Postcards from NEA Secretary Jane Chu: Sketches of Florida

In addition to being an accomplished musician, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu is a skilled visual artist as well. As she travels the country on behalf of the NEA, Chairman Chu makes sketches of various locations, and graciously shares them with each State Arts Agency. She created some lovely artwork while in Florida and we are thrilled that she has allowed us to share them with you!


Betsy Restaurant – Florida


Patriot Plaza at the Sarasota National Cemetery


New World Symphony in Miami Beach

Chairman Chu’s sketches should not be used for fundraising purposes or as an endorsement.

Artist Brian R. Owens Brings Windover Woman to Life

Today we’re featuring a story about a Florida artist, Brian R. Owens.

On November 13th, a newly revised exhibit opened at the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science in Cocoa, FL, about one of the first groups of people in North America. The accidental discovery of a ceremonial burial ground in 1982 resulted in the unearthing of one of the largest and most well-preserved skeletal sites on the continent. The excavation reshaped our understanding of “archaic hunter-gatherers” and how they lived 7000 to 8000 years ago, about 3000 years before the “Great Pyramid”. They are called “Windover People”. Research is constantly ongoing as new technologies emerge to analyze the remains of 168 people. Over 10,000 bones and artifacts are preserved at Florida State University. The Museum commissioned Brian R. Owens to sculpt an artistic interpretation of one particular female based on her skull. It’s the centerpiece of the new exhibit. They call her the “Windover Woman”.


Computer-generated image based on the bones of the Windover Woman

CBF: What did you have to work from?

Lots of detailed measurements of her skull but not the skull itself. I also had some computer-generated images that were made years ago on the basis of the skull. The remains included DNA but it’s so damaged that it is of little use. At least for now. Archeologists generally agree that she was descended from Asians.

CBF: How is an artistic interpretation different from a forensic sculpture?

A forensic sculpture is built one muscle at a time onto an exact replica of the subject’s skull. We didn’t do that because we did not have enough data to use that approach. For example, we know how wide the cheek bones are on her skull, but we don’t actually know the soft tissue thickness of the flesh that lived on it. If she had died seven years ago we could calculate the most probable thickness using statistical data. But no such data exists for people who lived so long ago so I had to fill in the blanks myself. We looked at modern data for various ethnic groups that may have contributed to her DNA and made some intelligent guesses. In the end this sculpture has less to do with measurements and more to do with triggering an emotional response in the viewer.


An acrylic eye

CBF: What is the sculpture made of?

The surface is mostly silicone rubber and the eyes are acrylic. Other plastics support it inside it to give it strength. Silicone rubber is what movie-makers use to make “practical” special effects.

CBF: Why are they called the “Windover People”?

The excavation site is near a subdivision named “Windover Farms” near Titusville.


Finished clay model prior to mold-making



CBF: Why such a realistic portrayal?

Museum officials wanted a “hyper real” sculpture. It wasn’t until the unveiling that I understood what a good call that was. It’s one thing to see skeletons and miniature models of villages, and quite another to confront the likeness of someone who appears to be your contemporary; someone equal to yourself in cognitive potential. It’s hard for us to fathom a period of time like 7000 years and easy to overlook the fact that they were very much like us. The sculpture succeeds in drawing the viewer in. The gaze implies intelligence. It reminds us that she was Homo Sapiens.

CBF: How do you measure the success of a sculpture like this?

We may never know how close the likeness is. That’s OK. Hopefully it will cause some viewers to reflect on how we perceive long passages of time. To think about their own origins. Perhaps even to ponder the now debunked concept of “race” that my generation was encouraged to believe: obsolete concepts that were finally ground to bits by the human genome project.


The completed sculpture

CBF: How do exhibits like this move the culture forward?

This exhibit is at a nexus between art, natural science, education and entertainment. So it’s appealing on different levels to a variety of people. For example, a history buff can leave the exhibit knowing something about how a sculpture like this is made. Hopefully it encourages people to think. Also, these archeologists and museum officials are looking to the future. They want new generations to keep blasting away at questions that have preoccupied mankind from the beginning

You can see the Windover Woman at the Brevard Museum of History & Natural Science located at 2201 Michigan Ave, Cocoa, FL 32926. They’re open Wednesday – Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm, year round.  Call 321-632-1830 for more information.

The Museum of Florida History Re-opens

graybuilding copy

We’re so happy to announce that the Museum of Florida History re-opened this morning after being closed for seven months as part of the renovation project on the plaza level of the R. A. Gray Building. With the reopening of the Museum comes the completion of a fascinating new permanent exhibit, Forever Changed: La Florida, 1513–1821. Phase 1 of the Forever Changed exhibit opened in 2012 and featured the time period 1513–1565. The new exhibit explores a dynamic period in history—from the meeting and interaction of native and European cultures to Florida’s adoption as a United States territory.

Be sure to stop by the Museum when you’re in Tallahassee, and check out the Museum of Florida History webpage!

Team Member Tuesday: Mary Kay Keller

Today we’re featuring our part-time team member, Mary Kay!

Name: Dr. Mary Kay Keller

Position: Grants Specialist

How long have you been with the Division? 14 months

So what exactly do you DO? Review and process cultural sponsoring organization applications; annual endowment and cultural facilities reports. Monitor grant reporting compliance. Support program staff in grant application fatal criteria reviews and reports as requested.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Solving issues: Working with our grantees to provide technical and educational support of issues involving compliance and reporting requirement technicalities. Continue reading

Team Member Tuesday: Hillary Crawford

This Team Member Tuesday, let’s meet someone who just couldn’t stay away!Hillary

Name: Hillary Crawford

Position: Arts Consultant

How long have you been with the Division?

I started working for the Division in July of 2015. Previously I worked for the Division from January 1999 to October 2002 in various capacities.

So what exactly do you DO?

As a program manager, I assist grantees in the media arts, multidisciplinary, and presenter categories of the Discipline-Based arts grants. I see the grantees through the entire life of their grant, from their application and eligibility, to the panel process, and then with managing their awards throughout the year until the final report.  I also assist with the installation of art for the Capitol Complex Exhibition program and am beginning to work with Fellowships, Endowments, and Art in State Buildings. Continue reading

Team Member Tuesday: Patty Warren

It’s Team Member Tuesday again!  This week we’re talking with Patty Warren.

Keep your eyes peeled, by the way, for new NON-Team Member stories coming soon!

Name: Patty Warren       Patty

Position: Operations Management Consultant II

How long have you been with the Division? 10 years

So what exactly do you DO? I manage the Division’s budget, prepare all annual documents for the Legislative Budget Request, oversee the grant payment process and manage the National Endowment for the Arts State Partnership Award while supervising assigned staff. Continue reading