If the Broward art world is a chaotic circus brimming with volatile and eccentric personalities, Byron Swart is the even-keeled ringmaster. He's the kind of guy who adeptly brings artists together without all the drama that often occurs behind the scenes.
In 2002 the South African native arrived in Fort Lauderdale with two suitcases and $200 to his name. A year later he took on a gig at the community gallery ArtServe and within a few years created and launched the arts organization's most popular event, RedEye. Last year it drew nearly 1,600 attendees.
These days that multimedia show is reminiscent of a magic-mushroom-inspired dream. It features nearly every art medium in just one night. There are short-film screenings, live street art, dance, live music, spoken word, and more. Attendees end up with an experience that, Swart says, might lead them to ask, "Did I just walk through a gallery, or was I also part of the installation?"
Now in its ninth year, the event has taken on a new name, RedEye Reboot, and a new approach. It is scheduled for Saturday, July 19, from 6 to 10 p.m.
"RedEye was born in the streets and began nine years ago as this idea of taking street art and putting it inside a gallery," Swart says. Past events have featured graffiti competitions in which crews sprayed canvases while spectators looked on. This year that effort began early. Ruben Ubiera, whom New Times named Best Street Artist this year, tagged up a Fiat at a preview shindig at C&I Studios in FAT Village. Street artists Anthony Hernandez, Marvel, and Tati Suarez will also show their work.
To add to the street experience, live bands will play on a stage set up beneath some trees on a patch of grass in Holiday Park on the venue's south side. Body & Soul Dance Theatre, Chnk, Sherryl Muriente, and Pam Trent of Wicked Apple Art will provide live performance pieces throughout the gallery.
Swart says his favorite thing about the work is the creativity that flows from collaborating with others. "Every single time we sit down with one particular artist or a group of artists, ideas spiral from one idea to the next."
His openness permeates ArtServe's culture. It is a community gallery, after all, where amateurs and emerging working artists get a chance to show off their talents.
Photographer Nancy Goldwin will show her urban-decay-styled photographs that are printed directly on metal. She says Swart always pushes her to participate in exhibitions. "There's a reason why I feel more comfortable behind the lens," Goldwin chuckles. In her 40-by-60-inch photograph The Paper Wasteland, she captures the remnants of a fire that scorched the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden's library. The image accompanies a piece shot at the same location that shows filing cabinets. Their enamel is burned off and their paint is peeling away, revealing rusty-orange and blue hues.
This year a live installation will take place in the main auditorium. Darius Daughtry, director of Omari Hardwick Bluapple Poetry Network, will present ten select poets from Broward County high schools giving a 45-minute spoken-word performance. "All the poems are original, by the high school students, and range from stories about divorce, abuse, self-esteem, and self-empowerment," Daughtry says.
To enhance the experience, animator Beth K. Amato will project digital moving collages onto and around the poets as they spit lines such as "I see biographies — the geography of those whose souls fell in love with language and decided not to sit in anguish as silence became the norm."
"I took the words and interpreted them through color," Amato explains. "And I plan a nice flow that brings out the emotions of the piece. My style is kooky."
In addition, the installation will include dancers portraying living sculptures, some of whom will transform into marble through body painting.
The list of participating artists is extensive, and the show will last four hours. But with such detailed planning and elaborate ideas, organizer and creator Swart can't help but look ahead. "When you put something out there that's this big, people always ask, 'What's new? What are you doing next?' And I have to stop and remember that RedEye is here to inspire the artists and the community."