Special Feature: Artist Amy Gross

AmyGrossEach year, the regional arts agency South Arts awards a State Fellowship to an artist in each of its nine member states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Southern Prize is awarded to one of these nine artists and South Arts also awards one finalist. This year’s finalist is Florida’s Fellow, Amy Gross, a mixed media artist living in Delray Beach. We asked Amy to tell us a bit about her journey and why Culture Builds Florida.


Amy Gross:

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Iris Mushroom Biotope by Amy Gross

One thing I have discovered is that a path only seems to make sense when you turn around and look back at it. As a teenager, one of my favorite songs featured the line “How did I get here?” suggesting a randomness that was very appealing at the time. But now, when I ask myself that kind of question, much of it can be answered by this one fact: I moved to the state of Florida.

I was born and grew up on Long Island, New York, halfway between the ocean and New York City. My father was a painter and a textile designer, my Mom a lover of books and music. I never had to argue a case for being an artist, and because my dad was raising a family of four as an art director, it was proven fact that you could make a life for yourself as a creative person. I majored in Fine Art at Cooper Union in Manhattan and studied everything I could get my hands on there: graphic design and painting, printmaking, calligraphy, sculpture. I graduated into the terrifying New York City art world of the late eighties and early nineties, and being a shy person, wilted immediately.  And realized that surviving was going to be for me like it was for everyone else on Earth, I set about finding something I could do well and make a living from.

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Spora Mutatus by Amy Gross

So I became a textile designer like my Dad, expanding into surface design as time passed: children’s bedding, baby blankets, slumber bags and rugs, plush toys, dolls, magic show stages, beach towels. I freelanced for over twenty years, working with Sesame Street and Disney and Warner Brothers, Elmo and Winnie the Pooh and Bugs Bunny. I painted at night for a long time, but the ideas I had about what kind of artist I was morphed and changed. I would only answer to the title “designer,” which is unfair to every graphic artist out there, and which only applied to my own confusion of identity. I had a lot of unformed assumptions about what kind of personality made interesting art, thinking I had some of the elements but not enough to justify sharing my work with anyone outside my family. I kept sketchbooks and journals, but they were for me alone, and I felt almost liberated by the loss of the labels I had stuck onto everything creative when I first left art school. I figured that I had chosen my path.

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Silver Bees, (h.miserablis), Adapting by Amy Gross

Then I moved to Florida. My extended family had lived here since the seventies, so I assumed that it would be known territory. I was wrong. In the almost twenty years I have lived here, Delray Beach and South Florida have been so multilayered I’m still discovering it. In New York I was always on the periphery of the art community, but once here I was almost immediately welcomed into the creative world. Museums held talks where the artists were right there in front of me, answering my questions. Studios were opened up, galleries had exhibits by people that might be too much of a risk in more expensive places.

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Silver Bees, (h.miserablis), Adapting, detail, by Amy Gross

Within months I was standing on the sidewalk in Lake Worth next to my favorite artist, a person I was too in awe of to speak to. But imagine – I could have, if I had worked up the nerve. And I became friends with working artists from places all over the world, interesting people bringing experiences to their work that I had known little about. There was an openness, a generosity that I wasn’t used to, a camaraderie that suggested that competition was not the only motivation that made you want to work hard.

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Brood Comb Biotope by Amy Gross

I became excited about the prospect of being an artist again. The landscape here fascinated me, the constant and accelerated growth, the tension between the natural and the man-made, the battle between the native plants and the invasive foliage, the adaption and symbiosis that weaves itself into every story here. Plants tangle and overwhelm any structure that isn’t constantly managed, rainforests thrive in between gated subdivisions. Water turns solid from duckweed, strangler figs squeeze palms, reptiles sleep in your drain pipes. I vitally needed to describe these collages of elements, to combine them with my own life experiences and mix the things I could see with what I could not. I started making my embroidered canvases and later, fiber sculptures to describe my fascination with this strange environment and turn this awe into metaphors that tell a story of a human’s experience within it.

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Mycorrhiza by Amy Gross

Florida’s creative inclusiveness was a very important factor in my finding a place for what I do in the outside world. This is why Culture Builds Florida. My mentors in Palm Beach County encouraged me to go beyond my earliest ambitions, to push my boundaries. And my most recent experience, being chosen as the 2019 Fellow for the State of Florida for the South Arts Southern Prize, was an affirmation I did not imagine or expect. My process is primarily a solitary and internal one; I make things now from an inner conviction and I still look up and am surprised that what I do has a life outside of my studio. So when I found myself in a room celebrating art making with South Arts, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the myriad sponsors, I was floored. I was surrounded by people who are deeply invested in the arts and the lives of art makers, who understand its value and what it can do for the community. Their gift of support and its translation into precious time to work made me even more grateful that I get to do what I love to do. It took me a while to get to the place where I could meet them all, and their affirming “Yes!” will stay with me wherever my work goes next.

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Collection by Amy Gross

Grantee Spotlight: Creative Clay

Creative Clay’s General Support Grant helps the organization fund their day-to-day activities. Their core program is the Community Arts Program, which serves 50-60 adult artists with neuro-differences each week. Through the implementation of additional offerings, such as the inclusive Art Around the World summer camp, Summer Studio for older teens and young adults, Artlink employment program, Creative Care Arts in Wellness outreach program and the Pinellas County Schools’january-february-2018-final partnership Transition program, individuals of all ages and abilities are mentored, taught and empowered to become working artists who actively create, market and sell their work. The end result is that a formerly stigmatized population, through the art it creates and sells, demystifies stereotypes surrounding those with disabilities and creates a culture of acceptance throughout the community.
Visit Creative Clay at their website or their new location at 1846 First Avenue South in St. Petersburg.

GRANTEE SPOTLIGHT: OSCEOLA HISTORICAL SOCIETY’S GENERAL STORE FOR PIONEER VILLAGE AT SHINGLE CREEK

The Osceola Counoctober-2017-newsletter-finalty Historical Society (OCHS) used their Cultural Facilities grant to expand the Pioneer Village at Shingle Creek. OCHS has recently built three replica buildings: a schoolhouse, a train depot, and a church. The most recently completed building is the General Store.

The general store was one of the focal points of a pioneer village. What made the store “general” was that it sold a variety of items. Many pioneers grew or raised their own food, but having a local store gave them an opportunity to purchase things they could not procure elsewhere. These items would have included clothing material, tools, dried goods and even horse saddles. The general store also provided a place for the locals to see each other and swap news and stories.

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The General Store replica takes shape

OCHS’s new General Store is a replica of the H. E. Page General Store, which served those who lived in and around Narcoossee. Included inside is the town Post Office, which boasts the original post office boxes for the town of Narcoossee from the 1880s to the 1940s. The General Store’s grand opening was during the 26th Annual Pioneer Day, November 11, 2017.

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The original H.E. Page General Store

 

Grantee Spotlight: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ Marc Chagall, Flowers, and the French Riviera: The Color of Dreams

Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota has enjoyed an overwhelming response this year to its Picture4latest exhibition featuring the artist Marc Chagall’s nature-inspired artwork and personal effects. The immersive exhibition, Marc Chagall, Flowers, and the French Riviera: The Color of Dreams, introduced a new way of examining the artwork of the prolific artist. The exhibition opened February 12 and continued through July 31, 2017.

The six-month exhibition garnered record-breaking attendance numbers to this 15-acre bayfront botanical garden. The visitor experience included a glass house conservatory where reproductions of Chagall’s nature-inspired stained glass were displayed among living plants. Visitors also strolled  the grounds of the gardens which were enhanced with flora that evoked the south of France, the land that inspired Chagall and where he spent much of the later part of his life.

Additionally, the exhibition included Chagall’s masterwork painting The Lovers (1937), on loan fromthe Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and two additional paintings loaned from a private collector that have not been publicly exhibited before. Also on view were archival photos and personal effects from Chagall’s studio.

Accompanying cultural performances, special events, classes and lectures supported the exhibition, along with a French-inspired menu served at the on-site cafe.

Photos © Matthew Holler. / Stained glass © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York ADAGP, Paris

 

Grantee Spotlight: Lighthouse ArtCenter

The Lighthouse ArtCenter Gallery in Tequesta, Florida introduced a glorious celebration of children’s book authors and illustrators this summer.

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Funny Farm, Mark Teague

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My Busy Green Garden, Carol Schwartz

Drawn to the Arts, a unique exhibition that will run from June 8 through August 11, 2017, engages visitors of all ages as they explore the magical process of creating and enjoying children’s books.

Some of the nation’s bestselling illustrators and writers have generously lent their acclaimed work to exhibit including: Tomie DePaola, Mark Teague, Linda Shute, E.B. Lewis, Bill Farnsworth, Raul Colón, Layne Johnson, Henry Cole, Fred Koehler, Priscilla Burris and Kelly Light.

Janeen Mason, the Curator of the Lighthouse ArtCenter, describes the exhibition, “Here

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Big Bug, Henry Cole

in the Village of Tequesta we are honored to have these popular, well-loved illustrators send us their best work for all of our young and young at heart visitors to enjoy.”

For more information, visit www.lighthousearts.org/.

Sarah Crooks Flaire Decorates Florida’s Holiday Tree

Jacksonville artist Sarah Crooks Flaire of evervess art studio was recently selected to make ornaments for the National Parks Service to display as part of my faceAmerica Celebrates: Ornaments from Across the USA. The display at President’s Park at the White House features holiday trees decorated with ornaments designed by local artists from each U.S. State and territory as well as the District of Columbia. The ornaments reflect National Parks Service parks and programs, and the artist has taken her inspiration from the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve at the mouth of the St. Johns River.

We asked her a few questions about the project, and she was kind enough to answer them!

Why were you chosen to make the ornaments for the Florida holiday tree at the Pathway of Peace for the National Parks Service?

I am an environmental artist passision flowerand a certified Florida Master Naturalist, so
creating ornaments to celebrate the National Parks must have seemed like a natural fit. I make images and experiences that connect us to the natural world, while appealing to all ages, I express a deep sense of spiritual ecology
.

Can you please describe your process in physically making the
ornaments? How did you choose what materials to use?

The ornaments celebrate the flora and fauna of the estuary of the Timucuan Preserve and highlight the importance of oysters. I use recycled cd’s to represent a waterline and miniature worlds above and below that surface. Continue reading

Artist Brian R. Owens Brings Windover Woman to Life

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

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

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

CBF: What did you have to work from?

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

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

Spotlight On: A 300th Birthday with the C. P. E. Bach Festival

C. P. E. Bach is having a 300th birthday party in Tallahassee! The “C. P. E Bach at 300” festival features three days of concerts and lectures that celebrate the life, music, and influence of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach’s fifth child, born 300 years ago in 1714. The festival is presented through a partnership with the FSU College of Music, Musicology area and Early Music Ensembles, with the Tallahassee Bach Parley, and will take place from Friday, November 21 until Sunday, November 23.

Members of the Tallahassee Bach Parley

Members of the Tallahassee Bach Parley. Photo submitted by Erica Thaler.

“This three-day festival is an exciting partnership between the FSU College of Music and the Tallahassee Bach Parley,” says Bach Parley music director Valerie Arsenault. “FSU music faculty and students, guest artists from out-of-town, and Tallahassee community musicians will join forces to present the music and world of C. P. E. Bach.” The Tallahassee community is home to a thriving community of Baroque players and enthusiasts, and this festival offers three days of unique musical opportunities for patrons to enjoy.

Most of the performances will be on period instruments, including fortepiano (an early incarnation of the modern piano), clavichord (a delicate, intimate, soft-sounding keyboard instrument), along with harpsichord, organ, modern and baroque flutes, period stringed instruments, and guest artist Josh Lee on viola da gamba. Special guest Mark Knoll, a founder of the Tallahassee Bach Parley and FSU College of Music alumnus, will be returning to give the keynote lecture and musical commentary for the concerts. By using period instruments, the musicians will recreate the music using the same tools as when it was first written. History and music will come to life with commentary about the pieces and lectures to provide insight into the works and world of C. P. E. Bach.

One of the trademarks of the Tallahassee Bach Parley is to provide commentary before the pieces, to give audience members historical background about the composer or the piece, and to give listeners ideas about what to listen for in the music. In fact, the word “Parley” means discussion, so providing an opportunity to talk about the works is part of what makes the Bach Parley unique. Similarly, the entire festival combines guest lectures in addition to performances, so audience members can learn more about the world in which C. P. E. Bach lived and composed his music, bringing the past to life.

The festival will begin on Friday evening with an intimate clavichord performance by Charles Brewer at FSU in the Kuersteiner Music Building lounge (limited seating), followed by a lecture “C. P. E. Bach at 300, An Overview: Life, Family, Works, Reception” in Lindsay Recital Hall by visiting scholar Mark Knoll, founder of Steglein Publishing and an editor of the new C. P. E. Bach edition through the Packard Humanities Institute.

On Saturday, Dr. Knoll will give a pre-concert lecture followed by a concert of chamber, vocal, and solo keyboard music, including fortepiano, organ, and harpsichord in Opperman Music Hall, FSU. This concert will feature FSU College of Music faculty members Sarah Eyerly (soprano), Joel Hastings (fortepiano), Eva Amsler (modern and baroque flute), Iain Quinn (organ and harpsichord), along with FSU student performers.

In the final concert on Sunday, the Tallahassee Bach Parley will join forces with members of the FSU Baroque Ensemble for orchestral and chamber music. Kim Jones will be featured in C. P. E. Bach’s Concerto in A major for cello, and the large ensemble will also play the Berlin Symphony in G major. For the chamber music portion, guest artist Josh Lee will perform a viola da gamba sonata, and Eva Amsler, Melissa Brewer, Iain Quinn, and Valerie Arsenault will play duos, trios, and a quartet.

For additional information about the festival or the Tallahassee Bach Parley, visit www.tallahasseebachparley.org or e-mail musicdirector@tallahasseebachparley.org. The FSU College of Music publicity office can be reached at music-publicity@admin.fsu.edu.

Poetry as a Means to Understand and Cope with the Social Difficulties of Having Autism

by Jacob Richard Cumiskey

My name is Jacob, and I am a twenty-one year old undergraduate at Warren Wilson College studying poetry. I have a disability known as Asperger syndrome: an Autism Spectrum Disorder that manifests itself through extreme discomfort in most social situations and difficulties in non-verbal communication. The phrase “non-verbal” can be a bit misleading here, because while I personally have a very difficult time reading body language from my friends or hand signals from my parents, I have a very comfortable time communicating to the world through my writing. I have been writing poetry for around nine years, and I believe there may be reasons linked to my disability as to why poetry comes more naturally to me than socializing, and the truth behind these reasons might not just be important for the autistic community to understand, but for the state of Florida to know as well.

Autism has become a hot word in our state recently, but there seems to be some pretty dangerous patterns regarding people’s initial take on what having an Autism Spectrum Disorder (an ASD) means. There is this tendency to either reduce individuals with an ASD to people with basic social anxiety or demonize them to the point of labeling their behavior as intentional social deviance. Doctors and scholars naturally have a much more empirical view on ASD—having linked differences in social behavior with differences in brain structure— but in my opinion, the ways in which the general public is learning about autism these days is extremely silly. The behaviors of a shark need to be researched from afar because we cannot ask the shark why it does the things it does, but some people with autism can be asked what their life is like and explain directly (or indirectly) what autism means to them.

The arts are an easy example of how this can be accomplished.

First and most important, eye-to-eye discussion is not always necessary with art, and so just about any artistic medium can act as an outlet for people with an ASD to discuss things they wouldn’t normally be comfortable talking about. Writing, for example, creates a safe environment where it is just the person and some paper. A blank page (or canvas, or journal) is the perfect listener and has zero social expectations for the artist, and this makes all the difference in terms of comfort. As someone with autism myself, one of the main reasons why I chose to write poetry over other forms of artistic expression is because it gives me the chance to speak without having to be spoken to or observed. I feel safe when writing because essentially nothing is expected of my behavior when I am alone with the page, unlike just about every other moment of my life. Poetry provides an opportunity for me to feel easy about my own thoughts, and so instead of forcing kids and adults with an ASD to participate in uncomfortable social experiences in order to help them “grow,” doesn’t it make more sense to allow the autistic community a means to indirectly communicate with neurotypicals through the arts? Wouldn’t art be an effective way to help people with autism grow comfortable with their own voice?

The arts can be no replacement for day-to-day communication, I know this, but art also creates the chance for normally unacceptable forms of communication to be celebrated and allows for an individual’s confidence to build. Through poetry, I may not have immediately begun socializing with other people, but I slowly learned to feel confident and safe with my own thoughts, and this confidence is the key to prosperous social interaction. In time, I hope our state will begin notice this valuable correlation between autism and the arts even more. So many people with an ASD are relentlessly treated like social pariahs by their peers; at the very least, it is essential for people on the autism spectrum to have a place where thoughts can be explored safely. Poetry is this for me, and I hope it might already be this for a few other people with an ASD as well.

As a personal example of the concepts I have been talking about, recently a good friend of mine asked me how I feel being in a long-distance relationship. Because of my autism, this was naturally a hard question for me to answer in the moment, and so I began working on a response to this through poetry. Writing this was not only more comfortable for me personally, but I feel as if it became a more effective form of communication than me just speaking on the subject immediately. What do you guys think?

I had to write some stuff to myself before I could answer her question.

I had to write some stuff to myself before I could answer her question.

My response.

My response.

Jacob Cumiskey recently spoke at the Florida Alliance for Arts Education 2014 summit in a session entitled “Access through the Arts: One Student’s Journey to the Neurotypical World in the Public School Setting.”

Spotlight On: Professional Development for Artists at Convening Culture 2014

by Tim Storhoff

Convening Culture 2014 will take place January 28-29 at the Vero Beach Museum of Art.

Convening Culture 2014 will take place January 28-29 at the Vero Beach Museum of Art.

On January 29 during the statewide cultural conference, “Convening Culture 2014: Connecting the Arts with Environmental Conservation,” there will be multiple opportunities for Florida artists to present their work, meet other artists and patrons, and gain important career skills. One conference highlight for artists will be the two professional development sessions presented by the Creative Capital Foundation.

Creative Capital is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing integrated financial and advisory support to artists pursuing adventurous projects in multiple disciplines. Through their Professional Development Program, which has been developed by artists for artists, Creative Capital has provided career, community and confidence building tools to help all artists become successful in their fields. In its first ten years, this program has reached more than 5,500 artists in 150 communities. The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs has been partnering with Creative Capital to present professional development workshops in Florida since 2007.

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The Creative Capital sessions at Convening Culture 2014 will be:

  • Social Media: How to be Everywhere, All the Time
    Includes strategies and practical tips on how to most effectively use social media to communicate about your work and ideas; expand your audience, peer and professional network; and create a deeper connection with the general public.
  • Advocacy & Support Systems
    Provides perspectives on the important role artists can play in advocating for themselves, each other, and the field while explaining ways to develop support systems with other artists and strengthen connections between artists and non-arts partners.

The Creative Capital sessions will be presented by Eve Mosher, an artist and interventionist living and working in New York City. Her works raise issues of involvement in the environment, public/private space use, history of place, cultural and social issues and our own understanding of the urban ecosystem. In addition to being a consultant/leader for Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program, Eve is an Assistant Professor at Parsons the New School for Design. Her public and community-based artworks have received grants from New York State Council on the Arts and New York Department of Cultural Affairs, both through the Brooklyn Arts Council and The City Parks Foundation.

For a taste of the information presented by the Professional Development Program, visit Creative Capital’s The Lab blog. Spaces at Convening Culture are limited, so view the full schedule and register now at florida-arts.org/conveningculture.

The original version of this article appeared in the November 2012 Cultural Connection, the newsletter of the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. We encourage you to sign up for our mailing list to receive future updates.