Seven years ago, Carla Vanzant and her husband, Semaj, found that there were few options in the Monmouth County New Jersey area in Summer Camps suited for their small boys at the time. They decided to start their own camp, INSPIRE LIFE, which has grown into a multi-faceted enterprise of arts and academic programs for young people, especially Black and brown children.

At ArtsRule, we are on the hunt to uncover the best practices for cities looking to enhance their encouragement of the arts, We thought INSPRE LIFE has developed an evolving roadmap, to cultivate the next generation of artists and art appreciators, with their offerings of after school and summer programs at the New Jersey shore. Check out where kids get inspired at the Inspire Life website.


Full transcript of the podcast is below, and don’t forget to sign up to receive announcements of future podcasts at the bottom of any page of our website.

Subscribe to our podcast at any of the major online services by clicking any link below:



Carla: We need support from our community. People who have unique stories and unique experiences who wanna share those with our children. It just helps them to see that the world is so much bigger than where they are. And so just sharing your story. Story could be revolutionary for a young mind. And so people who are willing to share, who are willing to answer questions and show love and support, I think those are the things that we need most right now.


Mike: Welcome to the Arts Rule Podcast, providing insight, analysis and dialogue. Highlighting the arts vibrant landscape of small to medium sized cities, guiding you to determine where to visit, work, and live with an art centric focus. I’m Mike Sodano.


Nancy: And I’m Nancy Sabino. When we started Arts Rule, we wanted to explore what makes a city arts centric and the specific ways to encourage art to flourish.


Nancy: Through our interviews with various experts and arts professionals, we’ve been collecting a list of the qualities communities need to be considered arts vibrant. While many of our guests are native to Asbury Park, our hometown, others have also offered ideas that create better opportunities for art to thrive.


Mike: To review our findings so far, listen to the past interviews on our website of those we believe have a nuanced perspective. We’re gaining a consensus on what it takes to help a city become more receptive to art.


Nancy: Seven years ago, Carla Van and her husband’s Semaj found that there were few options in summer camps suited to their small boys at the time, they decided to start their own camp. Inspire Life, which has grown into a multifaceted enterprise for art and academic programs for young people, especially black and brown children.


Mike: At Arts Rule, we’re on the hunt to uncover the best practices for cities looking to enhance their encouragement of the arts. We thought Inspire Life had developed an evolving roadmap to cultivate the next generation of artists and art appreciators with their offerings of after school and summer programs at the New Jersey Shore.


Mike: We invited Carla to tell us more about it.


Nancy: Welcome, Carla. Why don’t you tell us a little bit, about. Your background and how inspire life started?


Carla: I love to be engaged in community work. So I currently serve as the director of the Educational Opportunity Fund program at Brookdale.

. That is what keeps me busy full-time. My husband is a pastor, so I work very diligently to serve the people in our congregation and the community that surrounds us. And then of course we have Inspire Life.

And Inspire Life is a nonprofit that Semaj and I started together in 2016. We saw a need in the community and wanted to fill it. And so Inspire Life was born. We noticed as parents that there weren’t many affordable options for our kids to go to summer camp, and so we had this crazy idea. That we would just start this camp, have a couple of kids come, and that would be that.

How hard could it be, right? How hard could it be? And how many people would actually be interested in that? But next thing you know, we [00:01:00] had a target of 20. Fingers crossed we would get those 20 kids showed up and 40 kids were registered and we had to kind of slow things down a bit. And so from there, inspire life just grew into many different facets.


Nancy: Well, as you know, arch rule is about how art in communities intersect, and we are looking for ideas to generate.

Interest from other cities so that obviously you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If there’s a good idea, and maybe you could use it all the better. We’ve talked to artists, we’ve talked to government people, and we’ve asked them what makes the city art centric. So you are situated in Asbury Park.

Why Asbury Park?


Carla: We love Asbury Park. So when we came back to this area about eight years ago now, we were serving at a [00:02:00] church in Asbury Park. And we remember as we were dating visits to the shore in Asbury Park, and when you don’t live here, you often hear about. The art scene and the music scene.

And so we envision it to be this really cool city. And so when we got the chance to come here and to live here, we were really excited. And so we noticed it was really an arts community. There were a lot of wonderful musicians in the area. But one thing we quickly noticed was that there weren’t a lot of black and brown artists represented in that scene, and there didn’t seem to be a clear pipeline for people who were art centric to really grow into some of those arts types of careers.

And so we really wanted to help strengthen that and build it. We noticed that places like Lake House Music Academy were doing their part to help, and we noticed other organizations like. The music Foundation, Asbury Park Music Foundation, we’re [00:03:00] trying to do it as well. And so we really wanted to pitch in and really do the best that we could to make sure that all children, because we serve a diverse group of students and campers had the opportunity to engage in art I envisioned that many of them will become artists in many different ways.

And some of them will just grow to love the arts as a result of being a part of inspire life and connect it to it. And many of them will just reap the academic, psychological, physical benefits that come along with being an artist at a young age.

Mike: Do you have, a story about, someone who has gone through the camp and you know, a light bulb came up over their head and said, oh man, I could really, I could really make a career out of this.


Carla: Absolutely. We have a young girl who started at Inspire Life, had no idea what coding was, and ended up joining the coding club because she really [00:04:00] enjoyed engaging with the work.

My own son, I have a 12 year old now, he just had a birthday about a week or so ago. He is a budding musician songwriter, and if you talk to him about it, he’ll say that a lot of it came from his engagement and Inspire Life.


Nancy:Why did you feel that some of your focus. In the camp or in the program should


Carla: be in the arts. The arts, there’s so many benefits. We know that children who don’t go into arts related fields, they experience a lot of academic benefits from being engaged with the arts.

Their creativity and learning really developed in a different way by having those. And so scientifically just looking at those benefits, we knew that. Arts had to be a part of this. And we also noticed that arts aren’t necessarily the biggest focus sometimes in schools because there’s so many other academic criteria.

So we wanted to be a part of the solution to that and offer an [00:05:00] alternative, a safe space where kids can come and be creative and learn and not be put into. A box, but where they can be their authentic selves and be their creative selves. So some of them love to draw. They love to write. Some students really enjoy acting, and so we’ve had some fine arts and, production type classes. We’ve had singers come through and musicians. So we really love that they’re able to experience the arts and various different forms.


Mike: I know that you offer video classes . I’ve seen some of the examples of that. They’re just blooming when it comes to video.


Carla: Absolutely.


Mike: You know, budget cuts being what they are , in the schools, do you find that you are filling a void that the schools just can’t.


Carla: Absolutely. We do want kids who have a rich understanding of academics. And so the schools I think, have worked really [00:06:00] hard to provide that for students. But it always comes at a cost because they have limited time and they can’t do everything during the day.

And so I don’t think that they’ve had the most time to dedicate to the arts and some of those things. And so, inspire life has been an outlet for those kids to be able to connect with it.


Nancy: Working within a city of like Asbury Park, what do you see as a way a city could be more supportive of what you’re doing?


Carla: So we have a wonderful group of kids. The group is Kidspirations. Our instructor, Daryl Cook came in and he did a class with the kids. Content creation. It was a content creation course with the kids. So what they do is from concept to content, they create. Different types of scenarios, whether it’s interviewing people from the community or doing research about different things in the community, and they create media around that.[00:07:00]

And it’s in different forms. A lot of it is on our YouTube channel. They also write stories. They’re in the process of creating a play. They’re in the process of writing a show and a game show as well. Game show. A game show. So it’s gonna be so much fun. We can’t wait to record it and share it with, with you all.

And so all of those things have really come together and allowed for the community to engage. We’re really looking forward to visiting with local businesses. Our kids learn from you all. And in turn, you all get to learn from our kids, their thoughts, their feelings about things, and so people who want to engage, you can connect with Kidspirations and come and be interviewed or share your expertise with them.


Mike: What’s been the reaction of the parents, of kids who go through this?


Carla: Parents love us

So they love us one just because of the experience.

So [00:08:00] for many working parents, where do you send your kids when you have to go to work? And there aren’t many summer camp options out there that are really affordable. We found that parents want to invest in their children’s wellbeing, but sometimes these camps can be so far out of their price range is just not possible.

So the amount. That campers pay to attend if they’re able to is relatively small. So parents can make that investment into their children. They have a place for them to go during the day while the parents are at work. In addition to just the practical side of it, they love who their children are when they’re at Inspire Life.

We do a lot of socially emotional learning. We talk about things like mental health. We cover concepts like bullying and things like that, and we really try to invest and build the children in addition to exposing them to the arts.


Nancy: How do you engage with. Established artists to help with your programs.


Carla:  So one of the things I am most [00:09:00] proud of with Inspire Life is our incredible partners.


So my husband and I co-founded Inspire Life several years ago. But it would not be what it is without the people that we’ve connected to. People like Mike Sodano or Lake House Music Academy, and all of these other places who have invested in our youth as well. And so those partnerships have been really rich for us and have allowed the community and others to invest back into our kids again while our kids are investing back into the community.

Mike: I’m just thinking of all the business owners in Asbury that could. Be a part of this, , how would you reach out to them and say, , even if it’s a coffee shop or a, or a gallery or a retail operation, is there any opportunity there for those business owners to participate in the program?

Carla: Absolutely. So some organizations is, is just word of mouth. They hear about the work that we’re [00:10:00] doing, they contact us, or we see some clear connections with certain organizations and we reach out to them.

So it’s been pretty organic as of now, but we really wanna get more intentional with creating and building those relationships,

Mike: do you think that inspire life could be. I don’t wanna say franchised, but I mean, could be started in other less creative cities.

Carla: Darryl Cook is one of our instructors and he’s been doing a lot with our content creation.

Corey Cook is another instructor who does a lot with music production, music theory. And we’ve been partnering, actually across New Jersey and across the state of Pennsylvania already to bring these opportunities to other communities

and even within New Jersey, we were really focused in on Asbury Park in the beginning. But now we serve the central Jersey shore as a whole. We have [00:11:00] kids who come as far as Keansburg and even further we’ve had kids as far as Trenton come, they come and stay with relatives for a couple of weeks and come to Inspire life camp.

Nancy: If you could grow without being worried about funding, where would you expand your arts

Carla: program? So we really wanna get more into after school programming and being able to offer this.

Year round. I wish Inspire Life could be in every school, everywhere, Inspire Life.

It started as a. A place for a camp, but it grew to something where we were really focused on the community. So our mission is to empower people to purpose professions and positive choices. And that includes families. And so we’ve done a lot of work around initiatives related to women. Empowering them, things like pay equity, creating safe spaces for them.

We also wanna [00:12:00] make sure that. All members of our community, all genders within our community have what they need as well.

Culture is also really important to inspire life. So we are a black led organization, but we serve people from so many different backgrounds, and one of our goals is to be able to engage in pilgrimages. To people’s home homelands for our family would be Africa.

Some children that we serve could be Mexico or other places Spain, Europe. But we really wanna be able to teach kids about their history, connect them to that.

And so to be able to do that would just be groundbreaking, revolutionary for many families. So we would take a slew of kids. To their homelands and let them experience that culture along with their families. We love to see a place of creativity right here on the Jersey Shore in Asbury Park where their kids can [00:13:00] engage, maybe a art museum.

Or a children’s museum where kids really get to have a voice in how it’s run. So we have so many big ideas, so many dreams, and if money wasn’t an issue, we would definitely make it happen.

Mike: So I have a very important question. When do you sleep?

Carla: I don’t sleep much, so I am a mama first.

Mm-hmm. I love my boys. They are exceptional human beings. I’m so very proud of who they are, and I try to show up in every way that I can. Of course I am a full-time worker. And we have the nonprofit, my husband and I also have a business as well where we do a lot of D E I B work, so we’re constantly busy and constantly running.

So sleep is not often something that we get to do. What is D E B I? So diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. We wanna [00:14:00] embed that in communities. I think a lot of times people think of d e I work, or diversity, equity and inclusion work as something that you just do every once in a while. But when we look at our communities and we look at the state of New Jersey, so incredibly diverse and we learned so much from each other.

And so we wanna help to ingrain that into the communities that surround us.

Nancy: What has your commitment meant to your family? Do they see you differently? Is it just part of what

Carla: Mama does? So I think it means so much.

But I think it’s done something really special for our family. My kids have ownership and inspire life, and not that they think they run the place, although sometimes they think they run the place but it’s more of they feel responsible for making sure that it thrives.

It’s something our whole family is invested in and that has been something that’s been so special for us, and I think it has instilled so many [00:15:00] values into our children, and it’s something that I think our family is really, really proud of together.

Nancy: Do you have any, any partnerships with arts organizations or any organizations that work directly with you? I know when we went to your awards dinner there was a lot of people who supported that.

Do you get that feeling of support cuz partnerships are just so helpful in everything you

Carla: do. So as far as direct art, programming Two River Theater has been amazing. They sent this past summer Philip Michael, who was the original scar on Broadway, and he came and taught a dance class for our campers.

It was absolutely phenomenal. I wish people could have seen it. Because he does not play at all. He was very serious. We have seven year olds all the way up to 13 year olds who are trying to learn this dance, [00:16:00] and he’s just going, and the kids are like, oh my gosh, this is just too hard. By the end of the week, they were exceptional.

They performed a piece that was magnificent and they learned so much from him. I really appreciated the way that he called them to action. He had expectations and firm expectations, but he was so loving and committed and we’re so grateful for to Two River Theater for providing that for us. And they’ve also provided other types of classes as well.


Nancy: they actually bring somebody to you or

Carla: you go to them. So both, we also were able to tour their theater and they’ve also provided opportunities for our campers to attend their camps as well. Lake House Music Academy has been another excellent partner. We have children, my children attend Lake House.

It’s a phenomenal music program, but they’ve opened their doors to our campers.[00:17:00]

Mike: If, if an artist or a creator wanted to participate with you, what would they, how, how should they approach you? What should they

Carla: do? So they can reach out to us. Our email is, Www dot inspirelife NJ And so they can send us an email and we would be happy to answer that and figure out how to get connected with them.

And they can go to our website, and fill out an interest form and somebody will get back to them and set up a meeting. Just to name a couple of things that are in the works. We recently connected with an arts collector who was very much the same way. They wanna be able to give back to inspire life and to the community.

And so she is, Working to plan a trip eventually to the city so kids can go to a [00:18:00] studio and see art and talk, talk about art collecting. And she’s also planning to come down here and talk to the children as well. So it’s not just organizations who invest, but it’s individuals who wanna pour back into the youth as well.

And we have space for all of that. Excellent.

Nancy: Wow.

Mike: You have space for all of it?

Carla: Yes. We make it work. We want our kids to, to be able to try new things. I wasn’t thinking about art collecting at seven, but there’s so many rich possibilities that exist, and so to be able to put that on a young kid’s mind. And as they grow, they may find that they have an interest in it, and who knows where it will take it, take them.

So we try to expose them to as much get them out of their communities, into new places, and really just help them grow and develop.

Mike: What do you need?

Carla: So always at the top of that list is money. Yeah, we need lots and lots [00:19:00] of money. We have lots and lots of big dreams. The goal would be to be able to have a staff who can really focus on, inspire life and help to take it to the next level.

And so of course we need financial resources for that. We’re always looking for new partnerships. Inspire life would not be who it is today without those amazing partnerships. We need support from our community. People who have unique stories and unique experiences who wanna share those with our children.

It just helps them to see that the world is so much bigger than where they are. And so just sharing your story could be revolutionary for a young mind. And so people who are willing to share. Who are willing to answer questions and show love and support. I think those are the things that we need most right now.

Nancy: I hope, and I, I’m pretty sure that more will come out of this [00:20:00] because there are people who have a lot to give and your organization, your. Passion definitely sounds like something people would want to partner with. So if this podcast does anything, hopefully it’ll bring you more connections with people and I could think off the top of my head of a number of things right off the bat that we could do with you.

And being a woman working in this field is is inspirational for a lot of young girls.

Mike: What you’re doing is.

Inspire life. I mean , you’re living inspire life. I think it would be wonderful if, if you went on the speaking, if you had time going on the speaking circuit because people would be would be fascinated in this story. And I hope that they’ll be fascinated in our interview here.

Carla Vanzant, thank you so much.

Carla: Thank you both for having me. I really do appreciate it.

Mike Sodano and Nancy Sabino engage with Evan Snow, co-founder of Zero Empty Spaces, an initiative to activate vacant commercial real estate primarily in retail settings to make affordable artist studios at a low monthly rate.

After listening to the interview, check out Zero Empty Spaces on their website.

Full transcript of the podcast is below, and don’t forget to sign up to receive announcements of future podcasts at the bottom of any page of our website.

Subscribe to our podcast at any of the major online services by clicking any link below:



Evan Snow: We’re really changing the way not only that people view and interact with space, but we’re also changing the way people view and interact with artists.
Welcome to the ArtsRule Podcast, proving insight, analysis and dialog highlighting the arts-vibrant landscape of small to medium size cities. Guiding you to consider where to visit, work and live with an arts-centric focus.
I’m Mike Sodano along with my partner Nancy Sabino and today we’re speaking with Evan Snow from Zero Empty Spaces.
One of the challenges of any arts-vibrant city is to maintain the balance between market rate space and the ability to utilize that space to create and sell their work. That walk down the aisle has historically been bumpy between the artist and developer but in Sarasota Florida, Evan Snow and his business partner Andrew Martineau are providing a solution.
MS: Evan, welcome to ArtsRule. Thank you for speaking with us. You and your partner have a unique initiative called Zero Empty Spaces. Why don’t you explain to our listeners what Zero Empty Spaces is all about.
ES: Sure, thank you very much for having me. Myself and my business partner are arts advocates, community builders, creative problem solvers and creative entrepreneurs that among other things that we do came up with an initiative to activate vacant commercial real estate primarily in retail settings, to make affordable artist studios at a low monthly rate. This has provided a myriad of benefits for all the parties involved. For the artists I’m sure you can imagine but for the property owners to support the viability and the walkability of their shopping centers, lifestyle centers or mall centers and then also for the general public at large to be able to discover and hopefully and ultimately support local artists in settings they normally would not be able to discover a local artist studio. So it’s been a great win-win-win initiative that’s led to 26 locations over the last three years.
NS: Going back a little bit why don’t you tell us why you chose the first city you did and how that first workspace came to be.
ES:  I’m born and raised in Broward county which is where Fort Lauderdale’s located. And my business partner lives in Fort Lauderdale. We started an art fair using the unique elements of Fort Lauderdale which have these amazing luxury waterfront homes and intercostal waterway systems AKA the Venice of the Americas and a water taxi, we wanted to utilize these unique elements to put Fort Lauderdale on the art world map and particularly the art fair world map so we started an art fair inside of luxury waterfront homes that are for sale. Then commercial property owners, developers, brokers a lot of different people, property managers started coming to us and asking if we could do art in their commercial space but they ultimately really didn’t want to pay for it so we were leaving a meeting in Broward county unfortunately Broward county was and is one of the least affordable counties for housing at the moment and we were looking at all these storefronts and said to ourselves what if we were to make this one of the most affordable areas for artists to create in and we took that idea to the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, mayor Dean Trantalis. He was a big arts advocate, he attends our art fair, he’s a supporter of our initiatives and he suggested we reach out to a gentleman by the name of Mike Weymouth, who owns the Las Olas company which is Las Olas is effectively our more or less our Main Street, our Rodeo Drive it leads to the beach its high priced per square foot real estate and um he didn’t have to do it, it took him two to three minutes and Mike Weymouth after we presented the opportunity to him said ok. And he gave us our first space on Las Olas in downtown Fort Lauderdale and it had been vacant for a few years. And we were in there for three months and low and behold, a gentleman came in I like the buzz and energy in this place took out a long term lease. They moved us to another space around the corner we were in there for three months a gentleman came in liked the buzz and energy he took out a long terms lease and we realized we were on to something and that’s how the program started here in Fort Lauderdale, Broward county.
MS: Give us a rough idea of how your plan develops. Are you approached or do you go out and seek a space?
ES: Thankfully, property owners and developers have taken an interest in the initiative and all the space have been acquired through groups that have reached out to us. But our initial space as I mentioned came from the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale endorsing us or suggesting that we reach out to one of his large property owners. We’re had multiple city commissioners, mayors, community redevelopment agencies, economy managers and other people in city government suggest to their property owners who pay them taxes that they could or should do this initiative at no cost to the property owner and that endorsement is how we’ve acquired the majority of our spaces.
MS: On average does it take you to go from an idea and approach to an actual opening?
ES: There are a lot of steps obviously in the process. We have to have the initial conversation and make sure there’s mutual interest. We have to determine that there are artists in the area that will be able to fill the space.
ES: We do site surveys and visits and we try to visit the local community and connect with the local arts and culture board or the cultural council, whatever it may be in that area and try to check their pulse. Thankfully the areas we have selected there has been a need and a thriving arts community in Sarasota and obviously the Boston area and now we’re going to the St. Pete Tampa area and we’re glad to support the artists and creative community in those spaces.
NS: Who have you found to be your biggest supporters? Are they individuals, investors, city officials, artists, realtors?
ES: Our biggest supporters have been the mayors and the city commissioners that endorse us to their property owners and not that the property owner wouldn’t have done it without that endorsement and it certainly goes a long way. We have fortunately been able to forge relationships with the large property owners the Simons and the Brookfield’s and that thankfully has led to multiple spaces.
NS:  What is key to your success in an area. Is it PR, is it more artists than you have space for them, is it positive cash flow sooner rather than later? What helps you label a particular site a success story for you?
ES: So, art has a myriad of benefits as we all know. Art is history. Art is storytelling. Art is communication. Art is placemaking. We have found that by making art more accessible in the mall settings for example it does add life, color and vibrancy to what otherwise might be just a mundane shopping experience and it also from a placemaking perspective changes the way people view and interact with art by the artist being creative in the spaces, we’ve had artists work on caricatures in the malls, we’ve had artists collaborate with other stores to add murals or public art or improve signage in their space from a more artistic approach. And there’s also other in-studio benefits of workshops, talks, pot lucks, and other ways the community is able to engage and interact with the artist in the space that traditionally wasn’t there previously.
I would love if we were able to help every single artist in the community. Unfortunately there’s only so much space and there’s only so much time in the day. But we do what we can with what we have and we’re fortunate that we’ve had almost 300 artists come through the program now in just a little under three years. Just the fact of them working outside their homes making friends with their peers who were initially third party strangers who have now become friends and even collaborators I like to think that that’s a success. And then you know in all reality our property owners when we are able to help them take a space that was formerly vacant and stark for many years and help drive the traffic visually, physically leading to them getting a full permanent tenant that is a success and that is part of the program. We do want to have a deal a win-win-win for everybody and thankfully in the current iteration of the program it is a win win-win and we’re going to continue growing that if it makes us you know this program doesn’t make us a ton of money but it provides more for us in terms of fulfillment and helps to serve as our life’s mission as arts advocates to make art more accessible and i think we ‘re doing a pretty good job at that and I think that’s a success.
NS: We’re trying to use this site as sort of a best practices so that what we learn from you and others we can pass on to others who might be interested in starting some like this for themselves. If somebody were to come to you and say we’re looking to start something like this in our own location how would they start. How would you recommend they start the process for themselves?
ES: Well, I can’t tell you the how but I can tell you the why. And if you do it altruistically because it’s the right thing to do the how becomes a lot easier and you don’t find these things being as much about work as they are about service to the community. There is no playbook we’ve had to figure it out on our own and as I mentioned to you previously we’re very resourceful. We have an agency that Andrew and myself operate the UNITAS group that literally facilitates every part of the process from the ideation of the concept to the logo creation to the website creation to the branding the social every single part. We do the leasing, we do the build out of the actual space, we do the events, we do the bookkeeping, we do all of those things. It’s just not really worth it unless you’re really doing it altruistically. So, I would just say if it’s part of your why, if it aligns with your why and this is the mission that you’re on then you’ll figure out how to go about it your own way.
NS: So if somebody was interested, say in Asbury Park, and wanted you to be interested in Asbury Park to do something like this, how would they approach you. What would they need to make you say hmm, I need to come to this city to see what they have to offer.
ES: I do ask the people who reach out from smaller cities or smaller markets, which we’re not opposed to but you know, what is the studio space landscape in your area. How many studio spaces are there. What is your relationship with the arts alliance or the cultural commission or whatever it might be in your community. And then also, is there a city commissioner or public official that is art friendly or an art advocate that would endorse the project because if you have a connection to a property owner or developer if you have some time of relationship there that could at least introduce the program that’s generally a good starting point. In lieu of that relationship if you are interested in the program and you have a relationship with the city commissioner or mayor or public official that has a relationship with developers or property owners that pay taxes then that’s another good starting point. And if you’re hopefully interested, you’re in the creative community you’re familiar with the cultural division or the arts alliance whatever it might be in your area and you can put us in touch with somebody there who generally the director of those organizations have relationships with the public officials so on and so forth, than that will help expedite the process.
MS: So what would you say to someone who says are you crazy? Why are you doing this? You’re not making any money and how are you surviving?
ES: I would generally like to say that’s our problem for us to figure out, but um. This is why I was put on this planet, this is my mission.
MS Interesting you say that because in our previous life we ran movie theaters and people would often ask us how do you make any money here? on selling kernels of popcorn and tickets to the movies. We would just say, that’s our job how to figure out how to make money, your job is to come in and be entertained. That’s what we do. We provide an entertainment service and that’s where we got the joy, hearing people having a good time at the movies.
ES: I derive more rewarding fulfillment from doing this project and this initiative and we have a lot of other initiatives that these kind of feed into. We started an art-fair, we started an art week. We are working to get more places to consign art and sell art and exhibit art and by having this initiative while it doesn’t you know, it’s not helping us retire tomorrow it does actually help us accelerate our other missions of putting Fort Lauderdale Broward County on the art world map as a place to interact with art which we set out to do and as evidenced by the press we’ve gathered and as evidenced by a lot of the success stories that I’ve outlined its helping us to succeed in our overall mission which, I know that might not make a lot of sense everybody but if you’re a community builder if you have an altruism gene inside of your DNA, I hope that will resonate with you a little bit.
NS: You’ve said that from start to finish is particularly labor intensive. What do you like the most of this environment because it sounds like you’re involved in almost every aspect from start to finish.
ES: I do find reward in the feedback I receive from the artist. When an artist comes up to myself or Andrew and they tell us they sold a painting whether it was $5 or $500 or $5,000, that feedback is certainly rewarding and that would not be possible without all of the legwork and all of the grunt work.
One success story I always like to mention is in our Palm Beach Gardens location which is a suburb of West Palm Beach. Somewhat of a retirement area, an affluent area. We have a few older artists that had been painting in homes for many years and one of them had told us she had never called herself or considered herself an artist although she had been painting at home for 30 years. She was making her family and keeping up the house but she never showed in public, she never did an art fair, she never did an exhibit. And by her husband reading the story in the local paper and then encouraging her to join Zero Empty Spaces, it had changed her life. Her artwork is amazing, she definitely has the technique and the skill but by being able to collaborate and ideate and converse with somebody else besides your spouse and partner the feedback has helped her have a resurgence in her practice and to me that’s a success.
ES: We’re kind of hoping that we can inspire the next wave of people and I’m not anti-capitalism or anti people being successful but there’s a lot of people that have a lot of means and a lot of resources that can do a lot of good in the community that where is all that money going to go? Is it going to go to your kids? What if you don’t have kids. And I don’t have a lot of disposable income that I can just donate you know to all the causes I want to support but I do have time, I do have some knowledge, I do have some skills, I do have some assets and connections that I’m able to leverage to do good in the community and that’s what I‘m hoping to kind of inspire is this next wave of altruism, community building, placemaking and the point I really wanted to make is that we’re changing the way not only the way people interact with space, but we’re changing the way people interact with artists.
NS: You’re creating a template as you go but you already have a lot of the pieces in place. Hey Evan we thank you so much. This has been so educational for us and our listeners as well.
MS: Evan Snow from Zero Empty Spaces we truly appreciate your time your talent and your treasure, we think that you’re really on to something and can be an inspiration for others to jump in and either donate to you or help fund you or just be a silent partner. I think it’s great what you’re doing and certainly for the audience we’re trying to build – those who are looking for arts vibrant cities – you’re definitely someone to follow. We appreciate your time.
ES: We appreciate your interest. Feel free to give us a follow on the social medias at Zero Empty Spaces. Don’t hesitate to reach out and we look forward to seeing you at one of the studios.
ES: Thank you guys.
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