Spotlight on: Italian Culture in Florida & The Italian Family Festa

Submitted by Elizabeth Ricci

This is the “Year of Italian Culture in the U.S.” according to the Italian embassy in Washington, DC. 2013 “commences a journey that will communicate and promote Italy, engage and enthuse Americans, strengthen the bonds that unite us and create new ones.” New bonds are being formed and old bonds strengthened every day here in the Sunshine State. According to the National Italian American Foundation, Florida is home to approximately eighteen Italian Festivals and just over one million people of Italian heritage.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Two Italian-American women in Tallahassee, Shelley Duke and Elizabeth Ricci, recognized the need to celebrate their shared culture and founded the Tallahassee Italian Family Festa in 2010. The event was so popular that it was named “Best Inaugural Festival” by the National Association of Italian Festivals and one of the “Top Ten Festivals” to attend by the Miami Herald. Having run out of specialty Italian food the first year and out of space the second year, the third annual Italian Family Festa will celebrate all things Italian on new grounds and with an abundance of pastries and specialty foods as well as offering cultural activities and “famiglia” fun. An Italian consulate attaché will be on hand with words from the Italian Consul General in Miami.

The entertainment celebrates ancient Italian art forms including the Cirque Italiano, opera, stomping grapes and tossing tomatoes, to name a few. Artists from across the panhandle will create 3D sidewalk chalk masterpieces in the ancient Madonnari tradition which dates back to the 1500s and is named for the “Madonna” when itinerant artists painted streets near the cathedrals where they worked. The event will also feature Italian beer, wine and limoncello, bocce, a gondola, and exotic cars, and cooking demonstrations. The Italian Family Festa is not just celebrating yesteryear, however, as this year the Festa debuts the Italian Idol competition to encourage both young and old to compete in song. With separate competitions for kids and adults, two lucky winners will be crowned for their musical talents in this competition judged by local celebrities.

In addition to being the Year of Italian Culture, in 2013 Florida is celebrating Viva Florida 500 and commemorating the 500 years of history since Juan Ponce de Leon landed on Florida’s coast in 1513. Since that time, many cultures have come together in our diverse and vibrant state, and the Italian Family Festa is just one of the many cultural festivals that occur each year throughout the state.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

The Italian Family Festa will take place on April 13 and 14 at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum. To learn more, visit http://www.italianfesta.org.

Spotlight On: “La Florida,” The Florida Artists Hall of Fame sculpture

by Tim Storhoff

Induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame is the highest honor bestowed upon creative individuals by the state of Florida. When three artists are inducted into the Hall of Fame on March 20, they will have a plaque in their honor added to the Florida Artists Hall of Fame Wall on the Plaza Level in the rotunda of the Capitol Building and receive a sculpture of La Florida by Florida sculptor Enzo Torcoletti.

Enzo Torcoletti with his most recent "La Florida" sculptures. Photo taken and used by permission of Tim Storhoff.

Enzo Torcoletti with his most recent “La Florida” sculptures. Photo taken by Tim Storhoff.

The state legislature established the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1986 and sought someone to produce the award that would be given to inductees. The following year, Mr. Torcoletti was contacted about the project and began working on potential designs for the sculpture.

Enzo Torcoletti was born in Italy and began studying art there before moving to Canada. He received a B.A. in English literature in 1968 and a B.F.A. in sculpture and printmaking in 1969 from the University of Windsor. He then came to Florida to continue his studies, and in 1971 received his M.F.A. in sculpture from Florida State University. He then taught sculpture, drawing, and art history at Flagler College in St. Augustine for years, and is now an Emeritus Professor. For the last forty years, Enzo has actively produced sculptures for exhibits and commissions.  His work has been shown extensively and is included in numerous private and public collections in Florida, across the U.S., and abroad. He now splits his time between his homes in Florida and Tuscany.

When he was selected to make the sculpture that would be given to Florida Artists Hall of Fame inductees, he began making sketches followed by more in-depth drawings. In coming up with his concept, he decided that it should be something unique to Florida. He wanted it to be semi-abstract but incorporate the female form, because when Juan Ponce de León named the land he used the feminine word La Florida. The feminine form is also representative of the Muses that according to Greek myth provide inspiration for the arts.

A preliminary drawing for a sculpture by Enzo Torcoletti. Photo by Tim Storhoff.

A preliminary drawing for a sculpture by Enzo Torcoletti. Photo by Tim Storhoff.

"La Florida," the Florida Artists Hall of Fame sculpture by Enzo Torcoletti.

“La Florida,” the Florida Artists Hall of Fame sculpture by Enzo Torcoletti. Photo courtesy of Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

Enzo also wanted it to evoke the water and beaches associated with our state, so he chose to include elements of waves and to make it look partly like skeleton of a shell you might find after a storm. The spiral at the top of the sculpture, when viewed from above, is  like the eye of a storm during a hurricane. Enzo carved the initial model for the sculpture out of wax and then created a rubber mold before the final bronze casting using the lost-wax method. The base is made of Florida limestone resulting in a heavy and substantial award given to inductees. The original maquette prototype is on display in the Twenty-Second Floor Capitol Gallery in Tallahassee.

All of Florida’s artists contribute to our vibrant and diverse communities and show that this is a special place to live and work. We are pleased to honor those who have made the greatest contributions to the arts in Florida with this beautiful sculpture. The 2013 inductions to the Florida Artists Hall of Fame will take place during the Florida Heritage Month Awards on March 20. The award ceremony will take place in Tallahassee at Mission San Luis, Florida’s Apalachee-Spanish Living History Museum. This year’s Hall of Fame inductees include performer Gloria Estefan, singer/songwriter Frank Thomas, and painter Laura Woodward. This will make fifty-five artists who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since the first ceremony in 1987. Other awards to be presented at Mission San Luis include the Florida Folk Heritage Awards, the Secretary of State’s Historic Preservation Awards, and the Florida Book Awards. To learn more about Florida Heritage Month, please visit http://www.floridaheritagemonth.com.

To learn more about the lost-wax method of creating a bronze sculpture, check out this video from artist Brian Owens who used it to create the St. Augustine Foot Soldiers monument:

Postcard From: The Poetry Out Loud 2013 Florida State Finals

by Tim Storhoff

On Saturday, March 9, forty-four high school students from across the state of Florida came to Tallahassee to compete in the Poetry Out Loud Florida State Finals. This year, the Poetry Out Loud program in Florida assisted nearly 20,000 Secondary-Level students in learning about poetry in their classrooms. Program outreach to Florida’s many school districts included suburban, inner-city and rural community schools around the state. Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure that starts at the classroom level. Winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to a regional and/or state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals. Teachers at more than fifty Florida high schools completed this program through to the end, and forty-four schools sent one student winner each to represent their school in the State Finals competition.

The photos below depict the full and enlightening weekend these students had.

The forty-four students who competed on March 9.

Forty-four students who won the individual competitions at their own schools came to Tallahassee and competed on March 9.

The poetry-filled weekend began at the historic Knott House Museum on Friday night, where students were able to introduce themselves and share some of their own poetry.

The poetry-filled weekend began at the historic Knott House Museum on Friday night, where students were able to introduce themselves and share some of their own poetry.

Competing students, their families, and some teachers arrived to the R.A. Gray building in Tallahassee early on Saturday morning to register and prepare.

Competing students, their families, teachers and guests arrived to the R.A. Gray building in Tallahassee early on Saturday morning to register.

Competing students were given shirts, poetry books, CDs, and other giveaways provided by our gracious sponsors.

Competing students were given shirts, poetry books, CDs, and other giveaways provided by our gracious sponsors.

Recitations were judged on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy.

Aaron Abiza from Hialeah Senior High School in Miami-Dade County chose “Lazy” by David Yezzi for his first poem. Recitations were judged on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy.

After a full morning that included each student reciting their poem, the top 25 participants were chosen to advance to Round Two.

After a full morning that included each student reciting their poem, the top 25 participants advanced to Round Two.

During the lunch break, students had a chance to talk about their poems over pizza.

During the lunch break, students had a chance to talk about their poems over pizza.

Seth Snow, who won the competition at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine,  advanced to the second round and used ASL to share his poems.

Seth Snow, who won the school-wide competition to represent the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, advanced to the second round and used ASL to share his poems.

Rhen Davis from Bucholz High School in Alachua County recited "The End of the World" by Dana Gioia. This program encouraged students like Rhen to learn public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

Rhen Davis from Bucholz High School in Alachua County recited “The End of the World” by Dana Gioia. This program encouraged students like Rhen to learn public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

In the afternoon, ten students were chosen to go on to the third and final round.

The judges selected ten students to go on to the third and final round.

Second place winner Ricky Vega-Bossa from Western High School in Broward County recited "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred Lord Tennyson during the final round.

Second place winner Ricky Vega-Bossa from Western High School in Broward County recited “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Lord Tennyson during the final round.

The 2013 Poetry Out Loud Florida State Finals champion Kourtney Brooker, reciting her poem during the final round.

The 2013 Poetry Out Loud Florida State Finals champion Kourtney Brooker, reciting her poem during the final round. Kourtney will go on to represent Florida in the National Finals in Washington, D.C.

When the competition was all said and done, everyone had the chance to socialize during a reception before going their separate ways.

When the competition was all said and done, everyone had the chance to socialize during a reception before going their separate ways.

Participation in this program requires commitment from teachers and parents, and many teachers take on this process in addition to their regular duties because of how strongly they value the program and because of the results they see in their students. These results go beyond the literary knowledge, public speaking skills, and self-confidence already mentioned. John Coleman, in the Harvard Business Review, has recently written about the benefits of poetry for professionals, and now these Poetry Out Loud students can reap those benefits. Coleman argues:

For one, poetry teaches us to wrestle with and simplify complexity. Harman Industries founder Sidney Harman once told The New York Times, “I used to tell my senior staff to get me poets as managers. Poets are our original systems thinkers. They look at our most complex environments and they reduce the complexity to something they begin to understand.” Emily Dickinson, for example, masterfully simplified complex topics with poems like “Because I could not stop for Death,” and many poets are similarly adept. Business leaders live in multifaceted, dynamic environments. Their challenge is to take that chaos and make it meaningful and understandable. Reading and writing poetry can exercise that capacity, improving one’s ability to better conceptualize the world and communicate it — through presentations or writing — to others.

Additionally, poetry can help people develop a more acute sense of empathy, foster creativity, and teach us to infuse life with beauty and meaning. Through engagement with poetry, these students will be better prepared to tackle professional challenges when they arise.

You can learn more about Poetry Out Loud by visiting the national recitation contest’s website at http://poetryoutloud.org. Teachers interested in participating in Poetry Out Loud next year should watch for updates at http://www.florida-arts.org/programs/poetryoutloud/. Thank you to all of the partners and sponsors who made this event possible, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, Citizens for Florida Arts, the Sign Language Resource Center, Habana Boardwalk, Quality Inn & Suites, Subway, and Anhinga Press. We want to wish Kourtney the best of luck as she goes on to compete against all the other state champions in Washington, D.C. in April!

All photos by Tim Storhoff

Culture in Florida: February

Culture In Florida

by Tim Storhoff

Culture In Florida is a monthly news roundup to show 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 went by quickly, but it was another busy month for arts and culture across the state, and as we look forward March will have even more events. Florida Heritage Month takes place from March 15 to April 15, so watch for events taking place statewide.

The many arts and culture events available in the Florida Keys received some well-deserved media attention this month, as articles have spotlighted the importance of arts grants for putting artists in schools and how the Florida Keys offer visitors and residents ‘more than t-shirts and beer’:

The Florida Keys are more than sunshine and saltwater, frozen drinks and four-day cruises. The island chain has always beckoned to a legendary roster of writers, painters, performers and artists, and still calls endlessly to others who appreciate those endeavors.

Artist Mario Sanchez, playwright Tennessee Williams and author Ernest Hemingway never heard the term “cultural tourism,” and certainly weren’t aware that they were giving birth to a new industry while they lived and worked at the intersection of the Atlantic and Gulf. But the arts have become more than a passion in the Florida Keys. They’re an industry — a cultural tourism industry, which has been steadily gaining momentum in Monroe County.

Other cities and areas have also been working to stress the importance of arts and culture in their communities. The DeLand City Commission has partnered with the Florida Museum of Art in the hopes of  incorporating public art and redevelopment projects to encourage economic development. The city of Bradenton is using the unique Village of the Arts — billed as Florida’s largest art colony — in a renewed effort to draw tourists to the area, particularly those with an artistic bent. In Boynton Beach the city spotlighted the fifteen large kinetic art sculptures that were installed over the last year, and St. Augustine has been celebrated as a world-class art and music destination.

The famous Florida Highwaymen were busy throughout February with the Third Annual Original Highwaymen Weekend Extravaganza that took place in Davenport at the end of the month, and a special event featuring the artists and their paintings at the Museum of Florida History on February 5.  The Florida Highwaymen was a group of 26 black artists who studied painting together and took their unique, colorful paintings of Florida landscapes to sell on the road and door-to-door during a time when many galleries would not let them display their work. Famous Highwaymen paintings have included serene sunsets, sleepy Florida rivers, arching palm trees, crashing ocean waves and bright red palmetto trees. 

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner with members of the Florida Highwaymen during the February 5 event at the Museum of Florida History.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner with members of the Florida Highwaymen during the February 5 event at the Museum of Florida History. Image courtesy of the Museum of Florida History.

This month, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens remembered Robert W. Schlageter, who grew the institution from a small, locally focused museum to one with a collection spanning 4,000 years of art history. He died Feb. 2 in Clearwater at the age of 88. The Norton Museum of Art has had an Annie Leibovitz exhibition on display all month that will continue through June 9. There have been numerous exhibitions and events statewide related to Viva Florida 500, such as the dedication of the Wild About Wildflowers public art display in Delray Beach, the OLA Film festival took place in Orlando, and the Anna Lamar Switzer Center for Visual Arts in Pensacola featured an exhibition of underwater photographs by Karen Glaser in “The Mark of Water, Florida’s Springs and Swamps.”

The Florida State Fair took place in February, with arts and culture featured as an important element in the fair’s events. Numerous awards for artwork were given out. Commissioner Putnam recognized Reid Risner, the winner of Florida’s 500th Anniversary Youth Fine Arts Competition. More than 200 Florida students submitted entries of fine artwork representing the history of Florida agriculture. The competition’s finalists will be on display for the duration of the fair, along with the winners of Florida’s 500th Anniversary Youth Coloring Competition. A new museum at the fair was also unveiled, “Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition.”

Solomon Dixon was chosen as the featured Florida artist for Black History Month 2013.

Solomon Dixon was chosen as the featured Florida artist for Black History Month 2013.

February was Black History Month, and numerous events took place across the state to honor the contributions of African Americans through arts and culture. The First Lady of Florida chose Solomon Dixon as the featured artist for this year.

There’s a lot going on in March. The state finals for Poetry Out Loud will take place in Tallahassee on March 9. Also remember to keep up with the Florida Heritage Month calendar and submit  events that are significant to Florida heritage, arts or culture, open to the public, and appropriate for audiences of all ages. You can also check for upcoming happenings at Art & Gator’s Event and Festival Calendar and the Viva Florida 500 calendar.

Florida Heritage Month will take place from March 15 to April 15.

Florida Heritage Month will take place from March 15 to April 15.

Culture in Florida: January

Culture In Florida

by Bob Evans

Culture In Florida is a monthly news roundup to show 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.

7 Days of Opening Nights

Portion of a mural on Gaines Street in Tallahassee celebrating 7 Days of Opening Nights (Photo used with permission from http://www.sevendaysfestival.org)

Happy New Year! January has been quite an exciting month for arts and culture around the state.

First up for 2013 are the many events surrounding Viva Florida 500. This statewide initiative led by the Florida Department of State, under the leadership of Secretary of State Ken Detzner along with Governor Rick Scott, highlights the 500 years of historic people, places and events in present-day Florida since the arrival of Juan Ponce de León to the land he named La Florida in 1513For a complete listing of events, including options to filter by type of event and location, visit http://www.vivaflorida.org/Events/. Make sure to check out all of the events in your area!

The Bonita Springs Historical Society, in partnership with the City of Bonita Springs, is sponsoring a 14 week series of Florida history programs at the Bonita Springs Community Center. Each Wednesday at 2 p.m. and again at 7 p.m., program presenter David Southall will introduce a different historical era along with the interesting characters and events that influenced those times with a Florida perspective.

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville has assembled about 40 pieces of Florida art in a new exhibition, “La Florida,” showcasing art in Florida from the past 500 years. The pieces range from jewelry of the 1500s to contemporary works by Florida artists. The exhibition will continue until October 6th.

The Marcus Roberts Octet

The Marcus Roberts Octet will present the music of Jelly Roll Morton (photo used with permission from http://www.sevendaysfestival.org)

Seven Days of Opening Nights is Tallahassee’s premier performing arts festival, promoting Florida State University’s commitment to the arts. This year, the festival welcomes Christopher Heacox as its new director. Two new murals on Gaines Street are representing the celebration of community inspired by the festival, which continues through February. Notable performances at this year’s festival are the stunningly virtuosic violinist Hilary Hahn, the innovative and visceral choreography of Abraham.In.Motion, and many others.

The 30A Songwriters Festival took place over the weekend of January 18-20 in Walton County and brought over 125 musical acts and throngs of tourists to the area. This event has been growing each year to become one of the best regarded music festivals in the country. Everyone in Florida should be sure to check out the many art and music festivals that take place around the state, such as those in St. Augustine and Lee and Collier Counties.

Thomas Nestor, a St. Petersburg music promoter, is racing to raise funds to convert a historic YMCA building into a concert venue, music museum and space for after-school programs. His success hinges on his ability to secure the necessary $1.4 million in donations to purchase the structure within the next month.

Music is such an important part of a comprehensive education, which is the reason that students at Florida A&M University took the time to create a CD that encourages students to do well on the FCAT, Florida’s statewide standardized test. The Character Center is selling the album for $10 to raise money for its summer camp.

Opening any business during a recession can be tricky, but the Art Gallery of Viera is flourishing. From its new, larger location at The Avenue, the gallery presents exceptional educational programs in myriad media, suitable for all ages. To keep its standards at peak, the gallery only accepts top-quality local artists for membership. The Plum Art Gallery in St. Augustine is also exhibiting local and regional artists through the end of March.

Richard Blanco, a Floridian, made history this month by being the youngest poet to serve as the poet for the inauguration of President Obama. Blanco is also the first inaugural poet who is Latino and openly gay. He personally delivered his poem “One Today” in front of the U.S. Capitol on January 21st.

Manatee at Wakulla Springs State Park

A manatee making its winter home at Wakulla Springs State Park (photo by Bob Evans)

Finally, if you haven’t been, head over to Wakulla Springs State Park for a chance to see the manatees, Florida’s state marine mammal. The manatees have been making their winter home in the state park for the past 5 years or so, drawn to the water which remains between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Orange City and Blue Spring State Park hosted the 28th annual Blue Spring Manatee Festival on the 26th and 27th, with events celebrating the endangered creatures.

Upcoming:

Remember: February is Black History Month. Governor Rick Scott, Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll, and First Lady Ann Scott today invite students in kindergarten through 12th grades to participate in the Florida Black History Month art and essay contests. They also invite students, parents, teachers and principals to nominate full-time African-American educators in elementary, middle or high schools for the Black History Month Excellence in Education Award.

Check out these calendars of events from South Florida, Florida State University, and the Nassau County Library System

Spotlight On: Enid Shomer’s The Twelve Rooms of the Nile

by Tim Storhoff

Shomer Twelve Rooms of the NileEarly on in Enid Shomer‘s professional writing career, she won the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs Individual Artist’s Fellowship for literature. Last month, Enid’s first novel The Twelve Rooms of the Nile was named by NPR as one of 2012’s best works of historical fiction. The book tells the story of Florence Nightingale before she came to prominence during the Crimean War and Gustave Flaubert before he began writing Madame Bovary. According to the book’s description, “She is a woman with radical ideas about society and God, naive in the ways of men. He is a notorious womanizer, involved with innumerable prostitutes. But both are at painful crossroads in their lives and burn with unfulfilled ambition.” On a trip along the Nile in 1850, these two travelers ignite an unlikely friendship and share some of their deepest secrets and most fervent hopes, all colored by the exotic backdrop of mid-nineteenth century Egypt.

In the following video from publisher Simon and Schuster, you can hear Enid describe her inspiration for the novel:

 

Shomer has had her poetry and fiction published widely, and her work has appeared in The New YorkerThe AtlanticParis ReviewBest American PoetryBest New Stories from the South and many other magazines as well as more than seventy anthologies and textbooks. As a Visiting Writer, Shomer has taught at the University of Arkansas, Florida State University, and the Ohio State University, where she was the Thurber House Writer-in-Residence. In 2002, Shomer became the Poetry Series Editor for her former poetry publisher, the University of Arkansas Press. Most recently, she has taught in the MFA program at Ashland University and the University of Tampa.

As a three-time DCA Individual Artist’s Fellowship recipient, I asked Enid about the impact that the small but prestigious awards had on her career. She said:

When I won my first Individual Artist’s Fellowship, it was not only financially helpful; it also reinforced the choice I had made to put everything else aside and “go for” a career as a full-time writer. Five years later (by this time I had published a book of poetry) a second grant enabled me to work on a project that became my first book of fiction, Imaginary Men, which won the Iowa Short Fiction Award and the LSU/Southern Review Award, both given annually for the best first collection of fiction by an American writer.

Of course, three state grants totaling $15,000 over a lifetime cannot change anyone’s economic status, but it is enough money to invest in a good computer, to cover the cost of office supplies, clerical help, printing, even travel to meet one’s agent or for research, and so forth. Equally important for me was the impact of other peoples’ confidence in my own talent. Poets and fiction writers work in isolation. It is the vote of approval and most of all the interest of one’s peers—the judges and the Arts Council—in one’s work that makes these grants so meaningful. I felt incredibly grateful, even indebted, to my home state, an obligation I discharged by serving as a judge three times on the Literature panel.

The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs would like to congratulate Ms. Shomer on the success of The Twelve Rooms of the Nile and thank her for the contributions she has made to Florida’s literary community.

You can also read the first chapter of the novel and listen to comedian and writer Russell Kane interview Ms. Shomer for BBC Radio hereThe Twelve Rooms of the Nile is now available for purchase in your local bookstores and online. Learn more about our Individual Artists Fellowship at the Division of Cultural Affairs website.

Art Talk: Accessibility with Division Staff Member Maureen McKloski

By Tim Storhoff

Maureen McKloskiMaureen McKloski joined the Division’s staff in July of 2012. Prior to her work at the Division, she was the visual arts coordinator for Pyramid Studios, an art center serving developmentally disabled adults. She is a painter and restorer of fine art and antiques. Maureen earned Bachelor of Fine Art degrees in Art Education and Ceramics. As the Division’s Accessibility Coordinator, I wanted to ask her about the importance of accessibility in the arts.

Along with managing grant programs, overseeing arts in education and underserved communities, you are the Division’s accessibility coordinator. Accessibility is clearly important to all aspects of life, but what makes accessibility especially important to the arts?

Accessibility is a word that simply envelops and provides inclusion for all.  People with disabilities are as diverse as any people. They have diverse experiences, expectations, and preferences. They use diverse interaction techniques, adaptive strategies, and assistive technology configurations. People have different disabilities: auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual — and some have multiple disabilities. Even within one category, there is extreme variation; for example, “visual disability” includes people who have been totally blind since birth, people who have distortion in their central vision from age-related degeneration, and people who temporarily have blurry vision from an injury or disease.

As we all age, we find ourselves utilizing more provided accessibility services, whether we fully recognize and label them as disabilities or not. We find that these considerations, when seamlessly integrated, are helpful to every user. Accessibility is especially important in the arts because it encompasses and directly affects everyone – whether they are an audience member, a listener, a patron or an artist.

The therapeutic aspects of art, whether we are actively or passively engaged, have the potential to greatly impact our physical, emotional, and mental well-being.  It also can have an economic impact on the individuals that create or perform art – opening up an opportunity for individuals to earn income, as well as benefit of increased revenue for arts communities that hold accessible and inclusive events.

The Division believes in the motto “Culture Builds Florida” and stressing the economic value the arts have for our state. How do you see accessibility relating to Culture Builds Florida? 

The arts are integral to the lives of our citizens. We appreciate them for their intrinsic benefits — their beauty and vision and how they inspire, soothe, provoke, and connect us. The arts ennoble us as people. They provide bridges between cultures. They embody the accumulated wisdom, intellect, and imagination of humankind. Government and private-sector support are essential to promote full access to and participation in exhibitions, performances, arts education, and other cultural events regardless of family income.  The arts are essential to the health and vitality of our communities and our nation. They improve the quality of life in our cities and towns. They enhance community development; spur urban renewal; attract new businesses; draw tourism dollars; and create an environment that attracts skilled, educated workers which build an innovative workforce.

Do you know what all of the Disability Access Symbols mean? Learn about them and download them for your own use at https://www.graphicartistsguild.org/resources/disability-access-symbols/

Do you know what all of the Disability Access Symbols mean? Learn about them and download them for your own use at https://www.graphicartistsguild.org/resources/disability-access-symbols/

If you could name just one or two low-cost things that arts organizations and businesses can do to improve their accessibility, what would they be?

Many organizations are already accessible in a number of ways.  One of the first things that an organization can do is to include appropriate accessibility symbols in all of their marketing materials – from brochures to email blasts. Another low-cost practice would be to provide large print versions of all printed material. Generally information is typed out in word format before included in a distributed format. If an organization changed the font and the font size, they could easily provide information in this format. Another low-cost practice would be to walk through their facility with a three-foot ruler or stick to make sure that all routes are easily accessible to wheelchairs and make sure that nothing blocks doorways or access to any of the facilities amenities.

Where should arts organizations and businesses go for more information about accessibility in the arts?

We have provided information to our grantees regarding their 504 plan, people first language, accessibility symbols, and more.  We are providing this information on our website, and the informative links there are continually updated. We are also providing a series of six webinars in 2013 for our constituents catered to their desire to learn more about and provide services to those individuals with disabilities in partnership with VSA. For more information on the upcoming webinars, subscribe to our e-mail list and like us on Facebook.

Culture In Florida: November

Culture In Florida

By Bob Evans & Tim Storhoff

With so much going on across the state of Florida in the world of arts and culture, we have decided to add a monthly feature to the Culture Builds Florida blog. By looking back at some of the cultural events and news stories that occurred each month, we hope that Culture In Florida will help show 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.

Between political elections and the Thanksgiving holiday, November has been a busy month for Floridians. In a proclamation, President Barack Obama announced that November would be National Native American Heritage Month, and November 23 would be Native American Heritage Day. Various events featuring Native American art have been held across the state as a result. Additionally, First Lady Michelle Obama designated two Florida communities as Preserve America Communities: Bonita Springs and Flagler County. This designation will help bring an increased focus to these communities and draw visitors to their events. Over in Collier County, there were over 100 events as part of their “Celebrate the Arts Month,” which was designed to promote the area’s arts community and involve more residents and visitors in cultural activities.

The city of Bradenton has also been busy this month. Bradenton’s Riverwalk is working on rebranding itself as one of the “top riverfront communities in the nation in order to boost tourism.” With events like ArtSlam and the upcoming inaugural Bradenton Blues Festival, it’s well on its way. Headlining for the Bradenton Blues Festival is Grammy Award nominee Ruthie Foster, as well as Louisiana Music Hall of Fame inductee Kenny Neal and Southern Hospitality, led by Bradenton Beach resident Damon Fowler.

Visitors enjoying Bradenton's third annual ArtSlam this month. Photo courtesy of http://bradenton.patch.com

Visitors enjoying Bradenton’s third annual ArtSlam this month. Photo courtesy of http://bradenton.patch.com

A number of events were held to celebrate Arts and Health Month. From The Society for the Arts in Healthcare website, “Arts & Health Month is a time to host awareness-raising events and heighten media attention for [the] field.” Shands Hospital in Gainesville was host to three events to raise awareness and promote the healing process. The Musicians in Residence duo of Danielle DeCosmo and Cathy DeWitt have been playing music for patients, and Writer-in-Residence Barbara Esrig helped create oral histories with patients, families, and staff. A therapeutic paper-making workshop was also held, taking personally significant pieces of fabric and turning them into works of art.

November has also been a month of beginnings and openings. Artists in Hernando have a new gallery in which to exhibit their work thanks to a generous offer by newly-elected County Commissioner Nick Nicholson. Key West is in the middle of its inaugural Key West Film Festival, screening at the historic San Carlos Institute and the Tropic Cinema until Sunday, December 2nd. Over in Santa Rosa County, the Imogene Theater officially reopened, featuring an original play by local playwright Shay Moran.

Students in Florida have so many opportunities to experience and participate in arts and cultural activities year round, and this month was no different. Janie Howard Wilson Elementary students hosted artist Ruby Williams, who spoke about being successful, as well as her life as an artist. Thanks to a generous donation by Gibson Law Firm in Lake Wales and Miss Ruby herself, the students received two paintings for the school’s art collection. Seminole State College of Florida’s interior design students had the opportunity to decorate the Leu House Museum based on important figures in Central Florida history, such as Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, philanthropist Harriett Lake and former Florida Lt. Governor Toni Jennings. The display will run through December 31st. Palm Beach County high school students have the chance to win cash awards, thanks to a banned book essay contest hosted by the West Palm Beach Library Foundation. In conjunction with its upcoming exhibition, “Banned and Burned: Literary Censorship and the Loss of Freedom,” students will discuss in their essays how a banned book has influenced them, and why they feel that it should be protected. Essays must be 500-1,000 words and should be submitted by December 31st.

Ignacio “Nachito” Herrera rehearsing with the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba. Photo provided by Tim Storhoff.

Ignacio “Nachito” Herrera rehearsing with the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba. Photo provided by Tim Storhoff.

There were many events across the state of Florida that showcased the state’s diversity and functioned as cultural exchanges with other nations. One major newsworthy occurrence was the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba concluding their first tour of the United States with multiple performances in Florida. The orchestra visited Daytona Beach, St. Augustine, Naples, St. Petersburg, Fort Pierce, and West Palm Beach during the month of November. Tim Storhoff, an Arts Consultant with the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, attended multiple performances on the orchestra’s tour, and you can listen to his talk from the Kravis Center about their musical selections at the Arts Radio Network. HistoryMiami is featuring a somewhat related exhibition about the guayabera shirt’s evolution through Cuba, Mexico and the United States. “The Guayabera: A Shirt’s Story” runs through January 13. The annual Accidental Music Festival in Orlando also featured an exchange with the Symphonic Orchestra of Guanajuato, Mexico.

Upcoming in December:
Art Basel Miami Beach and its many satellite events run from December 6th through the 9th, featuring local young artists like Juan Fernando “Buddah Funk” Gomez. There will also be holiday music events going on throughout the month across the state, and as we approach New Years be on the lookout for Viva Florida 500 events, like this Wall of Florida History exhibit in Leesburg and the newly rechristened Gran Naranja kicking off 2013 in Miami.

Culture Builds Florida Has a New Ally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight on an Arts and Humanities Halloween

By Tim Storhoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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