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Sailboat Bend II - Photo by Scott Strawbridge

Aya Arts Project

To Bring Art and Community Engagement to Sailboat Bend Building II

By Niki Lopez | 


Artist and social practitioner, Niki Lopez has been tapped by Tam English, CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale (HACFL), to create a call to artists and curate artwork that will be selected as a permanent installation for the Sailboat Bend II building.

The structure is a nine-story affordable housing project for seniors, currently being built by the HACFL and Atlantic Pacific Companies. Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale, the apartments are being constructed thanks to a $26.6 million-dollar Bank of America construction loan. “Our goal is to create affordable housing that is good enough for everyone’s mother,” says English.

The community arts engagement and acquisition initiative, which Lopez named the “Aya Arts Project,” began in April and is expected to be completed by October. The artwork will be installed at the end of construction which is projected to be December 2020.

Lopez, who is the creator of What’s Your Elephant®, says she’s “honored and excited to play such a significant role in engaging the community and working with local artists to put meaningful work in this building meant for our elders while creating a space to talk about some of the forgotten legacy of Broward.”

What’s Your Elephant® is a movement that uses the arts to create a safe space to address the unspoken.

Aya Arts Project_Niki Lopez Photo
Niki Lopez | Courtesy of Aya Arts Project

The Aya Arts Project invites local artists to submit artwork for consideration, in hopes of being part of the permanent installation. “We’re focussing on marginalized communities and honoring indigenous lands—challenging the artists and community to acknowledge our past, our triumphs, lessons, and paint a connected future,” Lopez says.

Additionally, Lopez will program artist-led artmaking workshops, as well as host a series of virtual community dialogues that bring together artists, historians, and community partners. 

Lopez recently moderated “The Aya Arts Project Presents: Black Legacy of Broward,” a Zoom to Facebook Live chat featuring panelists Emmanuel George of C.R.E.A.T.E., Derrick Davis of Kuumba Davis Arts, artist Chire Regans aka Vantablack, and artist Khaulah Naima Nuruddin, curator of Spady Museum.

Another exciting aspect of the Aya Arts Project will be a documentary-type video of the project from conception to completion, by award-winning filmmaker Cathleen Dean of Black Cat Media. Dean is the producer/director of short films, Being and Wade in the Water, as well as the producer of the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale 48 Hour Film Project.

According to Lopez, the Aya Arts Project is “more than just a call for art, it’s community engagement, working and collaborating with local artists, educating, story telling, representation, building legacy, and beautifying a building for our elders in the community.”

Aya Arts Project_Logo
Courtesy of Aya Arts Project

About Aya Arts Project

The Aya Arts Project is a Sailboat Bend II Community Arts Engagement & Acquisition Project curated by Niki Lopez. It is meant to engage the community in artmaking, placemaking, conversation, and art acquisition from local artists for a permanent installation that shares some of the rich history, nature, and culture of Broward County. There are also several collaborations and commissioned art works by local artists specific to this project.

The name “Aya” is an Adinkra symbol which was originally created by the Bono people of Gyaman, an Akan people of Ghana and Ivory Coast. The name and symbol were chosen to connect and pay homage to our past and current culture and resilience. “Aya” also represents endurance and resourcefulness. The symbol is a perfect representation, given the current state of the world.

About Niki Lopez

Niki Lopez is an interdisciplinary visual artist, activist, cultural programer and an award-winning graphic designer. Lopez is best known for her vibrant color palette, masks and a collection of works dealing with some of her trauma and healing through the arts which inspired her to create What’s Your Elephant®.

For more information on how you can submit your art, attend one of the virtual community chats, workshops, and follow the Aya Arts Project, visit