wanted to hear. 

“I feel like I am actively telling [my story],” Grimes said. “It's not necessarily one of these stories where I came from eating sugar sandwiches, but it's just the story of, ‘Sometimes the Black guy can enjoy himself just being who I am.’”

Grimes said the How Bazar, an art-centered creative space downtown, is an avenue for networking and meeting local artists.

“[How Bazar] is a great space,” Grimes said. “You can say you’d be in New York and never know who you’re going to run across. It’s almost the same thing like that.”

Grimes said being a local Black artist has been challenging. His use of vulgar language during his performances can lead to problems with booking future shows, he said.

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“In certain shows, I’m not the safe bet I would have been before,” he said.

But despite these setbacks, Grimes said, he continues to battle his difficulties through the practice of his passion — music.

Keiaria Williams is a 31-year-old Gainesville artist. Between Jan. 5 and Feb. 1, her solo exhibit, “The Mother Portraits,” was on display at the Hippodrome Art Gallery.

“The show was born out of the desire to understand who my mom was,” she said.

In five paintings, Williams depicted her mother's mugshots, taken between October 2002 and November 2003. Williams said the mugshots were from her mother’s battle with addiction throughout her life, which took an emotional toll on her during her childhood.

“This is how I work through things,” Williams said. “This is the only thing I have to offer when it comes to vindicating someone from their past.” 

Williams said the most challenging part of painting the pieces were the eyes, citing them as the last detail she added to the portraits.

“They are something personal not just to me, but to her,” she said. “These are her images.”

These Black voices influence the local landscape, aiming to preserve a rich and multifaceted history through their art. 

Contact Benjamin Miller at Follow him on X @men_mbiller.

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