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Eye on the Arts: Willie Riddle of GENVAS: Bringing World-Class Entertainment to Broward

By Mark Gabb | The New Pelican Writer

If the name GENVAS has never tripped off your tongue, you are not alone. But it’s a name to learn and an arts organization to watch.

GENVAS stands for Generation Venetian Arts Society, and founder and artistic director William “Willie” Riddle has brought groundbreaking performances to South Florida for the past decade.

Willie Riddle is the founder and artistic director of GENVAS. [Courtesy]

“When we started in 2011, our mission statement was to celebrate the multicultural diversity of our community through the visual and performing arts,” says Riddle. “Since then, as we’ve grown, it’s changed a few times.”

The beginning of GENVAS dates back to Riddle’s boyhood. He grew up in the hills of North Carolina.

“Yes, I’m a hillbilly,” he says. “However, I was fortunate to have a neighbor, Lili Klaus, a world-class pianist and Mozart specialist who had studied under the famous Hungarian musicians Kodaly and Bartók. , she taught me how to read music, my first classical piece, and my appreciation for Mozart.”

Klaus started a concert series called Music in the Mountain, which included Riddle, who became an opera singer. She also held salon evenings, which she called musicals, and invited locals.

Those nights inspired the concept of GENVAS. The art salon is often thought to have originated in France in the 19th century, but it actually dates back to Renaissance Italy. That, combined with the canal view from the large terrace on Las Olas Boulevard where Riddle had a gallery, led to the name Venetian Arts Society.

Riddle explains what he believes makes GENVAS stand out. “We are intimate and personal, intimate and interactive. There are no mere bystanders. Our concerts are artistic, social and educational. to attract performers.”

he continues. A stuffy concert protocol is out the window. There is no program on the seat. After that, there will be a welcome party. Encourage your audience to make comments and ask questions. Music is thought to be a universal language, but words are useful. ”

From his college days and years of experience as a professional singer, Riddle has an extensive network of contacts to help him find performers who are excited about his concepts. Due to his background, he has worked with legendary opera stars such as Renata Scott, Grace Bumbry and Edward Vilera, as well as great artists (American dancer, choreographer and founder of the Miami City Ballet). I’ve been honoring one of him every year as a symbol of art.

The current season, which begins in October and runs through June, consists of three series of varying performances. “Bell’Arte” – her four concerts, each unique in topic and genre – at the Pompano Beach Cultural Center, debuted her October 15th with internationally renowned soprano Eglise Gutierrez. ‘From South Florida With Love!’ will debut at Savol Cinema on April 27, 2023 with French Steinway his artist Didier Castel his Jacomin on piano. ‘Café Society PRIDE’ (cabaret style) will set him on ArtServe in early 2022.

Levi Kreis, the Tony Award-winning actor playing Jerry Lee Lewis on the show The Million Dollar Quartet, performed at an open-air concert in front of Stranahan House in December 2020 at the height of the COVID pandemic. The policy stipulated that guests were limited to 10 he, but people stopped by the Riverwalk and watched from their balconies. Kreis will return with the same program ‘Home for the Holidays’ on December 6th as part of the ‘Bell’Arte Series’ and December 7th as part of ‘Café Society Pride’.

For the full GENVAS schedule and tickets, visit

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