Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Urban Sketching Symposium Day 1

Upon landing in Santo Domingo I had to get a $10 Tourist card and then navigate through customs. Orling "Arty" Dominguez had arranged for a ride to the hotel which was a blessing since I don't know a lick of Spanish. This was the first time I've ever hoped to find someone holding a sign with my name on it. There was quite a crowd lining the entry to the airport. After much hunting and a quick call to Orling, I found a young woman with a sign that said, "Thor."

The road from the airport to the hotel snaked along the black lava rock coastline.  There were occasional water blow holes.  The cinder block roadside shacks and bodegas reminded me of Panama. The local driver wasn't that familiar with the one way roads throughout the historic district, so we got quite a tour as he drove a Nautilus shell pattern towards the hotel. Within an hour of getting settled in the air conditioned hotel room, I had to find my way to Centro Cultural de España for an instructors meeting.

There was a swag bag full of donated sketchbooks from Strathmore, Canson and Stillman & Birn. A map showing where each of the workshops would be held, was a major help. People would meet at the Centro Cultural and then hike out to the workshop locations.

After the meeting, Lapin pulled me aside and asked if he could draw me. I was surprised with how close he wanted to sit as he sketched. We sketched each other and I was surprised that he finished before me. Getting to watch him work was a major thrill. Later that evening there was a Portrait Party, Ice-breaker at Quintana Bar, (C/ Atarazana #13, Zona Colonial, In front of Plaza Espana.) We all sat in an outdoor courtyard, adding more chairs and tables as artists arrived. The waitress did a good job with the first round of drinks, but soon she couldn't keep up with the demand. About one hundred artists were signed up for the Symposium and I swear they all tried to squeeze into that small courtyard. It was incredibly exciting to be around artists whose work I have admired for so long.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Airport Delay


Airport delays are always an opportunity to sketch. It seems that most people consider it an opportunity to stare at iPhones or iPads. I assume they are reading a good book. The semi-mirrored windows reflected the interior scene  when the tarmac was dark. One at a time, these Korean tourists scouted out something to eat. They returned with hot dogs and other meat-like products. Four people were waiting on stand by to get on the very crowded flight. One young girl was very anxious since she needed to get to a wedding.

When the plane finally started boarding, it was from the back rows to the front. I was in row six, so I was one of the last passengers on the plane. Flying over the Dominican Republic, I saw large organized grids of palm forests.  The island was lush and green. The plane was approaching the airport on the southern shore of the island so I got a closer view of the changing landscape. The air was hazy from human influence. Many cinder block buildings had rusty metal roofs, many of which were blown off probably from a hurricane. When the plane landed at the Santo Domingo Airport, everyone on board cheered. let the Urban Sketching Symposium begin!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jet Blue Flight 1717


My wife Terry dropped me off at the Orlando International Airport two hours early to get through security and wait for my Jet Blue flight to Santo Domingo. 100 artists from around the world were gathering there for the Third International Urban Sketching Symposium. I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the ten instructors. My workshop would be called "Capturing the Event." All my course materials were tucked away in my carry on.

This is probably the calmest scene I sketched during the week of the symposium, as flight 1717 fueled up and prepared for boarding.  The flight took just about two hours flying south to the Dominican Republic. For the in flight snack, I grabbed a bag of animal crackers and I tried to identify each species before I bit off its head or legs. Each seat back had TV screens with 35 stations and three movies playing. I pushed the buttons on my arm rest and decided to watch The Lorax without sound. This Dr. Seuss animated feature was easy to follow even without the dialogue. Watching a film without sound let me focus on how scenes are composed, staged and lit. When I wasn't watching the screen, I was watching the gorgeous cathedral like cloud formations.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bark at the Park Night


Fans were encouraged to bring their dogs to the ball park for Bark at the Park Night Sunday July 21st sponsored by Pet Rescue by Judy. I went to Alfond Stadium, (801 Orange Avenue, Winter Park), where the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs played against the Sanford River Rats. This Collegiate Summer League game featured the most talented of the college players that could be drafted to the big leagues. Between the parking lot and the first base line, tents had been set up where vendors offered pet supplies for all the dogs that came out to the ball park. Dogs were everywhere. A retriever lounged in a kiddie pool wearing a red white and blue cardboard top hat. In ten minutes the game was going to start so I found a seat in the stands.

I could hear the announcer behind me and seconds later his delayed voice boomed and sizzled through the muffled sound system. A few fans had taken their dogs into the stands. As I sketched, the sun burst out from behind some clouds and I cursed myself for not having my baseball cap. I shielded my eyes with my left hand. The sun slowly set behind the left field fence with the clouds rimmed in orange. Then the outfield lights flickered on. There were several home runs and the score was much higher than most pro games. I paid close attention to the pitcher's wind up. A Pomeranian yipped in his owners lap.

I enjoyed the silly kids games between innings. Two boys had to place their foreheads on the end of a bat and spin around it 5 times then run to the finish line. One boy fell as he spun and they both stumbled off balance towards the finish line. Then there was the chicken toss, where rubber chickens had to be tossed into baskets. And of course the sixth inning stretch where all the fans stood and sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game.  The announcer asked trivia questions like, What breed of dog do you get if you cross a Golden Retriever with a Poodle. The answer was Golden Doodle. The winner of the evenings raffle would win half the money from raffle ticket sales and a Winter Park Team autographed baseball.

Heat lightning flashed on the horizon in the clouds behind the outfield fences as the teams entered the 9th inning. A dog barked loudly when the catcher had to leap to catch a stray ball. The Diamond Dawgs won easily 12 to 7 against the River Rats. Peanut shells littered the stands as everyone filed out of the stadium. It's been a long time since I enjoyed the church of baseball.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jazz at the White House


The Civic Minded 5 presented reed player Trevor Watts and pianist Veryan Weston, a longtime duo and storied members of the British improv scene at the Timucua White House, ( 2000 South Summerlin).  This free concert presented cutting edge new jazz, where mastery met sensibility and the joy of the moment. The visual artist for the evening was going to be Martha Jo Mahoney, but she couldn't make it. Bernie Martin was working on a watercolor at stage right and I was sketching in the balcony so the visual arts were represented. I was surrounded  by a family who took some interest in what I was doing. I recognized the husband but couldn't quite place him. Finally after a short conversation, I realized it was Mark Simon, who wrote a book called Storyboards, Motion in Art. I have that book in my art library and refer to it anytime I get a storyboard assignment. What a small world. This was the first time Mark and his family attended a Timucua concert. They were in for an explosive, experimental treat.

The music was edgy and on the verge of  pure cacophony. As I worked, I realized I didn't have a rag to wipe off my brushes. I used the sketch itself to wipe clean the brush. I worked in a frenzy driven by the music and the panic of the moment. Both performers had thick grey hair that swept around the back of their skulls reminiscent of friendly poltergeist clowns. I'm considering growing my own grey  lion's mane to duplicate this bohemian look.

After the concert people socialized around snacks and wines in the entry foyer. I caught up with Wendy Wallenburg, who helps out at the social hour, and her friends, Sarah Austin and Nikki Mier.  Nikki suggested I should start wearing outlandish clothes as a fashion statement so people can spot me at events.  I still prefer to blend in with the wallpaper. Elaine Corriveu, who is Benoit Glazer's wife, and the hostess for the evening, wanted to see my sketch. I honestly believe she appreciates what I do. If you haven't been to the White House, then you are missing out on a gem of the local music scene.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Take Your Blinders Off


Julie Gros let me know that a Vegan Outreach organization was showing a documentary about the horrors of meat production facilities. I stumbled across the pickup truck mobile theater as I was walking around Lake Eola on my way to another event. I had to sketch. Julie was there along with five or six other people who handed out fliers and offered people passing by vegan fudge. The mobile video truck was parked across the street from Publix Supermarket.

The Meat Video showed actual footage from factory farms. It was narrated by James Cromwell. I warn you that the video is brutal and hard to watch. Also, there were clips from Earthlings Film, set to music by local musician, Dani Shay. I must have watched the films like ten times as I worked on the sketch. It made me think I should consider a vegan diet. I'm considering starting another blog called, Vegan Artist in a Carnivorous World.

Some people walking past the screening averted their eyes. Others stood for a while to talk to volunteers. One man walking past with his family shouted out "You are all *ssh*lls!" A volunteer shouted back, "Nice language in front of your children!" I don't know how many people were influenced by the screenings, but having taken the time to look, I am certainly considering making more compassionate choices when it comes to my diet.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tablet Repair


My Motion Computing Tablet started running some diagnostic that kept me from writing. The ominous screen popped up every other time I booted up the computer. Naturally I panicked. I called Damon Natch Burke, who is the brother of local artist Tracy Burke. "Tracy got all the artistic talent and I got all the analytical abilities." He said. Damon used to work, engineering rocket payloads. A poster in his workshop showed a schematic of one of those rockets.  He now works an Embry-Riddle as an Observatory engineer. He came across the same warning signs and decided to attack the issue from the inside out. First he researched on Google to see if any other people had the same issue. I did the same thing, but he always seems to find more in depth reports. Somehow he hooked his computer up to mine and he ran a barrage of tests.

He let me sit in and sketch as he took the tablet apart. The tiny screws were balanced on top of his own iPad. The pressure sensitive screen was popped off and he finally found a way to inspect the heart of the machine, a tiny hard drive. He approached the problem from all angles. If the hard drive was to blame, he wanted to be sure he ordered the right one. When he rebooted and the diagnostic screen came up again, he asked how long I had let the diagnostic run. I had let it run all night and when I saw it hadn't finished by the next morning, I had assumed it was frozen. As we sat and talked, he let the diagnostic continue. He placed his ear to the machine and listened for movement in the hard drive. I joked that the doctor needed a stethoscope. He actually had one and he decided to use it. "You can't draw me using the stethoscope however." He insisted.

As the hard drive continued to click and whir, Damon suggested I go out and get some lunch.  When I returned, it was still working. I went back home to get all my software disks in case the hard drive had to be wiped clean. In the end, the machine fixed itself. I had just not been patient enough to let the program finish its work. The experience was a wake up call. I need to start backing up all my data. I'll do that soon, when there is more time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

GOAT Actors Studio Annex


Dennis Neal was conducting his second three week intensive actors workshop at the GOAT Actors Studio Annex, (650 S. Northlake Blvd., Suite 430, Altmonte Springs). The Greater Orlando Actors Theatre class was offered two nights a week with four hour sessions. The invitation stressed that each person would be working on a play of their choosing, as well as other work. This class was for those WILLING TO WORK and SERIOUS ABOUT THEIR CRAFT!

About a dozen actors sat at tables edging the corporate training room. The first question Dennis would ask each student was, "Why are you taking this course." The answers helped define where each artist was on their personal journey. There were far more women than men who wanted to learn. Each actor was asked to bring a monologue they could read. A young woman named Denise was the first at bat. Her mom sat beside her. Denise got up and sat in a lone chair in the center of the room facing Dennis. He stressed that the class wasn't about judgement or winning his acceptance. Jokingly he warned Denise, "I will  break you down."  The room grew quiet. There was tension in the air.

Denise confided that she was nervous. She had written her own monologue in which she confronted a boy making  unwanted advances. "You think I'm that kind of girl?" she said. Dennis interrupted her and asked her to delete all the inflections and flourishes. He wanted her to just say the lines like she was speaking. He would then use hand signals to indicate when he wanted her to slow down or speed up a line. She was flustered, thrown off balance. Her eyes welled up. She asked to be excused and ran to the bathroom. Dennis asked another actress to go in and see how she was doing.

Each actor got up in turn to work on their monologue. Alecia traveled two hours to get to the class. Dennis shouted out, "Lets take it to the wall!" He said, "Every scene goes back to love and fear." The most important thing an actor must keep in mind is, "What do I want." Even more important, "Nobody is perfect." Sarah Lockhard had already memorized her monologue. She played the part of a manic receptionist talking at a break neck pace. She was quirky, quick witted and hilarious. When she was done, Dennis asked, "Do you drink coffee?" "Heck YEAH!" she shot back. Everyone laughed.

Dennis asked one actress to just speak to another actress about maturity. Everything she said came from the heart. There was no script. Authenticity flowed. Dennis used the exchange to point out that honesty is the best tool in any actor's tool box. The young actress, Denise, had returned and she was the last to again take the center stage chair. Dennis said, "I may bark, but I don't bite." This time she performed admirably, working hard to accept advice and dig deep inside to express herself with absolute honesty. By the next class, each actor was expected to be "off book." Then, the real work would begin.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Artists’ Critique & Conversation


The Art & History Museums of Maitland presented an exciting new initiative to assist in the professional development of local artists. A new series, titled Artists’ Critique & Conversation, will be held on the 4th Tuesday of every month at 6:00 p.m. The critiques will be held in the Germaine Marvel Building, (210 W. Packwood Avenue, Maitland). The Critique is FREE and the public is encouraged to attend. A bar was available with beer, wine, water and soft drinks.

The critiques will be led by artist, arts writer, and instructor Josh Garrick, along with two additional panelists each month. Parker Sketch offered his insights at the first event. After the panel review, all attendees displayed their work and engaged in discussions and peer reviews. Artists of every medium and skill level are encouraged to participate. Each critique will review up to 9 artists, and all artists MUST sign up in advance. Each artist can only sign up for one of the nine slots every three months.

Garrick, who has spent his career in the arts, discusses the judging and critique of art, “From my years as a teacher at New York City’s School of Visual Arts, it has always been important to me – when ‘judging’ art – to create an environment in which my students and colleagues may expand their abilities, and not to insist on a style, or change an individual’s personal voice,” he says. “Rather, the most important consideration for me, as an aesthetic judge, is to seek out those persons whose work exhibits a unique and personal form of creativity. “Other important considerations include: composition, use of color, technical ability, control of the medium, and use of light and shading. While judgments of aesthetic value may be linked to emotions or cultural conditioning, I’ve found that I have the ability to put those aside and find – when judging – that my initial response to a work is my finest barometer. “Having ‘judged’ well over 1000 student portfolios and Art Festivals throughout the Eastern US, I put aside my personal ‘interpretations,’ and allow the work to ‘sweep over me,’ as I was taught by Silas Rhodes, founder of the School of Visual Arts. Meanings and symbols mean little to me in the judging process. My senses, emotions, and training – or some combination of these – mean much more. “When I participate as a juror, I ‘see’ from an artist’s point-of-view, and from a teacher’s point-of-view, and as a person willing to be public with an honest opinion. Jurors must be willing to voice their opinion … and stand by it, with everyone understanding that it is one man’s opinion – no more and no less. When my considered opinion of a student’s work was negative, I would tell that person, ‘It is one man’s opinion. It is an educated opinion, but it is one opinion.’ If there is a constructive lesson to be learned, that point is worth remembering. “Finally,” Garrick concludes, “it is up to each Artist to maintain his or her own choices and opinions. This is YOUR work, and the most important judgment is how YOU judge your work.”

The next Artist's Critique is Tuesday July 24th starting at 6PM in the Maitland Art Center's Germaine Marvel Building, 210 W. Packwood Avenue, Maitland.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tango Dance Class


The dance class began in the Zebra Room (2609 Gower Street), at 2 A.M. Tango Productions run by Amy Allison, featured Victoria Sarquisse and Federico Jorquera, for the first time teaching workshops in Orlando. Victoria and Federico were both born and raised in Argentina and have been teaching Argentine tango in the Tampa area for the last 5 years.

Students arrived slowly, socializing and changing their shoes. The workshop began with Victoria leading everyone in warm up exercises. They all faced the mirrored wall stretching along with Victoria. I only had enough time to sketch Victoria with her hands stretched over her head. Men and women then separated into two groups. Frederico showed the men how to lead and the women were shown their embellishments.

Victoria explained that walking with dignified intention can be the most beautiful aspect of any Tango. The movement is initiated from the chest. She plucked the fabric of a participants blouse to demonstrate. Every step had deliberate confidence. The first important thing in Tango is a good embrace and the second is walking. There are many nuances built around every deliberate move. When men and women danced together, with volcadas in close embrace, they were instructed to feel the connection. In one exercise the men were instructed to take a small step back and the women would lean forward into his chest. Even though there was often space between them, every nuance needed to be communicated and felt. Victoria stressed that they needed to enjoy the journey. With the lessons complete, everyone danced with abandon, learning from each new partner.



Saturday, July 21, 2012

Blues Dance


After repairing my computer, Damon Natch Burke and his wife, Amy Davenport were going to take a Blues Dance Class at the Zebra Room (2609 Gowen Street, Orlando) . Damon suggested I meet him there so he could give me my repaired tablet. Of course I asked if I could stay and sketch. Damon talked to the instructors and they were fine with the idea. Cars drove inside what looked like a residential backyard and parked on the lawn between orange trees. I arrived at the same time as a petite girl from Knoxville Tennessee.

 Unfortunately the air conditioning in the Zebra room was broken. That didn't stop this group of dancers. People kept arriving with fans and one couple showed up with three huge industrial fans. It was bliss when the breeze hit. With all the fans on however you couldn't hear the instructors talk, so the fans were turned back off. I liked the premise that dance is an intuitive dialogue, or conversation between couples. Simple exercises started with couples facing each other and touching palms. They needed to stand close and move as one. They stepped together forward and back to the beat of the blues. When a lead dancer would spin his partner, she could go with the flow of his up beat pace or slow down the spin at the apex and dip in slow motion. Her desire for a slow sensual movement could then be followed up by the lead. The sensual dance conversation could continue without a word.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Broomstick Pony Workshop


Preparations are underway at Urban ReThink for Orlando's first ever Broomstick Pony Derby. Megan Boye, from Ibex Puppetry, brought along a wide assortment of materials for people to use to create their own broomstick pony. I was most impressed when she lugged in a huge military knapsack that was bulging at the seams. It turned out that the knapsack was full of fluff which would be used to stuff each horse head.

I followed a mom and daughter team as they created their red striped pony. In the conference room all the supplies were spread out on a long table and people were free to pick anything they wanted for their creations.  The room was a constant flurry of activity as head patterns were cut, hot glued and sewn. Every horse head was unique.

Orlando used to host fun quirky events like the Cumquat Parade. The Broomstick Pony Derby is  attempting to bring back that fun, civic minded, artistic sense of community. Folks of all ages will create and race handmade broomstick ponies, zebras, ostriches, aliens, you name it. Spectators will enjoy light-hearted races with whimsical outcomes. The Derby celebrate community and creativity and will raise funds, friends, and awareness for enhancing Urban ReThink’s operations and programming.There is one more pony making workshop on August 16th at 6:25PM to 9PM. There is a Broomstick Pony Showing, TONIGHT from 6:25PM to 9PM. The Derby will take place on Saturday, September 22, 9:00 to 11:00 am on Central Boulevard outside of Urban ReThink. May the best horse win. Broomstick pony galloping to local businesses will continue after the big race!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Milk Carton Superstars


The third band I saw as part of I-4 Fest, inside Austin's Coffee (929 W. Fairbanks Ave. Winter Park) on July 4th was Milk Carton Superstars. They had gone the extra mile by having an American flax covering the speakers. They also had their own LED lighting although it wasn't needed since it was really bright outside. Milk Carton Superstars are a couple guys shaking riffs and rhymes out of thin air and turning them into rock & roll songs. The band formed in early 2007 when longtime friends Guy Larmay (guitars, bass, other) and Jim Myers (vocals, drums, other also) began writing songs together again for the first time. They are based in Mt. Dora.

The music was hard hitting rock and roll. My wife, Terry, hadn't finished her crossword puzzle yet because a coffee had been spilled on it. We decided we had seen enough local music for one day.  I drove near Lake Eola where streets were already blocked off for the July 4th fireworks display. I didn't want to deal with the inevitable traffic, so I drove to Boston Market where we had a holiday feast. After that, we drove straight home, where I watched war movies for the rest of the night as fire crackers and bottle rockets exploded around the quiet suburban streets. Zorro, an umbrella cockatoo, didn't much like the noise. He raised his crest every time there was an explosion.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

(the parentheticals)


Every hour or so a new band would lug in their equipment and set up on the indoor stage at Austin's Coffee (929 W. Fairbanks Ave.

Winter Park) for I-4 Fest. The second group I saw was (the parentheticals). I was enjoyed sketching the performers from my spot right next to the stage.

They played with energy and abandon. Luckily my sketch flowed with just the right amount of structure and looseness.

(the parentheticals) were born when three friends, all longtime  
singer/songwriter musicians but who had never worked together, decided 
 to collaborate for the first time on an original project. Despite the
distinctly different styles of writing, singing, and playing each brought to the table, they quickly found that their individual talents blended and complemented each other perfectly.  Creative bursts of  writing and jamming followed, and soon (the parentheticals) had crafted their unique laid-back, underground indie-rock sound.

Bill Massey was on bass, guitar, harmonica, keyboard and drum machine, Matt O'Grady on guitar, melodica and mandolin and Kristen DeAngelis on guitar and synths (when allowed). Everybody sings.  They are currently in the studio   working on their first collection of recordings while also playing live whenever possible.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I-4 Fest

On July 4th, Terry and I went to Austin's Coffee (929 W. Fairbanks Ave. Winter Park) where I-4 Fest was being hosted. For $5 you could listen to local musicians perform all day long. There was a band playing on the outdoor stage, but since it was so hot outside, I ordered an Orange Blossom beer and went inside to enjoy the air conditioning. I sat on a rickety old kitchen chair. Chopper Stepe was performing on the small stage in front of the entry window. It was a simple acoustical performance in the intimate setting. Terry sat at a back counter doing a crossword puzzle while I sketched. Patriotic children's art decorated the walls. A primitive Abe Lincoln stood in front of the American flag. A gun was being pointed at him and someone was telling him to "Look out!" Beer bottles decorated the stage. The music was simple warm and inviting.  My July 4th was off to a great start.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Science Center

The Orlando Science Center is open late on Friday and Saturday evenings in the summer. The Cosby Observatory is open till 10PM. The first time I went to the Science Center to see the observatory, it was raining. Well, of course the dome wasn't open, so I decided to wander and find another sketch opportunity. I was tempted by a transparent woman but then couldn't resist the dinosaurs. The room was completely empty the whole time I sketched. Only one family entered and they seemed to know instinctively, how to stay out of the sketch.

Every once in a while I would hear a dinosaur snort and roar. It wasn't until I was about an hour into the sketch, that I noticed the T-Rex was moving his jaw as he made noise. It took me by surprise and I waited the longest time to see if he would do it again. I started looking over my shoulder anytime I heard noises behind me.

The excavation pits were well worked with sand scattered on the floor. Many paleontologists had been busy uncovering the bones.  This really is the best time for adults to play among the science exhibits free from bus loads of school children. Giant screen films are shown as well in the CineDome of Tornado Alley and Rescue. The Friday and Saturday evening hours continue all summer through August 18th. Night time tickets are just $13 for adults and $8 for kids (age 3-11).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cosby Observatory

On Friday evenings this summer, the Cosby Observatory is open to the public till 10PM at the Orlando Science Center (777 East Princeton St.). Riding the elevator to the observatory, I felt like I was entering the bridge of the Enterprise as the glass elevator slipped above the circular ceiling panel.

A high school volunteer greeted me when I got off the elevator. Out on the balcony, a small telescope was set up. The sun was about to set and the scope was pointed directly at the sun. Special filters removed harmful radiation. All that remained was a dark round disk.

I then climbed the circular staircase to the much larger Telescope. The domes two large sliding panels had been pulled aside to expose the night sky. To find Saturn, the entire dome had to be rotated clockwise a few degrees. It was an impressive sight watching the dome groan and rotate on a track with the push of a button. The telescope usually tracks a planet automatically using high tech servos, but the tracking was down, and a volunteer had to re-center the planet each time a new visitor took a look. Parents held their children up to the eye piece and they had to stand on tip toe themselves. There was a movable staircase for shorter guests. A little girl became fascinated with what I was doing and she snuggled up to my drawing arm so much, I couldn't move my elbow. Her mom finally stepped in and said, "Give the man some room." Brian OHalloran was there with his wife and children. They claimed they had just seen me outside Downtown Theater  on the drive over to the Science Center, so they were convinced I had a clone.

Each time people climbed or descended the spiral staircase, the platform I was sitting on shook. At times the line to look through the eyepiece got quite long. I took a look after my sketch was complete. Saturn was visible with it's rings along with Pica, a distant star. I heard over and over again that Saturn looked like a sticker. Sure enough that is the impression since it looks flat since it is so far away. Carl Darden who is the observatory caretaker pointed out that the city of Orlando had a haze over it that night, and that contributed to the light pollution which hinders crystal clear sky viewing. I could see the gradient haze as the sky grew bright towards the city lights. The first time I went to the Observatory, it had rained all day and the observation doors were closed, so be sure to stop by on a clear night.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Simple Living Institute


The Simple Living Institute was holding it's monthly meeting in the Camelia Room at Leu Gardens. It had been raining all day and thus it seemed appropriate that the talk was about rain barrels. Tia Meer had been gardening all day in the rain which is actually a blessing since you're guaranteed to stay cool when it rains. She entered the room, muddy and wet and introduced the speakers. Her husband, Terry Meer, began the talk explaining that 70% of the earth's surface is covered with water. Only 2.5% of that is fresh water and only 3/10 of 1% of that is drinkable water. He demonstrated how to build and plumb a rain barrel. In Florida or anywhere for that matter, huge amounts of rain water are wasted and lost to sewers and drainage ditches.

Tommy Branch demonstrated how he paints the blue barrels so they look like old fashioned wood barrels. He used a large house brush painting the whole barrel a light brown. Then he dries out the brush and adds dry brush streaks that look like wood grain. The vertical board separation lines he added last with a ruler and a sharpie. He said, "I'm no artist, so if I can do it anyone can." Large rain barrels were on sale for $80 and half barrel planters were available for $40. Members all brought in plants which were for sale or trade on tables along the side of the room. There were at least 50 people in attendance despite the rain.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ivanhoe After Hours


Business owners from the Ivanhoe Village Business District mixed, mingled, and networked among the enriching art of the Mennello Museum of American Art, (900 East Princeton Street). There were libations and hors d'oeuvres. I arrived right after work and started sketching before the room got really crowded. Dave PerMar from the Social Media Consulting Group and Colleen Burns from Yelp gave talks about how social media can help businesses. I sketched them as they set up their power points. According to Dave, Google + has been gaining influence online slowly inching towards Facebook's influence. The benefits for any business are obvious and it is important these days to keep the conversation going with costumers. People trust advice from friends online rather than large corporate ad campaigns.

The wife of Rick Singh took an interest in my sketch. Rick is running for Orange County Appraiser and he was there with a broad smile shaking hands. I was encouraged by his wife's obvious knowledge and love of art. She told me about Gallery G4 which just opened up downtown and she suggested I get down there and meet the owner. Linda Stewart was there as well and she suggested I go to a fundraiser for her campaign for Florida House District 47.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fragment(ed) Rehearsal


The Empty Spaces Theatre Co. and DiDonna Productions presents Fragment(ed)- the sequel to their “Best Dance” winner of the 2011 Fringe “Unspoken”. Through a fusion of dance, movement, spoken word, aerial and original music Fragment(ed) explores the very adult world of love, sex and desire, guilt and rejection, violence and destruction and final fragmentation.

 The rehearsal was visceral and energetic, combining dance, spoken word, mime and music. The show delves deep into the doubts, conflicts and pure pleasure of love. Actors draw upon their own personal experiences. These anecdotes ring true because they are raw and true. One act dwelt with two male roommates. One roommate fell in love with a girl and invited her as a third roommate. The couple broke up and the girl stayed while her boyfriend left. She and the other roommate despised one another, yet during a fight the ended up kissing. Told simply through mime, the scene is hilarious. One dance number had couples bound together with bungee chords. When they ran apart in search of their freedom, they would be yanked back together with an inversely violent force. I was afraid that the cast with bandannas and torn jeans might have been over influenced by the local DRIP Dance company, but I was happy to discover a show with rich layers. Fragment(ed) is sure to viscerally touch you and perhaps allow you to recognize yourself.

Fragment(ed) will be performed ONE WEEKEND ONLY – 7 performances from Thursday July 12th – Monday July 16th at the Mandell Theater of the Lowndes Shakespeare Center located in Loch Haven Park (corner of 1792 and Princeton). Performances will be at 7:30 each evening, with additional Twilight performances on Saturday July 14th and Sunday July 15th (two shows a day).  WHEN: ONE WEEKEND – Seven Shows Only Thursday July 12th – Monday July 16th Evening shows Thurs – Monday @ 7:30pm Additional Twilight Sat July 14th and Sun July 15th @ 4:30pm TICKETS: $15 - $20 with some discounts available. Reservations 407.328.9005 or online reservation/ticket purchase redchairproject.com

The Audacity of Play



Urban ReThink is about Collaboration, Creativity and Transformation. Nothing exemplifies these principles better than the playful mural titled GoogliAnn and the Audacity of Play. now adorning a wall near the Spork Happy Food Cafe. Artist Graci
Ann Spath’s Self-Portrait explores the construction of self within the context of elementary society. Completed in September 2011, just prior to her 5th birthday, Spath offered the work as a gift to her uncle, Urban ReThink's Founding Director, Darren McDaniel. McDaniel imagined the piece in giant format on the Urban ReThink wall and, in particular, the reaction it might trigger in his niece. Yet, upon seeing his first Photoshopped rendering, Spath quickly dismissed its authenticity. “It’s not real.”

McDaniel held fast to his vision of the giant googly-eyed girl on the wall. In the weeks that followed, he came to see the possibility of the piece as a perfect complement to the Urban ReThink environment—a constant reminder of the spirit of play and possibility, bringing together collaborators from multiple disciplines, not to mention generations.

The Audacity of Play is a 10'x10' expression of the piece created by Orlando artist, Carolyn Schultz. The larger-than-life mural features functional googly eyes concocted by Urban ReThink resident creative, Kathryn Neel, and empowered by Zach from Hicks Electric. The small crayon drawing by GraciAnn is on display on a small pedestal in front of the mural. A remote control inflated fish floated through the room.

I went to the unveiling of the mural. This was to the the first time GraciAnn saw her small creation blown up larger than life.  When she arrived with her family, she didn't notice the wall at first, but when she did, she ran to her mothers arms for support. Darren addressed the gathered crowd and got quite choked up when he said how important his nieces and family were to him.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Karen Russell Opening


I went to the opening reception of Karen Russell's solo art show at Sam Flax (1800 East Colonial Drive) on July 9th. I arrived straight from my job at Full Sail. I had to buy a few brushes for my trip to Santo Domingo. I bumped into Karen and her friend George as I was shopping. Karen let me know that she had crackers and that spray on Easy Cheese. How awesome! I haven't had Easy Cheese since I was a kid. This was turning out to be quite an auspicious  pinky raised affair. Karen had to run out to get a few more supplies for the opening.

Since I was early, I started sketching the room, leaving a few open spots for arts patrons when they arrived. I spoke with the store owner for a while and I'm very happy that he is now stocking quality sketchbooks.  Half of the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks had sold from the floor display that he had picked up from the Namta Art Supply Convention at the Orlando Convention Center about a month ago. He has started stocking the new quality sketchbooks from Canson and Strathmore as well. As he said, "This is the year of the sketchbook."

Karen was dressed all in black, with oil paint dabbed all over her calves. She returned with a supply of Communion wafers. Gordon Spears tried one and he said it tasted a bit like an ice cream cone or Styrofoam. I tried a small white wafer as well, letting it dissolve on the roof of my mouth. Karen suggested that they taste better with Easy Cheese. I never did try that combo. Being Jewish, my wife Terry wondered if she would go to hell for tasting a wafer. Some guy told her that it wasn't too late to save her soul. She avoided him the rest of the evening. Terry had Karen paint a nude of her. The angular painting stares at me as I try to go to sleep at night. Terry joked that we should buy all the paintings and then sell them for thousands of dollars more down at Art Basel in Miami. A store clerk talked about how locals don't buy art. He knew of a couple from Orlando who purchased some art in a Chicago art gallery. The art was by an Orlando artist. They said that they never buy art in Orlando. "For some reason, people only appreciate art north of the Mason Dixie Line." he said.

People sat in all the black "Darth Vader" studio chairs on display. A friend of Karen's showed off all the abrasions and bruises she got at a "Sui-slide" party she had been at. Another woman had a broken finger. Darn, I knew about that party and didn't go to sketch. I could kick myself. The model for one the paintings liked how she looked on the wall with a flower in her hair. Jokingly, she lamented the hunch back and saggy boobs. A couple bought the smallest painting for $65. A green dot went on the label. I love Karen's work. The harsh knuckled fingers and angular figures remind me of Viennese Expressionistic art prior to the world wars. This show is on display through July 23rd.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Artists Party and Street Market


Affect Art held its first Artists Party and Street Market at Taste Restaurant (717 W. Smith Street College Park). The purpose of Affect Art is simply to help artists help themselves. A few artists were set up inside the front room in Taste and everyone else was set up outside under the awning. Clouds loomed, threatening rain as the evening grew dark. Parker Sketch had some paintings on display in the gallery inside. I met Terry for dinner at Taste before I started a sketch. I liked the tatter tots but the fish tacos were too hot for my taste. I had to wash them down with plenty of beer. Parker walked some patrons through the gallery and on his way out he saw us and stopped over to say hi.

Some sort of performance was going to happen in the gallery. A petite dancer was getting ready to perform. I found out she was a silks dancer who would be performing her aerial act.  The event was a fundraiser for YAYA, a youth and young adult Network of the National Farm Worker Ministry. It cost $5 to enter, so I opted to go with a free sketch outside, besides, catching a girl spinning and flipping as she is suspended from the ceiling would be a difficult sketch.

Outside, Parker was busy painting a skateboard with a Pabst Blue Ribbon logo. The board was for a show at City Arts Factory. Just about every gallery is filled with skateboards that have been painted by local artists. The show, curated by B-side artist Tr3 Harris is called Boarded up - The Art of Skateboarding. It is an impressive show hanging till July 14th.

Whitney Broadaway had an ingenious idea of letting passers by make their own prints. She had lino cuts already prepared and a young couple stopped to try their hand at print making. The woman rolled out the ink and applied it to the print plate. Only the high ridges would print. A sheet of paper was applied on top of the inked plate and then Whitney set it inside the press. The crank was turned applying massive pressure. The costumer was given the thrill of the big revel. Both Whitney and the costumer signed the print.

Although not much art was sold, it was a great opportunity for artists to mingle and talk art. One artist was talking about how the DADA movement was "the punk rock of art." He admired Jackson Pollack who finally said, "F*ck this I'm just going to do what I want." An artist who was dressed like a rough Harley Davidson biker lamented how he was an outsider in high school. Whitney's table became a social hub for artists who had studied with the same teachers at UCF. A friend walked by and didn't notice me sketching. I suppose I become a bit invisible when I sketch and I was camouflaged by large potted plants.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Yelp Orlando's Summertime Street Soiree

Yelp teaming up with CityArts Factory and the Downtown Arts District to host a massive party, Yelp Orlando's Summertime Street Soirée. Colleen Burns, aka "Blue" invited me to come sketch. Pine Street outside the City Arts Factory was blocked off with temporary fencing. Yelp is the site that connects locals to the best this city has to offer. This event will be a great opportunity for everyone in the community to come together to celebrate and enjoy complimentary bites and adult beverages from local eateries and entertainment from The Fifth, Bento, The Yum Yum Cupcake Truck, DJ A-Rock and KUSH just to name a few. Since Yelp is all about the community, they partnered with City Arts Factory, a community-minded non-profit, who collected donations to keep the Downtown Arts District thriving.

I went to the event with my wife Terry and her book club friend Donna Connors. I was glad Donna could keep Terry company while I sketched. The challenge was that it was raining all morning. When we arrived and got our arm bands, I immediately rushed to find an overhang to sit under while I sketched. I decided to sketch the red flaming bar tent.

It began to pour. No, not just the drinks, I mean there was a typhoon. Winds soaked the sketch pages. The bar tenders ended up standing in curbside puddles  up to their ankles. That didn't stop them from filling the complimentary drink orders. Most people had umbrellas or rain jackets. Others didn't care, and they enjoyed the complimentary food and drink as they got soaked to the bone. I think the rain helped people meet and mingle as they huddled under tents and overhangs. I spotted blue once in here clear rain jacket and blue dress. She was in an animated conversation and I never got to thank her for organizing the huge event. A D.J.  stood in front of NV Lounge and he performed an amazing D.J. mix using only his voice and percussive lips. Words shuffled forwards and back and his hands animated the space in front of him like a giant mixing board. He was amazing but I didn't sketch since rain continued to threaten. It was time to be social. I texted Terry, but she stood right behind me.

The three of us went into NV Lounge to sit at the bar and wait for the worst of the storm to pass. I ordered a Coke and the bartender said, "It's on the house." When the rain subsided, I ventures out to get a Woodchuck blueberry hard cider. Yum, I ordered another. There were long lines for sushi and other food stations. There was no line for Jeremiah's Homemade Italian ice, so I got that. It was starting to rain again, so we agreed to go up to Donna's apartment where it was dry and warm. As we drove up in my Prius, the sky opened up like a waterfall.





Sunday, July 8, 2012

Accidental Fundraiser

The Accidental Music Festival returned to Urban Rethink to present a performance of Terry Riley's seminal work In C, often cited as the first major minimalist work. The piece features a group of musicians (in our case a mixed ensemble of 12 players, many from UCF) performing a series of 53 musical ideas, each player moving through the sequence at their own pace. The melodies and rhythmic riffs flow in and out of sync according to the whims of the players, chance, and inspiration, so the piece can take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. The mood can become meditative, thrilling, and even ecstatic; it's never the same twice.

In conjunction with the performance, there was also be a silent auction of prints and other small art pieces by local visual artists, with most items priced at $50 or less. The artists will donate a portion of the proceeds to presenting the 2nd annual Accidental Music Festival this November. The Accidental Music Festival is a marathon festival of concerts and educational programming sponsored by the Timucua Arts Foundation. The festival is primarily dedicated to presenting modern and contemporary music of high artistic quality by living composers and engaging the community in a dialogue about the value of artistic, creative, and avant-garde music.

When I arrived, Mat Roberts was sitting alone on stage holding a potted cactus next to a microphone. He plucked the needles and the cactus sang like a harp. He used a bowl of nuts as an instrument as well. One nut thundered to the floor in an unexpected improvisation.  Yellow pencils poked into green Styrofoam balls stood topiary style in a pot beside him.

On the day of the fundraiser, Chris Belt the festival's founder, was concerned that the performance at Urban ReThink didn't generate the funds expected. I'm happy to see that the 2011 Kickstarter Campaign was a success. Hopefully this years fundraiser will also be a success. The Festival will take place November 8-18th at Urban ReThink and at the Timucua White House. I for one look forward to the new and unexpected. If anyone would like to bid on this sketch, a portion of the proceeds will go to the Accidental Music Festival. Consider the comment section on this post to be a silent bid sheet. Highest bid wins.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

CUSS YEAH! A Wes Anderson Homage

I walked over to Stardust Video & Coffee when I got a text from Terry saying she was there. The cardboard decorations for the Wes Anderson themed costume party were pretty amazing. There was a ten foot long Jaguar Shark and a yellow submarine that had Styrofoam container port holes. Blue fabric draped from metal ceiling rafters offered ocean waves. Pink fish schooled through the room. The entire room was an amazing homage to The Life Aquatic. An entire wall was retro fitted into a cardboard flank of a nautical research vessel. A faux campfire burned warmly on a small stage in the center of the room. I spotted Terry across the room near the bar and I walked over. Having just seen Moonrise Kingdom, I can say I am a true Wes Anderson fan. I felt absolute pleasure from the familiar Wes camera mores and grid structure staging in the film. The story was a hart warming delight. It was a solid 10! Go SEE it, and rediscover the innocence of love.

Terry wanted to have dinner, but I had eaten enough at the craft night prior to the party. She went to order food and I started sketching. I worked fast, but not fast enough. I sipped a beer and sketched while she ate and looked at her iPhone. I blended right in with my hand crafted red skull cap and blue striped uniform. I admired the amazing number of men and women who pulled off the same look, many to much better effect. Many of the women had on fox ears and tails in homage to  The Fantastic Mr. Fox. What woman wouldn't mind being called a fox? Kathryn Sullivan and Mike Underwood in his blue Speedo underwear strolled in and caused a fair commotion with their lavish and minimalist costumes. Doug Rhodehamel was draped in a giant Royal Tenenbaums banner. Doug had done all the cardboard decorations for the evening. My favorite costume went to a young girl who dressed as a nude Natalie Portman. Her hair was cut just right and her skin tight body stocking was barely noticeable at first glance.

I finished the sketch by the time Terry was done eating. I helped her finish off a few fries. She hadn't considered a costume, so when she finished eating, she wanted to go. She was overstimulated and didn't know anyone, so we left.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Wes Anderson Craft Night

Kathryn Sullivan sent out a Facebook invite for a Craft Night prior to the Wes Anderson themed costume party at Stardust Video & Coffee. I planned to sketch the Stardust party and I didn't have a costume so the craft night made sense. The address on the invite was right in the Audubon Park neighborhood near Stardust so I parked on a side street across from stardust and walked to find the address. I arrived at a quaint suburban cinder block home with a front porch and car port. I didn't know how many people might show up to this event, but I didn't see any cars parked around the house. I wondered if I was at the right place and double checked the address. This was it. I rang the doorbell.

Kathryn greeted me warmly at the door. Felt swatches, glue, sewing thread and other assorted supplies were on an old travel chest being used as a coffee table in the living room. Mike Underwood was in the kitchen cooking snacks. Kathryn and Mike found this place the first day they looked for a home. The interior was completely renovated with new moldings, paint and tile. It was quite a find. A third roommate appeared briefly but she mostly kept to her room. She was making preparations for a trip to Africa. I was the only guest.

I had thought ahead enough to wear a light blue shirt so I might blend in with the cast of The Life Aquatic.  Since I didn't have a red skull cap, I needed to fabricate a replica out of felt. I also needed to add blue stripes to my shirt. Kathryn had me cutting felt for the hat and soon I was busy trying to create a decent replica using only felt, fabric glue and some thread. The Life Aquatic was playing on their flat screen TV as we worked. Kathryn was creating an intricate yellow submarine complete with thread sewn lettering. It was an ambitious project. Mike it turns out is quite a cook and he made delicious hors devours. Mike started doing folksy paintings of  Margot Tenenbaum, played by Gwyneth Paltrow from The Royal Tenenbaums. That is when I started sketching Mike and Kathryn hard at work.

My red cap had a nipple at the top, like you would see on a condom. When I tried it on without the folded up lower edge, I looked like a demonic Pope. The Darjeeling Limited came on as the second Wes Anderson film as we worked. The scene came up where one of the brothers fell passionately in love with an Indian woman he met on the train. Man, it got hot! Kathryn and Mike had amazing costumes as poppa Steve Zissou and Kingsly from The Life Aquatic. His costume was mostly a bathrobe and tight Speedo.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Francophile: All Things French

First Thursdays at the Orlando Museum of Art is Orlando's original art party. From 6 - 9 pm on the first Thursday of each month, OMA showcases a new theme with works by local artists, live music, cash bars serving wine, beer and soft drinks, and café offerings from area restaurants. June's theme was organized by Anna McCambridge-Thomas who set the stage for all things french. Artists captured what they love about the French or France itself from food, film, wine, literature, perfume, music, art and architecture, fashion, the people to the personality of the country.

When I arrived, Anna welcomed me warmly and showed me around as people were setting up. In the back gallery, Maitre Parfumeur Christian Louis was setting up. He had been flown in from France and didn't know any English. A beautiful French woman acted as interpreter. In the theater, Emotions Dance was going to perform Four Seasons, Poet Logan Anderson was going to read and models from Le Salon Zizou strutted lavish fashion.

I settled into the front gallery where artists displayed paintings with a French Theme. Artist Bernard Martin set up a small easel. He had a pink dress with him as well and I heard he might have a gorgeous model.  The model never showed, so he had to work from a photo. He was working on a loose spontaneous watercolor. I stood behind him for sometime admiring his lush and highly used pallet. Behind him were his loose impressionistic oil paintings. One was titled Moulin Rouge, another, Cabaret and The Vase. They all featured nude or semi nude women in bold impasto against a dark background.

The sculptor was Steve Piscitelli. The two sculptures he was working on were close to being finished. This made sense since so many people stopped to talk to him which meant he didn't hare time to concentrate. He added red slippers to the ballet dancer and the red clay acted as blood and intestines for the sculpture of a Bull, much to the delight of a young boy. In the middle of the room there was a crown mounted under Plexiglas made of pearls, a large coin and gems. It was titled, The Princess Kameryn Renee Parker.  Later I saw a young girl walking around wearing the crown. She must have been the artist's niece or daughter.

Tonight, July 5th, First Thursdays will feature work from OMA members. Admission is free for members and $10 for non-members and includes access to the OMA's featured exhibitions. Parking is free at Orlando Loch Haven Park and overflow parking is available at the Orlando Science Center's parking garage for $5 per vehicle.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

K.D. Lang

On May 27th, K.D. Lang performed at Hard Rock Live in Universal Studios. Terry scored some free tickets to the concert. We were pleased to find that parking is free for Florida residents after 6PM as well. We parked in the Jaws lot and rode the series of escalators and people movers towards City Walk. City Walk is the closest thing Orlando has to Times Square so I might be tempted to return for some night time sketching in the future.

Our seats were way up in nose bleed territory, but the price was right. Terry went to get some sodas at the bar. I saw Parker Sketch in the crowd but I didn't have a chance to talk to him, I was already sketching. I layed out the sketch while the house lights were on, but then the place went pitch black. The warm up act was Jane Siberry and the Siss Boom Bang. She is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is most famous for her early 1980s new wave hits such as ‘Mimi on the Beach’, ‘I Muse Aloud’ and ‘One More Color’. Internationally, she is best known for her 1993 album ‘When I Was a Boy’. She talked far more than she sang and honestly we couldn't wait for her to get off the stage.

Terry has several K.D. Lang CDs so I was very familiar with her music. She  is a Grammy Award-winning Canadian singer and songwriter. She is regarded as one of Canada’s foremost female vocalists, as well as a champion of legal equality for LGBT people. K.D. is the same age as me. Terry told me that when K.D. came out publicly she was in her twenties and it took some guts since most performers hid their private lives and loves. She was on fire for this performance. I particularly liked her rendition of Hallelujah.  People were standing and swaying to the music by the end of the concert. There was endless applause when she left the stage and even louder applause for the encore. It was a great concert in a great venue.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

House of Blues

I heard that Andy Matchett & the Minx were performing at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney. Traffic on the Disney roads was really backed up. I've never seen so many cars on the road, and I worked down there for ten years.

I also heard there would be plenty of robots from Dog Powered Robot. Last year, Dog Powered Robot made a surprise visit with the band at House of Blues. Fisher, the Pomeranian who powers the robot, was unfazed by all the commotion. The stage manager at House of Blues had a fit. There is a "no pet" policy at House of Blues. There wasn't much she could do since the crowd loved them. You couldn't exactly have a Dog Powered Robot without the dog.

Even after breaking all the rules, the robots were back, but this time the friendly Blue Pomeranian powered robot wasn't in the mix. The curtain opened and Andy was bound center stage, being held captive apparently by a robot with a grudge. I didn't follow events closely, but I believe Lollybot must have saved him. I'm sure her robotic claw could have cut through the ropes. Terry was on her feet shouting, "I love you Lollybot!" She had on her Lollybot t-shirt and was as rabid as any Beatles fan. Andy Matchett & the Minx began playing and confetti canons blasted it's colors over the crowd. Balloons and beach balls were then surfed over the crowd. People went wild. Balloons were popping everywhere and strobe lights made me dizzy as I worked on the sketch. Then, just about every robot at some point danced on stage. Ninja Noids were up on the balcony level and they wafted large hot dog shaped balloons over the crowd. A large parachute was unrolled over the crowd and Andy jumped down off the stage to join the audience as the dance under the undulating canopy. Oh yea, there was also plenty of hard driving fun rock & roll! An Andy Matchett & the Minx concert is a guaranteed good time.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Stars and Stripes and All That Jazz


The Central Florida Sounds of Freedom Band and Color Guard held it's premiere concert, called Stars and Stripes and All That Jazz at the Orlando Shakes Theater on June 10th. The mission of the band, close to 50 members strong, is to inspire community and connect people whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or straight. Their goal is to unite, serve and educate through music, entertainment and arts. The concert was free although they accepted donations. Juan Canasi dreamed of a LGBT Community Band over ten years ago, and it was finally formed just one year ago thanks in part to contacts made with friends on social media. Some band members took their dusty instruments out of the closet to join and others are professional musicians.

Conductor Lee Sellers addressed the audience before the performance. He taught band at several middle schools and said he liked stepping up to conduct this mature group. "A band member in middle school might announce that he was getting braces the day before a performance. Oh, wait one of the Sounds of Freedom band members just got braces..." he said and laughed. The Color Guard wasn't on stage, they volunteered by handing out programs and acting as ushers.

The band began with selections from Chicago. I was pleased to see Emily Lindahl stroll out performing a trumpet solo, using a mute to flair the jazz filled notes. Emily is the director of public relations for the Orlando Philharmonic and I had no idea she played trumpet. I worked feverishly since I knew it was a fairly short concert. Band members switched seating positions between songs which added to my challenge. The band performed a rendition of Over the Rainbow, dedicated to Bob Imlah and ended with some traditional John Philip Sousa.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blank Space's Last Night


I've been to many events at Blank Space. It has been something of a mecca for me downtown. Amanda Chadwick and Mathew Simantov met at Blank Space and they are engaged to be married in Seattle. The place has hosted an endless stream of parties and arts events over the past two years. I've been to bad ass dance parties here where the folks in tuxedos across the street who had paid $200 for a political fundraiser wished they were having as much fun. It came as a surprise to find out Blank Space was closing its doors due to unfortunate circumstances having to do with the building owner, and David Charles not being able to afford to relocate at this time. So on June first, there was one more evening of great music, and half price on all the beer that was left (about 1,000 beers).

I arrived straight from work. There were several clusters of people seated at the bar. I ordered Blue Moon and sat down for one more sketch, for old times sake. It was odd and a bit sad that the walls were completely empty. Later that night, artists were going to paint the walls. When I got up to leave, I passed a graffiti artist outside who was taping up the window supports. He planned to paint as many windows as possible. Homeless men played chess on a stoop between Blank Space and the barber shop. For once Orlando felt urban and gritty. The window had been scraped clean of the art in a matter of days.

I passed the deserted space yesterday. Artists had drawn all over the interior walls with sharpies and spots of inspired color.  The once vibrant cultural hub was now silent but the writing was on the wall, as artists search for ways to express themselves in the homoginized downtown.