Culture In Florida: April 2019

culture-in-florida

Culture in Florida is a monthly news roundup to showcase our state’s wonderful diversity, spotlight the organizations and artists that contribute so much to our communities, and stress the comprehensive benefits of arts and culture to Florida’s economy and quality of life.

Here’s a sample of arts and culture around the state for the month of April:

FEATURED FESTIVALS

The 21st annual Sarasota Film Festival took place between April 5 and 14. This year’s festival featured films from national and international filmmakers, special appearances with actors Greg Kinnear, Blythe Danner, and Anne Heche, and other special events. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida celebrated Earth Day on April 13th with a huge community event that included educational programs, interactive shows, hands-on activities, food, and beverages for children and families.

The Jazz Society of Pensacola hosted the 36th annual Pensacola JazzFest on April 6 and 7. This free event celebrated America’s unique musical art form through a wide range of concerts and events. The City of Holly Hill and Helping Hands Thru Arts presented the inaugural Holly Hill Arts Festival on April 6 and 7. The event featured over 70 juried works of arts and crafts.

Many organizations hosted festivals celebrating the written word in conjunction with National Poetry Month. In Jacksonville, the month-long JAX Poetry Fest featured readings, workshops, and lectures for children, teens, and adults. In Miami, the O, Miami Festival facilitated a month-long initiative with the mission of “every single person in Miami-Dade County encountering a poem”, and in Tallahassee, the annual Word of South festival was held from April 12-14, an event that explores the relationship between writing and music.

SPECIAL EVENTS

Davie’s Young at Art Museum celebrates its 30th birthday this month! The museum hosted an evening of live music, performance art, and food to mark the occasion on April 27. Naples Art Association also celebrates its 65th birthday this month. Happy Birthday!

In Jacksonville, Thursday, April 4 was officially proclaimed “Jacksonville Symphony ‘Bridges’ Day”. This special honor by the city of Jacksonville and Mayor Lenny Curry celebrated the symphony’s Symphony in 60 concert that featured the world premiere of Bridges, a piece inspired by the city and composed for the symphony by composer-in-residence Courtney Bryan.

Naples Botanical Garden kicked off their “Music in the Garden” series on April 7 with a performance by indie band The Woodwork. The series continues on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month through August.

OPENINGS AND CLOSINGS

The Museum of Art-DeLand opened Gary Monroe: Photographs and Revelations on April 6. The exhibit features 46 black and white photographs by the artist as well as 22 cultural objects and 10 paintings from his personal collection. In Miami, the BASS Museum opened Sheila Hicks: Campo Abierto on April 13, an exhibit that groups works of art from various periods that explore the formal, social, and environmental aspects of landscape throughout Hicks’ career.

In Winter Park, Phase II of The Sage Project opened at Hannibal Square Heritage Center. This exhibit features 17 portraits and living histories of the most senior residents of the African American west side Winter Park community.

A new exhibit exploring how contemporary artists are influenced by graphic novels and comic books opened at Boca Raton Museum of Art. Beyond the Cape! Comics and Contemporary Art includes prominent contemporary artists exploring some of today’s most complicated issues in this pioneering show, on display through October 6, 2019.

The United Arts Council of Collier County opened an exhibit by three pastel artists who challenged each other to create 30 images of the same subject. Their creative journey is on display through May 28, 2019.

UPCOMING IN MAY

MOSAIC — the Month OShows, Art, Ideas & Culture — in Palm Beach, the Key West Songwriters’ Festival and the Orlando Fringe Festival are just a few exciting events during the month of May. Subscribe to this blog or follow us on Twitter for updates. 


Have an event you’d like to see featured as part of this blog series? Please fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/rNFpweK1euL3y9YH2Note: submission does not guarantee inclusion. 

Culture Builds Florida – and Florida Builds Culture: The Southwest Florida Symphony introduces Brave New Music

Provided by the Southwest Florida Symphony 

image001At 58 years old, the Southwest Florida Symphony is the fourth oldest continuously operating orchestra in the State of Florida. As was intended at its inception, it continues to serve as an “audio museum,” performing great classical repertoire written for full orchestra and chamber ensembles, but as Florida’s demographic evolves, becoming younger and more diverse, the Southwest Florida Symphony has made great strides to acclimate to Florida’s ever-changing cultural landscape.

vlcsnap-2018-03-04-23h28m28s160Beginning in 2016, the symphony began experimenting with crossover concerts that blended classical music with other genres; indie rock, electronica, jazz and Latin. As artistic trust continued to develop between the symphony and its audiences and our community expressed more “classical curiosity,” the symphony became more artistically confident in its ability to expand its horizons and establish a new concert series called Brave New Music. Not exactly Pops, though featuring popular music – and not exactly classical, though always featuring classical repertoire, this series is designed to encourage dedicated, knowledgeable classical music enthusiasts to examine familiar works through a new lens and to remove classical music’s historic intimidation factor for audiences that are not ordinary classical music consumers.

IJS06454Ultimately, this is a way to demonstrate the relevance of classical music to new patrons of the arts and to lead classical audiophiles on a musical journey that begins in familiar territory for them. In addition to the music these audiences experience, these concerts provide educational opportunities through guest artist and conductor Q&A sessions, to meet our orchestral musicians to gain their perspective on these concerts, pre-concert lectures and social gatherings. The best, most beautiful part is that it brings both of those audiences together; spanning generations, socioeconomic and cultural strata, forging relationships among them. It has been said that music is the greatest social network. That’s what we for envision Brave New Music. The Southwest Florida Symphony is honored that Brave New Music can serve as the cornerstone of that network in our community.

DSC06874allBrave New Music initiatives have included jazz arrangements of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition created and performed by Israeli jazz pianist, Yaron Gottfried and Bach – Jazz fusion arrangements created and performed by pianist Matt Herskowitz. Upcoming Brave New Music programs include an evening of Beethoven v. Coldplay, featuring original electronica – classical compositions and visionary arrangements by Maestro Steve Hackman. This concert culminates the Southwest Florida Symphony’s 58th season with a fusion of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 and tunes by British pop band, Coldplay, on Saturday, May 4th. The orchestra commences its 59th season with a screening of the classic thriller film, Psycho, with live orchestral accompaniment on Friday, October 25th and Saturday, October 26th, then closes its 59th season with a celebratory program of tolerance and joy – Symphabulous! A Symphonic Drag Show features nationally known drag performer Chris Weaver. We have every expectation that this innovative programing will enlighten and bring audiences together and will inspire other orchestras to do the same.

To learn more about the Southwest Florida Symphony, visit their website: https://www.swflso.org/.


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Culture in Florida: March 2019

culture-in-florida

Culture in Florida is a monthly news roundup to showcase our state’s wonderful diversity, spotlight the organizations and artists that contribute so much to our communities, and stress the comprehensive benefits of arts and culture to Florida’s economy and quality of life.

Welcome back! Here’s a taste of arts and culture in Florida during March 2019:

FEATURED FESTIVALS

The annual Gasparilla Music Festival was held in Tampa on March 9-10. This year’s festival featured a wide variety of performances that promoted the region’s cultural heritage and supported the festival’s music education initiatives.

In Miami, the Miami Design Preservation League facilitated the inaugural Miami Beach Cultural Crawl. Some of the areas most famous institutions teamed up to offer complimentary admission to attendees, who enjoyed a free trolley between venues such as the New World Symphony, The BASS Museum, and the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens among others.

“The greatest show in Gainesville” was on full display during Jest Fest. The event featured six stages of continuous entertainment from world-famous stars of circus and comedy.

The cities of Pembroke Pines and Apollo Beach also hosted weekend-long festivals that included juried art fairs, entertainment, food, and workshops for adults and children, and in Orange County, the Orlando Museum of Art held their annual Festival of Fine Arts and Flowers. This unique event hosted a museum-wide showcase of fresh floral designs inspired by the OMA permanent collection and current exhibitions in addition to a “Flower Power” party, a mystery home tour, live jazz, antique dealers, and much more.

EXCITING EVENTS

Key Chorale hosted their annual collaboration with The Circus Arts Conservatory, Cirque des Voix (R), performed under the Big Top at Nathan Benderson Park. This event, unlike anything else in the country, combined a 100 voice chorus, a 40 piece orchestra, and many spellbinding circus acts. At the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, visitors embarked on a Day Out with Thomas, a family-oriented event that offers aspiring engineers the opportunity to take a ride with Thomas the Tank Engine™.

Emerald Coast Science Center celebrated their 30th birthday this month with a celebration including live music, food and beverages, and a silent auction, and Zoo Miami held their annual fundraiser called Feast with the Beasts. This highly unique event offered wild animal encounters, food, live music, and merriment.

Naples Botanical Garden and Naples Garden Club teamed up to present the annual Naples Flower Show. This event is one of the largest flower shows in Florida and includes a Garden Market, educational demonstrations, juried designs and horticultural exhibits. Polk Museum of Art honored French language and culture by hosting La Francophonie Day. This French-focused educational program coincided with the closing of the museum’s Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist exhibition.

Studios of Key West hosted a Piano Marathon on March 17 to benefit Hugh’s View, the Studios’ rooftop visual and performing space set to open to the public in 2020. The all-day line-up of jazz, blues, classical, gospel, show tunes, standards, new music, and more featured a rotating cast of eighteen fabulous pianists.

In St. Petersburg, Studio @620 teamed up with projectAlchemy and Rebekah Lazaridis for a collaborative dance and visual art performance entitled “Bloom and Residue”. This interactive design performance explored themes of change, transformation, and new life.

OPENINGS AND CLOSINGS

In Fort Myers, Alliance for the Arts held their 33rd annual All-Florida juried art exhibit. This exhibit featured pieces created by artists working in a wide variety of media from all over Florida. In Key West, Studios of Key West opened With the Grain, a collection of some of the nation’s most accomplished wood artists.

Carrollwood Cultural Center curated a unique show of expressive art that addresses the effects of Red Tide and other oceanic challenges called Ode to Red Tide and in Fort Lauderdale, Bonnet House and ArtServe opened Impressions: The New Aesthetic, Fort Lauderdale’s preeminent exhibition of modern and contemporary original work from South Florida.

Art and Culture Center/Hollywood opened a series of site-specific installations by local and national artists who explore discoveries between experimentation and academic practice with lighting, sets, sculpture, and performance called Frimaire is the Color of Adolescent Sunset.

Palm Beach’s Society of the Four Arts opened an exhibit that grew out of the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative called Portraits of Courage: A Commander-in-Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors. This exhibit brings together 66 full-color portraits and a four-panel mural painted by President Bush and other members of the United States military.

In Jacksonville, the Cummer Museum and Gardens opened Kota Ezawa: The Crime of Art, an exhibition that brings together light-boxes and video animations tha chronicle some of the most infamous and high profile museum heists in history. The exhibition’s images pay homage to artworks by Degas, Manet, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and others that were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

UPCOMING IN APRIL

Check back next motnh to hear about Sarasota Film Festival, the Pensacola Jazz Festival, the Inaugural Holly Hill Arts Festival and so much more! Subscribe to this blog or follow us on Twitter for updates. 


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Culture In Florida: February 2019

culture-in-florida

Culture in Florida is a monthly news roundup to showcase our state’s wonderful diversity, spotlight the organizations and artists that contribute so much to our communities, and stress the comprehensive benefits of arts and culture to Florida’s economy and quality of life.

February was as busy a month as ever! Arts and cultural organizations across the state celebrated Black History Month, a diverse group of festivals were held, and many interesting art exhibits opened to the public. Here’s just a taste of events around the state during the month of February:

FEATURED FESTIVALS

The Bach Festival Society of Winter Park kicked off their annual festival on February 10. The festival’s three weeks of choral, orchestral, and chamber music events continue through March 3 at various venues throughout the Orlando area. The Bach Festival Society is Central Florida’s oldest continuously operating performing arts organization. 

The Florida Experimental Film/Video Festival (“FlexFest”) was held from February 6-10 in Tampa. The festival screened over 100 films by filmmakers around the globe. In Orlando, Mennello Museum of American Art held their 5th annual Indie-Folkfest on February 16. The family and pet-friendly event showcased local, national, and regional art, music, and culinary exhibitions.

Lake Wales Arts Council also presented their 46th annual Art Festival on February 24 and 25. The critically-acclaimed festival attracts thousands of art lover every year and awards more than $30,000 in prizes to competing artists, and also includes food trucks, live entertainment, activities for children, and a student art show.

OPENINGS

Gauguin: Voyage to Paradise opened at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota. The exhibition highlights the role of botanicals in the artist’s vision of the exotic, and is on display through June 10. In Fort Meyers, Alliance for the Arts opened The Nonagenarians of Shell Point on February 8. Each of the 20 black and white photographic portraits highlight the hobbies, spirits, and souls of Shell Point residents aged 90-99.

Broward County’s Young at Art kicked off a larger than life museum-wide event featuring ten new murals. The three-month long Mural Museum includes workshops, live painting exhibitions, and culminates in the collaborative creation of a public mural masterpiece in celebration of YAA’s 30th birthday on May 18, 2019.

Fort Lauderdale’s ArtServe held their annual juried exhibit ArtBravo from February 5-22. Entrants represented all disciplines and media. In St. Petersburg, Studio @620 featured the group exhibition titled Disparate Saints of St. Petersburg from February 9-28. The exhibit featured sevel local artists and included painting, photography, pastel drawings, and sculpture installations.

Winter Park’s Crealdé School of Art opened Keepers of Heritage: Puerto Rican Artists in Central Florida on February 1. The exhibit features paintings, mixed media, and sculpture by Puerto Rican artists honoring their cultural roots and is on display through May 18, 2019.

SPECIAL EVENTS

Four-time Grammy winner Seal appeared in a special gala concert with The Florida Orchestra on February 9. The multi-platinum singer-songwriter performed several hit songs as well as standards from the Great American Songbook to benefit the orchestra’s community and artistic initiatives.

Jacksonville’s Museum of Science and History hosted the Jacksonville Mini Maker Faire on February 16. The event celebrates the innovative spirit of the region’s “maker movement” and collaboration in Northeast Florida and encourages creativity in each and every citizen.

The Muse Awards, St. Petersburg’s annual celebration of arts and cultural throughout the city, were held on February 8. The event features live music and artwork, dancing, celebration, and camaraderie and benefits creative work throughout the city.

In West Palm Beach, Norton Museum of Art celebrated the opening of the 59,000 square-foot Kenneth C. Griffin Building, designed by Pritzker-Prize-winning architect Lord Norman Foster, as well as a re-imagined main entrance and accompanying sculpture garden. The dramatic updates to the museum will allow the Norton to increase programming and engage with the local community in more dynamic ways.

UPCOMING IN MARCH

Emerald Coast Science Center celebrates its 30th anniversary, Tampa hosts the annual Gasparilla Music Festival on March 9-10, and Spring Break fun for kids at arts organizations throughout the state. Subscribe to this blog or follow us on Twitter for more updates!


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Culture in Florida: January 2019

culture-in-florida

Culture in Florida is a monthly news roundup to showcase our state’s wonderful diversity, spotlight the organizations and artists that contribute so much to our communities, and stress the comprehensive benefits of arts and culture to Florida’s economy and quality of life.

Happy New Year! We welcomed 2019 with a fantastic array of arts and cultural events throughout the state. This year, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs celebrates our 50th anniversary. Visit our website to learn more about what we do. Here are some notable events from our grantee organizations that took place throughout the state during the month of January:

Arts and Health

Did you make a resolution for better health in 2019? If so, try getting active with arts and culture! Many museums including the Vizcaya Museum, Mennello Museum of American Art, Polk Museum, and ArtCenter Manatee hold regular yoga classes in their galleries. See this feature from back in July that outlines these and many more health and wellness activities at art galleries and museums throughout the state.

Featured Festivals

North Florida

Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival kicked off their 18th season this month with a performance by the world-renowned Miró Quartet. The star-studded line-up includes Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Bell, the Dover Quartet, and Emanuel Ax. St. Augustine also held their annual film festival from January 17-20, featuring films by 20 filmmakers from throughout the nation.

Central Florida

As a preview to their two-week long festival in May, Orlando Fringe held a Winter Mini Fest, featuring 22 diverse shows over four days. Heartland Cultural Alliance presented their inaugural Festival of the Arts, a one-day festival featuring exhibitions by local artists as well as an open house, food and drink, and other interactive activities.

South Florida

Miami Beach’s longest running free community festival, Miami Design Preservation League’s Art Deco Weekend, was held from January 18-20. The wide variety of events included jazz performances, guided walking tours, a “bark deco” dog show, a retro fashion show, food, drink, and other merriment. Community Arts and Culture kicked off their 21st annual Afro Roots Festival celebrating women in World Music. Events will continue through April throughout South Florida.

In Southwest Florida, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve held their annual Festival of Birds and Key Chorale hosted the Sarasota Choral Festival. In Key West, the annual Key West Literary Seminar was held from January 10-13. Visiting authors included Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates, among others.

Openings and Closings

Kissimmee’s Osceola County Historical Society opened “Osceola Natives”, an exhibit exploring the history and lore of some of Florida’s first inhabitants and Quincy’s Gadsden Arts Center opened “Norman Rockwell in the 1960’s”, an exhibit that focuses on Rockwell’s illustrations during the turbulent decade. The exhibit is on display through May 18, 2019.

In Orlando, Mennello Museum for American Art opened “The Unbridled Paintings of Lawrence H. Lebduska”. Lebduska is one of the most popular folk art painters of the 1930’s. Across town, Orlando Museum of Art opened an exhibit focused on the works of Belgian post-impressionist Louis Dewis.

Jacksonville’s Museum of Science and History hosted “Backyard Adventures”, an interactive, travelling science exhibit for kids, and ArtCenter Manatee hosted a travelling exhibit of the American Watercolor Society. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens opened “Rainforest Masks of Costa Rica”, a unique exhibit showcasing the vibrant, hand-painted masks of artists and artisans from Costa Rica’s Boruca tribe.

In Delray Beach, Arts Garage opened “You Me Us”, featuring up-and-coming artists Bo Sebastian and David Menton, and Museum of Art-DeLand opened “We Too Dream America”, a celebration of African-American art on display through March 17, 2019.

Celebrations and Special Events

Celebrated astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson paid a visit to Jacksonville’s Florida Theatre on January 21. The award-winning scientist presented “An Astrophysicist Goes to the Movies: The Sequel”. Fort Lauderdale’s Bonnet House Museum and Gardens also looked towards the skies with the opening of their 23rd annual “Concerts Under the Stars” series.

Perez Art Museum Miami and ArtCenter South Florida hosted Latinx Art Sessions from January 24-25, an event celebrating and exploring Latinx identity in art. This new initiative by two Miami cultural giants aims to promote research into the complex dynamics of Latinx identity and its representations in art works of all kinds.

Cocoa Village Playhouse held the “Florida Magician of the Year” contest and Sarasota Ballet offered audiences a rare look behind-the-scenes with their event “Inside the Studio: The Creative Process”. This is a monthly series that continues throughout the season.

Upcoming in February

Many organizations celebrate African American History Month, the 84th annual Bach Festival Winter Park kicks off, and Grammy-winning recording artist Seal makes an appearance with The Florida Orchestra. Subscribe to this blog or follow us on Twitter for more updates!


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Culture in Florida: December 2018

culture-in-florida

Culture In Florida is a monthly news roundup to showcase our state’s wonderful diversity, spotlight the organizations and artists that contribute so much to our communities, and stress the comprehensive benefits of arts and culture to Florida’s economy and quality of life.

Holiday Fun

Holiday fun continued at many organizations throughout the month. Fort Lauderdale’s Bonnet House Museum and Gardens held their weeklong “Holiday Magic” celebration which included self-guided tours, strolling carolers, and Christmas storytelling amidst beautifully decorated trees, wreaths, and centerpieces.

Jacksonville’s Museum of Science and History hosted a special motorized holiday train display that allowed visitors to learn about trains, engineering, and model building while traveling through a winter wonderland and Miami’s Frost Science Museum hosted their “Scientific Winter Wonderland” which included a live show exploring the science of snow, and interactive activities exploring the physics of freezing and other activities exploring a mini bobsled challenge, an interactive “blubber glove”, and a Nutcracker Fantasy Laser Show.   

Many museums and gardens saw their outdoor areas light up for the holidays! Over one million lights illuminated the garden and walkways at Selby Gardens, Naples Botanical Garden was transformed into a Tropical Winter Wonderland, and Zoo Miami hosted a series of holiday-themed, illuminated nights on Fridays and Saturdays throughout December.

International Opera Stars Grace our Florida Stages

Two internationally-renowned opera singers graced our Florida stages this month. Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe appeared with Palm Beach Opera’s apprentice artists on December 18, and soprano Karita Mattila will appear in concert at Artis-Naples on New Year’s Eve with the Naples Philharmonic.

Visual Art

Miami Art Week was held in December, featuring over 20 international art fairs, more than 1,200 galleries, thousands of artists and a virtual art fair. This year, artists and galleries from 16 different countries united to bring the center of the art world to Miami.

Miami’s BASS Museum also announced the acquisition of a new work by Paola Pivi, “Call Me Anything You Want”. The 2013 work is comprised of 20 individual canvases made of cascading natural pearls.

Many exciting exhibits throughout the state also featured prominently this month. The Studios of Key West opened their annual members’ exhibition, “Look Upwards, to the Sky”, and St. Petersburg’s Studio @620 hosted “Plastic is the New Fish”, a collection of sustainable modern artwork by Amandine Drouet. Lake Wales Arts Council opened an exhibit by Orlando-based artist and pop culture aficionado titled “Pop!”. The exhibit features paintings and pop-culture phenomena. ArtCenter Manatee also opened their annual exhibit featuring Women Contemporary Artists. Women Contemporary Artists is a regional organization of professional women in the visual fine arts that is based in Sarasota, that seeks to provide visibility, encouragement, and inspiration to women artists.

Arts for All

Earlier this month, we chatted with Jennifer Sabo, executive director of Arts4All Florida, about making the arts accessible for everyone. Here is just a sample of a few wonderful organizations doing just that:

Jacksonville’s Cummer Museum and Gardens celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 4. The celebrations included artworks created by persons with disabilities, an open studio opportunity to learn about the museum’s programs for persons with disabilities, outreach activities, and adaptive art-making opportunities for everyone.

Davie’s Young at Art Museum kicked off their monthly “Sensory Sunday” series on December 16. This new initiative opens the museum one hour early on the second Sunday of each month for families of children with autism or other sensory integration sensitivities. The museum welcomes families to a safe and welcoming environment with theme-based art activities and other sensory-friendly experiences.

Upcoming in January

Florida kicks off 2019 with the Amelia Island Chamber Festival, the Heartland Cultural Alliance Festival of the Arts, and the Sarasota Choral Festival, along with many other exciting events!

From all of us at the Division of Cultural Affairs, we wish you a wonderful Holiday season and a Happy New Year!


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Art Talk: Jennifer Sabo, Executive Director of Arts4All Florida

Arts4All Florida is a statewide service organization dedicated to making the arts accessible for everyone. We chatted with Jennifer Sabo, the organization’s executive director, to learn more the organization and about her career in Florida.

Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA): How long have you lived and worked in Florida?

Jennifer: I attended grad school at UF and earned a Master’s in Museum Studies with a concentration in Education. After grad school, I briefly moved to LA, but ultimately came back to Florida, working at the Ringling Museum for a few years as the Youth and Families Program Manager. After that, I had the opportunity to be the founding Director of Education at the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples. That was a true labor of love! It was so exciting to be part of building something from the dirt up. I then had the not-so-brilliant idea to move north again (into the cold), but was soon looking to move back to Florida right when Arts4All Florida (formerly VSA Florida) was looking for a new Executive Director. It worked out perfectly, as I already knew a lot about the organization and had partnered with them on a few programs when I was working with Ringling and Golisano. I’ve now been the Executive Director at Arts4All Florida for a little over four years.

DCA: Tell us about your work with Arts4All Florida. What is the best part of your job?

Jennifer: There are three parts to my job. One part involves the typical Executive Director task of funding the organization—both finding funding and managing funding. A big part of our budget comes from the Florida Department of Education, so a lot of my work is managing and writing our grants, meeting deliverables, reviewing program evaluations, communicating with stakeholders, and so on.

Another big part of my job is what is typical of much nonprofit administration work, “other duties as assigned”. This includes a little bit of everything—marketing, event planning, working at summer camps, and many other things. This is one of the things that I love about the organization. We have an amazing—but small—staff, so everyone really works together and takes turns helping one another with their duties. No one is a silo!

The last part of my job involves trainings, conducting both in-person trainings for school districts and cultural organizations and webinars. We help teach others about accommodations and accessibility for all. I love this part of my job. Most of the time, the people that are at the training really want to be there and want to be more inclusive and accessible. It’s awesome when you see the lightbulb go off in someone’s head and say, “this will work for my neurotypical students, too!” Our vision is really to make the arts accessible for everybody.

DCA: What are some of the challenges involved with leading this organization?

Jennifer: Funding. Every year, the month of April is really stressful, as we wait to hear about grants and other funding sources. We are an interesting organization in that we are both public and private. A large portion of our funding comes from the Department of Education through the University of South Florida. All of our staff are USF employees, but we are also a private 501(c)(3). This makes my work interesting because we have to report to our funders, the DOE, USF, and school districts in more than 60 different counties.

DCA: How has the organization evolved over the years?

Jennifer: The organization is now 38 years old. It was founded in 1981 as a joint project between the Florida Department of Education and the Division of Cultural Affairs. Florida was incredibly proactive about facilitating arts accessibility in this regard– the organization was founded before the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was originally called Florida Arts for the Handicapped, and was part of the international organization that eventually became VSA (which stood for “Very Special Arts”). In 1986, VSA directed all affiliate organizations to become private nonprofit organizations, which was the start of the organization as it exists today.

The program has changed throughout the years based on whatever the needs have been at certain times. We have hosted conferences, residencies, trainings, and now we do a little bit of everything.

Recently, we changed our name from VSA Florida to Arts4All Florida to signify our focus on universal arts. We want everyone to be able to participate in the arts together, not just people with disabilities.

DCA: Which counties or areas do you serve?

Jennifer: For the past two years, we have served 64 different counties throughout Florida. We serve each differently based on their specific needs.

DCA: In your opinion, what is the greatest contribution that Arts4All Florida makes to the community?

Jennifer: Our vision is to make it so that everyone can do art together, so that the arts are universally accessible to people with and without disabilities. The arts are a unifying force and they really level the playing field, so to speak. Many people who have disabilities are able to be incredibly successful in the arts. It’s really cool to see someone without a disability appreciating the art of someone with a disability.

We just wrapped up our “A Definition of Dance” program which we started four years ago. We wanted to bring world-renowned dancers with disabilities to Tampa to do community outreach and performances. The performance during the first year of the program was one of the most incredible performances that I have ever been to in my life, one of those events where everything comes together just right and amazing things happen. In year two, we expanded the program to bring in more dancers and travel to more cities. We were able to bring in 15 artists with all different kinds of abilities from eight different countries for performances in Jacksonville, Miami, and Tampa. This year, we brought in the dance crew ILL-Abilities, and they were absolutely amazing. They spoke about discovering and overcoming their disabilities through dance, and were able to translate this story into their performances. Each dancer performed solo before they came together as a crew. The coolest part was watching how kids reacted to their performance—the kids didn’t focus on the dancers’ disabilities—they just thought, “this is really cool”. That experience was really like our vision coming to life.

DCA: What do you think of when you hear “Culture Builds Florida”? Why are the arts and culture important to our state?

Jennifer: As I mentioned before, the arts are a unifying presence for everybody, whether you are a creator or a consumer. Everybody can enjoy some type of arts and everybody gets something different out of it, either through producing art, participating in art, or viewing art. The arts relax, heal, and unite us. They are social and bring everybody together. No matter what your job is or what your abilities are, everybody can engage with the arts at some level. They make us who we are as a society and culture.

DCA: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about Arts4All Florida?

Jennifer: If there are any organizations that want to help the arts become more inclusive and accessible, please contact us! We are here as a state service organization to help you.

For more information about Arts4All Florida, visit their website at: http://vsafl.org.

The Division thanks Jennifer Sabo, Executive Director at Arts4All Florida, for her gracious participation in this interview.