Saturday, February 6, 2016

ODD 8 at Ten 10 Brewing.


The tenth Orlando Drink and Draw (ODD) was held at Ten 10 Brewing (1010 Virginia Dr, Orlando, FL) . I arrived a bit early, because I had done one of the 27 Blue Box Initiative sketches earlier in the day and it made no sense to drive all the way back to the studio. When I entered, David Charles, who used to run Blank Space across from the Orlando Public Library, was working on a new brew that was simmering over a burner. He enjoyed how one of my articles shook up Orlando's arts community. We had a laugh about how some artists get so upset when other artists hit the mainstream. I prefer to celebrate the accomplishment. David had organized a Ten 10 Brewing Art Market, but after a lackluster turn out of interested artists, he has decided to put the market to rest for a bit while he lives his life. When I asked his advice on a new beer to taste he made me a beer sampler with four shot glass sized sips of beer tucked into a wooden stand. 


The beers I tasted as I worked on my sketch were, Dinkey Line, which is an original light brew dedicated to the exercise trail that runs past the Brewery. Westphalia Alt was a German beer which is what I drank for the rest of the evening. Chronically Mismanaged was a coffee flavored dark beer that I rather liked, and Havakow was a dark beer that didn't suit my taste. 

Colin Boyer was the first artist to arrive, and he joined me in sketching the bar as artists arrived. What I love about ODD is that different artists stop out each time, so I get to meet artists of all types. I do my usual Urban Sketch and then I get to learn from other artists experiences. ODD is half sketching and half social. Tom Schneider and his girlfriend Erin Marie Page were the next to arrive. I like that ODD has become a creative date night experience. Erin went to school for illustration and she appreciated getting her feet wet by sketching again. Tom works security but loves to draw. 


I was very happy when Brendan O'Connor,  who writes for The Bungalower, stopped out with his brother. I had seen pictures of Brendan dressed as a Merman at the Gasperilla Festival in Tampa. Brendan was joined by Godzilla at Gasperilla an he said it was quite the experience. Having huge inflated muscles guarantees that you will be molested all day. When he begged for some time to go to the bathroom, people got insulted. If that is what fame tastes like, he had enough, thank you very much. He had a wonderful Chinese watercolor set with bright vibrant colors. Unfortunately the O'Connors, could only stay for part of the night. They had another party to hit. 
To mix things up and get everyone sketching fast, I suggested we do 5 minute ruthless portraits. Artists faced each other and sketched. Since everyone was sketching there was no one posing. If you wanted to catch someone's eyes you would have to wait for their quick glances up. I don't really sketch portraits much, so it is new territory for me. There was a change of the guards as Brendan and his brother left and Rob showed up with his posse of artists. They jumped right into the 5 minute sketches. Artists shuffled around the table to meet someone new and sketch. I asked everyone to pass their sketchbooks around and sign any sketches of themselves.This is a good way for me to learn everyone's names, but so me of the artsy signatures are hard to decipher.

Afterwards, we all settled in to work on our own projects. Stephanie Kell had a wonderful sketchbook full of exotic demons and creatures. She renders these drawing slowly over time adding infinite detail and an incredible valve range. She had a case of art pens that is truly enviable. The sketchbook had grey paper and she worked the lights and darks from this grey base. Some artists came from a cartoon background while others came from a traditional life drawing background. Colin's drawings sparked to life during the 5 minute sessions. He accentuated the deep shadows on peoples faces leaving detail to the imagination. Rob talked about his recent divorce and how his art remains a constant as he starts all over again. He filled a page with light blue pencil studies of wooden totems and people. At Universal Studios he helped create a large totem pole that was coated in cement and painted to look like carved wood. The studio wants to bring him in full time but he prefers the freedom of freelance. We talked about finding time to discover a personal style and the inner conflicts that tend to hold artists back. As he said, "We are our own worst enemy." It is refreshing to share a beer with someone who knows that art isn't easy.

Mark your Calendar. The next ODD will be March 7th from 6pm to 9pm at The Grand Bohemian Hotel  (325 S Orange Ave, Orlando, Florida).

Friday, February 5, 2016

Weekend Top 6 Picks for February 6th and 7th.

Saturday February 6, 2015 
10am to 6pm $11 Melbourne Renaissance Fair. Wickham Park 2500 Parkway Drive Melbourne FL. All weekend. Prepare to step back in time to a simpler way of life and the festival atmosphere of a charming Olde World Faire day in Renaissance Europe.
From the glories of William the Conqueror through the Golden Age of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and beyond. When armored knights traveled the countryside competing for fortune and fame, these festivals were a time of celebration, revelry and merriment throughout the countryside.
The lush, tree-filled Shire of Wickham will be a re-creation of a late 14th Century European Tournament and Market Faire. Think Canterbury Tales a Knights Tale laden with whimsical characters from lore and legend thrown in for your entertainment pleasure. The age of romance, chivalry and adventure will be recreated among the wonders of nature in this idyllic Brevard County setting. http://brevardrenaissancefair.com/

10am to 5pm Free. Art in the Park- Spring 2016. Mead Gardens 1300 S Denning Dr, Winter Park, Florida. his is the first Art in the Park of the year my friends, Let's us come together in the spirit of creative expression and gather at Mead Gardens. This is the perfect time to unwind in nature, create art, share, and tap into the creative flow together! Bring your friends, or make new ones!
Let's create together at art in the park- Any kind of art/craft/music that makes you feel happy.
This isn't an organization, it's a group of like-minded artists coming together to create, network and inspire one another in this beautiful, public garden.
We will set up on the other side of the picnic pavilion across the street from the greenhouse. When coming into the front entrance of the gardens, it is to the right of the Pavilion. If that location is not available the day of the event, a new location will be posted on this page. This event is totally free and open to anyone who wants to participate! All forms of artwork are encouraged.
Things to bring- art supplies, picnic supplies, chairs, blankets, musical instruments, friends, snacks, drinks, natural bug spray, cameras, business cards, words of encouragement, and positive energy, Since we are spending time at this park, we are NOT allowed to sell any items but we can meet and mingle and promote upcoming events. Bathrooms are available at the gardens. There are no restaurants on the premises, please bring any snacks you wish to consume. Parking is available on a first come, first serve basis. Please carry out what you carry in and take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints.
In the event of rain, the event will be rescheduled.
Call 828-974-1105 if you have any questions.

7pm to 10pm Free. HAROLD GARDE: Last of the Game Changers. Henao Contemporary Center 5601 Edgewater Dr, Orlando, Florida. Since America's inception our artists tended to copy what was going on in other countries, and though the 18th and 19th centuries saw the US producing masters like John Singleton Copley, Benjamin West, the Peale painters, Frederic Church, Heade, Kensett, Audubon, and so on, the US was always considered second tier to European artists.
However "A new vanguard emerged in the early 1940s, primarily in New York, where a small group of loosely affiliated artists created a stylistically diverse body of work that introduced radical new directions in art—and shifted the art world's focus... Breaking away from accepted conventions in both technique and subject matter, the artists made monumentally scaled works that stood as reflections of their individual psyches—and in doing so, attempted to tap into universal inner sources. These artists valued spontaneity and improvisation, and they accorded the highest importance to process. Their work resists stylistic categorization, but it can be clustered around two basic inclinations: an emphasis on dynamic, energetic gesture, in contrast to a reflective, cerebral focus on more open fields of color. In either case, the imagery was primarily abstract. Even when depicting images based on visual realities, the Abstract Expressionists favored a highly abstracted mode." (Met Museum, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/abex/hd_abex.htm)
Harold Garde, immersed in the New York art world just as Abstract Expressionism was gaining world wide attention, is one of the few true artists who are courageous enough to continue to make no concessions to prettiness or fashion, whose singleness of purpose inspires us all to tell more truth, to examine more deeply and honestly our own lives for what is personally and profoundly human. Garde is the real thing, an artist of passion, integrity and commitment, unafraid of failure, unable to compromise his vision. He personifies the artist archetype, believing totally in the personal and social necessity of art. He gives other artists courage. -Robert Shetterly

Sunday February 7, 2016 
1pm to 4pm Donation. Fur, Fun and Folk Art. Jeanine Taylor Folk Art, 211 E. 1st St., Sanford, FL. Have your precious pet captured forever in the charming folk art style by internationally acclaimed folk artist, Theresa Disney. Bring your pet in person or a photo and for a donation, Theresa will paint them on canvas in her inimitable style. Talk about a unique Valentines Day gift for that special someone and a real family treasure.

2pm to 4pm Free. Yoga. Lake Eola Park, 195 N Rosalind Ave, Orlando, FL. Near the Red Pagoda. Every week.

10pm to Midnight Free but get a coffee. Comedy Open Mic. Austin's Coffee, 929 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL. Free comedy show! Come out & laugh, or give it a try yourself.
.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Blue Box Initiative - Michael Sloan.

On February 1, I picked up Micihael Sloan from his home and brought him to the Blue Box on Lake Dot on Colonial Drive one block West of the I-4 overpass. It was tricky finding his place so we ended up running about a half hour late. As a quick recap in case you are a new reader, Orlando passed an ordinance back in the 1990s making it illegal to panhandle in Downtown Orlando. 27 blue boxes were painted on the sidewalks as free speech zones. From sunrise to sunset it is legal to panhandle in these blue boxes.

On our drive too to  the  blue  box site,  Micihael explained that he used to perform downtown about 15 years ago and he was told that he must move to a blue. In Orlando performers seem  too be considered panhandlers with talent. I've been told to move along by police while sketching downtown but I was never instructed to go to a box. Anyway, I decided to ask performers to come out to each of the 27 boxes so that I can sketch performers at each of the sites. The plan is to do one sketch a week, usually on Mondays. The Blue Box Initiative group page was set up to organize and schedule performances.

As we were setting up, a man in a red shirt who introduced himself as Juju joked around with Micihael. He sat down in the shade and shouted to us, "Hey, come over here in the shade, I want to hear the music." Micihael shouted back, "We can't, I have to stay in the blue box."  It was brutally hot. I realized that I need to bring sunscreen to these blue box sketch outings. The several days of col weather are already a though of the past. Micihael kept his guitar case open, but no one ever dropped any bills inside. It was hard to hear the music over the constant rush of car traffic. I could pick out that he was making up lyrics on the fly about being put in blue boxes. He was singing the blue box blues. Besides singing, Micihael did some Tai Chi which made it look like he was channeling the automotive dissonance. He also had just enough room in the box to do several cart wheels. Cars honked their approval, a loud automotive standing ovation.

There was some foot traffic. Perhaps 20 people wandered by during the performance. A young woman in a black dress walked by with a luggage cart. She reminded me of drug sales reps I have seen in doctors offices. She was actually Jenna Smith, a UCF journalism student who wanted to report on the Blue Box Initiative. She unpacked a tripod and sizable TV news camera. She was the reporter and camera woman all rolled into one. The black dress was a mistake because the sun was unrelenting. She never filmed herself asking the questions, perhaps she did that later.

Juju became infatuated with what I was doing. He stood behind me the whole time doing a play by play announcement of every item I put on the page. I'm usually oblivious to on lookers, but he was hard to ignore. A bicyclist with dreads and a wicker basket stopped for the longest time to listen. He spoke with Jenna about the social divides created by capitalism. Around 1pm a car stopped in front of the box, and a woman asked if we wanted sandwiches. My hands were busy with the sketch so I didn't accept. Juju however accepted for us all. He gave Micihael some fruit and he offer me a cookie. I tried to refuse but he insisted, so I accepted his offering and put it in my bag. It was from the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and I ate it on the drive home. It was delicious.

Jenna stayed with us right until the sketch was complete. She then interviewed us with beautiful Lake Dot as the back drop. She plans to interview City Commissioners, so she is doing some in depth reporting on the issue. I bumped into City Commissioner Patty Sheehan that night and she was amazed by Winter Parks ordinance that bans artists. She asked me, "Orlando doesn't do that do they?" It seemed odd that she was asking me. I mentioned the blue boxes which is an ordinance she helped spearhead.  I don't think she realized the the blue boxes hurt the Orlando arts scene. "Well, if you need anything from me, let me know." she said as she left.

Cole Nesmith organized a huge one night event called "The Creative City Project." He got performing arts groups to come together downtown for a solid evening of performances outside on Orange Avenue downtown. I was told that in the beginning, Cole was instructed that the performances would have to be in the Blue Boxes which make for rather small stages. Cole worked closely with politicians to create an amazing event that took over Orange Avenue for five blocks.  But that was for one night only. If Orlando truly embraced creativity downtown then every evening the city streets could come alive. For now outdoor creativity is shoved aside into isolated blue boxes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Funeral for the Arts in Winter Park.


On December 14, 2015, the City of Winter Park passed an Ordinance that essentially states that it is illegal to do anything creative on Park Avenue, New England Avenue and Hannibal Square. Merchants felt that the presence of artists was a conflict with their commercial interests. Apparently one band set up and used a car battery to power their amplifiers. Rather than write an ordinance to ban amplified music the town simply copied an ordinance from Saint Augustine that bans all art. Of course Winter Park sells itself as a town that has a great museum and a few remaining galleries. They like some art, but they don't want to see it created in their view.

Paul Felker, affectionately known as the Park Avenue Poet used to sit on a public bench on the commercial side of Park Avenue. He uses a 1938 Remington Deluxe Noiseless typewriter to write poems given any prompt. Since the ordinance was written, police now hassle the poet and tell him that he must go to the "First Amendment Zone" which is Central Park. Of course there is far less traffic in Central Park, so Paul writes fewer poems. Donations Paul relieved for his poems were being used to help put him through college. What some find quaint and endearing, the city finds criminal.

Paul organized a Funeral for the Arts in Central Park on January 29, 2016. Angel Jones from Melborne helped make artists around the state aware of the funeral. The funeral was to take place from 10am to 5pm. I arrived at 10am to find the park empty except for a news crew from Chanel 13. I chatted with news anchor Jerry Hume for a bit, and then we walked the length of the Park to look for black clad mourners. When we didn't find any, I decided to sketch the peacock fountain, in the rose garden. Winter Park seems to worship this colorful bird. A more appropriate bird now would be a black Raven. As I was finishing up my sketch Jerry let me know the mourners had gathered a block away.

I found a Ian Twitch Reents all in black with his face painted white along with a red nose and aviator goggles. He was standing in his mile high rock and roll boots beside a five foot long black coffin lid. A woman noticed him and asked me to shoot a photo of them together. She might never realize she was posing next to a coffin. Paul had run to Old Navy to get a pair of black pants. He didn't want to buy the pants in over priced Winter Park. When he got back he painted R.I.P. on the lid. Since there were only two protesters, I decided to meet a former co-worker, Xanthe Papadakis, from my first job at Zip Mail in Tenafly New Jersey from over 30 years ago. She was seeing a free film at the Morse Museum called "Beauty in Art".  It seemed a fitting subject since art was now banned on the streets of Winter Park. After the film and lunch, we returned to the protest.

Paul had called the police to let them know that he would be setting up in the forbidden zone to write some poems. TV news crews filmed the walk across the street, but police kept their distance, knowing that issuing a citation on TV wouldn't look good. The penalty for creating in the Forbidden Zones is 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. After sometime Paul passed back over to the park side of the street. To date no citations have been issued. About six artists had joined the protest. I sketched Paul hard at work at his typewriter for the first time. Angel was dressed in a gorgeous black Victoria dress with a lace veil. Curtis Meyer was improvising  beat box poetry on the fly. I had heard that poets planned to walk up and down Park Avenue reciting poetry into their cell phones. Ray Brazen performed with a guitar that had no strings, allowing him to perform "The Sound of Silence".

A man walked up to Paul and shouted, "What's in it for me?" He kept repeating this question like an angry toddler. Paul calmly explained his poetry. Perhaps the man had been drinking to heavily at a Park Avenue cafe, then again, perhaps he was just like the city commissioners and merchants who are always looked for the bottom line in their lust for profit in their small town lives. "What is in it for me?" As if a quest for beauty and understanding is not something that can be comprehended. Was art put on this earth just to annoy this white bread Winter Park Scrooge? How many others are out there whose grey dark matter can't comprehend color, joy and passion. I feel sorry for his loss.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Side Show Bar and Restaurant in Downtown Orlando.


Side Show Bar and Restaurant (15 N Orange Ave, Orlando, FL) is a bright splash of color that moved into downtown after The Loaded Hog and One Eyed Jacks vacated. The last time I was here, I was sketching the fun chaos as the Packer Backers cheered on their favorite football team. The space has been opened up and filled with every imaginable form of Side Show kitch. Above the bar looms a huge poster of Alexander the fortune teller. Elaborately framed paintings showcase everything from the Fat Lady to the Swamp Gypsy. Exotic Turkish lamps illuminate the bar.

I stopped in shortly after 5pm and a table was filled with co-workers having an after hours drink. During The course of the sketch, one loner came in, placed his baseball cap on the bar and ordered a beer. e ordered a burger and a beer both of which were decent. A large lever on the back wall spins a gaming wheel above the from door which picks exotic drinks like the Bearded Lady.

On another occasion, Terry and I were meeting friends, Amanda and Matt Simantov from out of town along with Matt Rankin. They were in a bar across from SAK Comedy Club, but the place was packed and way too noisy for any form of shouted conversation. A Magic game had just let out of the Amway Arena which explained the crowd. I suggested we go up to Side Show but instead ever one agreed to go all the way to Thornton Park for a quieter spot. The women went off to get their car and the guys walked up Orange Avenue. We passed Side Show which was surprisingly empty. Just a block away the bars were crowded to overflowing and yet Side Show was vacant. Perhaps the large open space isn't conducive to draw in the crowds. It would have been a perfect place to stop, but we were already commit to the long hike to Thornton Park, where we ended up going to Graffiti Junction.

Monday, February 1, 2016

St. Augustine at 450: A Crealdé Documentary Project


Hannibal Square Heritage Center, (642 West New England Avenue, Winter Park, FL) held an opening for Crealdé's newest photo documentary project, which  celebrates the oldest city in the United States, Saint Augustine, on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of its founding. Ten photographers captured the city's past, its preservation efforts and its place as a tourist destination, college town and home to a diverse population.The photos showcased the city's historic sights. Had this been an exhibition of pie in air paintings and or sketches it would have been a different story. The historic city of Saint Augustine has a law on the books which makes the creation of art in the city's most historic areas illegal. Artists found guilty of painting or sketching are subject to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The city of Winter Park decided to copy this insane ordinance which is being contested in the supreme court for being unconstitutional. It is non illegal to create art in Winter Park's Park Avenue, New England Avenue and Heritage Square. Largely drafted to prohibit performance art, visual art's are included in the law. If I were to return to Heritage Square Center, where this sketch was done and I tried to sketch the building exterior, I could face jail time today. The ordinance went into effect on December 14, 2015.

The Musical group in this sketch is Ka Malinalli which performed traditional Mexican tunes and original music. The violinist is 16 year old Ariah DeasonKattya Graham, who founded the group has since decided to perform solo. Kattya gave me a CD and I enjoy the music in my car on long drives. A large Day of the Dead skull and a small sculpture of a face breaking free of a mask pointed back to the mystical Mexican roots behind the music. 

Would I return to Hannibal Square to sketch now that Winter Park considers my actions criminal? Only time will tell.  But Winter Park has certainly taken a step back to the dark ages by limiting and criminalizing freedom of expression.  Were Ka Malinalli to perform outside the Heritage Center today they too could face jail time.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Monday Night Jazz Jam at Bar Louie.


On the first Monday of each month, Bar Louie (7335 W. Sand Lake Rd. Orlando, Fl) comes alive with some of Orlando's top Musicians and Vocalists performing live Jazz. Some of the talent is Internationally known. The show features Joseph Jevanni on the Keys, Jacqueline Jones doing Vocals, Carl Lewis on the Sax, Doc on trumpet, Franklin on flute, Jerome on the drums and many more. the evening is hosted by Yvonne Coleman, MNJJ Co-Founder and Radio Personality Jazzy103.com

I arrived at around 7:30pm and the musicians were setting up the stage. Yvonne welcomed me warmly and suggested I sit in the area set aside for musicians between sets. Musicians and vocalist rotated throughout the night on stage. These Jane performers are a warm tightly knit community. Some singers including Jacqueline Jones are in their golden years but like a fine wine, age only enriches their musical spirit and love of life.

Carol Stein got on stage and performed on the keys. With one song, she didn't know all the lyrics, so she made up lyrics on the fly to hilarious effect. She and Jacqueline are board members of the Steinway Piano Society for Under Privileged Youth. This charity supplies pianos and piano lessons to underprivileged children who might otherwise never be exposed to music. All tips went to the Steinway Piano Society. Each month money is raised for some local charity.

This sketch was actually sold to John Glassman Gardner even before it was created. John has a large hand bound sketchbook with rough  watercolor paper. He hires an artist to fill a spread and then hands it off to another artist. When it is filled, it will be quite a collectors item. I'm honored to be the second artist to contribute to the sketchbook. The first artist was Pekar, who painted a sexy green Medusa in 2010.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Jim Ivy's Tangled Bell Ensemble at Avalon Island


The In-between Series is held at The Gallery at Avalon Island (39 S Magnolia Ave, Orlando, Florida) features unique musical acts in the art gallery when one art show has come down and another is about to be mounted. In May, the gallery hosted Jim Ivy's Tangled Bell Ensemble. The performance used the early 20th century poetry work of Japanese author Akiko Yosano as inspiration for the performance entitled “Midaregami" (Tangled Hair). Jim, who performed on saxophone and acted as the conductor, assembled a cast of 11 members. Many of these performers met for the first time that evening.

Though structured, since there was sheet music, the evening also featured mystical and haunting improvisation. Several Buddhist prayer bowls and a hanger found their way into the music mix. The Japanese lyrics added to the my site of the orchestrated store that unfolded. Wires flowed like tangled hair from sound boards and the electronic signals were mixed by a sound man working on his laptop. When the singer stepped up to the mic, the piece felt operatic in scope.

Improvisation shifted from one band member to the next with unexpected twists and turns. Ivy let loose on his sax in a joyous explosion. However, much of the performance was abstract and tinted with sadness. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Weekend Top 6 Picks for January 30th and 31st.

Saturday January 30, 2016
10am to 6pm $11.  Melborne Renaissance Fair. All weekend. Wickham Park 2500 Parkway Drive Melborne FL. http://brevardrenaissancefair.com/contact/directions/

8pm to 10pm Free. Star Wars Mash-Up Art Show. The Falcon Bar and Gallery  819 E Washington St, Orlando, Florida. Art show curated by The Art of Plinio Pinto!
Bianca Roman-Stumpff
Brandon Geurts
Danny Haas
Dawn Schreiner
DJ Clulow
Dwayne Broughton
Gina Marie
Herb Zischkau IV
Josh Otterbacher
Keith Carlson
Keith P. Rein
Mike Victa
Melissa Olson
Nathaniel Rios (2nes Unoe)
Plinio Pinto

8:30pm to 10:30pm Free. Open Mic. The Geek Easy 114 S. Semoran Blvd Suite #6, Winter Park, Florida.  Featuring Amy Watkins and Superhero Poetry. Open to all: Musicians-Lyricists-Artists-and Poets of all kinds. Bring out the cape and have some fun. http://poetry.meetup.com/362/

Sunday January 31, 2016
10am to 4pm. Free.  Lake Eola Farmers Market. South East corner of Lake Eola around the huge Live Oak.

2pm to 4pm Free. Yoga. Lake Eola Park, 195 N Rosalind Ave, Orlando, FL. Near Red Pagoda. Weekly.

10pm to Midnight. Free, but get to coffee. Comedy open Mic. Austin's Coffee, 929 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL. Free comedy show! Come out and laugh, or give it a try yourself.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Start of the Blue Box Initiative.


There are 27 Blue Boxes painted on the sidewalks in Downtown Orlando. These boxes were painted in an effort to control panhandling. Citizens complained about aggressive panhandling, so an ordinance was drafted making it illegal to panhandle downtown. The blue boxes were created to protect first amendment rights, of freedom of speech. They are referred to as Exempt Zones. The city's official position is that street performing is allowed in downtown Orlando as long a the performer doesn't block pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk and they are not soliciting. If the performer has an open music case or a hat, the police will assume that the performer is busking or begging. In Orlando there is no difference between a performer and a panhandler. The penalty for performing downtown outside of a blue box is 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

An accordion player I was sketching at Lake Eola was told that his performance was illegal because his accordion case was open. He was forced to move along. There are no blue boxes in Lake Eola, so the performer packed up and went home. These isolated blue boxes are hard to find, and few people know where they are. Most people are amazed that such an Orwellian idea exists. I thought the accordion music added a festive touch to the day. The best experiences I have had in traveling to cities around the world has been when I discover some astonishing talent performing on the streets or in parks. Disney hires artists to perform on the streets to give tourists a feeling of being in a vibrant creative place. It is a shame that Orlando claims to support the arts but artists who perform in public are treated like criminals.

I've been told to move along several times by police. I didn't have an open case, but my very presence on a sidewalk is considered a hindrance to the safe flow of pedestrian traffic. I am only two feet wide and I always make every effort to stay out of peoples way. Now if you have ever been downtown, you might realize that Orlando isn't bustling with pedestrians elbowing each other for sidewalk space. I've sketched downtown at rush hour, and the city seems completely deserted except for all the car traffic. Orlando natives drive to their parking garage and then drive home at the end of the day without ever stepping outside.

The Orlando panhandling Ordinance wasn't written for performers or artists, but the police tell anyone who is doing something creative to go to a blue box. Because of this I have decided to start the Blue Box Initiative. I plan to sketch 27 performers in each of the 27 Blue Boxes. I found a map that shows where each of these boxes are. Some are worn away from neglect, but I hope to sketch performances at each site regardless. My main objective is to show that artists are not beggars and that encouraging performers to perform in public would add a vibrant spark of life to the downtown scene. The blue boxes are however in isolated spots of downtown. It would be nice if creativity could flourish everywhere. Every sketch I have done in the past outside of a blue box could have landed me in jail. It would be nice to sketch without the fear of arrest.

The first performer to answer the Blue Box Initiative call, was violinist, Ariah Deason, who used to perform on Park Avenue in Winter Park,  before that city made it illegal to be creative on Park Avenue, Hannibal Square and New England Avenue. Ariah's mom Kristi explained that in one night last Christmas season, her daughter, made over $150 in one evening by performing on Park Avenue. Ariah is astonishingly talented. She has been playing violin since the age of five, and is now sixteen. She rehearses four hours every day. She is currently concert master of Florida Youth Orchestra's Philharmonia and has also played with the Ka Malinali band accompanying traditional Mexican folk music as well as original music. She is currently studying classical violin under Joni Roos at Rollins College and her future musical projects include a Persian music folk band, live performance for an original dance production at The Dancer's Edge studio in Winter Park and Irish fiddling. She is also passionate about art and photography and is hoping to integrate all of them into her life path. She regularly performs at weddings. The idea that Winter Park now considers her beautiful performances criminal is mind boggling. 

The Blue Box I met the Deason family at was on Colonial Drive at Lake Dot.  Unfortunately this box was already occupied. I spoke with Cheryl who occupies the box every day from 6am to 6pm. Once the sun sets, it is illegal to panhandle in Orlando even in a Blue Box. Cheryl is diabetic requiring insulin shots. She has applied for medical disability but has to wait 18 months for the paperwork to clear before she can be helped. I explained the Blue Box Initiative to her and she gave me advice on other blue boxes to look for. When the Deason' arrived, I asked Cheryl if she would like to share the box and she could keep any money raised. The ordinance states that there can only be one person per blue box. She said however that family or friends can share a blue box. She is used to being alone, so I met the Deason's one block to the east in front of the Salvation Army. I gave Cheryl several dollars for her help and advice. She is barely visible in the sketch wearing a pink shirt and seated on the sidewalk, a block away.

Ariah opened he violin case and began to perform. Her uplifting music blended with the rush of traffic on Colonial Drive. Several cars honked their approval. The family had blue checkered blanket and they sat picnic style on the Salvation Army lawn. Dad took pictures with his daughters SLR camera while the youngest daughter, Kristi joined me in doing an Urban Sketch. After watching her sister perform for a while, Tiva worked up the nerve to put her ballet shoes on and dance to Ariah's music. Tiva has been studying classical ballet in the Cecchetti method for five years at The Dancer's Edge Studio in Winter Park. She Participates in two production companies there. She also plays viola and is a member of the Florida Youth Symphony's Overture Strings Orchestra. Tiva wore a shirt with a giant heart on it. The Salvation Army sign pointed out, that, "Love isn't Love unless it is shared. Come join us." She was thin and graceful creating beautiful lines of action.

Pedestrians were rare. Several skate boarders rolled by, and Ariah was narrowly missed by a swerving bicycle. A man with red shorts lingered for sometime  talking into his cell phone. In the back of my mind, I imagined him being an undercover cop calling for backup to stop this flagrant display of art. A news truck rumbled by, but they were in a rush to get to an accident or murder. I never spotted a police car. As usual art celebrated life went mostly unnoticed. I fell in love with the entire Deason family. It was a beautiful day with inspired music and dance. For me it was the perfect way to start the Blue Box initiative. With one Blue Box sketched, I have 26 to go. The plan is to sketch one a week, usually on Mondays. If you know someone who would like to become part of project, please let me know. I'll add them to the Blue Box Initiative group page on Facebook. 

Although Ariah's violin case was open, no money was ever dropped inside. At most 5 people passed by on this deserted stretch of sidewalk on one of Orlando's busiest roads. I doubt Cheryl made much in her Blue Box that day. After we were done Kristi gave he youngest daughter some money to give to Cheryl. Excited, her daughter sprinted off and had to be called back. "Wait for us. We'll all go together." This family knew how to share the love.
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