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Forced perspective

Memorable moments of 2012 in Orlando arts and culture

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Creative City composer Keith Lay

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"Cocktails" at FHE

Just as I was finishing this look back at 2012, local fundraising organization United Arts of Central Florida issued their year-end financial report, and it was not good news. United Arts missed their fundraising goal for the first time in a decade; local and state governments continue to cut support, and individual giving is even lower than government funding. Pretty dire stuff.

And yet we experienced a remarkable flowering of homegrown excitement this year. I saw amazing exhibitions and performances, and watched as established institutions grew and changed and new groups sprouted up. Orlando artists may be having trouble paying the bills, but they're hardly bankrupt of ideas. Maybe financial crisis spurs cultural growth; as budgets got pinched, creativity surged. Here, then, a not-nearly-comprehensive sampler of cultural moments I feel lucky to have witnessed in 2012.

Walk On By (Sept. 5) was the first production of the Corridor Project, a "contemporary art museum with no fixed location" dreamed up by Urban ReThink's Pat Greene. The show was inspired by the Burt Bacharach song of the same name, an ode to the defiance of the invisible and heartbroken – and the Mills 50-centered pop-up exhibition of dance, music, painting, performance and sculpture was certainly defiant, proving that artists don't always need a museum with four walls and a roof. Some of the work is still documented at thecorridorproject.com, but really it was best experienced in situ.

And speaking of the Corridor Project, I still can't forget their Pre-Deerhoof Show (Nov. 9). The nighttime performance co-presented with Tiny Waves, Voci Dance and Shine Shed Collective as part of the Accidental Music Festival was a strange and exquisite mashup of sound installation, dance and puppetry. As antlered dancers wove and stomped among papier-mâché tree trunks, bird kites swooped under the stars and the sodium streetlights of the Plaza parking lot, and artist Hannah Miller staged a tiny mirror performance with two shivery ghost-deer puppets in the moss-draped back of a van. It was a magical lead-in to the Deerhoof show it preceded.

While we're talking about Accidental Music Festival, Michelle Schumann's Nov. 10 recital in honor of the 100th anniversary of John Cage's birth enraptured a roomful of people who thought they were too tired to hear any more new music. The fifth show of the festival (and the third one of that day) delivered glee to the Timucua White House, as Schumann performed Cage's Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano, a piece of which no comparably effervescent recording exists. In other words, if you missed it, you missed it – you can't just download it.

The Creative City Project (Oct. 1-31; creativecityproject.com) built on the multidisciplinary, site-specific spirit of the Corridor Project. (They were spontaneously conceived in parallel, which confirms my belief that Orlandoans are finally thinking over, under and around artistic barriers, instead of being stopped by them.) But Cole Nesmith's vision of Orlando as a creative city in which a different concert, dance performance or sculpture installation unfolded every day had more institutional support, in the form of Orange County Cultural Affairs director Terry Olson. It was less revolutionary but possibly more sustainable; Olson has said he aims to accomplish 365 days of creativity instead of "just" 31 next time.

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