(Cultural Council) With a population of nearly 900,000 residents, it should come as no surprise that there are many different opinions on the type of city that Jacksonville, Florida should aim to be. Among the sea of opinions, however, one voice recently proclaimed thoughtful and forward thinking sentiments. That voice belongs to City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche. During her Installation Ceremony, which was held on June 29, 2017, Council President Brosche stated in simple yet bold terms that she aims for Jacksonville to be “the best city in the world for a child to grow up in.”
Now the question comes, what metrics do you employ when quantifying or qualifying how well a city serves its youth population? Sherrod Brown, Co-Founder and Director of The Posh Factory Performing Arts Center, believes without question that one such indispensable metric is a child’s access to and instruction in the arts. The Posh Factory offers dance training and education in the style of ballet, jazz, modern, and hip-hop, as well as vocal and musical theatre training. The organization does not believe in turning away any child that has a passion for music, dance, or acting. Brown and his co-founding partner, Rashon Horne, raise funds to support children of low and no income families through tuition scholarships.
Brown’s career as a performer has taken him around the world. Notably, he has performed with Mariah Carey, Miley Cyrus, and Debbie Allen; and he has appeared on BET, ABC, and the Disney Channel. No matter where or with whom Brown performed, how his skills and passion could be applied in his hometown of Jacksonville to positively impact the community remained on his mind. It was out of this desire to serve that the Posh Factory was established.
The Posh Factory is located in Northside Jacksonville at 435 Clark Road. There are limited arts and culture organizations operating in the 32218 zip code. This makes the Posh Factory’s presence even more important because if it were not for them, who would serve the youth in that region?
In 2016, Brown was named to Black Pages‘s “Top 20 Under 40” list for Florida (It is worth mentioning that also on that list was Kemal Gasper, who serves on the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville’s Board of Directors). Brown’s artistic accomplishments, commitment to giving back by investing in the youth, and willingness to lead by example all contributed to his being named to the list.
10 Questions with Sherrod Brown
Do you have any patterns, routines, or habits when starting a new project
My goal is always to tell someone else’s story and, most of all, take the audience on a journey. That means I take time to conduct research on current events and situations that are occurring around the world and even learning about different walks of life.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistic endeavors?
I’ve learned that I can use my gifts to help others tell their stories through the performing arts. I’ve learned that I have the responsibility to embody each story as if it were my own.
How do you define success in what you do?
Success is becoming your complete self through your art form, each day. Success is taking a step back from a completed piece of work and with thrill saying “wow, I did that.” Success is reaching someone and changing a life through your art form.
15 students of The Posh Factory performed at 2017’s World of Nations Celebration. Photo Courtesy of Sherrod Brown and The Posh Factory.
From your experience, what misconceptions do young men have about dance and what tactics have you implemented to dismantle such misconceptions?
Wow, there are so many. The main things I tell my male dancers, both on and off stage, is your energy should speak STRENGTH and not weakness. Being a male dancer is more admirable than most crafts, in my opinion, and that is to be carried out with boldness.
You have achieved notable levels of professional success. What drew you to devoting your talents to Jacksonville opposed to a major metropolitan area?
Growing up in Jacksonville, I wasn’t among the most fortunate of crowds and my parents didn’t show belief in me at the time. Things changed when someone decided to take a chance on me by allowing me to dance and train privately, for FREE.
I traveled the world extensively and I’ve had some amazing opportunities, but I feel that it is my duty to return and serve my community by giving back as much as I can through dance and the performing arts.
How do you feel access to and guidance in the arts during a child’s formative years can impact their trajectory and what would you say to encourage others to invest in Jacksonville’s youth?
I tell the parents here at my facility that we could be fostering the next Alvin Ailey or Misty Copeland. If we hope to do our children any justice, we must attend to the raw talent and extend to them the opportunities to properly train.
What does being named to Black Page’s “Top 20 Under 40” list for Florida mean to you and what aspects of your career do you feel contributed to you being named to the list?
You know, it still feels funny hearing and reading that. With fervency and passion, I have done my best to reach every heart and every child. I truly love what I do and I trust that keeping my passion pure will continue to open doors for myself and my company. All it takes is a little passion and a lot of hard work.
Sherrod Brown and students of the Posh Factory. Photo Courtesy of Sherrod Brown and The Posh Factory.
How did you think the Posh Factory would serve the community before you started and how does your initial vision compare to its current role as a performing arts center?
I took a chance by believing in myself and I trusted that others would also believe in me. I will say that the best is yet to come for my business, and I’m excited. My vision is, and has always been, to provide arts excellence for minorities and low-income students who would otherwise not be given such opportunities outside of The Posh Factory. The goal is to achieve this and more on a state-of-the-art level.
The Posh Factory’s social media accounts and website include high quality videos and photos that illustrate vibrancy, inclusion, and professionalism. What role do you think content creation plays in the Posh Factory’s ability to fulfill the organization’s mission?
Firstly, thank you for noticing. We put so much hard work into what we release and we are extremely careful in our content selection. I tell all my staff “We only get ONE chance for people to take us seriously, and we will not get a re-do”. The content we release always speaks to the level we wish to see our students reach and the level we demand our students to train. I want to be better than “good enough” because just being “good” is not quite enough.
What would you like to see as an effort to support and grow the city’s creative economy?
I would personally like to see more musical theatre productions produced for teens and children. I would like to see more master classes being hosted and brought to Jacksonville from artists that our youth today esteem. I would like to see performing arts recognized as a true area of study, verses it being recreational. My deepest hope and desire is to see students afforded a chance to DANCE!