Champions Diversity in the Arts
By Leon M. Rubin
You might say it was preordained that Gregory Reed would live a life immersed in the arts.
Both his parents were teachers and musicians - and since his mother was also a piano teacher, it was a given that he would learn to play. "I was exposed to every form of art you can imagine, whether I liked it or not," he recalls. But since he was "a big kid, always athletic," football won out over the keyboard for a time. "Later in life, I realized what a big mistake that was," he says.
As a photographer, filmmaker, teacher and, since 2010, a member of the Broward Cultural Council, the Miramar resident is now in a position where he can share his passion for the arts with broad and diverse audiences. His path has been rather circuitous; it's not everyone who earns a bachelor of science degree in information technology followed by a master of fine art in film. But as he tells his story, it all makes sense.
While working at Florida International University in an IT role, he wrote and produced a play - and loved the reactions from the audience. He frequently attended shows at Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami-Dade County. When he began to think about going to graduate school, he found himself at a crossroads. "I could either get a master's in IT or go to film school," he explains. "But IT got to a point where it had the same pattern. You learn the technology and how to apply it and it matures."
"I wanted to understand the business of the arts and represent my district.
The real issue for me was that, if I was having these great experiences related to the arts, why weren't more people doing it?"
He came to the realization that IT wasn't satisfying his thirst for creativity - so off to film school he went. "I thought it was going to be so easy," Reed remembers, but he found it to be just the opposite. "It's writing and producing films with your classmates. You do that for 12 weeks straight. I was never at home."
After finishing his master's, he continued to teach in the IT field at Florida Technical College and began to teach film at American Intercontinental University, but he wanted more. He offered his services as a volunteer photographer to cultural organizations -including the New World Symphony, the Miami Children's Chorus, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the Miramar Cultural Center and Arts Park. He's built a robust portfolio filled with work that makes him extremely proud. Yet he felt the need to make an even greater impact - and so he eagerly accepted the appointment to the Broward Cultural Council by Broward County Commissioner (now Mayor) Barbara Sharief.
"I wanted to transition from just being the guy in the room to participating at a certain level," Reed says. "I wanted to understand the business of the arts and represent my district. The real issue for me was that, if I was having these great experiences related to the arts, why weren't more people doing it?
"The arts are an equalizer," he observes. "If you go to an art exhibit or a musical event, there are all kinds of people there. They don't care who's sitting next to them. There's a common thread between all these diverse people; for a short time, everyone's quiet and civil."
As a Cultural Council member, Reed greatly enjoys the opportunity to participate in grant review panels - and he does so with an open mind. "You get exposed to different types of individual artists and groups. When they're asking for money, they're looking to prove their art is worthy. It doesn't have to be important for me or lovely for me, but it might be important and lovely for 2,500 people in Broward County. If they can grow it, then there might be 5,000 people with a common thread. Now we have diversity taking place in the arts." His excitement as he describes the scenario comes through loud and clear.
"One of the greatest things I've observed is how our diversity is changing," he continues. "We're not just black, white, Hispanic or Chinese; diversity stops being just racial. Now it's different art forms becoming mainstream. puppeteering, glassblowing. there's an audience for all types of events."
There are also more opportunities for the kind of growth that he envisions. Reed is encouraged by the fact that funding for the arts seems to be on the rise again after many years in decline. "If you cut the arts, all that's left is football and beer," he says with a touch of irony in his voice. "We have to keep these activities going."