‘It’s The Time Of The Creative’

Words by Amiyah Golden

A statement that will forever grind my gears: “There’s nothing to do in Jacksonville.” 


My face immediately morphs into this deadpan expression and my eye starts to twitch whenever I hear this.


As a native of Jacksonville, I have not only have I seen this city grow tremendously, but I have connected with so many pioneers who are doing the work to improve this place we call home, instigating a chain reaction that has produced projects of passion, infrastructure constructed from love and events that speak to the ethos of Jacksonville.


My own integration into the local art space has been healing for the soul. As I begin to see the tangible manifestation of a fire lit by a manifold of beings who wish to see their community thrive, their servitude yields a beacon of light that illuminates ambitions — not only as an inhabitant — but as an artist and devotee to the cause in ways that make me feel emboldened. 


A testament to this power of light comes from the creation of Wine Down Wednesday, a monthly event curated by five individuals who delight in the pursuit of showcasing local artists and their gifts while curating an atmosphere that also appeals to their attendees. 


I had the opportunity to sit down with the Wine Down Wednesday crew composed of Dr. Dominique Tull (aka Dr. Dominique), Khalliah Bryant, DJ Larry Love, Yung OG Rawby, and Will Morgan (aka “The Vagabond”) in a candid conversation surrounding culture, family and art. 


I recall my first time seeing the promotion for Wine Down Wednesday. It was constantly being reposted by my friends and mutuals with familiar names announced as a part of the line-up each month; it was something I knew I needed to pay a visit to. I was determined to be a witness so I seized my best friend and forced her to drive me to Murray Hill and hobbled my way into Vagabond Coffee — crutches and all — to be in that audience. 


I saw old and new faces alike and was met with the most contagious energy from strangers who passed by. This coffee shop by day turned into a dwelling of solace that night, complemented by idiosyncratic performances, a gallery of inner perspective and community connection. 


From entering and seeing the visual art, musicians and the surprise treat of getting to hear a cypher to vendors and food services supplied by Chef Anderson, owner of feedtheville — and of course wine — I began to see the reason for all the fanfare. All five of my senses were certainly tantalized.  


The event is organized to highlight an alternative vantage point of Black art, an immense subculture that is frequently limited due to media portrayal and nescience. It often emanates as dogmatism, which can result as a hindrance to many Black creatives when trying to emerge into new spaces. I’ve talked about this in a previous article, but the myopic labeling often precedes us, when in fact it’s just a fallacious ideal. 


The architects behind Wine Down Wednesday come to challenge these limitations — and not for fame or profit — but the genuine longing to see artists succeed, analogous to a garden that cultivates an environment necessary for flourishment. 


“A big part of my mission as a human and with Wine Down Is to help infuse the culture in the city and to make sure the culture remains in the city as it grows,” Dr. Dominique said. “Being from Nashville I was able to see it become completely gentrified. The city I had known changed in the blink of an eye.”


As this event welcomes the entire community and inspires affinity, it doesn’t disregard the importance of the preservation of Black ethnology and the desire to share it with other distinct cultures. 


“Vagabond was created to be a place for something like Wine Down, to be a place that facilitates community, culture, love and light,” said Will Morgan (a.k.a. The Vagabond), owner of The Vagabond Coffee Co. and Vagaband Flea Market. “I was invited into my friend’s culture, and I was able to present my home, to create a space where there was a deficit for the kind of event we do here in Jacksonville.”


The Vagabond began his coffee ventures over eight years ago with amazing success since. Alongside his brand, which has been stamped onto the hearts of many Jacksonville residents, the blood of an artist still streamed through his veins, making the cosmic collaboration between the bunch so organic. 


“When you have the same spirit and energy, nothing matters,” The Vagabond added and quickly opened the doors to his shop to host the first Wine Down Wednesday — and many more to follow.


“We’re curating a space for creatives to get back out there or level up on their craft.” chimed in Bryant, who serves as the event’s graphic designer alongside her husband Dr. Dominique.


Art is embosomed by the pair with both embracing their own artistic skill sets. Bryant coined her own self-expression as the art of communication aside from her graphic designer title, using her career as a marriage and family therapist to integrate her skill sets beyond the office.  


“When I first got into this sphere of the art world, I was like I don’t fit in anywhere, but the more I worked with Wine Down and came out to different events, I realized the art is in community and I do fit into this,” Bryant said. “Wine Down is the physical manifestation of good community relationships that are practiced in a healthy way.”


Dr. Dominique has established his role of scouting artists for each event. This occurs outside of his profession as a physical therapist. Through various avenues such as Influence Crew, the Ritz Theatre & Musuem, CoRK Arts District and various exhibits, Tull is able to round up creative wonders event after event.


“I’m just being a fan and over time you get to know the artists and now we’re constantly on the search for talent but there’s so much talent in the city that it’s easy to find,” he added.


Dr. Dominique served as the initial link between the creator of Wine Down Wednesday, Yung OG Rawby and The Vagabond. Dr. Dominique and Yung OG Rawby initially crossed paths in college and then reconnected sometime later at The Walrus in Murray Hill where Yung OG Rawby was performing. After expression from Yung OG Rawby about his concept of Wine Down Wednesday, Dr. Dominique recognized a parallel spirit between Yung OG Rawby and The Vagabond and introduced the pair. They instantly hit it off, forming a bond that is certainly evident.


DJ Larry Love who is also a part of the local rap collective L.O.V.E. Culture offered his talents to Yung OG Rawby when he caught wind of the event. His presence blended seamlessly into the fold. 


“Wine Down was so important for me as a DJ because a lot of people see me mostly in clubs or certain events, but I’m a creative and I like working with the artists,” explained DJ Larry Love. “You have a lot of DJs who won’t mess with artists, but if we want our city to grow and our people to shine, our job as DJs is to do that.” 


As this combined mind continued to host their monthly expos, the buzz surrounding this Hump Day affair grew. Spectators and artists began to anticipate the next installment. Wine Down Wednesday was revealing itself as all that was hoped for. 


I can confidently say that their reputation truly precedes itself. While the art is stellar and the music is *chefs kiss*, it all would be null and void if the energy that flows throughout that place wasn’t on par. As someone with social anxiety, entering uncharted territory is extremely nerveracking and the last thing I want to encounter is cold shoulders and judgment. However, I walked through the threshold and instantly was met with smiles and greetings prompting immediate reassurance — midweek relief I didn’t even know I needed following the constant hustle and bustle of life.


FInding a place to decompress with authentic fellowship, I realized that fire was burning bright again.


“Wine brings people together in a certain kind of way. When you have wine, the right music and a beautiful space, it’s going to bring the right people and vibrations,” DJ Larry Love said.


While the libations are greatly appreciated, the sheer ability to spark rapport with individuals you may never otherwisecross paths with — due to daily quests or the distance that partitions us — envelops the divide, facilitating the efforts needed to unify. 


As Young OG Rawby explained, “Coming back here and falling back in love with my city as an adult, I realized it’s a huge need for events like this. I’ve always wanted to see my city come together on a creative tip.”


The Vagabond agreed. “The heart of [Wine Down] is representing the true culture of our city. Jacksonville is a beautiful city with people from all types of races, and it’s ridiculous to me how little representation there is. There’s all types of performers and artists and we’re doing our best to highlight something that hasn’t had its day in the sun, and we’re bringing it to light, so everyone has to look at it!”


But this is just the beginning of the Renaissance. Creative resurgence is here – it’s always been – but it’s needed somewhere safe to blossom. What the minds behind these events in the city are doing is way bigger than merely creating clout but encouraging rebirth and revival. 


“It’s the time of the creative to build this city to what it’s supposed to be. Providing a beautiful space for people to come and bring their art to the world,” said DJ Larry Love.


With Young OG Rawby adding, “After Wine Down started, there were other spaces that were similar or akin to what we created or inspired by [us]. It’s better for me to go to these places and support them because these places need to be fostered! Collaboration really is the key.” 


And The Vagabond chiming in: “One of my bucket-list dreams is for one of the people who’s performed to literally blow up. I don’t care if they ever mention Wine Down because we will know that we’re completing our goal.”


The sincerity these people lead with is invigorating. The elation they emote as they talk about the joy of irrigating a system that promotes and lifts artists who warrant notice or those who need a boost of assurance exemplifies their character. 


“Overtime we’re putting more people into that spotlight and limelight which is the ultimate goal,” Young OG Rawby said.


The group recounted moments when various artists were aptly compensated for their craft, with no prior expectations — with the sole objective of sharing their work — communal belief and support contributed to furthering concepts and confirming their worth.


“As an artist when you have someone say ‘oh that’s a cool idea’ it’s like a kiss on the mouth because to have the validation of something you feel as though is a representation of your creativity is really cool, and you can see people getting motivated and encouraged and growing because maybe no one’s seen their art before.” The Vagabond said. “It’s cool to have a stranger go ‘That’s rad, let me get that.’”


With Wine Down Wednesday’s first birthday approaching, everyone began to reflect on their first year of success. Major strides were made that they should all pride themselves on. My expectations for this next year are high, too, as I now know the capabilities that each possesses, and the talent hanging in the back pockets of so many unearthed talents in this city. 


Now, don’t ever let that phrase, that starts with “There’s nothing to do …“ come out of your mouth again. Go support local art, develop relationships, drink some wine and take a load off. Wine Down Wednesday can serve as your monthly escape to be transported into an oasis of melodies, art and community. 


Now, an exclusive tidbit for you if you made it all the way to the end … a festival is coming … 


You can now be on the lookout for a Food and Wine festival from the creators of Wine Down Wednesday. Infusing music, food, and wine – three elements that come together to elevate your experience. To stay up to date on future dates and locations for Wine Down Wednesday and the upcoming festival you can follow their Instagram page @winedownwednesdayjax.