Palette Magazine

Q&A: Doug McCraw, Founder of FAT Village

By Rick Karlin

Just north of downtown Fort Lauderdale is an area that a few years ago housed little more than empty warehouses and auto repair shops. FATVillage (FAT being an acronym for Flagler. Arts. Technology.) is the result of a vision by Doug McCraw, who parlayed a real estate investment into one of the hippest neighborhoods in the area. Now, on the last Saturday of each month, galleries open their doors, food trucks converge and artisans set up make-shift stalls and shops for the FATVillage Art Walk.

Q: How did FATVillage come to be?

A: The area where FATVillage is located is on the west of the Flagler Village neighborhood and served as an industrial economic base for what was largely residential. The architectural uniqueness germinated the idea of an arts and creative district. The building roofs of Dade pine and large steel trusses create a perfect raw and industrial space for mounting media installations and art exhibitions. FATVillage developed from a premise that art and technology could thrive in a collaborative environment.

Q: What has been the biggest surprise as the area developed?

A: The powerful synergy of aggregating a group of brilliant and creative individuals together who are always collaborating and creating projects. It is an organic environment that continues to create and evolve. Art and technology are the perfect ingredients for discovering new ways to design and create.

Q: What has been most rewarding about your involvement?

A: The amazing team of people I get to work with. This includes my business and development partner, Lutz Hofbauer, and our curatorial team and partners, Peter Symons and Leah Brown. We have a new exhibition venue ARTSUp! directed by Neil Ramsey and a new arts performance project curated by Jen Clay. There are many other partners and individuals who are committed to an ever-evolving group of projects. We have a new company, Art+Light+Space, that is doing the multi-media Tower Lights project on the Fort Lauderdale water tower and The Donor Walls in the four lobbies of the North Broward Hospitals. This is more fun and rewarding than I could have ever imagined.

Q: What has been the most demanding part of this project?

A: The never ending stream of programming that involves exhibitions, performances and projects that all have deadlines. Our monthly art walk requires a very experienced team to coordinate, plan, install, program and manage the events.

Q: What does the future hold?

A: FATVillage is in an exciting transformation stage. We have a new artscape by Cadence Design Group — in the project design phase — that will create a street level art experience. Also planned is a new mixed-use building designed by Glavovic Studios with restaurant, retail and condos.