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Know Your Neighbor: Carol Velasques Richardson

Know Your Neighbor: Carol Velasques Richardson

Advocate for the Arts 

By Deborah Holmen, M.Ed., NBCT 

In every community, there are individuals who go above and beyond to make a difference. They selflessly support causes and work tirelessly to enhance the lives of those around them. One such individual in the Greater Gainesville area is Carol Velasques Richardson, the cultural affairs manager for the City of Gainesville. Richardson is a true gem with her deep ties to the performing arts and unwavering dedication to the community. 

Arts from the Start

Richardson developed a passion for the arts while growing up in the Pleasant Street Neighborhood, the oldest and most well-preserved African American neighborhood in the city and the Carol Estates. The 150-year-old neighborhood is essential to Gainesville’s cultural history and its cultural significance instilled a genuine love for the arts in Richardson. 

Richardson remembers being introduced to the power of creativity and self-expression at a young age. “My mother took me to see ‘The King and I’ play, and I loved it. I saw the little boy in the play, and I thought it was so cool. I wanted to do that, too. So, anytime I got the chance to participate in some form of performing arts in the community, I would just get involved. I didn’t have any formal theatre training.” 

Richardson’s passion for the arts only intensified, leading her to pursue a career in cultural affairs. Her journey eventually led her to Gainesville, where she found a vibrant and thriving arts scene that she was determined to help support and nurture. Richardson has served as a museum coordinator and chair of the Arts Council of Alachua County. She was also an advisory board member with WUFT TV/Classic 89, University of Florida, as well as the University of Florida Humanities and Public Sphere chair and the City of Alachua’s Parks Recreation, Culture and Theater director. 

As the cultural affairs manager, Richardson plays a crucial role in ensuring that the arts continue to flourish in the Greater Gainesville area. She works tirelessly to promote and support local artists and organizations, recognizing their invaluable contributions to the community. Through her efforts, she has helped facilitate collaborations between artists, secure funding for art projects and organize community events celebrating the arts. 

Community Commitment

Richardson’s reach extends far beyond her professional role. She is deeply committed to engaging with the residents and getting to know the community. She understands the importance of building connections and fostering an inclusive and supportive environment.  

“I noticed many minority organizations were not receiving funds, not because they weren’t worthy, but possibly due to a lack of education, so I wanted to advocate for that,” Richardson said. 

One of the aspects that sets Richardson apart is her unwavering optimism. Despite the challenges that often come with supporting the arts, she remains steadfast in her belief that the arts have the power to transform lives. She exudes a contagious enthusiasm that spreads among those she encounters, inspiring others to embrace their creativity and participate in the arts. 

“There were communities of people, whether African American or Latino or those who felt marginalized, who used the arts to express themselves. I wanted to find a way to fund these organizations so that they could continue to use art as a form of self-expression,” she said.  

See Also

“I have witnessed the power of theater firsthand. I have seen tears streaming down the faces of the audience when a production deeply touched them. I have also seen the immense joy someone experiences when they can identify with a story or a character. This is similar to my childhood experience when I first watched ‘The King and I’ and was completely mesmerized by it. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be a part of the theater world,” she said. 

Undeniable Impact

Through her passion, dedication and unrelenting positivity, Richardson has made a significant difference in the lives of many. Whether by providing aspiring artists with much-needed opportunities, fostering a sense of community through art events or acquiring the funding necessary to keep valued artists in the region, she has touched the hearts of countless individuals. 

In a community as diverse and vibrant as Greater Gainesville, it is essential to celebrate and recognize individuals like Carol Velasques Richardson. Her deep love for culture and the arts and her determination to make a difference make her an invaluable member of the community. She is a shining example of the incredible things that can be achieved through passion and dedication. 

Richardson is a true advocate for the arts, a beacon of optimism and a neighbor who truly knows the value of community and connection through creativity. 

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