Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Funeral for the Arts in Winter Park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What's in it for me?

What's in it for me I shout.

Looking you in the face.

As I ask again, as if you are responsible for my being,

What's in it for me?

I have read of the Poet

Who sits in the heat

blank paper at his feet

waiting for topics

in the heat of the tropics

So I say, What's in it for me.

Excuse my bad breath

Does it smell of Merlot?

As I take this furlough

through the municipal park.

What's in it for me, is my topic you see

Can you tell me the meaning of Life?

Is it do as I choose or respond to the few

that have taken pen to paper of a different measure

to ordain that One refrains activity of a certain nature.

The park across the street is for contemplation

Now all the publicity generated, the fan fare and fire works

be fore the Fourth of July

I digress, What is it to me, the Freedom of the press

despite the decree

Has been an education for all.