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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


The Mennello Museum of American Art went big in March with the opening of their exhibition Imprints: 20 Years of Flying Horse Editions. The wide-ranging show, co-curated by current FHE director Theo Lotz, celebrated the history of UCF's fine-art print studio with displays of 2-D and 3-D prints, objects and multiple editions; Flying Horse even lent their massive Vandercook press to the museum for workshops and general gawking-at.

Speaking of Flying Horse Editions, the press stepped up their profile-raising campaign in 2012 with their every-so-often Letterpress Happy Hours, creative drinks parties staged in the FHE workshop at the downtown UCF Center for Emerging Media at which patrons could set type, roll ink and press their own cards. Molecular-gastronomy cocktails and the chance to juggle lead? Yes, please.

The glittery juggernaut that is Snap! Orlando grew again in 2012, with multiple party/exhibition venues, an improved large-scale video projection on the historic Kress Building (still mind-boggling fun, though somewhat awkwardly staged April 16, almost three weeks before the May 10-12 festival) and a starry lineup of international photographers. Even better, many of the artists gave freely of their time this year, presenting a full day of lectures at OMA and another full day of workshops at the Orange Studio. My fingers are crossed for 2013 to add daytime viewing hours for those of us who want to focus on the art, not air-kisses and outfits. (Those are good too! But sometimes you just want quiet, unobstructed access to the pictures.)

On a more equal-access tip, several cellphone-centric shows democratized art photography. AIGA's March 8 Depixtions and Spacebar's four installments of Never Not Lurking (not to mention Snap!'s own Instant Snapification contest) jumped on the popularity of those ephemeral digital images, granting permanence to the mobile captures of Orlando's Instagrammers and Hipstamaticians with bona fide prints-on-the-wall gallery shows. With this month's Instagram TOS flop, though, who knows whether we'll see this many smartphone pics at once ever again?

One more music entry: I can't let 2012 leave the stage without mentioning Urban ReThink's presentation of Terry Riley's seminal Minimal composition "In C" (June 3). Organized by budding impresario Chris Belt and performed by a dozen local musos including Belt, Thad Anderson, Beatriz Ramirez, Brian Smithers, Kevin Stever, Karlos Kolon and Matt McCarthy, the performance was a mesmerizing, invigorating injection of pure joy.

Memorable, but not admirable: Maitland's Art & History Museums (the mildly controversial organization now overseeing the Maitland Art Center et al.) faced a struggle for existence this summer, when Maitland city commissioner Phil Bonus went straight Looney Tunes and targeted them for extinction. His escalating criticism of the nonprofit org culminated in a July proposal to terminate their lease. His rationale? Maitland was not seeing any return on its investment. (In 2010, Bonus went after the Maitland Public Library, calling it a "poor value": "Despite adequate market indicators, I believe the Library is lethargic.") Whether or not they approved of the museum complex's new regime, Maitlanders rose up to pooh-pooh the idea that their cultural landmarks should be profit centers. In a schadenfreude-rich coda, Bonus resigned from City Council in October after being charged with DUI and admitting to being a customer at an East Orlando brothel.

This was the year of the revolving door for local arts leaders, with new principals in place at United Arts (exit Margot Knight in 2011; enter Flora Maria Garcia, May 29), Rollins College's Cornell Fine Arts Museum (excellent curator Jonathan Walz remains, but a new museum director, Ena Heller, was appointed June 27) and Orlando Museum of Art, whose longtime director, Marena Grant Morrisey, announced her retirement at the end of 2012 – I look forward to seeing what her replacement, artist and arts administrator Glen Gentele, will bring. And Orlando Ballet finally filled its top administrative spot in April, only to see exec director Mark Hough depart four months later, leaving artistic director Robert Hill to once again shoulder the load. Without change, there is no growth – so Orlando definitely deserves to expect great things in 2013.

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