Faith Arts Village (221 East Colonial Drive) is a ministry of Park Lake Presbyterian Church that provides a place where the faith community and local artists can work together to share their gifts of inspiration, beauty, and spiritual expression to promote peace, understanding, and well-being in the larger community. As a 'village' it will emphasize the activity and integration of many constituents: local artists, church members, community patrons, schools, and civic groups. Faith Arts Village Orlando may include:
* Studio space for artists
* Green and exhibit space for community gatherings
* Meeting and classroom space
* Gallery space
* Open air markets
* Outdoor performance space
* Cafe space for refreshments
* Possible future residential space for designated guests
* Teaching art as an expression of faith
When I arrived it was dusk and the old motel loomed dark before me. Its dark iron gates made it resemble the Bates motel on the deserted side of the motel I approached from. I heard music however and then the hum of a food trucks gas generator. In the parking lot behind the motel there were folding tables and chairs set up. The ground floor motel rooms glowed warmly. I walked into the various rooms to inspect the arts and crafts. I spoke with one artist and she told me that rent for one of these studio spaces would be $300 a month. Considering she wasn't selling much work, that price would be too steep for her. Donations were accepted for Second Harvest Food Bank.
At work Larry Loria told me about the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria Virginia. There, an old factory was converted into artists studios. Artists were only charged $50 a month, so they only needed to sell one piece of art to cover the rent. That project revitalized the historic district and now it is an expensive and exclusive neighborhood. I wondered if Faith Arts Village could do the same thing. It is located just a few blocks away from an intersection where I always see people with cardboard signs begging for money from cars at the stop light.
In another room, Mary Hill was helping children paint picture frames with bright tempera paint. I love watching kids paint. They have no preconceptions and they work with raw abandon. Mary rushed to fill cups with paint. One boy asked for gold and she was pleased to find she actually had gold paint. I leaned forward and dipped my brush into some of the bright pink paint. A little blond girl looked at me with a touch of anger, her lips pouting. "Mine!" she said. He mom coached her that it was polite to share. Will Benton, the executive director of the village welcomed me warmly. He asked me to paint something on his T-Shirt. An infinity symbol was already painted, so I added a fish symbol with a single brush stroke.
The Village seemed to have more of a flavor of a family friendly crafts fair rather than a serious place to create art. But of course that might change as the place grows and as artists start using the studios. The motel is still being refurbished and all the artists were only there for the duration of the event that night. This could be the seed of something Orlando desperately needs, a true arts district. The event was part of the monthly "Third Thursdays" downtown gallery hop but the motel is so far from downtown that it was invariably isolated from that event. As I left, a father asked if I would show his son a sketchbook. The boy was delighted flipping the pages like he was devouring a comic book. A new urban sketcher might have been born that night.