Culture Builds Florida Has a New Ally

When George Byfield, President of Lakeland-based Comet Group Inc., attended the launch of Culture Builds Florida in Tampa 2011, he came away inspired to create a new type of online publication.

Byfield saw – instantly – an incredible synergy in the mission of Culture Builds Florida with that of the new niche publication he envisioned.

“I came away inspired to create an exciting online magazine that would not be limited by the traditional print publishing model of City, County or Region,” Byfield says. “I envisioned a new type of publication about Florida…connecting people in the arts and culture, travel and leisure, farm and ranch, and nature/wildlife arenas, along with commerce and conservation. We’re calling it Art and Gator. And our goal is to position Florida as the premier arts and outdoor-lifestyle destination for discerning travelers and residents alike.”

Even while still at the launch ceremony, Byfield was already discussing with officials the ways in which his new publication could help Culture Builds Florida meet its objectives.

“Culture Builds Florida was speaking to the exact same audience that we’re aiming for,” Byfield says, “an upscale, influential audience very much involved in both the arts and nature. An audience that realizes there’s so much more to our state than just the great theme parks…and that vibrant cultural and natural amenities play a vital role in our state’s economic growth.”

The arts are big business for Florida. Our state’s diverse cultural offerings attract travelers by the millions to art shows, festivals, special events, and certain types of businesses – energizing the Florida economy for all of us.

Toward that end, Art & Gator ( is already a VISIT FLORIDA small-business partner, sharing content and looking into creative ways of enticing travelers to spend a few extra days here.

“More than 65 percent of Florida’s visitors participate in either cultural or nature-based activities while they’re in the Sunshine State,” says Chris Thompson, President and CEO of Visit Florida. “This fact establishes Art & Gator as a key travel planning resource to our visitors. By raising the awareness of these vital market segments, Art & Gator and our partners will serve as a catalyst for economic growth and environmental sustainability.”

Art & Gator is an upscale lifestyle publication, geared toward those who appreciate our state’s cultural institutions and artists, its natural wonders, and the movers and shakers who propel its cultural, sustainable and economic engines.

Initially conceived during the launch of the Culture Builds Florida campaign, the online publication Art & Gator will promote Florida’s diverse cultural offerings to travelers and residents alike. Image used by permission of Art & Gator.

“Our big theme parks are great,” Byfield says, “and they bring people here from all over the world. But we’d like to show discerning travelers and residents that there’s a lot more to our state, as well. And to show them the part that interesting Floridians are playing in enhancing our state’s economic, social, and artistic climates.”

Toward that end, Byfield has assembled a talented core of writers, as well as experienced salespeople who will sell both ad space and special memberships.

Art & Gator is offering a wonderful opportunity for Florida’s cultural organizations to get their messages out…many of which are now overlooked by travelers from outside the state (and sometimes, from inside the state). The site will serve as a dynamic platform to market these organizations. And there are a variety of options to help these organizations publicize themselves to a niche group of travelers…who are looking for exactly what they’re offering.

“We want to be an effective resource for Florida cultural institutions,” Byfield says, “a genuine go-to source for Florida’s authentic cultural and natural travel experiences. And we want to bring them more business from both residents and travelers.”

Byfield has a distinguished background in publishing and tourism marketing, and brings a diverse and integrated approach to the direction of Art & Gator online magazine.

“I understand the challenges facing business and government right now, when it comes to contributing to the arts,” George Byfield says. “My own father refused to support my decision to study art. Where other trades are recognized and valued as “industry,” culture is often viewed as a hobby or a part-time vocation. It’s not necessarily driven by a bottom line, but by passionate people with a vision.

“However,” Byfield continues, “corporations have expanded, people have bought second homes, and families have changed lifestyles because of inspired journeys to cultural or natural destinations. Culture does more than just build Florida – it can sustain Florida’s Quality of Life for generations to come.”

The Division of Cultural Affairs is excited to partner with Art & Gator, which originated with the Culture Builds Florida launch and reinforces our campaign to develop awareness for Florida’s cultural community and the contributions arts and culture make to business and quality of life in our state. We encourage you to check out the publication, inform them about cultural events in your area, follow them on Twitter, and watch for an upcoming interview with Division Director Sandy Shaughnessy about Culture Builds Florida at

Spotlight on an Arts and Humanities Halloween

By Tim Storhoff

As National Arts and Humanities Month comes to a close over the next week, we strongly encourage you to take some time out to appreciate the arts in your community. While you’re at it, you might as well enjoy some spooky Halloween fun! Today we are spotlighting a handful of events hosted by some Florida Division of Cultural Affairs grantees that will allow you to get into the Halloween spirit.

Superheroes enjoying the music instrument zoo at the 2011 Symphonic Spooktacular. Photo courtesy/used by permission of Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.

If you’re in the Jacksonville area, the Jacksonville Symphony is having its Symphonic Spooktacular on Sunday, October 28. Pre-concert events including games and an instrument zoo start at 2:00 p.m., and the concert begins at 3:00. Kids are encouraged to wear their costumes for what should be a frighteningly fun musical afternoon. Paul Witkowski of the Symphony described the event saying, “Kids and families really love going to the Symphony for this annual event. It’s nearly a full house every year, celebrating Halloween, celebrating their creativity (with the creativity of their parents, of course) and kicking off the EverBank Family series.”

Under the direction of conductor Scott Gregg, the concert will include music from Harry PotterWilliam Tell Overture, Funeral March of a Marionette,andcomposer Gregory Smith’s A Major-minor Mystery. Dancers from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts will be featured in “Duel of the Fates” from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Make sure to bring the kids in their favorite costumes to join the ghouls and goblins of the orchestra and arrive early for the pre-concert activities. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Learning more about the orchestra at the 2011 Symphonic Spooktacular. Photo courtesy/used by permission of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.

Theatre fans in the Tampa area looking for a Devilishly good time should check out The Screwtape Letters presented by the Fellowship for the Performing Arts at the Straz Center on Saturday, October 27 and Sunday, October 28. This touring theatrical adaptation of the C.S. Lewis novel has been widely praised, and its demon-rich plot will fit well into a Halloween weekend. Wilborn Hampton of The New York Times called the performance “a humorous and lively stage adaptation…the Devil has rarely been given his due more perceptively and eruditely…clever and satirical.” Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal said it was “One Hell of a good show!”

The play is set in an eerily stylish office in hell and follows the clever scheming of Satan’s chief psychiatrist, Screwtape, as he entices a human ‘patient’ toward damnation. The Screwtape Letters is still one of Lewis’s most popular and enduring works along with The Chronicles of Narnia, and it includes many of the theological themes and insights into human nature that his writing was known for. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to or

Max McLean stars as “Screwtape” in THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS. Tickets range from $29 – $89. Student tickets are available for $25 each; limit two per customer, at the Box Office. Valid ID must be presented. All ticket prices are subject to facility fees. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit Photo courtesy/used by permission of the Fellowship for the Performing Arts.

Another fun Halloween-appropriate spectacle will be the Rocky Horror Show at the Delray Center for the Arts. If you have never experienced Rocky Horror live, it is more than a musical. It is an experience that you will not forget. This performance is presented by Entr’ Acte Theatrix, and they will have audience participation ‘survival kits’ available for purchase to those who want them. This show is an outrageous assemblage of the most stereotypical science fiction movies, Marvel comics, Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello outings, rock ‘n’ roll of every vintage, and not for kids. The play (upon which the classic film The Rocky Horror Picture Show is based) has grown from an experimental production originally produced in a small London theatre in June 1973, to a cult phenomenon with fans world-wide.

Rocky Horror will be in the Crest Theatre at the Delray Center for the Arts from October 25 to November 4. So if you’re in the area, you should have a fun Arts and Humanities Halloween with Dr. Frank N. Furter doing the Time Warp again. Purchase tickets at

You should also check out the museums, galleries, and zoos in your area for some fun Halloween activities. Here are a few of those events organized by Division grantees:

  • Boo at the Zoo at the Brevard Zoo, Friday-Sunday, October 26-28 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. The Boo at the Zoo features a variety of activities for the whole family to enjoy including live stage acts, a special play area, a costume contest, Boo Choo train rides, a witch’s lair, a haunted trail, and trick-or-treating.
  • Halloween Nights at the Museum at the South Florida Science Museum, Friday October 26 from 6 to 10 p.m. This fun and educational event includes a costume contest, trick or treating, pumpkin decorating (and smashing!), and even cow eyeball dissection. For more information contact
  • The Tallahassee Museum’s Halloween Howl, Friday and Saturday, October 26 and 27 from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. Come out for a howling good time, which includes a haunted trail (and a not-so-spooky trail for younger kids), the haunted farm, carnival games, a costume contest, and live music.

These are only a few of the events going on over the next week, but whatever you do we hope that you will take out some time to appreciate the arts in your community during this last week of National Arts and Humanities Month. We also want to wish everyone a safe and fun Halloween!

How will you have an Arts and Humanities Halloween? Suggest additional events and opportunities in the comments below or as comments for this post on our Facebook page.

Spotlight on the Florida Artists Hall of Fame nominees, Part III

By Tim Storhoff and Ken Crawford

Today we are finishing our look at the nominees for the 2013 Florida Artists Hall of Fame. Earlier this week we looked at the 2013 musical nominees and visual arts nominees. Established by the Florida Legislature in 1986, the Florida Artists Hall of Fame recognizes persons, living or deceased, who have made significant contributions to the arts in Florida either as performing or practicing artists in their disciplines. These individuals contribute to Florida’s national or international reputation as a state with a sustained commitment to the development of cultural excellence. The Florida Artists Hall of Fame currently consists of over 30 inductees, including musician and performer Ray Charles, actor and director Burt Reynolds, writers Zora Neale Hurston, Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway, filmmaker Victor Nunez, and visual artists Duane Hanson, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist. Read more about the program, nominating process, and view the full list of inductees at the Division of Cultural Affairs Florida Artists Hall of Fame page.

Here are the final six nominees for this year:

Gloria Jahoda: Writer – Tallahassee (1927-1980)
The author of novels and non-fiction works set in the early 20th Century in North Florida, including The River of The Golden Ibis, The Road to Samarkand, and Florida: A Bicentennial History,  was, according to her nominator Robert Holladay,“…a gifted writer, reporter and trained anthropologist with the soul of a poet.” She was often referred to as the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas of North Florida, since her work sought to celebrate and protect the wildlife and natural environment of this region. Her stories of the people of the Big Bend capture a moment in the natural history of the Gulf Coast.  Senator Bob Graham heralded her work in a state proclamation. When she died, the Florida Muscogee Creek Nation scattered her ashes in a ceremony normally reserved for Native Americans. Ms. Jahoda’s complete collection of writings, letters and research are contained in a collection at the Strozier Library at Florida State University. Her most well-known book, The Other Florida, pre-dates works that were published later by other writers, calling for environmental conservation and expressing a close connection to the land and waters of Florida.

Alexander Key: Writer/Illustrator – Apalachicola (1904-1979)
A nationally-known book and magazine illustrator, Alexander Key’s books set in North Florida celebrate the sensibilities of small towns along the Suwannee River and the Gulf Coast, particularly Apalachicola. He sold stories to the Saturday Evening Post and Colliers before beginning to write books. Mr. Key was inspired by local Apalachicola landmarks; weaving tales of local lore into books such as Island Light, The Wrath and the Wind, Suwannee River: Strange Green Land, and other novels. These were well-known by readers interested in stories written in a mythic style with a sense of folk history and inquiry into the natural world. He also wrote young adult science fiction and children’s books after he married and had children, including The Forgotten Door, and his popular Escape to Witch Mountain, which was made into a Walt Disney film in 1975, 1995, and again in 2009.

Adelia Malouf Samaha: Mixed Media – St. Petersburg (1929- )
A painter, multi-media expressionist and fabric artist, Adelia Malouf Samaha’s distinctive floral art in a variety of media have become widely known, as have her portraits in oil of prominent cultural figures in the state, including former Governor Charlie Crist. Her choice of media for floral compositions and special commissions has also included pastels, watercolors, pottery, silk screening and stained glass. She is a major supporter of the St. Petersburg Museum of Arts, teaches volunteer art classes in the Pinellas County Schools, and gives art instruction to disadvantaged young students at neighborhood centers throughout the county. Ms. Samaha is celebrated for her support of numerous charities. She donates work to many organizations and local causes. She and her husband have restored two historic buildings, one of which is listed on the St. Petersburg Historic Buildings List.

O.L. Samuels with Dana (carved wood, 2007)

O. L. Samuels:
Folk Artist/Sculptor – Tallahassee (1931- )
The Reverend O.L. Samuels is a well-known folk artist, largely untrained and unlettered, who began his life as a laborer, became a middle-weight boxer, and then pastor of two churches, before following his dream to become an artist while continuing to preach. His work: unusual wood carvings with a highly colorful ornamental and emotional content, has been much appreciated since he began creating those sculptural pieces in 1983. Rev. Samuels’ art is now widely collected in folk art museums, galleries and in many private international collections. These include the Smithsonian’s African-American Art Museum, the Harriet Tubman Museum, and the White House Collection. His life and work have also been documented in dissertations, films, and published works on the subject of American Folk Art. You can find his website at

Mario Sanchez: Folk Artist/Sculptor – Key West (1908-2005)
Florida Folk Heritage 1991 Award Winner Mario Sanchez was a self-taught folk artist who documented his community’s cultural history in street scenes of the Key West and Ybor City Cuban populace which he witnessed for 96 years and characterized in imaginative painted carvings, paintings and drawings. One of his works was chosen by the Department of State as the image to celebrate Florida’s sesquicentennial in 1995. Mr. Sanchez is the subject of books, documentary films, television programs, and many research articles. His work is exhibited in many important collections. In his 75-year career, Mr. Sanchez produced over 600 works. In 2002, the American Museum of Folk Art recognized him as “the greatest living Cuban-American folk artist.” He was a man of the people and the neighborhood. He could always be found outdoors in his garden “studio,” greeting those who passed by as he worked, and sharing memories of early times as he placed these same images into his art. You can view some of his works and read more about him at the Key West Art and Historical Society page.

Buell Lee Whitehead: Printmaker/Lithographer – Fort Myers (1919-1994)
The artist Buell Lee Whitehead grew up in rural Fort Myers when that area was still the backwoods in the 1920s and 1930s. Cutting firewood for the money to go to college, he entered the University of Florida in 1938, and, following war service, graduated with one of the first Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees. His early work attracted so much attention that the University commissioned him to do the official portrait of the dean of the school. As an inspired painter, printmaker, lithographer and engraver, he lived most of his live in Southwest Florida; choosing the subjects of his stylized works from familiar surroundings. His art chronicles early 20th Century landscapes and community lifestyles from the perspective of the beginning citrus, sugar, timber and fishing industries of that area. Later, he was the first Florida artist who travelled the U.S. selling original lithographs from a press mounted on a flatbed truck that traveled with him. Whitehead was one of the nation’s earliest well-known printmakers. You can read more about Whitehead in Ronald Newsom’s book Buell Lee Whitehead: A True Southern Treasure or at

The 2013 inductees to the Florida Artists Hall of Fame will be announced later this year, and they will be inducted on March 20, 2013 during the Florida Heritage Awards in Tallahassee. We encourage you to visit the Florida Artists Hall of Fame wall on the plaza level in the rotunda of the Florida Capitol Building.