Syracuse artists show off style at the Westcott Street Cultural Fair

Thousands turned out to experience the multi-cultural offerings of the Westcott Street Cultural Fair, which is celebrating its 22nd year.

The Westcott neighborhood has one day a year to show Central New York just how great a place it is to live, work, shop and play. On Sept. 15, the neighborhood did just that.

Thousands of people attended this year’s Westcott Street Cultural Fair, which is in its 22nd year. The one-day celebration of the diverse and unique Westcott neighborhood continued the fair’s tradition of showcasing the culture, visual and performing arts, food, service organizations and activities that occur in Syracuse.

“I think with belly dancing, the movements are more conducive to a healthy body. It’s softer on your joints; it’s easier on your muscles.”

The fair took place on Westcott Street stretching from Concord to Dell Street, as well as on a few of its side streets—Victoria Place, Harvard Place and Dell Street.

The fair provided an opportunity for artists to get out and display their many talents; from selling art at multiple booths or performing on the stage, Syracuse locals took advantage of the fair to show off their goods.

These five cultural fair artists exhibited the diversity and talent of Syracuse’s art community that the festival prides itself on and celebrates each year.

Jack Brown

“Some people say we’re like The Roots meets Rage Against the Machine with a little bit of P-Funk sprinkled in.”

Jack Brown has come a long way since fourth grade, when he first started writing hip-hop verses while growing up in Syracuse, N.Y. The lyricist and M.C. for Sophistafunk describes the music group’s sound as a mix of slam poetry and soul music with modern dance and hip-hop music to create their own blend.

Brown, a Syracuse University alumnus who graduated in 2007 from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and majored in broadcast journalism, said the three-man group first started playing at Funk ‘n Waffles on Marshall Street in 2007. The other two group members are keyboard player Adam Gold, a 2006 Syracuse University and Newhouse graduate who majored in television-radio-film, and drummer Emanuel Washington.

Eventually the band began playing festivals and performing nationally. This summer they toured internationally; they did a one-week tour in the United Kingdom, performing in places like Bristol, Newcastle, Whales and ending at the Shambala Festival outside of London.

After performing at their fourth Westcott Street Cultural Fair, the group took off for a five-week national tour. They return to Syracuse Nov. 1 and will perform at The Metro, located at 505 Westcott St., for their album release party.

Aaron Jenkins

 “Anything that I can screen print, I do. Screen printing is a really versatile medium. It’s just something I do.”

For over a decade, Aaron Jenkins has been screen printing almost anything. But it was just over a year ago he finally created his own business, Black Arts Studio, a flat stock graphic and textile screen printing shop located at the Delevan Center at 501 W. Fayette Street. At the studio, Jenkins screen prints his own artwork for himself and for other people.

Black Arts Studio screen prints on T-shirts, wooden drink coasters, throw pillows and notebooks, all of which Jenkins sold at the fair. The studio also prints business cards, CD and record covers, coffee bags and art prints.

Jenkins, who is from Syracuse, N.Y., has done screen printing work for Recess Coffee House & Roastery in the Westcott neighborhood and printed the T-shirts for this year’s Westcott Street Cultural Fair. 


“I think with belly dancing, the movements are more conducive to a healthy body. It’s softer on your joints; it’s easier on your muscles.”

Originally from Syracuse, N.Y., Ionah has been dancing from a young age, initially training in ballet and Irish step dancing and later learning jazz and modern. She began belly dancing nine years ago when she started studying the dance form in California.

For the past five years, Ionah has been teaching belly dancing, and is now based out of her home studio in Eastwood. Ionah teaches and dances the oriental style of belly dance known as raqs sharq. She also teaches fusion, which is a blend of modern dance, ballet and jazz into the belly dance movement.

Ionah said she prefers belly dancing over other forms of dance because the movements are representative of the music, and she called the process of learning belly dance and then performing on stage life-changing.

Dan Shanahan

“Figure drawing is important for artists because we’re human. Drawing someone with nothing on gives you the idea of what someone really looks like.”

Dan Shanahan, who lives in DeWitt, N.Y., and other artists from Open Figure Drawing spent six hours at the Westcott Street Cultural Fair drawing clothed models who posed for 30 minutes at a time.

Shanahan is the web administrator, host and board member of Open Figure Drawing, a community-based drawing group that gives people of all artistic abilities an opportunity to draw from an unclothed model.

Open Figure Drawing, which has been in operation since 1989, meets every Wednesday night at the Westcott Community Center from 7-10 p.m. There, a model poses nude for a group of artists, who draw on and with the materials of their choosing.

The fee to participate is $8, and Shanahan said people are welcome to come whenever they like and as often as they like.

Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell

“My mom thought you saw the world differently when you look through the camera lens.”

Two years ago, Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell’s mom, Marjory Wilkins, passed away after spending all 81 years of her life living in Syracuse, N.Y.

When that happened, Wilkins-Mitchell didn’t know what to do with the thousands of photographs her mother left behind.

Marjory Wilkins was first given a camera by her uncle when she was 10, and she never put it down. The community knew her as a photographer, and she was known for documenting the black community of Syracuse in her photos, which have been catalogued by Syracuse University, said Wilkins-Mitchell.

Wilkins-Mitchell said her mom placed a camera into all of her children and grandchildren’s hands when they were young, ensuring they too would be photographers

Now, Wilkins-Mitchell continues her mom’s legacy by being a photographer herself and selling her mom’s photos through her new business, Magic Eye Photos of Marjory Wilkins & Family.

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