Art Talk: Kelvin Hair

by Jennifer Hoesing

Florida artist Kelvin Hair is this year’s Black History Month featured artist. Kelvin’s work is on view in the 22nd Floor Capitol Gallery in Tallahassee through March 29 as a part of the Division of Cultural Affairs’ Capitol Complex Exhibitions program. Exhibit hours are Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. Admission is free.

Kelvin Hair grew up surrounded by art. A self-described passionate artist fueled by bold imagination, Kelvin was introduced to art as a toddler and has been creating original works of art since middle school. These days Kelvin is a widely collected Florida artist with a loyal fan base.

As a Lieutenant and 23-year veteran of the St. Lucie Fire Department, Kelvin treats art as an escape from his hectic work life. “When I paint I go into my own world and there are no worries,” Kelvin said. “I love my job as a firefighter but it is very stressful most of our calls are ambulance runs, so painting is my way of getting away from the stress at work.”

Kelvin Hair at work on a painting. (photo submitted)

Kelvin was first introduced to art by his father, famed Highwayman Alfred Hair. The younger Hair started painting on oils at age sixteen. That year A.E. “Beanie” Backus supported Hair by critiquing his artwork and encouraging his painting. Later another Highwayman, Johnny “Hook” Daniels, served as a mentor to Kelvin. “Working with these artists has been a remarkably positive thing. They have told me stories of the days of working with my father, and it gives me a feeling of being with him,” he said.

"Harvest Time" oil on canvas by Kelvin Hair on view in the 22nd Floor Capitol Gallery through March 29, 2012.

Teachers have been important and influential in Kelvin’s life and work, and in that great tradition, Kelvin is passing along art to students. He teaches at his home studio, and by offering free classes at the Children’s Home Society in Fort Pierce as well as at Macadonia Church in Gifford. “When I teach kids it is not only about the art. It’s also about teaching them to trust themselves and create something new out of what appears to be nothing,” Kelvin said. “Painting lets them know through experience that they can achieve.”

Kelvin told me all Floridians can benefit from arts and culture. “Art and culture preserve Florida’s rich history. Art & culture also show the world Florida’s creative abilities, and without those abilities you can not compete in the ever-changing world we live in.”

For more information about Kelvin and his artwork, visit www.khairart.com.

Postcard from Sarasota: The Sarasota Film Festival

submitted by Dania Permesly, The Sarasota Film Festival Outreach Coordinator

For fourteen years, The Sarasota Film Festival (SFF) has been inspiring audiences with the finest in international, independent and non-fiction cinema. The SFF celebrates the art of filmmaking and the contribution of filmmakers by hosting an international film festival. The SFF also brings important economic, educational and cultural benefits to the Sarasota community.

photo submitted by The SFF

The SFF truly believes that the future of film is built upon creative interaction between filmmakers and audiences. Along with screenings, which are often paired with introductions and Q&A sessions with filmmakers, the festival offers an “In Conversation” series with the most famous faces, a “Tribute” event with celebrated guests, and a variety of events encouraging mingling with industry guests in a more casual setting.

photo submitted by The SFF

The SFF invites attendees to “See Things Differently.” Through films and educational programs, The SFF provides opportunities to engage with people from different cultures, religions, genders and ages. Visitors to the festival have the opportunity to attend screenings of over 180 films from more than 45 nations.

The SFF hosted more than 50,000 patrons last year, making it one of the top ten regional film festivals in the U.S.  About half of these attendees are from outside Sarasota County and the city enjoys a great influx of enthusiasm and excitement during the Festival. Each year, local and out-of-town audience members alike enjoy the film selections and the dialogue with more than 100 filmmakers, actors and producers.

Beyond the annual festival, The SFF offers a number outreach programs. Last April, The SFF introduced a new partnership as a part of its year-round outreach activities. See Jane at SFF, is an exciting partnership with The Geena Davis Institute on Gender In Media. By encouraging young boys and girls to consider the ways gender roles are portrayed in film and in their own creative projects, the partnership creates opportunities for new cinematic stories and storytellers. The project will culminate in a film program where young filmmakers address their own ideas and concerns regarding gender representation, with Ms. Davis attending The 2012 SFF to view the completed projects and work with the young filmmakers.

Geena Davis with students participating in See Jane at SFF. Photo submitted by The SFF.

With women still dramatically underrepresented in Hollywood, The SFF is committed to putting the accomplishments of women in the film industry in the spotlight. Having established partnerships with additional organizations including The Gulf Coast Chapter of U.N. Women, Women Make Movies, and creating the Side By Side Women In Film mentoring program, SFF Women promotes independent films by women filmmakers that seek to expand awareness of the lives of women around the world.

The SFF is committed to building innovative programs to foster that growth within the community, offering a variety of ways for patrons to experience the art of filmmaking.  The SFF 2012 takes place April 13-22. Learn more at www.sarasotafilmfestival.com.

photo submitted by The SFF

Postcard from St. Augustine: The St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument

by Brian R. Owens

St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument. Bronze sculpture by Brian R. Owens of Deltona.

In May a bronze monument was unveiled in St. Augustine in remembrance of ordinary citizens who engaged in various forms of peaceful protest to advance the cause of civil rights there in 1963 and 1964. This was a critical period for the civil rights movement that had been unfolding in many states for nearly a decade. The citizens who marched in St. Augustine, who survived a staggering level of violence, are credited with helping to sustain the political pressure needed to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Historian David Nolan describes it as “the most important event in St. Augustine’s modern history.” They called themselves Foot Soldiers.

Detail of monument.

I sculpted the monument for a non-profit, tax-exempt organization founded by Barbara H. Vickers, herself a Foot Soldier. Her mission: to create a monument to honor anonymous citizen-heroes connected to events that were largely unknown outside of her city; install it on the most prominent, historic property; get it done in a time when raising private funds is a challenge, when we are at risk of forgetting our own history and perhaps, of forgetting that there is nothing that can’t be done.

Vickers surrounded herself with people who knew the inner workings of city government and how to organize a project like this. The St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Remembrance Project, Inc. was driven by a small core of people but powered by over 200 individuals and 20 companies that contributed to the project. The monument is permanently installed in the Plaza de la Constitucion, a public park in downtown St. Augustine, near the corner of King and Charlotte Streets, 40 feet from a historic structure that was once used to sell slaves. The City contributed landscaping, concrete and engineering services and is now the owner of the monument. Not all public art projects can be handled this way, but this is a method worth noting.

Detail of monument.

Just after the installation, I stood around while the adhesive that connects the plaque to the stone base hardened. Two men walked up – one white and one black – seeing the monument for the first time. They were in a loud, enthusiastic discussion of how to rethink tourism, of new ways to include the monument in advertisements, of the monument as a symbol of our human ability to find creative solutions when the institutions that should protect us fail us. Neither of them was alive in 1964 and still, they connected with the art. They were so excited – so physically animated – that I had to step forward to keep one of them from accidentally knocking the plaque clean off.

Now that the epoch of the civil rights movement is over, we may see it from another angle – as those two men did. It was after all, a human achievement. I suspect that, for them, black and white is a kind of TV they don’t make anymore. Green is the color that preoccupied us at the moment and it’s not the green of the natural world. St. Augustine is a city that is dependent now, as it was in 1964, on tourism. I have no crystal ball to gauge how the monument affects their economy, but I do know how much lighter my own wallet is now that my lady-friend has rediscovered the place. Shortly after the monument was featured on the statewide public radio program “Florida Frontiers,” I received a happy message from the producer with feedback. Apparently, lots of people were planning a little weekend getaway to the “oldest city in north America.” And if the metrics of my website are to be believed, then many of the people who visit my site – and it’s a big number – get a gentle invitation to visit St. Augustine as well.