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.
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.
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.