There’s something new, something different, something very, very cool happening at the Ponte Vedra Branch Library.
At first glance, it’s an art exhibit, with diverse works lining the walls and inhabiting the display cases along the entrance corridor and deeper inside the library.
But it’s much more than that.
Paired with each piece of original fine art is a framed poem on a related theme – each the creation of a local artist or poet. And anyone scanning the QR codes on nearby plaques discovers a whole new dimension to the exhibit. They are treated to videos related to the adjoining works and featuring music more often than not written and performed by local musicians.
This is PAM Jam. And, if you haven’t guessed, the name is short for Poets, Artists, Musicians. It’s the second such showcase presented in Northeast Florida this year, the first running throughout the month of October in San Marco.
PAM Jam is a showcase of local talent, and organizers say it is meant to “provide hope and healing through the arts and spread joy to the world.”
That may sound a bit grandiose for a local exhibit, but coordinator Loretta Leto said she has plans to ultimately expand beyond the confines of the First Coast.
PAM Jam partners with galleries and writers’ groups – and, of course, musicians – to bring these works to the public square in a way that will complement the diverse talents of participants. According to Leto, in just the first two years since the idea for PAM Jam was formed, about 100 people have participated in the various showcases.
The showcase also has a charitable aspect, raising money for local causes.
And, of course, there is the traditional opening reception, which for PAM Jam Ponte Vedra Beach is set for this Saturday afternoon, Nov. 6.
How it all began
The idea for PAM Jam evolved out of a 2019 exhibit of Art In Public Places featuring art by Anna Miller, who approached Chris Bodor, founder of Ancient City Poets, about pairing poetry with her works. That exhibit was displayed in the rotunda of the St. Johns County Administrative Building.
The novel presentation sparked the imagination of Leto, who was a regular visitor to the Ancient City Poets’ monthly readings at the former Corazon Cinema and Café in St. Augustine. Leto credits Bodor with naming the fledgling enterprise and artist Cindy Wilson with creating the logo.
Undaunted by the sudden interference of COVID-19, Leto and others organized the first PAM Jam at the Butterfield Garage Art Gallery. Again, Ancient City Poets was a key partner.
Inspired by the success of that landmark effort, Leto and those she calls her “PAM Jam family” organized PAM Jam Jax and PAM Jam Ponte Vedra Beach. A preview was presented in July during the grand opening celebration at the link in Nocatee.
PAM Jam Jax partnered with The Art Center Cooperative and the North Florida Poetry Hub, which was sponsored by Hope At Hand, a nonprofit organization that provides art and poetry sessions to vulnerable and at-risk youth.
The event raised more than $2,000 to buy art supplies for Title I schools in Duval County. In addition, 60 handbags were donated by showcase patrons for HopefullHandbags.org, which presents these bags, filled with personal care items, to women who are overcoming domestic abuse.
Handbags are also being collected at PAM Jam Ponte Vedra Beach, which opened its showcase Monday, Nov. 1.
PAM Jam Ponte Vedra Beach
The local showcase will be on exhibit throughout the month of November. Partners are A Gathering of Poets and First Coast Cultural Center. Participants also include poets and artists from Women Writing for (a) Change and local musicians.
A reception is set for Saturday, Nov. 6, from noon to 4 p.m. and will feature live musical performances. Performers include Sharon Scholl on piano, the Teal Cabana Club jazz band featuring Shari Little, as well as two seniors at The Bolles School, Su Ertekin-Taner and Ian Peiris. The latter wrote and performed the music for Leto’s video; it is based on Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” Little provided music for one video at PAM Jam St. Augustine and her band did the music for three more PAM Jam videos.
Tea and coffee will be served, and three of the videos featuring collaborating artists, poets and musicians will be shown each hour.
“It will be a fun little autumn afternoon tea party,” Leto said.
Admission to the event at the Ponte Vedra Branch of the St. Johns County Public Library System is free. Still, Leto is hoping people will donate to her group. She wants to pay the poets, musicians and those artists who don’t sell their work something in return for their contributions to the showcase and reception.
No artwork will actually be sold at the reception, though art enthusiasts may want to view what is on display. Much of the art will be auctioned off at the First Coast Cultural Center’s Jazz Jam! in December.
Books of poetry and similar works, however, will be available for sale, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Friends of the Library, Ponte Vedra Beach.
The charity for this reception is First Coast Cultural Center’s Sound Connections Music Therapy Program, which is looking to expand to more Title I schools in St. Johns County.
According to the American Music Therapy Association, "Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program."
In the Sound Connections program, board-certified therapists assess the needs of children with disabilities and formulate music therapy goals that directly relate to the students’ individualized educational goals.
To support the program in six schools, including Valley Ridge Academy, PV/PV Rawlings Elementary School and Ocean Palms Elementary School, the First Coast Cultural Center must raise at least $150,000 annually. Led by manager Minda Gordon, Sound Connections is expected to expand to more schools. To accomplish that, the Cultural Center is hoping to raise an additional $100,000.
Artwork from PAM Jam can be purchased outright by going to pam-jam.com/forsale/pam-jam-pvb-for-sale. The works can be found by clicking the Bid & Buy tab. Two prices are listed, one for buying it now and the other an opening bid for the Jazz Jam! silent auction.
In the future, Leto hopes to expand PAM Jam to other areas of Florida and beyond. She also plans to take PAM Jam into schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other places.
“I’m here to bring local talent together across genres to create a video that showcases their talent to help spread joy to the world and to help give back to your local community,” Leto said. “And it’s working. The model is working.”
[To read more about some of the PAM Jam Ponte Vedra Beach poets, artists and musicians, click here.]
Much of the art displayed at PAM Jam Ponte Vedra Beach will be available during a silent auction at Jazz Jam!, a gala scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Sound Connections.
Jazz Jam! is a fundraiser for the music therapy program. It’s an evening of live jazz music, tapas and dancing. Featured performers will be Ya’ Gozo’ The Latin Jazz Band and the Jacksonville University RiverTones.
A featured item at the auction will be a signed guitar from the iconic new wave band The B-52s. It and another guitar are being donated by the Friends of the St. Augustine Amphitheatre.
VIP tickets are available for $154.50 and include a pre-event reception with special entertainment. General admission tickets are $103. Purchase tickets at firstcoastculturalcenter.org/arts-outreach/outreach-programs.
To learn more about PAM Jam, go to pam-jam.com. To learn more about the First Coast Cultural Center, go to firstcoastculturalcenter.org. For further information about Sound Connections, contact Gordon at 904-993-8940 or email@example.com.