Wednesday, November 16, 2016

‘If I didn’t have art, I don’t know what I would do’

Gloria Fulton Singleton thrives on being creative. She is diverse with a skillset that’s equivalent to being a songstress who can climb eight octaves on the musical scale. Singing, however, is not her forte. Art is.
Her longtime supporters and art enthusiasts alike are well aware of her development as a painter, muralist, interior designer, decorator, woodworker, upholsterer, art teacher and seamstress.
But the years it took her to reach the apex of her career are inconsequential compared to the opportunities she now enjoys as an artist and craftsman who manages to eke out a reasonable living.
Gloria Fulton Singleton's creativity comes
in many forms such as the chair she
painted and holstered to give it an artsy
look. (Photo by Wiley Henry) 
“If I didn’t have art, I don’t know what I would do,” she said.
Singleton comes from a family of artists and craft persons. Her late mother was a seamstress and her late father once dabbled in portraiture painting. Brothers Walter “Atoosie” Fulton (painter) and Jerome Fulton (painter) are professional artists.
Sisters Vickie Fulton and Towanda Fulton are artists as well. Vickie, who recently discovered her talent, stitches quilts, makes bowties and organic, holistic oils. Towanda makes jewelry.
 “My mother sewed slip covers and my grandmother made shoes. My mother also made our clothes. So it was natural for me to sew,” said Singleton, who transformed her sewing skills into a multi-faceted home-based business called “Custom Furniture and Textiles.”
 “I’ve been creating art for a number of years,” said Singleton, who took a sabbatical in the early days to raise two children, Tonique and Joneaú, who are now adults with children of their own.
“I had to slow down to take care of my children,” she said.
Tonique and Joneaú also have artistic inclinations as well, said Singleton, 64. “But they never cultivated it. Tonique prefers instead to critique my work. They don’t want to be starving artists.”
The reluctance of Tonique and Joneaú to follow the artistic path taken by other family members didn’t bother Singleton, who allowed them to make their own choices in life.
Her own career path had not been hewn out as a child when brothers Walter and Jerome were advancing their skills in the home with their parents and siblings. “I studied under my brothers,” said Singleton, one of eight Fulton children.
 “‘Tootsie had stuff all over the place. I just threw stuff away. But I felt inferior to him. When I would try one time at a work of art, he would come behind me and perfect it,” said Singleton.
 “Jerome was much neater than Tootsie. Jerome’s skills had to be developed, though. But Tootsie had the natural gift to draw and paint. He would be up late at night. So, for me, it was innate. It was our way of life.”
Both Walter and Jerome graduated from art school. Jerome and Towanda had gone to Saturday art school as well, said Singleton, who attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Ray Vogue School of Fashion Design in Chicago, the Tennessee Technology Center at Memphis to study carpentry, and the University of Memphis.
During her stint in Chicago, Singleton got a whiff of star power by being exposed to the fashion titans at Gucci, Willie Smith, Giorgio, and Armani. “I sewed for people while going to art school,” she said.
In 1975, Singleton worked for Ebony Fashion Fair, the world’s largest fashion traveling show. She did alterations as the wardrobe seamstress. This experience prompted her to look at fashion in a different light.
 “For me to draw and be creative, I like painting on denim,” said Singleton, who has taken the idea of painting clothes to painting a couch or chair she has upholstered. “I like the combination of art, fabric and wood.”
She also likes splashing colorful acrylic paint on chairs to give them an organic look. Some drawing is required in some of the artist’s finished upholstered chairs, such as a drawing of Prince, the ‘Purple One,’ and Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat.
“You can pay your bills with upholstering. People need something nice to sit down on,” she said. “If I can combine art, fabric and different textures to my upholstery business, that would be ideal.”
Creativity is just one phase of Singleton’s output as an artist. Teaching is another. “I want to teach girls and guys how to sew,” she said. “I want to teach them sewing skills so they can make gifts.”
In her spare time – or rather time she commits to mentoring children – Singleton teaches sewing and upholstering periodically at Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Miss.; Me & Mrs. Jones in the Cooper-Young community; and at Mustard Seed Studio: Sewing and Crafts Workroom.
“We’re trying to appeal to the youth to keep them busy,” she said. 

Vince Gardley reopens Riviera Fitness following leasing dispute

The spacious facility is equipped with two floors of machinery and other
equipment in the Whitehaven area. (Courtesy photos)
Fitness guru Vince Gardley is recovering from the ouster of his fitness center in the Whitehaven Plaza after the landlord, Finard Properties, decided not to renew a conflicting leasing agreement.
After less than two years into what he thought was a 10-year agreement, Gardley vacated the building at 4130 Elvis Presley Blvd., but eventually found a new home for Riviera Fitness in the Southland Mall Shopping Center on Shelby Drive, just 1.20 miles south of the former location.
Gardley learned in April that he had to vacate the building by October. Now he’s opened for business and trying to recoup as much of his losses as possible, including 15 percent of the members who joined other spas and fitness centers during the hiatus.
Vince Gardley celebrates with Councilwoman
Patrice J. Robinson during the reopening of
Riviera Fitness.
“It’s a much nicer, larger facility,” said Gardley, who had to break down, transport and re-install several elliptical machines, tread climbers, punching bags, upright cycling bikes, rowing machines, weight benches, and other cardio exercise equipment.
“It was labor intensive, a lot of work to do,” he said. “We had to do it all in a certain time frame. We did a six-month move in a month and two weeks. It’s unprecedented. Everybody in the gym industry I spoke with said, ‘Vince, you need five to six months to do that.’”
Gardley and his team worked night and day to get Riviera Fitness up and running again. But he wasn’t content having to vacate the fitness center in the Whitehaven Plaza at a moment’s notice. He’d purchased the business from a Utah resident, but the lease wasn’t transferrable.  
 “My attorney told me, ‘Vince, sell everything and get the hell out of there.’ I listened to them. They’ve been down this road before. They know what they’re doing. But when I looked at the effect we’ve had on people, I had to stay.”
He had to stay for the 96-year-old man who could barely walk before making a move to the treadmill. “I had to stay particularly for my people,” said Gardley, whose members are as young as 12 and as old as 97. “So I signed a 10-year lease and re-opened. And most of the members followed me.”
Riviera Fitness is not just a gym in a box, he said. “I want to be a complete fitness health center to help people, their lifestyle…longevity…their quality of life. That’s our goal.”
Vince Gardley working out the kinks after moving
the tonnage of exercise machinery to his new location.
Members now can take advantage of “two floors of fitness.” The weight equipment is located on the first level, including a 70 x 80 foot heavy equipment room. The upstairs is artificial turf for members who play football, soccer and rugby. There is a punching bag, rooms for classes, and other equipment as well.
“We offer everything now,” said Gardley. “My whole focus is to take care of my folks in Whitehaven and take care of my folks in Memphis. I believe if you take care of people, everything will take care of itself.”
Whitehaven is on the precipice of change. Construction and redevelopment are ongoing along Elvis Presley Boulevard, where The Guest House at Graceland, which is adjacent to Elvis Presley’s mansion, was just completed. It’s billed as a world-class hotel.
Riviera Fitness is strategically located in the mall – near the Graceland hotel and Interstate 55 – and will benefit from the influx of tourists and new development along a three-mile stretch of Elvis Presley Boulevard, courtesy of money from the city and state.
Former City Council member and mayoral hopeful Harold Collins led the charge to spruce up the famous gateway leading into the Whitehaven community that comprises the mostly 50,000 African-Americans.
“It’s an incredible area for folks,” said Gardley. “We want to service everybody we can and get them healthy.”
His motto: “The greatest wealth is health.”

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Corinthian Hope House set to open for women and children affected by domestic violence

The love of God that Gwendolyn Turner espouses in church helps to heal the emotional scars left behind by a man she was in a relationship with for a number of years. But not all victims of domestic violence are fortunate as Turner, who found refuge in the church and support from family and friends.
“I tell people all the time that I’m a bold and beautiful survivor of domestic violence,” said Turner. “So my heart goes out to those who have no support system, nobody behind them that can say, ‘You can do this. You can start again. You can live, love and laugh again.’”
Gwendolyn Turner was a victim of domestic
violence. Now she's opening the doors to
Corinthian Hope House to help victims
seeking refuge from the perpetrator.
The members of Golden Gate Cathedral, where Turner worships, had heard her story before, so had friends, preachers, entertainers and radio personalities who gathered Oct. 24 at the Hard Rock Café on Beale Street to support Turner’s Domestic Violence Benefit in advance of the opening of Corinthian Hope House, a home for women and children affected by domestic violence.
Most people who know Turner are aware of her public persona as a songbird and one of the founders of the original Angelic Voices of Faith, a community choir known around the contemporary gospel circuit as Billy Rivers and The Angelic Voices of Faith.
Turner had no problem soliciting help from the AVOF and others, including the incomparable Melvia “Chick” Rodgers, who breathed life into the lyrics of her songs. The evening, however, was devoted to Turner and her mission and ministry.
 “I always knew that what was once my life’s misery would be my mission and my ministry,” said Turner, who hopes the Corinthian Hope House will help victims get back on their feet. “I’m very passionate about it, because I’ve been in that place.”
A process will be in place for victims seeking refuge or a getaway to Corinthian, Turner said. “It will be long-term housing. The first thing we’ll do is do an intake on the victim to see exactly where they are. The second step is a safety plan.”
Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed in October. However, the number of assaults is serious enough that warrants attention to domestic violence year-round. Turner has sounded the alarm since fleeing her perpetrator.
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, a little more than 232,000 incidents were reported to law enforcement in the state of Tennessee between 2013 and 2015. Roughly 68 percent of that number, the report concluded, were simple assaults, which included slaps, punches or kicks.
Some victims grew up in domestic violence situations,” said Turner. “I never saw domestic violence. My downfall was I did not know the red flags…the warning signs of domestic violence. It was a while before I knew that I was a victim.”
About seven years into the relationship, she added.
Two hundred seventy six domestic violence victims were murdered, the three-year TBI study pointed out. Turner was fortunate enough to escape what could have resulted in physical abuse: slaps, punches, kicks and, in some cases, death.
Women are three-times likely to be victimized than men, the TBI noted. In some cases, children suffer emotional unrest, or a similar fate, if they witness domestic violence in the home by the person purporting to love the victim.
We need more places where we can house these women and children who’ve gone through this traumatic experience,” said Turner. “The difference in what we’re trying to do is not only house them but connect them with resources that they won’t have to go back to those relationships.”