Right before we spoke, Jacques de Beaufort had just read the popular, amusing, and somewhat accurate phrase: "D.C. is L.A. for ugly people." This particularly struck a chord with the brains and brawn behind Lake Worth's art and music space Unit 1. Starting out in the District, he came to this sunny corner of the Earth in 2010 after attending grad school at CalArts outside Los Angeles. "You could be at a party and people are looking over your shoulder trying to find out who's more important to talk to," he explained, describing the similarity between the hip art scene in L.A.'s Chinatown and the not-at-all-hip political center.
Upon arriving in town for a full-time position at Palm Beach State College, it was clear that the pretension he was familiar with was lacking in PBC, as was some of the availability of quality art. "When I came out here, I quickly understood that there wasn't a scene like there is in Los Angeles. It feels like a cultural wasteland in many ways, but there are so many great things about South Florida."
He elaborated: "Maybe one of them is that it's not so ruthless as Los Angeles and New York are, and people will actually talk to you. People look at art, and some of them can actually see the art and hear the music rather than always seeing it as how valuable it is in some sort of 'hierarchy.'"
His students, though, can't believe he moved here after going to school with pals Ariel Pink and the Liars ("But there I go sounding like a Los Angeles person," he joked.) "I feel like you have to go to those places to see the true nature of the competitiveness. I'm not saying people aren't competitive here..." But de Beaufort thinks he'd never have been able to start something like Unit 1 in L.A. Though he wonders how far it's actually going to progress here without the support of a much larger scene, it doesn't matter entirely, because, he reflected, "The act is the reward. Enabling things to happen is enough."
He resides in the Lake Worth CRA's Urban Arts Lofts, where downstairs, the Unit 1 gallery is fit for just about anything (they've done eight diverse shows and events, like a prisoner book drive so far). Upstairs, he lives in his private space.
The work/living space received New Times' 2014 Best Alternative Art Space, and it blew him away. Calling it "gratifying," de Beaufort explained that a year ago, it was just an idea. And with creative energy and his talent for getting people together, he underwent and succeeded at this "often thankless task." Of course, it's his pleasure. "It's an experiment," he noted. "Any success we've had has just been fantastic. I don't know that we've had any disappointments or failures, because we didn't have expectations."
After moving to town, he spent three years stuck in Palm Beach Gardens, which gave him the opportunity to flex his muscle as a videographer. You can watch his feature film Sanctum and Sacrum on Amazon. He said reviews of the film are either one star or five stars -- nothing in between. He made it for $6,000; now it's up next to Lars Von Trier's films since it got lumped in with a group of erotic flicks. People come in trying to get something porny but got this art-house flick. "I'm proud of it. I love it," he admitted.
This talent came in handy when de Beaufort started making friends. He shot videos for psych troupe Band in Heaven and most recently for Hollywood doo-wop-inspired group Beach Day. De Beaufort came up with the idea to add music videos to Unit 1's foray while watching the Sunny Devilles at Coastars. You can read the inception story of Unit 1 Sessions here, launching with Raggy Monster.
Since the first one went well, he decided another was in order. "You need three groups of people: your musicians, videographers, and sound guy," he explained. All the things that can go wrong when wrangling those three elements for a day of taping with multiple acts became apparent. "It was definitely an ordeal the second time around, but it was ultimately a triumph," and, he said, he's going to keep on doing them because "it just came out perfect."
The one near-disaster involved the sound guy, Killmama's Rob Kingsley of Reel Tone Recordings. The day after the shoot, he posted on Facebook, "I'm the most unlucky guy in the world." He messaged de Beaufort his tale of woe. "He was taking the bus to work, and all the Sessions recordings were on his laptop, which was in his backpack, and he got off the bus and started biking. It wasn't for like five minutes that he noticed he didn't have his backpack. He chased down this bus for 30 minutes, and luckily someone had given it to the bus driver. The video would have meant nothing without the audio." Seems he was the luckiest dude on Earth.
Some of the bands de Beaufort hadn't known till they showed up for the Sessions shoot. One that he now loves is Ketchy Shuby. "Jason is a fucking riot. My mom has a crush on him." He also is a big fan of Mykal Morrison, who many know as the door guy at Propaganda. "He's got an amazing voice," the artist gushed.
These acts are doing this for no pay, but they're getting free, highly produced videos. If they're great live, they've hit the jackpot with Sessions. "Our job was just not to fuck it up, not fuck up the camera angles, not fuck up the audio. Create a situation where the band could really amplify how great they are," de Beaufort explains. He creates a new scene every time, with good lighting, and tries to make the bands comfortable.
Also check out Southern Exposure: New Work Now, with Jacques de Beaufort and Nichole Hickey, at Cultural Council, 601 Lake Ave., Lake Worth, until August 16. Visit the Facebook page.
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