Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Blue Box 20.

27 Blue Boxes are painted on sidewalks in Downtown Orlando. These boxes are for panhandlers and buskers. Busking is possible only during day light hours. Although set up for panhandlers, police often insist street performers must use the blue boxes. Performing outside the boxes can result in 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.I am documenting these blue boxes with some of Orlando's most talented artists as performers.

Blue box 20 is on Magnolia Avenue between Church Street and Pine Street. it is right outside the former location of Mad Cow Theater. The acoustic group Jestelle volunteered to perform. Comprised of  Jester Cordell and Danielle Dart, they combined their first names to come up with their groups title. They had some difficulty finding the blue box but luckily I had arrived a bit early and I guided them in with several texts. I have sketched this adorable couple before at Fringe and looked forward to their lyric cover songs. They had a red jar for tips and a Mickey Mouse cup that was for coffee or perhaps coins.

These two appear to be a true Orlando couple being color coordinated in a tropical floral shirt and sun dress. Danielle took off her huge sun hat while she sang. She has a magnificent voice and they harmonized beautifully. It is a shame that the sound of traffic often drowned out the subtle songs. A few people walked by but no one stopped to listen and unfortunately no money was dropped in the tip jar.

Jestelle will be performing at Johnny's Other Side (1619 E Michigan St, Orlando, Florida 32806) on Sunday July  23rd starting at 2PM. Nine blue boxes remain to be sketched. If you know a performer who might be interested, please let them know about the Orlando Blue Box Initiative.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

William Shakespeare's King Lear at Osceola Arts.

The set design by Nate Krebs, for King Lear established the multiple platforms as checkerboards as if in a game of chess. Directed by Beau Mahurin, the show is definitely dark and brooding. In the first act King Lear (J. Michael Werner) the aging king of Britain, decides to step down from the throne and divide his kingdom evenly among his three daughters. First, however, he puts his daughters through a test, asking each to tell him how much she loves him. Goneril (Samantha Behr) and Regan (Katy Polimeno) , Lear's older daughters, give their father flattering answers.asks his daughters to praise him and Cordelia (Monica Mulder) refuses, simply acknowledging that she loves him as a daughter should., He is furious and essentially disowns her. She is cast to the ground. The other two sisters play his game, but they plot to overthrow his in secret.

Cordelia returns disguised as a jester and helps her father to overcome the endless espionage. There is some serious sword play and sitting in the front row, I at times got nervous that I might be a little too close to the action. Edmund (Barry Wright) sat at the chess board as he plotted his next move against the king. Selfish princesses were pawns in the battle for power. Some of the Shakespearean dialect was lost on me since I was concentrating of the sketch.

This is a truly tragic play. The evil sisters kill each other since they are both in love with Edmund. Cordelia returns with an army to battle her sisters army but she is defeated. The death of all three princesses leaves Lear distraught and overcome. Lear appears, carrying the body of Cordelia in his arms. Mad with grief, he bends over Cordelia's body, looking for a sign of life. The strain overcomes Lear and he falls dead on top of his daughter.

A year ago 49 people were murdered at Pulse Nightclub here in Orlando, so the entire city had had to come to terms with loss and grief. This made the end of this play most timely and difficult to watch. The human struggle never changes and tragedy is the same in the past as it is in the present. senseless violence greed and corruption will always remain but if the cast of King Lear all had assault riffle instead of swards, s then the carnage would have been much worse.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Leena Buchy Celebration.

The Leena Buchy Celebration was held at the Abbey in downtown Orlando. Leena was an arts advocate in Orlando throughout her career. She passed away after a long fight with cancer.

Shanon Larimer, Chairman of the Board for the Downtown Arts District, issued the following statement:
 “It is with a heavy heart that on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Downtown Arts District, we announce the passing of our friend and colleague, Leena Buchy.  Leena joined the Downtown Arts District in 2005 as the first employee of City Arts Factory and most recently served as the facility’s Manager of Operations.
As an arts advocate, Leena led the expansion of the organization’s mission-based programs and spearheaded special events that promoted cultural diversity and engaged participation.  She provided a significant contribution to the Downtown experience enjoyed by the citizens of our community and visitors to Central Florida.
It is because of Leena’s support and dedication that City Arts Factory continues to remain a catalyst for opportunity, creativity, innovation and artistic excellence.  We will forever be grateful for her service and friendship.  She will be missed.”

 Photos of Leena flashed on the screen as The Wild Tones performed on stage. After this band, Mia Longernecker, Leena's niece form Brooklyn New York got on stage to perform a song written my Leena. She strummed a ukulele and sang sweetly. She prefaced the performance saying, "Bear with me if I get emotional during this piece." Leena's lyrics were sincere and heart felt... "I go to sleep and imagine your there with me." Think it on over, is Leena's original song, "I was a dreamer and everyone noticed my hide away eyes, Think it on over, I would."

Leena's nephew Sam came on stage after Mia. Clearly Leena had inspired music to flourish. He had a mixing table set up. He had written his piece as Leena was battling cancer. His performance was edgy and urban with plenty of angst. A photo of Leena holding Sam as a baby stayed on the screen in stark contrast to the dark brooding music he mixed.

A fund has been created in Leena's name called the Leena Buchy Emerging Artist Fund. Tax deductible donations can be made to the fund payable to the Downtown Arts District (29 South Orange Avenue Orlando Fl 32801.) Specify that the gift is for the "Leena Buchy Fund".

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Orlando Love: Remembering Our Angels at Lake Eola.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan and other community leaders and elected officials will hold a one-year remembrance ceremony at Lake Eola Park. The ceremony, Orlando Love: Remembering Our Angels, will include remarks by community leaders, musical performances by Olga Tañón and Sisaundra Lewis along with a memorial reading of the 49 names of those who were taken during the June 12 tragedy.

Actress Peg O'Keef recited the opening monologue from O-Town: Voices from Orlando. This was likely the largest audience to see this performance. The audience was silent as she described our quiet little town that would be so much different the day after the Pulse Massacre. Orlando stood up to the challenge, rising up, and refusing to let hate or divisiveness be a part of the recovery. People lined u to give blood, a homeless man would relight the thousands of candles at memorial sites. Crosses would be driven across the country to be left at Orlando Regional Medical Center, each to honor one of the 49 victims.

Pam Schwartz and I found a spot on the lake within sight of the rainbow colored Disney band shell. Walking past the standing room only seating area we saw the glitzy projected graphics above the stage. Buses parked in the street blocked any opportunity to view the stage from a distance. They might have been parked there to block potential hate groups. Two women cuddled in front of us as we listened to the city officials. Back stage 49 angels could be seen struggling to get on their PVC and white fabric wings,

Buddy Dyer spoke in his soothing southern accent and the crowd responded with applause. To our left were two men and one was disgruntled. When Mayor Teresa Jacobs spoke, he started flipping the bird and cursing her name. We were far enough away so that his anger didn't reach the stage. His friend said,"Come on, lets get out of here, you don't need to be listening to this."  Eventually they did leave.

Patty Sheehan spoke in Spanish, so I am not sure what condolences she might have offered. My general impression of the evening was that it was too polished a production. Turn out was less than a year before but it had been raining all afternoon, so only lie-hards were here. It felt a bit like it was Disneyfied, with too much sugar and not enough substance. It was reassuring however to be in a crowd of so many beautiful people who all stood for the cause of love over hate.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The One Orlando De-install

On June 12th The Orange County Regional History Center mounted an exhibit that showcased items left behind one year ago at the various memorial sites that appeared in the aftermath of the horrific Pulse Nightclub shooting that took 49 lives and left Orlando with open scars that could take a lifetime to heal. Museum curator Pam Schwartz asked me to share some of the sketches I have done in the last year that document Orlando's attempts to recover. I sketched at as many vigils and fundraisers as possible so that I could come to terms with reality utilizing the only tool I had which was sketching.

The exhibition was assembled from the items collected by the History Center in the weeks and months after the tragedy. For 37 days, museum staff sweated in the hot Florida sun collecting for the museum and scraping up melted wax so that people wouldn't slip and fall at memorial site. Items left at memorial sites had to be conserved and documented for posterity's sake. When you go to a memorial, you don't read every condolence card, but that was their job. It is an emotionally taxing responsibility to record history in the face of tragedy.  One hundred years from now these relics will be a hint at how we as a community came together to heal.

Instead of one set of rosary beads, there was a whole case full. One case was layered full of rubber bracelets. Instead of exhibiting one t-shirt design, a whole wall was covered. Instead of exhibiting one sketch by an illustrative journalist, an entire wall was covered. 49 wooden crosses were crowded into the far corner of the exhibition space. A sign warned that some items might be emotionally challenging to view.

Shortly after the shooting, Pam, the chief curator, realized that an exhibit space needed to be booked for an exhibit one year after the tragedy. She reserved the room but it was only available for one week because a wedding was also slated to go in the same room on the following week. This was the largest exhibit ever created in house by the museum staff using items from the museum's own collection. The staff rose to the challenge. The amount of work needed to create the exhibit was staggering but it got done. On the opening night victim's families and survivors were given a private preview. On that night over 450 people showed up. More than 3,000 people viewed the collection in the one week it was open.

I stopped in on the final day as the staff took everything off the walls. In one day the walls were once again bare to be spackled and painted for the wedding reception. The 49 portraits created by local artists were mounted behind Plexiglas, so they came down in three large sections and would later be stored away in a portfolio in the archives. Display cases were left for the next week when the items would be stored away in acid free museum boxes in the archives. Within two days the room would once again be barren. This was without a doubt the most well attended exhibit in years, but it was only available to be seen for one week. The history was swept aside because catering was considered a priority. This gorgeous old courthouse can't decide if it is an accredited history museum or an events hall.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Weekend Top 6 Picks for June 24th and 25th.

Saturday June 24, 2017
11Am to 1PM Unknown price. Flower Essence and Yoga Class. Bloom Florist 325 West Gore Street Orlando FL.

7PM to 11PM Free.  Ybor City Art Walk. 7th Ave Ybor Tampa, Florida 33605. Featuring a number of arts organizations and artsy businesses, be sure to R.S.V.P. here to get the official map for the walk!
Here are the participating locations:
The Bricks of Ybor
Bloodline Tattoo
Ybor Arts Colony
Hot Wax
Wandering Eye Art Gallery
Dysfunctional Grace
Moon Over Havana Arts Gallery
Live Arts Labs
There will be other businessess joining the lineup so stay tuned! For any questions please feel free to contact the Ybor Art Alliance here through Facebook.
Expect to be wowed!

8PM to 11PM Free, but get food and drink. Jazz Saturdays. Cork and Fork American Grill 5180 S. Conway Road, Belle Isle, FL 32812. Saturday Jazz to make them an even bigger part of everyone’s family and they certainly continue welcoming everyone into theirs.

Sunday June 25, 2017
11AM to 12PM Free. Yoga Mass. Lake Eola North East corner of the park near the Red Gazebo.

Noon to 3PM Donation. Music at the Casa.  Vocalist Holly Sahmel and Friends. Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum, 656 N Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789

2PM to 4PM Free, but get coffee. Irish Music. Olivia's Coffee House, 108 N Bay St, Eustis, FL.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Johnny Reb is removed from Lake Eola.

The statue of Johnny Reb was first erected in 1911 in Orlando near the courthouse which is now the Orange County Regional History Center. In 1917, it was moved to Lake Eola because the base was bowing, and because cars were becoming popular, there was a fear that it might collapse and become a hazard with all the new automotive activity. When the statue was moved this year starting around 7AM on June 20th, workers found a metal box inside the upper base of the statue. It was reported that a time capsule had been found. It was moved to City Hall. Paper on the boxes surface had disintegrated with age.

An Orlando Regional History Center historian, scanned newspaper articles from 1911 and found that the box contained newspapers from the dedication day along with several Confederate flags, some Confederate coins, a picture of General Robert E. Lee on his horse, Traveller, and a list of the members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and veterans responsible for the statue's creation. The box likely wasn't intended as a time capsule but instead was put in place to honor fallen Confederate solders. Since it isn't a time capsule with an intended opening date of say 100 or 200 years, there is some debate as to whether the box should be opened at all. 1911 United Daughters of the Confederacy meeting minutes are being sought and researched to find out if the box was ever intended to be opened. The fact that the box has been moved inside means that decomposition might accelerate if it were returned unopened to the statue which is being relocated to Greenwood Cemetery. The condition of the objects inside the box is uncertain. There is plenty of heat and humidity in Florida, so paper items have possibly turned to dust in the 106 years it has been sealed inside the statue's marble base. A City Hall spokesperson claimed that bugs are coming out from the box.To properly conserve the items inside, the box would need to be placed in refrigeration for about a week to be sure to kill off any bacteria and bugs inside. Items would need to be preserved with the same deliberate delicacy and dedication as the items collected from Pulse memorials. Staff at the History Center have opened 150 year old time capsules before.

I made my way to Lake Eola to sketch Johnny Reb's last day on Government property. An American flag waved over the scene rather than a Confederate flag and I found it fascinating that the 18 wheeler used to transport the statue had a rainbow colored coil that ran from the cab to the trailer. Across the lake the rainbow colored Disney Amphitheater also added color to the occasion. Online face-time videos of the statues removal elicited lots of angry faced emoticons along with a few hearts. I find it amazing that a public statue's relocation could bring about so many heated emotions.

Some feel that moving the statue to the cemetery is like ignoring or pushing aside aspects of our past while others feel it is removing a symbol of white supremacy, racism, and hate. Today, Tampa elected to keep a Confederate monument standing at it's courthouse. Our city is still recovering from a massacre that was fueled by hate at the Pulse Nightclub. Johnny Reb stood vigilant for 106 years without garnering much attention from the homeless gathered at his feet. In the 1960's his gun was stolen, broken, and scattered around Orlando. Sculptor Albin Polasek created a replacement gun. The sculpture's removal sparked many arguments about history and who gets to write it. Johnny is in storage while city permits are being acquired for building a new foundation at Greenwood Cemetery. I drive past Greenwood almost daily and see the four headstones of Pulse victims that are laid to rest there. Bright rainbow colored balloons were added in remembrance one year after the shooting. Perhaps Johnny Reb will one day hold rainbow colored balloons instead of his gun. In 1911 the statue was created with a budget of about $120.00. It is being moved and renovated with a budget of $120,000.00. The knee jerk reactions to this statue's fate seem like a diversion from the really important issues that allowed 49 innocent people to be murdered as they danced.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pulse victim families paint portraits.

The Orlando Traveling Mural organized by Colleen Ardaman at the Orlando Police Department (1250 West South Street, Orlando Fl). Artist Jeff Sonskin (Paint the Trail) offered advice to paint portraits of their loved ones lost. He had prepared panels that essentially allowed family members to paint by number.

Painting at this session were a Venezuelan family consisting of Aileen Caleos Carillo, the sister of Simon Adrian Carillo Fernandez who died at the age of 31. Along Aileen was her sister Ariani, her mom and her boyfriend in the red shirt. With her back to me was Emily Addison the partner of Dionka Draton. The woman with the curly hair is Daphnie Josaphat, the aunt of Jason Benjamin Josaphat who died at the age of 49. Daphne encouraged Mina Justice, the mother of Eddie Justice  who died at the age of 30, to come out and paint. Zack Osborne was the videographer and he helped supervise. Three Orlando Police swat team members entered and were introduce to the families. Jeff Sonskin was always mixing paint and offering advice.

A reporter sat down and interviewed Mina. She talked lovingly about her son Eddie who was a prankster. He was a real mama's boy. After her son died, she was unable to leave her home. For months she avoided contact with everyone. Daphnie had dragged her out to paint. She admitted that working on the portrait made her happy. She has been feeling endless pain and loss but the simple act of putting paint on the panel occupied her mind and honored her son's memory. She wanted to get it right.

Across the room several long tables were pushed up together and canvases were covered with hand prints. The ,"We, Are a Hand print" campaign encourages families, survivors, first responders and politicians to add their hand print to the mosaic. 71 police officers added their hand prints to the project and to date 11 politicians. The painting sessions continued the next day and Jeff is also taking portraits to families homes to be sure every family member can add their talent to the process.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pulse: One Year Later.

On June 12th one year ago 49 people lost their lives in a horrific attack by a gunman at Pulse Nightclub. June 12th people gathered a Pulse for Reflections and Remembrance. Throughout the day, members of the community visited to honor the legacies of the 49 victims, their families and the survivors. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., there was be a ceremony including various community speakers, reflective prayers, a reading of the 49 names, a display of 49 wreaths and music by Violectric. The Inspiration Orlando mural, our Angel Force, Hang-a-Heart, Stars of Hope and comfort dogs were present.

It was raining just enough to make sketching difficult. Watercolor and rain aren't a great combination. The first thing I saw when approaching Pulse was the huge Inspiration Orlando Mural. 6 foot high marine grade boards were mounted on a large sheet of plywood and supported in back by 2 by 4s nailed as braces. At the Mural, a victim's father was animatedly talking to Michael Pilato the artist. The father was upset that his daughter's partner was depicted large on the mural. Another father had refused to bury his son. A daughter eventually stepped in to take on the responsibility. When it came time to collect the money raised for families however, the father was happy to take the money.

As I did this sketch, I was offered water and You Matter cards multiple times. Someone even offered MacDonald's hamburgers and I kind of regretted not taking one. A mom had her daughter dressed in a bright rainbow tutu and they paraded around the site. A young girl across from me, wearing a rainbow cape,  was giving out free hugs. A reporter set up his TV camera and started asking  her questions. "We will not let hate win" was emblazoned on multiple posters and banners. 

While driving away, I passed a hate monger in front of the auto detailing shop next to Pulse. He was surrounded by people who were getting upset. They shouted Love will overcome hate loud enough to drown out his hate filled chants. Police were on hand and I was told that he toughed a policeman which is interpreted as an assault. 5 policemen wrestled the man to the ground while people shouted their message of love delivered with anger. It was a shame that the Angel Force had left because they could have surrounded the man.

I felt a bit depressed since it felt like most people were here looking for some form of attention or acknowledgment. Was I any different? Will these sketches ever serve a purpose? I was just growing frustrated and annoyed that the rain was making my job near impossible. I pushed through regardless. Any blotches and blemishes are all part of the story of creation.

Monday, June 19, 2017

WMFE: One Year Later.

I went to the 90.7 WMFE Studios, (11510 East Colonial Drive, Orlando),  to attend a taping of The Three Wise Guys of Friends Talking Faith Reverend Bryan Fulwider, Imam Muhammad Musri and Rabbi Steven Engel discussed how the community has changed since the Pulse nightclub shooting.  Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan was a guest on the show. She described experiences on the day of the shooting when she went down to the nightclub to witness blood in the streets. She said that as a gay leader, she had become used to experiencing hate, but what was more difficult to deal with all the love that she felt from the community after the shooting. 

When the dead had to be buried, a hate group from out of town wanted to come to Orlando to disrupt the funerals with their hate filled rhetoric. Locals came together to make walls to protect mourners from the hate. Angel action wings were created to also shield mourners.The idea of Angel wings first came about after the hate crime death of Mathew Shephard. Orlando eventually took the idea one step further creating 49 sets of angel wings, one for each victim. Patty said that Orlando has done an amazing job of helping overcome tragedy through creativity.

The conversation turned to the notion of "otherizing" people. Once a group pf people are the "others", then it is also possible to dehumanize them. With one years fast approaching it becomes not only important to remember, but also important to take a stand and do something to bring about change.Florida is the 50th state in the country in terms of money spent to help fund mental health. First responders might get money if they scraped a knee on the evening of the Pulse Nightclub attack, but they get no help seeking counseling to help deal with post traumatic stress disorder. Al attempts at passing reasonable gun control policies have all failed. Patty pointed out that if the mass murder had happened at a white male country club, then the political response might have been different. She honestly feels that no comfortable politician really cares what happened in Orlando.
Many churches that showed support right after the mass murder, now have no plans for the one year remembrance. 90.7 WMFE reporter Crystal Chavez talked about the shooting’s impact on the Latino community and her forthcoming Spanish-language podcast on the subject, Orlando Un Año Después. Questions were fielded from the audience, but several just were personal sermons rather than questions for the panel. Rabbi Engel thanked the audience for attending and hoped we all found something inspiring in the discussion. Quite the opposite is true I felt discouraged but the conversation. We live in a country that promotes gun violence and shooting incidents are accelerating rather than declining. a disgruntled employee just killed five of his former co-workers. What has gone wrong in America that allows such insane violence to seem like an option for some people? We are a country divided and angry. Orlando's flower child vision of love can only take us so far. The religious leaders offered solace but no concrete answers.