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Arts & Culture

What does an artist need to thrive, or at least survive, in Orlando?

Live Active Cultures: A weekly arts column

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Of course, it’s one thing to talk the talk, but another to walk the walk. So, thus inspired, I took my first stroll in several months through the following evening’s Third Thursday Gallery Hop downtown. I was drawn to the crowded CityArts Factory by the intriguing promotional announcement for Into the Woods, an installation by Deborah Knispel that promised a forest-like setting: “The Orlando Magic Gallery at CityArts Factory has been transformed into an indoor forest set with arching entwined trees, vines, moss, as well as the sounds and scents of the forest for a fully immersive experience. The only thing missing is the heat and mosquitoes.”

I was hoping for something like Tamara Marke-Lares’ richly textured Macabre Vignettes. What I found inside CityArts’ Orlando Magic Gallery was a naturalistic ceiling-high sculpture of a tree trunk, hung with apparently authentic Spanish moss and surrounded by framed nature photographs. What I didn’t find were any sounds (boom-box speakers on the snack table were silent), smells (the small bowl of odor-free potpourri looked like it might have been an appetizer) or appropriately theatrical lighting (fluorescents and flora don’t mix). Which brings us to artists’ survival tip No. 1: The excellence of individual elements is irrelevant if you don’t have an eye for the overall experience; otherwise you’re missing the forest for the trees.

Next, I paid my first visit to the Gallery at Avalon Island since Patrick Greene was installed as gallery director. Florida Overtures, Undertones, and Subplots (at the gallery through Sept. 14) integrates diverse media from a dozen very different artists into an organically unified show, smartly supplemented with thoughtful explanatory text, making this more than just another assortment of Sunshine State sketches and snapshots. Maybe what Orlando’s arts scene really needs to survive is more skillful curators – a word frequently flung around with far too little appreciation for its importance – like Greene, who know how to take the talent-rich parts floating though town and turn them into a more satisfying whole.

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