One of the co-founders of the Daytona-based Open Source Community Arts Initiative, has a confession: “I’ve cried looking at a painting before. I had seen the painting online, but seeing it in person — seeing what the artist was trying to convey with their strokes — you can get overwhelmed with serious emotion. It can truly move you,” Jr. says.
Open Source, which officially debuted in July 2017 with a funky, techno-tribal, hip-hop ’n’ sitar-fueled open mic at Kale Café in downtown Daytona Beach, is hoping to bring that cry-when-you-see-the-brush-strokes experience to more creators and audiences alike.
That will be the case when Open Source presents Proof|Concept, a multi-artist, multi-genre arts festival on Sept. 7 at the News-Journal Center in Daytona Beach.
“The problem right now is these super talented kids get all their kudos online,” says Jr., who prefers to use only his first name. “With the ubiquitous immersion of our culture in social media,” young creators — musicians, visual artists, film and video makers, etc. — “put their stuff online to win approval and get likes instead of applause — and they lose all of that human interaction.”
On its Facebook page and website at opensource-arts.org, Open Source — which has applied for official 501(c)(3) nonprofit status — states its mission bluntly and directly, in terms that won’t raise the suspicion of any bureaucrat who might sniff that the organization is up to any sort of artsy-fartsy cosmic-hippie sh*t: “Open Source Community Arts Initiative commits ourselves to the purpose of providing a local forum and home for the arts where all people can reach their creative potential. Open Source Community Arts Initiative will provide a virtual community for the arts through the production, management, and maintenance of public performances, art exhibitions, and educational experiences for all people. Exhibitions and performances in the forum will be open-door, un-juried, and open to the general public. Exhibition services and facilities are made available to all artists to exhibit, perform, or create their original artwork. This mission allows artists with unique personal limitations, financial or otherwise, a forum to exhibit or perform.”
That’s all true, certainly. But elsewhere the Open Source folks — Jr., Daniel Ortiz, Geoff Cormier (a puppeteer!), Claire and Anna Zurstadt, and Sean “SavSola” Edwards — ditch the arts-grant speak and get to the soul of their enterprise, and such phrases as “creative protest,” “utopian musical format” and “artistic introspection” flow from their brain synapses.
“Open Source was created as a direct response to the complex global and political issues we face in the 21st century,” Jr. says. “It’s with a sense of urgency that humans must evolve to transcend ego in order to face these complex existential problems together as a species. It is a ‘creative protest,’ a means to unite all classes, sexes, races, ages, and genres of music in a truly egalitarian environment, free of ego and without hierarchy. Our intent is to blur the line between stage performer and audience, while opening the opportunity for all performers at any skill level to express themselves.”
Despite its emphasis on flesh-and-bone-and-blood performances and breath-on-canvas visual art encounters, and despite its goal of moving beyond the garner-more-Facebook-“likes”-than-Zeus mentality, Open Source isn’t anti-technology. These ain’t Luddites. Quite the opposite.
Though Open Source officially debuted at that 2017 open mic, its theoretical roots go back to the 1990s when Jr. was doing his turntablist thing and raves were all the rage — when even the Volusia County Fairgrounds hosted a Zen Festival with Rabbit in the Moon headlining. (The “mystical Volusia County Fairgrounds” was how the festival flyer put it — and indeed that was the case for the 12 sonic-shamanic hours that the indoor event lasted on Aug. 31, 1996. Judging by the capacity of the venue and the a**es-to-elbows crowd, that event may have been the most-attended musical happening ever in the Daytona area.)
“I’ve been deejaying a long time,” Jr. says. “At the height of the rave scene we electronic musicians had respect, but then the rave scene went away and everything went with it.”
Ever since then, Jr. has dreamed of returning turntablists, deejays and electronic musicians to a local profile on par with what he calls “traditional instrumentalists and analog musicians.”
“Electronic musicians can be very talented but there’s no way for them to support themselves,” Jr. says. “They have to succumb to the giant that is the cover band industry in Daytona, and entertainment for tourists, you know. You’re not going to go into the Ocean Deck and be able to try experimental music. That’s just not going to happen.”
The process of reclaiming that once-high profile — hell, the process of just having a public venue to artfully work some turntables before an audience — began at Kale Café in July 2017. There Jr., Daniel Ortiz, and Brett Hutcheson manned the drum machines and two turntables, hip-hop emcee Def-B and others got on the mics, percussionist Mufassa jammed on djembe (African hand drum), and some errant sitar player (OK, full disclosure: that would be the writer of this article) did the infinite drone thing — all for the purpose of just seeing and hearing what the hell might happen.
“I was trying to create somewhere where I could express myself creatively, and Daniel too, because there was nowhere to do that,” Jr. says.
But a funny thing happened on the way to re-jump-starting the turntables: What about Geoff the puppeteer — where can he do his thing? What about other local hip-hop artists? What about visual artists who don’t have the social cache, the reputation and-or the cash to break into the local art establishment? (Yes, renting gallery space and exhibiting in festivals costs money.)
Open Source began to host bonafide pop-up happenings in alleys and parking lots in downtown Daytona, where open mics with both deejays and “analog” musicians, 2-D art displays, arts-oriented vendors and muralists using buildings as their canvas created a techno-boho vibe rarely experienced in the area, if ever.
A surge forward came when Randall Phillips and his father, Bill Phillips, opened the doors of Tir na nOg, their Irish pub at 612 E. International Speedway Blvd. in Daytona, for Open Source to hold frequent, sometimes weekly open-mics at the beachside venue.
“I definitely want to give a big shout-out to Tir na nOg and Randy and Bill Phillips,” Jr. says. “They’ve been supporting independent music in this area for a very long time, and supporting experimental music and subcultures in the area.”
Proof|Concept, the Sept. 7 event, may be Open Source’s biggest, most ambitious undertaking yet. The event will be held both indoors and outdoors at News-Journal Center, 221 N. Beach St., Daytona Beach — a facility now run by Daytona State College.
“It will be an immersive art experience,” Jr. says. He characterizes Proof|Concept using what the Open Source collective calls “the three I’s: inclusion, innovation and improvisation.”
He then name-checks the event’s offerings: visual art, dance, literature (poetry readings), performance art, yoga, a drum circle, video screenings, indigenous (Native American) culture, interactive technology, and music via an open mic stage, a jam stage and a world music stage.
The open mic music slots have been filled, Jr. says, but the event may add an additional stage for singer-songwriters. Visual artists, both 2-D and 3-D, can display their works. It’s all open door and non-juried, meaning artists and performers will not be pre-screened and held to any sort of obtuse, subjective standard.
And it’s all free, for both presenters and attendees. Open Source suggests any artist, performer, or vendor wanting to participate should contact them via email at email@example.com, or by calling 386-852-1254. Additional information can be found at open-source.events.
“There’s no place for the amateur artist (in traditional art galleries),” Jr. says. “OK, some of the stuff is not high art, but we need to foster all the arts so that a person can come to create high art. You give people a platform to show and get feedback from other artists. That’s what artistic communities are all about — coming together to collaborate and learn.”
As for music and the performing arts, he says: “There’s a different energy when you’re playing in front of a live audience. You feed off the crowd and you do things you normally wouldn’t try. There’s a certain energy that goes back and forth between the audience and the performer. We’re trying to blur that.”
True, Open Source wants to help area creatives hone their talents and have arenas to display them to the public, but the alliance is also after bigger game.
“Our ultimate goal is to create an egalitarian community of performers rooted in cooperation, collaboration, empathy, and altruism,” Jr. says.