Last June, the Fort Lauderdale-based landscape architecture and urban design firm, Cadence, helped transform two near-desolate blocks in the city’s downtown area into a buzzing, pedestrian-friendly marketplace-slash-dog-park-slash-Art-Walk. The endeavor was called Build A Better Block, and was part of a nationwide movement to improve city streets. As we discussed then, Fort Lauderdale tends to be unfriendly to pedestrians, despite how clear it is that, with a little work, it could be an easily walkable city.
Build A Better Block was a huge success, proving that a couple extra inches of sidewalk, more plants, comfortable seating, aesthetically-pleasing public art, and accessible mom-and-pop shops went a long way in drawing people out of their cars. Now, Cadence will partner with C&I Studios and helium creative to bring us “Revel on the Block,” a bi-annual event. “Better Block was a one-time demonstration,” explains Cadence co-founder Rebecca Bradley. “Revel will take elements that were demonstrated during Better Block and begin to implement them in a more permanent manner.”
Fort Lauderdale’s F.A.T. Village art district will allow two art walks per year to function as Revel events. “We saw the desire and need of the creative community in Fort Lauderdale to have an event and place to connect on a regular basis,” says Bradley of this decision. One-time events showcasing potential city improvements can be misleading. Although they can instill some hope and provide temporary entertainment, their benefits are typically short-term. That’s why Revel on the Block is such a good idea: It’ll occur rarely enough to avoid becoming a bigger version of Art Walk, but with enough frequency to raise discourse on implementing the displayed changes in a real way.
The chances for this to happen are good — as Bradley explains, two permanent changes already arose from Build A Better Block: Flagler Station, a furniture collective that will open later this spring on the block, and Flagler Village Community Garden, which is set to break ground in April on N.E. Third Street.
(Ten percent of all art sales at Revel on the Block will go toward building the Flagler Village Community Garden, so all of this works in a cyclically beneficial way.)
“There really aren’t any differences [between Revel on the Block and Build A Better Block],” Bradley says. “Now that we’ve shown you how providing seating, organizing the street, and adding good food and drink options mingled with art and commerce make for a livelier street, let’s keep doing that. Little by little, let’s make the make-shift improvements turn into permanent improvements.”
Speaking of the mingling of the community’s different parts, the theme for the upcoming Revel on the Block is “Intersection.” It seems appropriate, considering the idea that most city-planning events attempt to create vital, previously untapped intersections. Explains Bradley, “We thought, ‘What a strong word for an art show and for the event in general.’ This event is where art and community intersect, where different ages and cultures intersect, where artists have a chance to show their works of depicting this theme of intersection.”
The artistic component of Revel on the Block will pay homage to the Intersection theme, too, in an entirely different way.
“We have an amazing artist, Virginia Fifield, participating. Her larger-than-life portraits of animals are mesmerizing, but her work is about taking a closer look at what happens when humans and nature intersect, the control that humans try to enforce on nature. With that background, the Intersection theme takes on a whole new meaning. Brian Buzzella, Julie Davidow, and Deborah Gregg are all creating site-specific installations on the theme.”
Considering the the introduction of Flagler Station and Flagler Garden, Bradley is hopeful that the improvements will continue and the neighborhood will grow. “Our goal is to inspire people that attend to reimagine how they view outdoor space, get exposed to creative ideas, and see the potential that art, design, and creative businesses have to affect the success of a city,” she says. “Both [Flagler Village Community Garden and Flagler Station] were direct results of Build A Better Block. If we can continue to inspire new businesses to start, create new amenities for Flagler Village, and expose existing businesses to a new audience, then this will be a success. It’s important for people to meet and communicate in a meaningful way. They deserve thoughtful experiences.”
Where: 523 N.W. First Ave., in Fort Lauderdale’s FAT Village
When: Saturday, January 26, 2 to 11 p.m.
For more information or to volunteer, visit Revel’s Facebook page.