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Eye on Art: Frank Polanco: Artist as activist

By Marc Gave | New Pelican Writer



Frank Polanco, who, through April 15, has more than 30 of his digitally-manipulated photographs on exhibit at Vue on the Water in Fort Lauderdale, is a multi-talented artist and philanthropist.

Originally from Puerto Rico but a longtime resident of South Florida [via New York], his youthful passion for the arts was matched by a passion for aviation. “I wanted to be a flight attendant,” he reminisces. “But I ended up getting a customer service job with a major airline. A transfer brought me to Miami in the late 80s. With my benefits, I managed to travel the world and pretty much enjoyed everywhere I went.”

After 10 years, he “moved into another aspect of what I wanted to do in life and became a wardrobe stylist for magazines, video, and TV production, working with celebrities from a variety of backgrounds.”

Drawing on his other passions, he created Frank Polanco Photography Studio; Belle, an online fashion magazine; the pilot for a travel TV show; the art fashion line Netpa; and public artwork on utility boxes in Pompano Beach, Oakland Park and Fort Lauderdale.

“Each one of those was a step toward accomplishing my dreams. If I were to die tomorrow, I’d be happy because I’ve tapped into so many of the things I wanted to do in life. In 2016, a friend introduced me to a friend of his with a gallery in Wynwood. I followed him when he moved to Northeast 13th Street in Fort Lauderdale, building relationships with business owners and residents in the neighborhood – and Art 13 was born. Now it is one of the four flags under the umbrella of South Florida Lending Hands, my nonprofit that comprises art, community outreach, animal welfare, and disaster relief.”

South Florida Lending Hands has spearheaded popup galleries along 13th Street and eye-catching, community-involving art installations during which Polanco has shown his own photos and mixed-media artwork. The nonprofit frequently works with the City of Fort Lauderdale on street adoption, beach cleanup, and Action for Literacy.

In animal welfare, it is actively involved in Save a Sato, a nonprofit that eases the suffering of Puerto Rico’s homeless and abused animals. Sato is a colloquial term for street dog.

Combining animal welfare with disaster relief, Save a Sato has sponsored flights to the Bahamas after hurricanes to rescue dogs and set up an enclosed custom-built trailer to perform spaying and neutering.

Each of these components could be a fulltime job in itself. Yet, Polanco continues to work away at his photography. His latest endeavor came after an artist friend mentioned there was an active art scene at GALLERYone, 2670 E. Sunrise Blvd.

He introduced himself to curator Carol Teti-Keesler, and soon found his work being accepted for exhibition. His prints range from small squares to one that occupies an entire wall.

“I took its theme, ‘Home,’” he says, “and portrayed it in different ways that embody the wildlife, culture, color, and architecture of our area – from an eagle and a sea turtle, to a hotel in Miami Beach, to a windmill in Parkland, to a beach scene in Pompano. I wanted to express a wider definition of home. And by manipulating the photos with Photoshop, I also achieved a wider expression.”

Polanco adds, “Although I’m so diversified, I consider myself mainly a philanthropist. What I do on a daily basis is give back. I believe that if you have something and put it out to the universe, if it’s meant to be, it will happen. I also believe in karma: What you do will come back to you.”

Visit to learn more about Polanco’s art.


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