Saturday night was a festive affair at the Historic Thomas Center with the annual lighting of the City of Gainesville Christmas tree inside the Spanish Court. There was music and caroling—and a visit from jolly Old Saint Nick himself.
The 352walls project, involving a dozen internationally known street artists, has given the downtown area a dramatic facelift. Tonight’s Artwalk is a great opportunity to view the completed artwork.
To passersby on Southwest 2nd Street, the large mural on the wall across from Volta Coffee could be almost any hard-charging football player. But the man who painted the image, Miami-based street artist Reggie O’Neal, knows exactly who the player is. Or, sadly, was.
Richard Hallman never got to play college football like his cousin, current UF starting quarterback Treon Harris. That’s because earlier this year, the 16-year-old Hallman was shot and killed in Miami’s Overtown section. Two other teenagers have been charged in his death.
“I watched [Hallman] grow up,” said O’Neal, who uses the tag L.E.O. for his street art. “I wanted to paint something that related to Treon and to Overtown. It [the murder] happened in my neighborhood and took a huge toll on everyone there.”
O’Neal’s mural is one of eight recently added to the downtown streetscape by internationally known artists as part of 352walls/The Gainesville Urban Art Initiative. The last of the artists finished up work on Thanksgiving morning, leaving Gainesville’s downtown area more visibly appealing than ever.
UF theatre professor Charlie Mitchell was not only commissioned to write an adaptation of The Snow Queen for the Hippodrome State Theatre, he was called upon to direct the play as well.
Following a recent rehearsal of The Snow Queen on the Hippodrome State Theatre’s mainstage, artistic director Lauren Caldwell applauded and cheered the cast and crew from her third-row seat. She then got choked up realizing her little “tribe of actors” had come of age.
“I love the fact it’s written and directed by one of our own company members,” she said of the play based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. “As an acting company, we become a tribe of people that understands each other’s needs and wants.”
That includes using the talents of company members such as Charlie Mitchell to their fullest, as she has done with The Snow Queen.
“This is very special because it comes from inside. It’s an emotional thing for me,” Caldwell said.
Mitchell is not only a Hipp Acting Company veteran but also a UF theatre professor. When Caldwell read Mitchell’s commissioned script of The Snow Queen, which is actually a story within a story, she fell in love with it. She insisted that he also direct the play.
Gregg Jones, best known for his 16-year stint in the role of Jacob Marley, takes over for the venerable Rusty Salling as Ebenezer Scrooge in the Hippodrome State Theatre’s annual holiday production of the Dickens classic. There’s also a new director this year in Niall McGinty.
Earlier this month, dozens of pairs of shoes in all shapes and sizes lined a long hallway outside the rehearsal room on the third floor of the Hippodrome State Theatre. The costume department had placed them there for the large cast of A Christmas Carol, the Hipp’s annual holiday presentation that opens to the public Saturday afternoon.
This season, actor Gregg Jones will fill a particularly large pair of those shoes—at least figuratively speaking. He will be taking over the role of Ebenezer Scrooge from Rusty Salling, who had performed the play’s signature character for 24 consecutive years.
Salling is taking a well-needed break for health reasons. Earlier this year, he was diagnosed with sinus cancer. The news sent shockwaves through the Hippodrome family.
“We took it very hard,” said Lauren Warhol Caldwell, the theatre’s artistic director and longtime friend of Salling. “But there was never a moment that we did not rally around him with every fiber of our being. Rusty is a fighter and was determined to do whatever it took to try and beat this.
“We promised to take care of him, and through his determination and perhaps some divine intervention—and lots of love to him—he did beat it.”
Virginia resident Cindy Grisdela, a GHS grad, made the most out of her annual visit to her hometown by winning the top prize at the 34th Downtown Festival & Art Show.
Cindy Grisdela has returned to her hometown of Gainesville each November for the past four years to participate in the Downtown Festival & Art Show. In her second and third years at the show, she was honored to win Awards of Excellence for her contemporary art quilts.
This year, however, she hit the jackpot.
On Sunday, Grisdela won Best of Show at the 34th Downtown Festival and Art Show, wowing judges with her colorful and intricate decorative-fiber creations.
“I am speechless!” Grisdela said shortly after learning of her top prize, which included a large rainbow-colored ribbon and–even better–a $2,000 check. “It’s the biggest thrill to win a big award like this in my hometown. Also, it’s tremendous because fiber artists don’t often win the top awards at these shows.”
The Downtown Festival & Art Show is an amazing celebration of the arts. Unfortunately, the festival lasts only two days. If only art could be displayed along Gainesville’s red-brick streets 365 days a year. …
Oh, wait. It is!
In case you haven’t noticed—and, apparently many haven’t yet—there are more than 20 pieces of public art lining streets and walkways around the Hippodrome State Theatre and Union Street Station. All you have to do is look—and admire.
The sculptures are part of the Downtown Gainesville Public Art Initiative, started by Nava Ottenberg with assistance from Jasper North and Mary Rockwood Lane. The first sculptures installed three years ago were “Stag” and “Rooster” by famed Peruvian artist Victor Delfin.
Those metal sculptures, loaned by Euphrosyne Parker in memory of her late husband (noted architect Alfred Browning Parker), are located on Southeast 2nd Place in front of Persona Vintage Clothing and Starbucks, respectively.
Soon to follow were two sculptures by the late David Bell, “Star Burst” and “Love Palm,” and Ted Crom’s “Luna,” a towering man-in-the moon sculpture that watches over the corner of Southeast 2nd Avenue and 1st Street.
Additional sculptures from local and international artists have popped up on a regular basis on downtown sidewalks and walls and in the courtyard of the Sun Center. They include five pieces by metal artist Jasper North and two others by the late, great Lennie Kesl.
Alyne Harris feels right at home during the Downtown Festival & Arts Show. After all, the 73-year-old painter lives only a few blocks from this weekend’s event, where 100,000 people will be able to view her work.
Folk artist Alyne Harris doesn’t have far to go to draw inspiration for her paintings. It’s a simple matter of sitting on the front porch of her home in the Porters community of downtown Gainesville and gazing skyward.
“I look at the heavens and I meditate,” she said. “I think ’bout what God’s made. I get myself quiet and I think. Ideas start coming to me.”
Those ideas might include the wonders of nature, such as flowers, birds and bumblebees, or memories of her early childhood or perhaps growing up in the segregated South before Civil Rights.
Linda Piper has seen the Downtown Festival & Art Show grow by leaps and bounds in her 22 years as events coordinator. This year’s 34th annual festival will be her last before retirement.
In her spacious second-floor office at the Historic Thomas Center, Linda Piper is surrounded by proud mementos of her two babies. We’re not referring to Piper’s natural children, although photos of her beloved daughters, Nicole and Rachel, adorn her desk.
No, in this case, Piper’s “babies” are the two Gainesville events—the Downtown Festival & Art Show and the Hoggetown Medieval Faire— she has nurtured for more than two decades as events coordinator for the City of Gainesville’s Cultural Affairs Division.
Those two events alone annually draw upward of 150,000 people to Gainesville and have helped put the city on the map as a cultural destination.
After several years at the Wooly, the MASS Visual Arts show is setting up shop for the next week inside the First Magnitude Brewing Co.
When Bill Bryson sought a new home for his MASS Visual Arts show, he wanted an exhibit space large enough to display oversized sculptures but also a venue with a good vibe. The First Magnitude Brewing Co., with its industrial-size warehouse and bustling tasting room, was the ideal choice.
Tonight, the MASS 5 exhibit, featuring the work of some 48 artists, opens to the public at the brewery at 1220 S. Veitch St. A reception takes place from 7-10 p.m. The exhibit continues through Nov. 14.
“This space is really attractive for this kind of show,” Bryson said, adding that brewery co-owners John and Christine Denny are old friends.
The punk-rock extravaganza takes place for the 14th time in Gainesville, drawing music lovers from around the United States and the world to the downtown area. The biggest winners are restaurants and bars — and the hundreds of bands and their fans.
It has everything to do with his punk friends.
“I have friends from all over the world who come to town once a year, on the last weekend of October, and I love hanging out with them,” said Hughes, owner of Loosey’s restaurant and bar at 120 SW 1st Ave.
Those friends come to Gainesville not just to visit with Hughes but primarily to enjoy Fest, a three-day underground music festival that celebrates the punk-rock scene. Organizers of the event have lined up more than 350 bands to perform 30-minute sets at 20 venues within walking distance of downtown. Fest will draw upwards of 10,000 hardcore music fans to town.
For Gainesville, it’s a big deal. For most downtown business owners (to quote a certain follically challenged presidential candidate), it’s HUGE!