Art currently on display at the Kelly Recreation Complex includes two paintings by Auburndale artist Chanique Davis. | Stephanie Claytor, LkldNow

Lakeland’s Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Department is looking to promote emerging artists by showcasing their work in the city’s recreational facilities. The deadline to apply for the next exhibition is Sunday, April 23 by midnight.  

Since 2021, the program called “Arts & Rec!” has displayed work by artists from all over Central Florida in the city’s four main facilities – Lake Crago Recreation Complex, Kelly Recreation Complex, Simpson Park Community Center and the Coleman-Bush Building.

Lake Crago facility manager Scott Dickie said the exhibitions change about every three months and have different themes.  The next exhibition, which will run from June 5 to Sept. 17, will include paintings and mixed media. 

“It keeps everything fresh and my customers love it. It makes our facilities a nicer place,” Dickie said, adding that the facility managers help select what goes up on the walls. 

Ellen Chastain, the founder of the non-profit Art Crawl, works with the city to collect the artwork that will be featured. She said it’s a great opportunity for the artists, because it introduces their work to new audiences and they’re able to sell their artwork in the process. 

“Each artwork has a label with a QR code that leads any interested party to ways to purchase directly from the artist,” said Chastain. 

Chanique Davis, 35, of Auburndale, has two paintings in the current exhibition on display at the Kelly Recreation Complex. One of the works is a mixed media painting featuring crushed glass and gold leaf material with a Black woman with an afro, looking over her shoulder in a matter-of-fact manner. 

“She’s not settling for anything less than she deserves. This painting reflects the idea that she knows her worth,” said Davis, adding that the name of the painting is “Not Settling.”

Her other piece is a colorful abstract painting with two blue faces reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future.  

Davis said she’s happy rec center patrons are getting to see her work. 

“I think it’s really awesome that they would allow the local artists to display their artwork in the city. It gives us exposure. I haven’t made any money on it but the exposure is good,” she said. 

There is a process to have your artwork featured in the exhibition. The application fee is $10 and artists are able to submit up to two pieces.

“The selection process can be competitive since there is only so much space to exhibit. Just like any other exhibition, there is an adjudication process. Artwork is chosen for the exhibitions based on theme, originality, skill, the appearance of the artist’s voice, visual impact, quality, and each physical exhibition space,” Chastain explained, adding that works that include profanity, obscenity or objectionable material are prohibited. 

Chastain said typically 18 to 40 artists are selected per exhibition and the exhibition usually features about 50 pieces. She said the idea for the exhibitions sparked when she visited the Lake Crago facility for the first time. 

“It was a collaborative idea between myself and Kimberly Stopiak from the City of Lakeland after she had invited me to view the brand new Lake Crago facility for proposed art classes. Once in the beautiful facility, we noted the huge blank walls were just begging for artwork!” Chastain recalled. 

Besides the Lake Crago and Kelly Recreation facilities, the artwork is also on display at Simpson Park Community Center, and the Coleman Bush Building. 

The current exhibition features works from artists all over Central Florida, including Jennie Ellis, Chanique Davis, Cesar Perez, Edgar Derkevics, Harlow Manning, M’ria Swire, Maggi Rose Page, Meredith Pope, Quanel Davis, Ronald Wilder, Don Brewer, Laura Serdiuk, Peggy Gallaher, Roxanne Tobaison, William Araujo, Allyson Bode, Margret Wilson, and Tiffany Collier-Mcleod. 

The fall exhibition will feature photography and digital art. It will run from Oct. 16 to Jan. 28. The submission deadline will be Sept. 3. 

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Stephanie Claytor has been a broadcast and digital journalist in Lakeland since 2016, covering Polk County for Bay News 9 and currently free-lancing for LkldNow. She is an author of travel and children's books.

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