Judi Cain is a poet and artist who has been sharing her poetry at ARTSPEAKS for three years. She shared her piece called "I Woke Up” which she wrote two days prior on her 79th birthday. (Sarah Nasir/WUFT News)

Poets and artists attend ARTSPEAKS event and let their art speak


The Historic Thomas Center in downtown Gainesville was packed Sunday evening as poets and artists from all over north central Florida came to showcase their poetry and art.

Close to 85 people were at the center Sunday evening for the 11th Annual “ARTSPEAKS: Bringing Poetry & People Together” event. Artists young and old were able to present their art that evening.

Maliha O’Neal, 10, shared her painting and poem, both called, “Find Your Way.” The piece was about how someone who might be struggling in life can still find his or her way and be OK. (Sarah Nasir/WUFT News)

“If you get lost in life you can find your way,” said 10-year-old artist Maliha O’Neal. “You can find the bad in your life, you can find the good in your life”.

O’Neal’s painting and poem, both titled “Find Your Way,” were presented by O’Neal, with support from her brother, Matthew, and mom, Shereka.

The main room of the center, with its high ceilings and vast space, made the poets’ voices echo throughout the building. The evening started with live saxophone and artists talking amongst one another while enjoying the food laid out in the room next to the main area. The evening kicked off with a lively and welcoming atmosphere.

Judi Cain was another artist who was there to share one of her poems.

Cain said that ever since she was 65 years old, she challenged herself to make art every day, no matter what.

“If I have time to brush my teeth, I have time to paint or write,” she said.

Cain said she discovered ARTSPEAKS three years ago and has been attending and speaking at the events ever since. Her piece, titled, “I Woke Up,” was a poem she wrote two days prior on her 79th birthday.

Rachel Xu is a senior from Eastside High School. One of the poems that she presented was based on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” She was inspired to write it after working on a school project about the play. (Sarah Nasir/WUFT News)

Poet Laureate Rachel Xu also presented her poem at the event. She’s part of the North Central Florida Youth Poet Laureate Program. The program “identifies youth poets who excel in the literary arts, (writing & poetry performance) academics, community service and social activism.”

Xu, 17, presented one of her poems, which she said was based on William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” titled, “What We May Be.”

“It was part of a class project where we would have to add a creative element to our final presentation,” she said. “And I chose to write a poem based on a scene we were studying.”

Around 85 people attended the “ARTSPEAKS: Bringing Poetry & People Together” event Sunday evening. The event had a lively atmosphere, welcoming artists young and old to showcase their art that evening. (Sarah Nasir/WUFT News)

The event was organized by ARTSPEAKSgnv Inc., a “nonprofit organization committed to supporting poets and artists in North Central Florida.”

The founder and director of the organization, E. Stanley Richardson, said he wanted to find a way to bring the community together.

“One of the things that I wanted to do was bridge the divide between the University [of Florida] …and the people in and around Gainesville and Alachua County and the community town folks,” he said.

Richardson, 61, founded the nonprofit in 2012 and runs the Youth Poet Laureate Program. He said that doing events like this is great for people to express themselves through the art they create.

“It is an amazing space full of love and support for people to come and express themselves primarily through the art of poetry, spoken word and storytelling,” he said. “But to me, everything is poetry.”

About Sarah Nasir

Sarah is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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