It was the best of times
In some cases, it was also the worst of times. A look back at the year in local theater and art
Published: December 30, 2010
Worst Revival: Alan Bruun’s minimalist staging of Macbeth made a difficult work even more obtuse and unintelligible.
Most Newsworthy Exit: Elizabeth Maupin left her desk as the Orlando Sentinel’s drama critic after almost a quarter century. Her commentary will be missed.
Most Newsworthy Entrance: Matthew Palm has taken Maupin’s place and with the diminished staff at Orlando’s daily, is getting more and more space in the paper’s first section. So far, he has handled his new role with aplomb.
Florida’s economy swirled like a turd in a stopped-up toilet throughout most of 2010, worsened by the stench wafting down from Washington’s politicians. The local art world, operating under the assumption that it is recession-proof, felt the trickle-down: Some galleries closed, including Bold Hype, Comma and Creative Spirit. Meanwhile, historic stalwart the Maitland Art Center merged with another local entity – the Maitland Historical Society – in an effort to streamline costs and upkeep. The number of eateries showing local artists dwindled, and some good local artists – specifically, Drew White and Brigan Gresh – left town altogether.
Despite the drumbeat of doom, however, there were a few bright spots in the scene during 2010: A handful of new galleries opened downtown, and some corporate lobbies (such as Innovative Data Solutions located downtown), started replacing the soulless dried-flower prints so often used to decorate office spaces with works by local artists on loan through corporate-art programs.
In January, indie curator Dustin Orlando briefly opened a space called Latitude Zero in Thornton Park, and it helped local street artists jump the curb into the gallery world. After Latitude Zero closed, he returned this spring and opened a new venue for the street-art scene downtown called Neon Forest. The gallery allows collectors to invest in artwork at affordable prices; its shows have featured the work of locals like Matt Curan and Dres13, as well as nationally known figures like Dubelyoo, whose tiny, beautiful portraits of righteous black women are inspiring. Not far from Neon Forest, in SoDo, another gallery called Realm54 opened its doors in December, and it promises to be a potent new art space. Realm54 operators Brian Demchak (Decoy) and Brian Heeter are paving the way for a new generation with the help of veteran Orlando street artist Robin Van Arsdol (RV).
Also downtown, the CityArts Factory and Avalon Island kept up the momentum, with some great exhibits: Avalon Island’s Crime and Puppetment, held in conjunction with the Orlando Puppet Festival, featured masterfully crafted puppet-inspired pieces, while City Arts Factory’s What Moves You show featured members of the B-Side Artists painting on easels set up in the streets, and installation artists – inspired by the concept of movement and transportation – who set up mixed-media pieces throughout the venue’s gallery spaces. And in uptown, women artists made a strong showing. At the Cornell Fine Arts Museum on the campus of Rollins College, Out of the Shadow examined the work of women who were not traditionally trained in art, including painter Mary Cassat. At the Crealdé School of Arts and the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, “talking quilts” crafted by Lauren Austin combined personal and political messages in quilted portraits that brought narrative themes to visual arts.
> Email Al Krulick and Richard Reep