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!


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. 

Grantee Feature: Great Explorations Across the Ability Continuum

Provided by Great Explorations Children’s Museum

GreatEx-edit-42354

For over 30 years, Great Explorations Children’s Museum has been committed to bringing innovative, hands-on, educational programs to area youth while also providing invaluable family support services that promote safe and healthy caregiver-child relationships. Known as “Great Ex” to locals, the museum’s mission is to stimulate learning through creativity, play and exploration.

GreatEx-edit-42841Founded in 1986 as the result of a movement to create a children’s museum by the Junior League of St. Petersburg, Great Explorations maintains a significant presence in the Tampa Bay area and nationwide. A member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers and the Association of Children’s Museums, Great Explorations was the first mid-sized children’s museum to receive accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums. It is the only accredited children’s museum in Tampa Bay and one of fewer than a hundred accredited children’s museums nationwide. Great Explorations is committed to upholding museum standards of excellence through its work with children and families in the St. Petersburg community and beyond.

Longos cove kidsSince its founding, Great Explorations has remained steadfastly committed to education through a variety of avenues both inside the museum and out in the community.  We provide S.T.E.A.M. based educational exhibits and programs daily on the museum floor for visitors and school field trip groups.  Our Museum InReach field trips provide elementary-aged children with opportunities for unrestricted self-guided “purposeful play,” providing a unique multi-sensory approach to the traditional classroom subjects taught in school. As funding permits, Title 1 schools and nonprofits are granted free field trips and bus vouchers to ensure students access to our museum; and for many of these students, it is their first visit to a museum in their lifetime.

GreatEx-edit-42930Our educational programming for school-aged children extends to summer camp opportunities as well as after school programming that not only provides homework assistance but extends learning opportunities beyond school hours in our nurturing, enriching and fun environment. Our community outreaches also allow us to take our educational programs mobile, bringing hands-on interactive S.T.E.A.M. activities directly into the most at-risk communities, providing access to high-quality, fun, educational experiences to those that are unable to access these programs at the museum due to monetary or transportation barriers.

Great Explorations is committed to accessibility for all children in our community. In addition to providing reduced admission rates to those in need, after hours museum access for nonprofits and community groups, and resources and educational workshops for families, parents, and caregivers, Great Explorations has developed programming specifically to reach those on the autism spectrum as well as those experiencing memory loss.

GREAT CONNECTIONS

DSC_0330After consulting with the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, Great Explorations launched “Great Connections” in January 2014. The goal of the program was to provide a less crowded and stimulating time for families of children with special needs to explore the museum. We provide extra staff for increased safety and supervision and a “cool down room” for children who need a break.

We are able to offer half-off of our standard admission price to families attending these sessions, and regularly distribute free family passes through our community partners.  We also provide an opportunity for families of children with special needs to connect with community resources in a low-pressure and casual way. In the past, we have connected families with therapeutic drummers, arts organizations, chiropractors, therapy centers, urgent care clinics, and many others.

DSC_0368We are thankful to be one of many organizations that have begun to offer sensory-friendly experiences. It has always been our goal to represent a more inclusive environment that might encourage families to feel more comfortable participating in other museum programs like camps, Parents’ Night Out, and special events, opening the door to a more inclusive experience for all families at all times. We are thrilled to say that we have witnessed this to be the case since the program’s inception. Many families continue exploring the museum even after we open to the general public, and many speech and occupational therapists use our “child-sized world” as a safe place for therapy during standard operating hours.

DSC_0351In the five years since its launch, Great Connections has been a huge benefit to our community because it connects people. It connects family members to each other through interactive engagement fostered by play, it connects families to other families facing similar challenges, and it connects families to services and support from local organizations. We hope to continue to adapt to the needs of the community and to represent the holistic benefits of providing inclusive environments that celebrate the diversity of our community’s children.

MEMORY MONDAY

Memory monday_02Great Explorations is also committed to engaging differently abled adults. In 2017, the museum was approached by three women, now affectionately known as the “Brain Dames”, about being involved in an ongoing program that would provide experiences that could benefit adults with memory loss. In partnership with AARP and the “Brain Dames”, as well Great Ex’s Director of Community Initiatives, Lael Arango, we launched “Memory Monday” in 2018.

Memory Monday is a free, two-hour event that takes place on the first Monday of the month. The core programming includes music, movement, art, humor, intergenerational interaction, and brain boosts, which are strategies, tips and recipes to engage the mind even when memory challenges make other activities difficult.

Since  February 2018, 118 people with memory challenges (affectionately called “cared-fors”) and 82 caregivers have attended Memory Monday. In its second year, we have moved the program to a larger space to accommodate the high number of participants, volunteers and presenters.

memory-9302Memory Monday is unique in that it goes beyond providing a social experience or a “keep Grandma occupied” experience by presenting high-quality activities that enrich and engage participants. For example, the Florida Orchestra brought violins to one event and everyone had the opportunity to play them – one table of participants even pieced together “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and played it in unison in an impromptu performance. Each month, an instructor from Arts4All Florida facilitates Mindful Moves, during which one dance is made up of movements inspired by a conversation with participants about love, or nature, or whatever the theme of the month is. The instructor puts the movements in a sequence and sets them to music, allowing participants to do a memory activity tied to physical movement and the sensory experience of listening to beautiful music.

Small groups of children from the museum’s educational programs come participate in an activity with the adults each month. One month they may all be learning about the bassoon together, while another month they are painting flower pots and planting seeds together. One month last year they made cards and put together hygiene bags for families at our local Ronald McDonald House together. Many people cite the interaction with the children as their favorite part of the program, and the children’s enjoyment shows on their faces.

JeanneAuggie_MemoryMondayMemory Monday benefits the community by reminding people with memory challenges that their brains are still able to learn and that they are still able to enjoy new experiences. We have also created numerous partnerships with organizations that aren’t necessarily on the front lines of serving families with memory loss, bringing diverse organizations together to serve a growing population in a unique and creative way.

In the future, we hope to be able to reach even more people in the community. We often have requests to hold Memory Monday more frequently, and we’d love to be able to expand our services to caregivers or to provide service-based experiences for our cared-fors. We are honored to provide a safe, nurturing, explorative environment for children and families across the ability continuum and lifespan.

To learn more about Great Explorations Children’s Museum, visit our website: https://greatex.org/.

The Division thanks Lael Arango, Mandy Paige, and Great Explorations staff for their participation in this post.


Interested in seeing your organization featured on Culture Builds Florida? Please fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/3sMwuJWA3bM1orPl2

 

Art Talk: Jane Lindberg, President of Arts Alive Nassau

Arts Alive Nassau provides arts opportunities and educational experiences free of charge to students in Nassau County schools. We chatted with founder and president Jane Lindberg to learn more about the organization and about her career in Florida.

Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA): Tell us about the history and founding of Arts Alive Nassau.

Jane: We were formerly known as the Amelia Arts Academy. In the 1990’s, we were the only organization in our area that offered private lessons in different kinds of arts. By 2011, our original plan was not working and the organization was failing miserably. I was trying to raise funds to start a band in one of the elementary schools and went to see a potential funder. He was hesitant to support an organization that was giving lessons to kids from families who could afford to pay for them. I took this information back to our board of directors and we began to rethink our operations. There were hundreds of kids in Nassau County who were totally without any kind of cultural life… there was no visual arts curriculum in the elementary schools at all and very minimal music instruction. So we started a conversation with the school board about how our organization could provide the artists/teachers and the programming if they could provide the space and the children. This was the beginning of our organization as it is known today.

image (4)In 2012, we were “reborn” as Arts Alive Nassau and started offering three programs: a dulcimer class, an elementary school band, and a visual art class. Originally, we worked with three elementary schools and provided the classes after school. Over the past six years, we have grown to providing 20 after school classes and two classes with the ESE program during the school day. We are now a presence in each of the nine elementary schools in the county.  The schools don’t charge us anything for the use of the space and we are able to offer our instruction free of charge, in exchange. It’s a wonderful relationship because finding space and getting kids on location is often a problem. Through our partnership, the instruction happens right where they are and it has worked very well.

DCA: What is unique about the population that your organization serves?

Jane: Nassau County is very unique. The differences between the South end of Amelia Island, West County and East County are huge. Some towns such as Yulee, Callahan, and Bryceville are mostly rural and there are very few arts opportunities at all. Bryceville Elementary, for example, is so small that they don’t even have a music teacher or art teacher. But, the schools in these towns were the first to contact us with interest of seeing what we could do for their students.

DCA: What types of programming does Arts Alive Nassau offer?

IMG_3747Jane: We offer music lessons, violin, ukulele, band… one of the elementary schools has both a brass ensemble and a drumline. We still offer our dulcimer classes as well as visual arts classes in painting, drawing, and puppetry. We also have a great partnership with a theater company in South Carolina, the Baillie Players, that has helped us produce musicals at Callahan Elementary School for the past five years. This year they are doing “Snow White”. The teacher at Callahan has all the music, scripts, choreography and casts the show and then our partner company will come down to coach the kids and bring the sets, costumes, and props. There are usually 40-50 students involved and it’s such a wonderful thing for the children. In Callahan, which has a population of around 1,300, the community members and families come out in droves to see the children perform– even the mayor usually makes an appearance! It’s a great event not only for the students involved but for the community, as well.

In the past, we have also facilitated an honors chorus, which has recently developed into the First Coast Singers.

DCA: How many students are involved with your programs?

Drumlineclass2018Jane: Each year, close to 600 students are involved in our activities. Currently, we have 255 students in our classroom-based programs. We’d love to be able to reach more students but are limited, like many organizations, by our budget.

We emphasize quality over quantity. Most of our music classes have a limit of ten students. This is to ensure that our students are getting the best possible instruction at all times.

DCA: What is your role within the organization?

Jane: I am “president for life”. Our organization is very small and has no paid executive director. We are fortunate to have a wonderful board of directors made up of people who really care and really show up. They are the driving force behind everything that we do.

Four years ago, we were fortunate to receive an endowment that has enabled us to hire a program director. She has done an incredible job working with the schools and coordinating everything. We are constantly coming up with new ways to grow, and to involve students in the arts from early on. This is really important to me because I think that we, as a society, are somewhat culturally illiterate. The arts are not valued nearly as much as the value that they add.

DCA: How long have you lived and worked in Florida?

Jane: I moved here in 1998 with my husband to build an industrial plant in Yulee, for manufacturing and assemble electrical controls. For a long time, I was not very involved in the arts, but then began teaching music history at Jacksonville University. While I eventually left my teaching position due to the travel time, I still miss being around the students. College students are wonderful in the way that they think about things– it’s just a different perspective. I think I’ve always been a teacher at heart– it’s really what I love most. So right now, that’s still at the heart of what I do, even if I do most of it on a volunteer basis.

DCA: What is the best part of your job?

Close up performanceIt’s definitely seeing the children’s faces. When they get excited and they’ve just learned how to play something, they are so proud of themselves. I think that arts education presents the opportunity for children to find out who they are inside because to me, that’s what the arts give us. They allow children the opportunity to find out who they are through creativity. To see the awakening that takes place in every student and the self assurance and self esteem that comes from learning that they can perform and create in front of people is just amazing. I think that the arts are wonderful because you can have so much fun while you’re learning.

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

Jane: It’s amazing to know that we are providing an opportunity for these children that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Our school board does the best that they can– they’re facing constant budget cuts from the legislature and we are able to fill in the gaps and provide art and music to students when the school district can’t.

In some ways, our county is very depressed, so having arts and cultural education available to students is so important. We really want to document what we’ve been able to do in Nassau County so that we can share it with others who might be able to start a similar program where they live and work.

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

Bryceville Jan 2019.2 (002)

 

Jane: Florida, physically, is an absolutely beautiful state– really, there are places in Florida that are just gorgeous. But I think that arts and culture make us civilized. They soften our world and our environment tremendously. I can’t imagine living in a place without art– what a horrible thing it would be if there were nothing stimulating to see or to hear. Arts and culture make us different as human beings– and right now, I think we need culture more than ever.

For more information about Arts Alive Nassau, visit their website at: http://www.artsalivenassau.org/.

The Division thanks Jane Lindberg, President of Arts Alive Nassau, for her participation in this interview. 

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!


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. 

Happy New Year from Culture Builds Florida!

Happy New Year!

As we begin 2019, we are eager to hear and share your stories on Culture Builds Florida. Have a great event, initiative, or story that you think we should know about? Would you like to see your organization or community event featured on this blog? We want to hear from you!

Post submissions are currently being accepted. Posts should be 150-250 words long and include a few pictures.

Post categories are:

  • Grantee Spotlight (short features of our grantee organizations);
  • Art Talk (Q-and-A with Florida arts leaders);
  • Month-in-Review (monthly recap of Florida arts and culture events).

For Grantee Spotlight submissions:

https://goo.gl/forms/3sMwuJWA3bM1orPl2

For Month-in-Review submissions:

https://goo.gl/forms/rNFpweK1euL3y9YH2

Questions? Leave a comment below.

Note: submission does not guarantee publication. 

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!


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. 

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.