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.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Inspiration Mural.

In July of 2016, shortly after the horrific Pulse Nightclub shooting, Michael Pilato began his work to create the inspiration mural. Yuri Karabash his assistant joined him shortly after. Chimene Pindar Hurst, a Thornton Park resident was instrumental in bringing this creative team to Orlando. Chimene's husband John was a college friend of Michael's so it was a creative reunion. A second floor studio was donated above Anthony's Pizza on the corner of Mills and Colonial. Local residents rallied to repair and furnish the place which needed lots of work. Michael recalled waking up one night to find a rat breathing in his face. He punched the rat and wet back to bed.

Michael attended my 49 portraits night in which local artists painted and sketched portraits of the Pulse victims in one evening. That night inspired Michael to want to use local talent to paint portraits on the mural he was creating. Some of the artists from my project painted portraits onto Michael's mural. Those portraits float above the surface in rainbow colored hearts. I painted 4 faces, several of which had to be moved and thus repainted. The mural was in a constant state of flux and is still a work in progress.

On June 12, the mural which is made from a series of marine grade boards was assembled for the first time and exhibited at the Pulse nightclub at the 2AM and 10AM events. The boards were mounted on large sheets of plywood and supported by 2 by 4s that were nailed into triangular braces. "Raising the mural into place was like a barn raising." said Chimene. After the Pulse event was over, the entire mural had to be moved again to go to Lake Eola where it would go on display during the evening's candlelight vigil. I was asked to sit at the Albin Polasek Museum table to help promote "Summer of Love: Reflections on Pulse at the Albin Polasek Museum (633 Osceloa Avenue Winter Park Fl 32789). That show which opened in May is running for five months.

There were concerns that the mural supports might become a hazard if people tripped on them. If the huge wall fell it could cause damage. It rained all afternoon and when I got to Lake Eola Vigil, I was pleased to see that despite the concerns, the mural stood tall on the walkway to the right of the Disney band shell.  Crowds of people walked past and took cell phone photos. The crowds got thicker despite the rain. I worked under my umbrella, trying to keep my tablet dry. Pam Schwartz, the History Center curator and some of her staff stopped to say hello and she was kind enough to hold the umbrella as I finished the sketch. We joked about how I had to leave out so many details from the mural because I had to work fast.

Beside me the Kimball sisters, Casadie 14, Delanie 11, Emmalie 10, and Fynnlie 7, were handing out paper hearts colored with crayons to resemble rainbows. These young girls had lost their father before the Pulse attack and thus they know what loss feels like. They were “Spreading love, because there’s too much hate in the world.” They had 2000 hand made hearts to pass out and when done they will have handed out over 20,000 hearts. Passers by accepted the hearts with thanks. There was visible love in the crowd. People hugged and couples caressed hands. The crowd wasn't as thick as the vigil a year ago, rain likely chased some away. But the memories are still fresh. There is a storm on the horizon. That will not keep Orlando down. we answer hate with love. Pulse themed buses were parked around the vigil possibly to block potential hate mongers. Connections in the community grow stronger and we all hope for a better world. It isn't a 1960's ideal, but something we need to work hard for.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Human Rainbow

On June 11th, one year after the horrific hate crime that took 49 lives at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, body painters gatherer at the Other Bar (18 Wall St, Orlando, Florida 32801) in Downtown Orlando to paint 49 models each a different color of the rainbow. The models each represented the lives lost last year during the Pulse Tragedy. The bar was packed and I had to sketch fast since, I had to get to the Shakespeare theater to see O-Town in which monologues based on interviews showed how local residents raised themselves up after the tragedy. 

Mandi Ilene Schiff of Base Orlando organized the event which was similar to a body painting event held last year. Each body painter was assigned a color and once a model was painted, another would quickly take their place. There was no time to waste when there were 49 bodies that needed to be covered in pigments. It was a triage of rainbow colors. After models were painted, they move to the other side of the bar where an impromptu rainbow dance party broke out. A body painter's shirt read, "We Are One."

Nix Herrera was painting blue people, and I focused my attention on the body painter in an American flag t-shirt that was painting her model orange. The body painter's husband watched me work and he was in charge of making sure models were lined up ready to be painted. With so much color and sensuality it was at times easy to forget the somber reason for the artistic effort. Outside the bar the 49 gathered and posed in line for the full effect of the 49 person rainbow as it illuminated the grey afternoon.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Weekend Top 6 Picks for June 17th and 18th.

Saturday June 17, 2017
6PM to 9PM Free. Black and White Art Show. The Barefoot Spa, 801 Virginia Dr, Orlando, FL 32803.

7PM to 9PM Free. The Orlando Shuffle. Beardall Senior Center, 800 Delaney Avenue, Orlando, FL 32801. The Orlando Shuffle is always free, family-friendly, and fun. It takes place the 1st and 3rd Saturdays every month. Come play, learn, or just hangout 7 to 9 p.m. at the Beardall Courts, at 800 South Delaney Avenue between Orange and Delaney Avenues. Retro attire is encouraged.

8:30PM to 2AM $7 No Borders Presents The Tournament 2. The Geek Easy 114 S Semoran Blvd, Ste 6, Winter Park, Florida 32792. Our No Borders Art Competition began in April 2015 with two competitions every 3 months. One competition was on a 4ft x 4ft canvas with a 30 minute time limit the other was on a 6ft x 6ft canvas for 1hr. We equipped each artist with enough tools to complete their pieces while also challenging their creativeness.
However, we realized the 6ft x 6ft canvas might be a bit of a challenge for some artists so we created "The Tournament". It consisted of 8 artists on the 4ft x 4ft canvases that have never competed at our show before. The winners of that show will compete against the previous 4 winners on our 4ft x 4ft canvases come June 17th at The Geek Easy.
Our original rules apply:
4 Black markers with different tips
One color marker
4ft x 4ft Smooth White Canvas
30 Minutes to Complete
Artists get judged on 5 categories:
1. Creativity and Originality
2. Neatness
3. Time Management
4. Use of Color Marker
5. Overall Balance
The Crowd gets to pick The Peoples Champ before the judges ruling is announced.
Our trusty judges are:
Chris Rodriguez
Stazo Oner
Josue Ortiz
The host for the night will be Ozones own, none other than Madd Illz
Our house DJ spinning that 90's hip hop we all grew up listening to and falling in love with DJ Cubby (Chris Mendez) and Dean Rod Uno Rodriguez

Sunday June 18, 2017 (Father's Day)
 10AM to Noon Free. Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation Class. University, 5200 Vineland Rd, Orlando, FL 32811. The Method of Heartfulness A simple and practical way to experience the heart’s unlimited resources.

11:30AM $35. Father's Day Brunch: Die Hard. Enzian Theater 1300 S. Orlando Ave.
Winter Park FL. A special barbecue lunch buffet followed by a screening of everyone's favorite not-a-Christmas movie.

Noon to 5PM Father's Day Grill Out. Deadly Sins Brewing 750 Jackson Ave. Winter Park FL.
Free BBQ and drink deals all day.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Geezers at Breaktrough Theater.

Geezers written by Tommy Lee Johnston is being presented at Breakthrough Theater (419A W Fairbanks Ave Winter Park, FL 32789), through June 19th. Jack, (Sean Kenp) is a young aspiring author who takes a job a a retirement home that his mother has worked at before she died. He is socially awkward and not great around people. Gina, (Carol Palumbo) conducts an awkward job interview with him. She has her own issues, having had problems drinking in the past. Her primary concern is the person she just had to let go. He was found trying to have an affair with one of the residents. This is strictly taboo and she tries to find out if Jack might have similar interests.

Though socially inept, Jack has a rare talent for listening to people and asking pointed questions that peal away any layers of artifice to get to the heart of any story. He begins interviewing the residents, and each has an amazing story to tell. Emily, (Mary Lee Stallings) sat center stage hugging a kitten blanket and watching TV for most of the show. She never says a word. Alzheimer has taken her memories. A woman visits who was adopted and she researched to find out that Emily was her natural mother. She reads a loving letter written by Emily shortly before giving birth. The young Emily was forced to give up her child since she wasn't married. As her daughter read the letter, tears welled up in Emily's eyes and she mouthed the closing sentence. Memories had flooded back, but she was still trapped from expressing her love.

Each resident shared their story with Jack in turn. Kate, (Vicki Wicks) who gave off the appearance of being a confident sensual actress was actually insecure. Neil, (Gary Norris) was abrasive and cocky, but his story was about being a Vietnam vet who was welcome home to America as a baby killer and how much he missed his wife. Ray, (Larry Stallings) slept through most of the play holding a yellow pillow to his chest. His story was the most unsettling as he related his wife's battle with cancer.

The play was fascinating to me since I am sitting in and sketching so many oral histories surrounding the Pulse Nightclub shooting. I am working with incredibly talented interviewers who open themselves to allow the stories to unfold naturally. 49 stories remain untold, but family and friends share memories that prove that love is an amazing and universal force. Art is strongest when it expresses empathy. This play shares that empathy in spades.

Tickets are $20.