Art Talk: Sheila Womble, Executive Director of Arts for Learning

Ms. Womble is a Miami native and has over 15 years of arts leadership experience. She drove Arts for Learning through a significant period of growth and transition by increasing the annual budget over 55% in one year as a result of expanding programs and evaluating initiatives. Her leadership has helped Arts for Learning develop programs that serve children from infancy through high school, allowing Miami’s youth additional opportunities to grow with the arts.

She previously managed a private art collection, handled artists, and community relations and marketing services for ArtCenter/South Florida. She holds a degree in Art History & Anthropology from the University of Miami, and she studied at the Institute for American Studies in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Chat Travieso, students and Sheila Womble

Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA): Why did you choose a career in the arts?

Sheila: I chose a career in the arts because the arts are important to me; they are ever changing, reflecting, challenging and most importantly an endless source of provocation, interest, and beauty.

DCA: How long have you worked in Florida?

Sheila: I am a Miami native and have worked here for 25 years.

DCA: What is the best part of your job?

Sheila: Leading an arts organization, particularly a youth arts organization, has many brilliant and demanding components. The part of my job I enjoy the most is supporting my team, ensuring that they can thrive and succeed.

DCA: Tell us a little bit about your organization. What are you currently working on?

Sheila: Arts for Learning is an amazing organization with the mission of advancing teaching and learning through the arts. Our vision is that Miami’s youngest residents, from infancy through high school, are empowered by the arts to thrive in the world with knowledge, creativity and passion. We deliver programs at preschools, schools and out-of-school locations to reach more than 5,000 children each year. We currently have two very special initiatives. We have partnered with Easter Seals South Florida to work in all of their Head Start Classrooms to make sure our youngest and often most vulnerable residents can thrive and develop key social-emotional skills through the use of the arts in the classroom. We also are in the final stages of working with teens from the Liberty City community to create public works of art that honor the history of their neighborhood while also investigating the remnants of a segregation wall from the 1930s. The students explore the policies of that time that still affect their community, families and schools.

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

Sheila: We give children of all ages and abilities the chance to create. It seems like a simple concept but having a child conceive of an idea, conduct research, learn new techniques (in any artistic discipline) and create a work is to give them a voice and a platform. It is powerful.

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

Sheila: Culture is everything, without culture there is no foundation to build mutual understanding or communication. It is the soul of a community or entity. The arts are a critical part of culture; they help define and shape us as people. When I hear “Culture Builds Florida,” it reinforces what really matters which is how we live our daily lives including what we should prioritize, invest in and nurture.

Arts for Learning video

The Division thanks Sheila Womble and Arts for Learning Miami affiliate for their participation in this interview. To learn more about Arts for Learning, visit their website: http://www.a4lmiami.org/.

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Culture in Florida: November 2019

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 November:


FEATURED FESTIVALS

At the start of November, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum hosted the American Indian Arts Celebration (AIAC) in the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. The festival visitors got to experience dances, native music and meet some wildlife. The festival offered a variety of performances and vendors who brought silverwork, beadwork, woodwork, leatherwork, basketry, photography, paintings, jewelry and an array of food.

event flyer

The Chalk Festival presented its second festival for the year at the Venice Airport Fairgrounds where artists are given a space to create over-sized masterpieces. The Chalk Festival is known for displaying large 3D pavement illusions in one location, but visitors also experienced traditional paintings and original artworks. The “Garden of Wonders” Chalk Festival was open for four days and featured events like the Pavement Music Festival, artistic vendors, performers and food vendors.

A couple taking a picture in one of the Chalk Festival artworks, see original picture on Facebook

SPECIAL EVENTS

The 78th Annual North Florida Fair took place in Tallahassee, FL from November 7th to 17th. The fair was filled with entertainment, food, thrilling rides, educational exhibits and so much more.

Sandtastic Sand Sculpture in the Marketplace building

From November 22nd to 24th. the Professional Development for Artists Workshop took place at Panama City Center for the Arts hosted by Bay Arts Alliance. Artists learned about funding, promoting, growing their business and find resources for sustainability and disaster preparedness.

Final day of Professional Development for Artists Workshop

OPENINGS AND CLOSINGS

The Gulfshore Playhouse started their production of It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play and will performing through December 29th. Prepare to go back to the 1940s in a radio studio where actors will be broadcasting Frank Capra’s film. The show features five actors (Andrea Prestinario, Brian Owen, James Leaming, Jeffrey Binder and Keri Safran) who take on each character and produce live sound effects.

Pictured: Keri Safran in It’s A Wonderful Life, see original post on Facebook

On November 23rd, the Museum of Florida History had an open reception for donated landscape art collection by Ron Risner. The 163 paintings in the collection illustrate Florida’s diverse terrain, featuring springs, rivers and forests.

Henry Von Genk III, Drifting over the Glades, 1988

The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami reopened on November 26th with an exhibition featuring Alice Rahon’s “Poetic Invocations.” The exhibition is guest curated by Mexico City-based art historian, Tere Arcq. The exhibition aims to contribute and recognize under-explored female artists and the European art influences in the Americas.

Next Morning, 1958, 43 7/8 x 76 3/4 inches, Collection of Frances and Don Baxter

UPCOMING IN DECEMBER

The United States premiere of Chopin: The Space Concert, a documentary film by Adam Ustynowicz will feature members of the Brevard Symphony Orchestra and Polish soloists. The premiere will take place at the Kennedy Space Center on December 5th at 7 PM.

On December 15th, the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida will perform at the brand new Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The Chorus will be celebrating their 10th season with singer/songwriter, Jordin Sparks.

Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida event flyer

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Grantee Spotlight: Florida Repertory Theatre

ABOUT FLORIDA REPERTORY THEATRE

The Florida Repertory Theatre (Florida Rep) is a professional regional theatre company in Southwest Florida. Since 1998, Florida Rep has produced a variety of comedies, dramas and musicals. With over 87,000 people attending each year, this theatre has become an essential part of Lee County’s cultural, economic and educational vitality. Their commitment is to create, nurture and develop long-term relationships in the community through arts and accessibility.


Florida Repertory Theatre believes that the arts should be shared with everyone. Florida Rep outreaches to the visually impaired and Blind community by offering Audio Description services at a performance for each play in our Arcade and ArtStage Studio Theatres. Audio Description involves the accessibility of the visual images of theater to people who are blind, have low vision, or who are otherwise visually impaired. Using words that are succinct, vivid, and imaginative, audio describers convey the live action on the stage though an earpiece to the patron. We also provide Braille programs.

Florida Rep also strives to eliminate barriers to attendance for patrons who are hard of hearing or Deaf. Patrons at any performance, in both theatres, can request high tech listening devices; the Williams Sound Amplifier System or the Inductive Hearing Loop System for hearing aids. These devices amplify and clarify sound. We also provide theatregoers who use American Sign Language an ASL performance for the Arcade Theatre shows.

An American Sign Language performance of Florida Rep’s education production, Junie B. Jones – The Musical

DCA funding, along with additional grants and private & corporate donations, has helped pay for these accessibility assistance programs, making art accessible to every audience member in our community in the effort to bring theater to those who otherwise would not have access to the arts. Our next ASL performance of An Inspector Calls will be on Dec 8 at 2pm, and the Audio Description performance will be on 12/15/19 at 2 pm.

See a full schedule of these performances for Florida Rep’s Season 22.

Banner of Florida Rep’s latest production, An Inspector Calls. Photo from Florida Rep’s website

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Culture in Florida: October 2019

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.

October was a busy month for the Division as we celebrated our 50th Anniversary at the Ringling Museum, home to a Museum of Art, the Ca’ d’Zan Mansion, the Circus Museums and the Historic Asolo Theater. The Ringling is the State Art Museum of Florida administered by Florida State University.

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

FEATURED EVENTS

Your Real Stories Gallery & Studio closed their 6th Annual Story Days in Tampa Bay with an art walk and closing reception at the ArtsXchange.

Event flyer on Your Real Stories’ website

The Museum of Arts & Sciences opened three exhibits last month: Biodiversity in the Art of Carel Peiter Brest van Kempen, Volusia Wilderness Captured: Florida Paintings by Sandra Lloyd, and Painting with Paper: The Art of Akiko Sugiyama.

Wave of seeds (2014), Akiko Sugiyama, vellum, watercolor, foam board

SPECIAL REPORT

The University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine and ArtPlace America released: Creating Healthy Communities through Cross-sector Collaboration! Read the full report: https://arts.ufl.edu/sites/creating-healthy-communities/resources/white-paper/

The report presents over 250 thought leaders from public health, arts and culture, and community development sectors who convened between 2018 and 2019. In addition to their voices, over 500 people participated in a national field survey and focus groups. The paper offers examples and recommendations for expanding cross-sector collaboration and innovation.


50TH CELEBRATION

The Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County hosted the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA) 50th Anniversary Celebration. Members of the DCA staff, Florida Council on Arts & Culture, and leaders of the Local Arts Agencies (LAA) were greeted on October 1 with a reception at Florida Studio Theatre.

The following day was filled with business meetings hosted at Asolo Repertory Theatre and the Ringling Museum. Afterwards, everyone joined local elected officials and arts executives for a celebration in the Ringling Courtyard. Jim Shirley, the Executive Director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, served as the master of ceremonies. The DCA staff, Florida Council on Arts & Culture, and LAA leaders were welcomed by the Director of the Division of Cultural Affairs, Sandy Shaughnessy, and the Executive Director of the Ringling, Steven High.

The Florida Secretary of State, Laurel Lee addressed the audience and presented featuring performances by Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and a recent finalist on America’s Got Talent, Emanne Beasha.

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe performing
Emanne Beasha performing
Anniversary cake in the Ringling Courtyard

Stay tuned for an upcoming release of the Division’s 50th Anniversary book, 50 Stories for 50 Years. This book will feature individual artists, fellows, festivals, community centers, local arts agencies, and arts organizations throughout Florida. The book will include the lasting impacts of state funding on arts and culture in Florida’s diverse environments and communities.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Check out the wonderful collection of landscape art donated by Florida resident Ron Risner at the Museum of Florida History. The 163 paintings in the collection illustrate Florida’s unique and varied terrain throughout the sunshine state. The public is invited to the opening reception on November 23, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. For more information, call the Museum of Florida History at (850)-245-6400 or go to www.museumoffloridahistory.com.

banner for Risner’s exhibition

If you haven’t already, apply for South Arts‘ Southern Prize and State Fellowships! Nine artists will share $80,000 in awards and be featured in a touring exhibition. All artists will receive $5,000 State Fellowship where one will be named Southern Prize finalist, receiving an additional $10,000 and one will be named Southern Prize winner, receiving an additional $25,000 and a 2-week residency at the Hambridge Center for Creative Arts & Sciences. The deadline to apply is December 3. For more information go to https://www.southarts.org/individual-artists/southern-prize-artist-fellowships/?fbclid=IwAR1OgmP4nPQlZVMg4LkCZWkySMeGciROsQ5jFLqoU_XuiL6dUsSV0Z7ZDkM.

Southern Prize artwork square

Make sure to check in with your local arts council this month as performing arts organizations begin their new seasons across the state!


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. 

Special Feature: Foo Foo Festival

Festival logo

Do you Foo? There’s nothing quite like Pensacola, Florida in the Fall and if it’s Fall that means it’s time for Foo Foo Fest!

The highly-anticipated arts and culture festival, one of the largest in the South, spans an impressive 12 days and has blossomed into a “don’t miss” event for both tourists and locals alike. Pensacola will host the 6th Annual Foo Foo Festival from October 31 to November 11, 2019. This year’s Foo Foo Fest line up runs the gamut from internationally-acclaimed classical piano virtuoso Garrick Ohlsson, renowned jazz band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Multi-Grammy nominated musician Marsha Ambrosius to “Skulptures” (a display of 3D printable skateable concrete structures) and a performance of The Savannah Sipping Society (a new play by The Golden Girls writers). Strategically positioned around and during some of Pensacola’s most popular events, the 12-day Foo Foo Fest straddles some of the area’s longstanding and favorite happenings including the 47th Annual Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival, the Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show, Pensacola Eggfest and the 35th Annual Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival.

Stompfest Step Show

Foo Foo Fest is big fun, with events of high artistic and cultural caliber, delivered with a hefty dose of Southern sophistication. Pensacola’s pristine sugar-white beaches and emerald green water entice visitors from all over the world. Upon arrival in the delightful Florida panhandle city, many find themselves equally captivated by its history, culture and diverse heritage. The Foo Foo Festival profiles and celebrates this wide array of culture throughout the city, featuring innovative and extraordinary artists from all genres including art, music, theatre and much more.

In addition to the plethora of arts and cultural happenings during Foo Foo Fest, Pensacola offers year-round historic walking tours, a large farmer’s market, quaint shops, food trucks and brewery tours. Visitors can stroll along the bay, enjoy the beautiful beaches, experience the culinary arts scene, and take in historic sites all staged in the backdrop of relaxed elegance unique to this historic city on the Gulf Coast.

For more information, visit: www.foofoofest.com

A crowd watching a music performance

Interested in seeing your organization featured on Culture Builds Florida? Please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/vqbSaYZypLbGqMH89

Culture in Florida: September 2019

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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.

September was as busy a month as ever! Arts and cultural organizations across the state celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month, a diverse group of festivals were held, and many interesting art exhibits opened to the public.

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


FEATURED FESTIVAL

Hemming Park in Jacksonville, Florida hosted their second annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration with an evening of music, dance, food, and fun for all families presented by VyStar Credit Union. Performances included Orchestra Fuego, CaribeGroove, and Danzas Perujax.


SPECIAL EVENTS

The Young at Art Museum (YAA) is celebrating their 30th anniversary. As part of their celebrations, the YAA offered 2 for 1 admission throughout the month. September is also Broward Arts and Attractions Month which encourages museum visitors to experience the diversity of cultures throughout 17 museums in Broward County.

The United Arts of Central Florida, UF Center for Arts in Medicine, ArtPlace America, and the Division of Cultural Affairs presented the Creating Healthy Communities: Arts + Public Health Florida Conference on September 23-24 hosted by Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and The Pabst Steinmetz Foundation. Over 250 attendees of art professionals, public health professionals, educators, researchers and government officials, from around the nation, gathered to connect at the intersections of the arts, public health, and community development.


OPENINGS AND CLOSINGS

The Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra (TSO) began their concert season this month with French Impressions featuring music by French composers including Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. Conrad Tao was the featured pianist for the TSO’s first concert.

The Museum of Florida History hosted the 37th Annual Capital City Quilt Show Autumn Reverie on September 27th. This exhibit will be on display until November 3, in partnership with the Quilters Unlimited of Tallahassee. Quilters will be there to answer questions and give information about quilting. A scavenger hunt, interactive stitch boards, and magnetic quilt table are also available for young visitors.

Each year, the exhibit highlights the Opportunity Quilt, designed by members of the guild. This year’s quilt features Autumn Reverie. The quilt design is from the Lakeshore Hosta quilt pattern by Judy and Brad Niemeyer. Visitors have a chance to win the Opportunity Quilt be making a contribution to Quilters Unlimited.

2019 Opportunity Quilt, Autumn Reverie

UPCOMING IN OCTOBER

The Spanish Lyric Theatre is presenting an off-Broadway hit filled with your favorite songs from the 50’s and 60’s, The Marvelous Wonderettes.

Join the Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden for their 2019 Lantern Festival on Saturday, October 19 from 3 to 8 pm. General admission ticket sales start at 10 am on October 7.

A SMALL THANK YOU

Here at the Division of Cultural Affairs, we finished all the grant panel meetings. A big thank you to every panelist and arts representative who participated in the meetings. We appreciate your time and hard work!


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Grantee Feature: Bay Arts Alliance Reflects Upon Post-Hurricane Michael

About the Bay Arts Alliance

Founded in 1978 and located in Panama City Center for the Arts, Bay Arts Alliance has served as the local arts agency for Bay County. Their mission is to inspire a lifelong appreciation for the arts. They provide opportunities for cultural enrichment through exhibitions, educational experiences, and quality performances.


On October 10, 2018, Bay County was hit with a Category 5 hurricane named Michael. As the year anniversary of the storm approaches, Bay Arts Alliance, Bay County’s Local Arts Agency, reflects on recovery and expresses hope for the future. We asked the new Executive Director, Jayson Kretzer about his thoughts about the current state of the Arts in Bay County.

Marina Civic Center before Hurricane Michael

“When Michael hit, we were shell shocked…we’re probably still shocked. Nothing can prepare you for the devastation of a storm that strong.

Our community lost over 90% of our trees, tens of thousands of jobs, and 100% of our buildings were either damaged, or simply destroyed.

The arts were just as devastated.

Out of all the arts buildings, theaters, and galleries in the county, only a few remain.

We lost one of the venues we’ve managed for decades, the Marina Civic Center —the largest performing arts venue in Bay County—but the other, the Panama City Center for the Arts, reopened a few days after the storm, and we’ve been able to provide much needed arts programming to the community as we recover.

Damages inside and outside the center
Wreckage of the Marina Civic Center sign

As the anniversary approaches and we take stock of the arts community, we can honestly say that things are improving. Arts groups have combined forces in the galleries and arts buildings that remain open. Performance groups have adapted to smaller, alternate venues, once again able to host music and theatre performances. And artists are slowly finding inspiration again despite the upheaval of homes and businesses.

As our galleries and theatres reopen over the next few years, we are hopeful for the future.

We aren’t going to pretend that the road ahead will be easy. As with most communities there are many obstacles in the way—chief among them will be gaining city and public support to keep the arts at the forefront of rebuilding efforts.

We all know that the arts are powerhouse economic drivers, but now it’s our job to remind our local and county officials of that fact as they make plans for the future.

Arts are essential to the health of a community. Right now Bay County is suffering, but we are going to continue to do everything we can to ensure our city, our arts organizations, and our artists have the resources they need to survive and thrive.”

For more information, please visit the Bay Arts Alliance website: https://www.bayarts.org


Interested in seeing your organization featured on Culture Builds Florida? Please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/vqbSaYZypLbGqMH89

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:

5_AmyGross_IrisMushroomBiotope

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.

2_AmyGross_SilverBees(h.miserablilis)Adapting,

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

Meet the Florida Council on Arts and Culture: Katharine Dickenson

The Florida Council on Arts and Culture is the 15-member advisory council appointed to advise the Secretary of State regarding cultural grant funding and on matters pertaining to culture in Florida.

Appointments to the Council are determined by the Governor, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, in consultation with the Secretary of State. The Governor manages seven seats that serve four-year terms. The President and Speaker manage four seats each, with terms of two years. The appointments are based on geographic representation, as well as demonstrated history of community service in the arts and culture.

In this bi-monthly series, we will introduce you to each member of the council and share their thoughts on the role of arts and culture in the state of Florida. This month, we chatted with Council Chairman Katharine Dickenson. Katharine was re-appointed to the Council by Governor Scott in 2018. 


katharine photoDivision of Cultural Affairs (DCA): Tell us a little about yourself.

Katharine: As a lifelong Floridian, I have been fortunate to see the state of Florida develop into a world class arts destination. Growing up in Jacksonville I was lucky to have had an early start in theater. As a Girl Scout, I played Juliette Gordon Low, Girl Scout founder, to a packed audience in a church hall wearing bloomers. Moving to Miami as a young teenager, I acted in several plays at my high school. “Glee Plays the Game” and “The Mouse That Roared” were two of my early Thespian efforts. In “Glee” I had to flounce around the stage and in “Mouse” I was a dedicated secretary to the Prime Minister. I found I was a much better “flouncer” than a secretary.

At home, my family had an interest in the arts. My father would show slides of famous paintings after dinner and we would occasionally listen to opera and jazz. I loved the slides but opera was harder for me to understand. Now of course I love it.

I attended the University of Miami graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Education and a Master’s Degree in College Student Personnel Work. I wanted to be a Dean of Women in a college or university. My Graduate Assistantship work consisted of programming speakers and events for the large student union. Some of the events included Dionne Warwick, Andy Warhol, The Aboriginal Missionaries Band (spoiler alert: my brother’s band), and Gene Shepard, American Storyteller and radio and TV personality, amongst others. I even spent a day with Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey and Viva as chair of the Program Council at the University of Miami. Buy me a coke and I will tell you about that.

Retiring from the stage early, I began a career of community leadership and advocacy in Boca Raton with an emphasis on Historic Preservation and the Arts. Serving as President of the Junior League, Chair of the Historical Society Board and the Palm Beach County Historic Preservation Board was a privilege. I was appointed to the Florida Historic Preservation Advisory Council in 1983 by the Secretary of State to review grants, set policy and advocate with the Legislature.

Nationally, I served on the board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, The Edith Wharton Home in Lenox, MA, the Robert Todd Lincoln home in Vermont and the Manchester Music Festival as well as the Dorset Theater Festival also in Vermont. Recently, I served on the board of the Lynn University Conservatory of Music in Boca Raton.  In 2010, the Department of The Interior appointed me to a Federal Commission to celebrate the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine, which was held in 2015. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied city in America, and our year-long celebration culminated in hosting the King and Queen of Spain as our guests.

DCA: What do you think when you hear “Culture Builds Florida?

Katharine: The Arts are for everyone, with enjoyment coming from creating, producing or being an audience member. They create soul-changing experiences that unite us as a people, a culture and as a social organism– giving us laughter, tears and pure enjoyment for a full life. In Florida, The Division of Cultural Affairs and The Council on Arts and Culture strive to do this every day, every way for everyone.

DCA: For you, what is the most Inspiring part about working in the arts?

Katharine: For me, working as a member of this Council since 2001 and chairing it several times, I find it most inspiring to be able to affect change. In a field that is home to 29,735 creative industries with a $14 billion annual payroll creating $49.7 million in annual revenue, the Arts are clearly a player in state industries. This success creates economic prosperity and makes our state livable and attractive.

DCA: What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the Florida Council on Arts and Culture?

Katharine: As a longtime member of the Council, I have seen the “glory days” when legislative support for Florida’s arts and cultural programs was over $40 million dollars and also the years where only $2 million was awarded to run the same number of programs. It is my job as a member of the Florida Council on Arts and Culture to work towards greater legislative support for the role of the arts in creating a diverse and successful state. Florida has the potential to have one of the finest statewide arts and cultural programs in the country. We who love the arts must encourage advocacy, diligent grant reading, and speaking aloud in support of the arts in our individual cities in order for things to change.

Currently, I live in Vero Beach happily representing Indian River County after 48 years in Boca Raton and representing my beloved Palm Beach County.


 

Meet the Florida Council on Arts and Culture: Heather Mayo

The Florida Council on Arts and Culture is the 15-member advisory council appointed to advise the Secretary of State regarding cultural grant funding and on matters pertaining to culture in Florida.

Appointments to the Council are determined by the Governor, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, in consultation with the Secretary of State. The Governor manages seven seats that serve four-year terms. The President and Speaker manage four seats each, with terms of two years. The appointments are based on geographic representation, as well as demonstrated history of community service in the arts and culture.

In this bi-monthly series, we will introduce you to each member of the council and share their thoughts on the role of arts and culture in the state of Florida. This month, we chatted with the council’s newest member, Heather Mayo. Heather was appointed to the council in April 2018 by House Speaker Corcoran. 


Heather Mayo - HeadshotDCA: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Heather: I am a Tallahassee, Florida born-and-raised resident who has a great love for the arts. The arts have always played an integral role in my life, and my involvement in the arts began at a very young age when my mother, a ballet instructor enrolled me in dance lessons at the age of three. At seven years old, I picked up the guitar for the first time and discovered my passion for music. Throughout the years, I have played various genres on the guitar but mainly focused on studying the styles of classical and jazz guitar during my studies as an undergraduate student at the Florida State University College of Music. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Commercial Music in 2006, I worked at a prominent recording studio on music row in Nashville, TN and learned various aspects of the music business. Four years later, I decided to return to FSU to pursue a Masters in Arts Administration and to dedicate my career to working as an arts administrator in the non-profit arts sector.

Currently, I have the privilege of working for Florida State University as the Assistant Director of Production and Community Engagement within our College of Music. In my position, I help oversee our performance hall production coordination and assist in various outreach, engagement and entrepreneurial activities of the College. As a volunteer, I am currently serving as the Immediate Past-President of the Friends of Dance Council within the College of Fine Arts at Florida State University, and I am also serving as a 2018 Catalyst with the Knight Creative Communities Institute in Tallahassee.

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

Heather: When I hear “Culture Builds Florida”, I think of economic growth and social impact. In the most recent Arts and Economic Prosperity study conducted by Americans for the Arts, it was found that the arts and culture sector is a $4.68 billion industry in Florida. The arts and culture industry in our state supports 132,366 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $492.3 million in local and state government revenue [1] In my hometown of Leon County, FL the nonprofits arts and culture sector is a $201.9 million industry which supports 7,161 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $26.6 million in local and state government revenue.[2]  To me, these numbers prove that the “Arts Mean Business!” The arts support job growth, generate government revenue and attract cultural tourism in our state.

In addition to impacting our state’s economy, arts and culture contribute in countless ways to the well-being of our state by making a social impact in our everyday lives. The arts enable us to uphold our cultural identity as Floridians but also keep us moving forward in innovative ways that are relevant. Arts and culture celebrate diversity and inclusion by bringing people together under one purpose. They enable us to express ourselves, our feelings, and our beliefs creatively. They help us heal; they contribute to our health and wellness. They are vital to the education of our children. They allow us to reflect on our society, on world issues and on our own lives in meaningful ways.

 DCA: For you, what is the most inspiring part about working in the arts?

Heather: For me, the most inspiring part about working in the arts is the opportunity I have to work in an industry that makes a difference in people’s lives through a creative process. The best example of this in my own world is witnessing a performance come to fruition after our team has spent months preparing for its premiere. There is so much behind-the-scenes work that goes into each production, but the most rewarding part is to see it all come together successfully. Some of my most favorite moments are when I stand in the back of the concert hall and witness the joyful impact the performance is having on an audience member’s life. I often think to myself, “Wow, we helped create this moment for them!” Those are the times I feel most inspired.

Another aspect I love about working in the arts are the relationships that are made along the way. On a daily basis, I get to work with a fantastic team of colleagues who inspire me to be more excellent in everything I do. I also have the wonderful opportunity to work with multiple artists at the local, national and international level. Through these relationships, I have seen the power in collaboration and how we can spur on each other to new creative heights.

DCA: What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the Florida Council on Arts and Culture?

Heather: First and foremost I hope to support the mission of the Department of State and the Division of Cultural Affairs through my service on this council. I genuinely believe that state arts agencies are one of the most significant vehicles our country has to fulfill our public duty to the arts. By representing all interests of the state, the Division helps ensure that the economic, educational, and civic benefits of the arts are made available to all Floridians. For that, I am thankful for the work the Division is doing for us on a daily basis and look forward to supporting their efforts.

Alongside my fellow council members, I also hope to strengthen strategic partnerships and boost arts advocacy conversations with art constituents throughout the state. It’s no secret that we are living in a time in which advocating for the arts needs to be at the forefront of our daily lives. With this in mind, I hope we as art constituents can become familiar with the economic impact of the arts within our own immediate communities and that we can also be prepared to express how the arts enhance our quality of life. In turn, I hope that through these increased conversations, we can come together as an arts community and jointly make an impact in preserving the cultural heritage of our great State of Florida.

[1] http://dos.myflorida.com/media/698818/artseconomicprosperityfl.pdf

[2] https://coca.tallahasseearts.org/uploads/documents/COCA_Arts__Economic_Prosperity_Bklt_v2.pdf