For Evan Snow and Andrew Martineau, something didn’t feel right about trekking to Miami or Palm Beach to seek out an art museum or a cultural event.
“I consider myself a cultural crusader,” Snow says. “I’m always on a search for something cool to do. But a few years ago, it got to a point where I didn’t understand why Broward County wasn’t on the same level as places to the north or south of us.”
Born and raised in Broward, Snow, who spent much of his career in staffing and recruiting, made a promise to discover Fort Lauderdale’s arts and culture scene, and create a space to share it with the community. Around the same time in August 2016, Snow met Andrew Martineau, a 20-year advertising and marketing vet, at a local TEDx event, where they connected over their desire for culture.
“We were both re-energized to get back into the arts,” Martineau says. “We’ve basically worked together almost every day since we first met.”
Less than a year later, Snow and Martineau launched Choose 954 (playing off of the local area code), a web-based social movement that spotlights arts and culture events in Broward County. In addition to the organization’s website, Snow and Martineau offer curated newsletters, a podcast and weekly round-ups of the best exhibits, parties and happenings. They also host art-related events, including live painting demos and public art installations. Right now, more than 15,000 subscribers receive Choose 954 emails.
“What I’ve always thought is if people know exactly where to go, they’ll end up choosing the 954 over driving someplace an hour away,” Snow says. “We’re trying to cultivate a community in Broward that embraces its own culture.”
But it didn’t stop there. Six months after introducing Choose 954, the two debuted Art Fort Lauderdale, the first-ever four-day art fair in Broward County. The festival organizes numerous exhibits inside for-sale luxury waterfront homes in Fort Lauderdale, and attendees are transported between locations via boat.
“We didn’t want to create just another fair inside a tent or a convention center,” Snow says. “We wanted to offer something super unique that highlights the distinct characteristics of our city and its architecture and waterways.”
The first year, Art Fort Lauderdale hosted about 700 attendees. Going into its third year, Snow and Martineau expect around 3,000 to attend this month’s festival. In addition, this will be the first year Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina will serve as the fair’s boarding location. There will also be a series of afterparties hosted at various venues downtown and along the beach.
“We’re hoping the community continues to embrace Art Fort Lauderdale,” Snow says. “We want to help transform the city into more than just a beach and hotel destination.
The 2019 fest will coincide with Snow and Martineau’s inaugural Fort Lauderdale Art & Design Week, which will unite all of the city’s artists and cultural institutions for a week of exhibits, discussions, dinners and parties.
“Everyone knows Art Basel and Miami Art Week,” Snow says. “We’ve never had anything like that. Since Choose 954, it’s been a gradual process to grow up to this point. It only makes sense to unite all the city has to offer into one place. It’s time to get Fort Lauderdale on the map.”