Category Archives: The Arts

The Art Show Must Go On, Without Piper in Charge

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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.

Linda Piper displays two Festival posters by Harriet Huss, one from this year and one from 1995.

Linda Piper displays two Downtown Festival & Art Show posters by Harriet Huss, one from this year and one from 1995.

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.

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MASS 5 Art Show Tapping Into New Venue

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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.

First Magnitude Brewing Co. provides a spacious home to all shapes and sizes of artwork.

First Magnitude Brewing Co. provides a spacious home to all shapes and sizes of artwork.

“This space is really attractive for this kind of show,” Bryson said, adding that brewery co-owners John and Christine Denny are old friends.

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All Booked Up Until Spring

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The Friends of the Library 2015 Fall Book Sale began last Saturday with swarms of people poring over more than 500,000 books and other media at the FOL Bookhouse on North Main Street. On Wednesday, the five-day sale concluded with a steady stream of customers scooping up the remaining items for a mere 10 cents apiece.

Bob Finley of Gainesville, retired from the Navy and the U.S. Postal Service, wheels his $3.10 worth of books out of the FOL Book Sale on 10-cent day.

Bob Finley wheels his $3.10 in items out of the FOL Book Sale on 10-cent day.

“Just three dollars and 10 cents for all of this happiness and good times!” Bob Finley said, pointing to the 31 items in his cart after departing the checkout area of the FOL Fall Book Sale.

Finley served as a Navy radar man on the USS Forrestal a half-century ago and retired after some 37 years with the U.S. Postal Service. He also is the author of four “interactive” children’s books in which the reader gets to name the main character in each book.

“They’re about making dreams come true and life lessons,” he said. (Finley’s website is

On Wednesday, Finley’s pushcart was loaded down with books on a variety of subjects as well as record albums from the ’60s and the Swing Era.

“I’ve got an eclectic taste in music,” he said. “For reading, I like science fiction more than anything else.”

Almost everyone who shopped at the FOL Fall Book Sale on Wednesday was looking for last-minute bargains. Jon Strout and Heather Foss of Gainesville spent three days at the sale and couldn’t get enough of it.

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Sister Act Leads Dance Alive Into 50th Season

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Judy Skinner and Kim Tuttle have overseen the growth of Dance Alive from a regional troupe started by their mother to a renowned national ballet company. They leap into their 50th season in Gainesville with “A Haunted Swan Lake.”

Judy Skinner and Kim Tuttle are the backbone of Dance Alive National Ballet.

Judy Skinner and Kim Tuttle are the backbone of Dance Alive National Ballet. (Photograph by Lena Crane, Reflections of Light Photography)

When the curtain rises Friday night on A Haunted Swan Lake to begin the 50th season of Dance Alive National Ballet, the unheralded stars of the show will be off in the wings of the Phillips Center stage, out of the spotlight.

That’s the way Kim Tuttle and Judy Skinner have always preferred it.

For the past four decades, the sisters have collaborated behind the scenes to bring Gainesville a world-class dance company. There’s no doubt their mother would be proud.

When Mary Ellen Pofahl started the Gainesville Civic Ballet in 1966, oldest daughter Judy was in college and youngest daughter Kim was still in high school. Although following in their mother’s dance steps was inevitable, no one could have imagined just how far the Pofahl sisters would take things.

A half-century later, Skinner and Tuttle have transformed their mother’s local dance company into a professional touring company with world-class dancers from Russia, Brazil, Cuba, Italy, Turkey and Ukraine. Continue reading

Persona Vintage Clothing Always in Halloween Spirit

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Owner Nava Ottenberg has a wide selection of authentic costumes for rent or purchase at her downtown store — and a whole lot more.

Nava Ottenberg holds a glittery Roaring 20s gown between displays of disco-era outfits, left, and a pirate's costume.

Nava Ottenberg holds up a green-beaded belly dancer’s outfit between displays of disco-era dresses, left, and pirate costumes.

When new customers begin browsing the many racks of costumes at Persona Vintage Clothing, they soon realize this isn’t a run-of-the-mill Halloween store with plastic masks and cheap, disposable outfits.

“I have people come in everyday and go, ‘Oh my God, you have great stuff!'” said Nava Ottenberg, who owns the eclectic store on the southeast corner of Union Street Station in downtown Gainesville.

In fact, many of Ottenberg’s authentic costumes come with stories. Some appeared onstage in Broadway plays. Others were used in Warner Bros. films from a bygone era. Still others have more personal stories. Continue reading

Hippodrome Stages Monster of a Show

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Candace Clift as Victor has a monstrous task ahead of him/her during All Girl Frankenstein. (Photograph by Michael A. Eaddy)

In All Girl Frankenstein, Candace Clift plays misguided Victor in a dramatic retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic tale.

Candace Cliftin front of the Hippodrome before a recent rehearsal.

Candace Clift relaxes in front of the Hippodrome State Theatre before a recent rehearsal for All Girl Frankenstein.

In the first act of All Girl Frankenstein —playing through Nov. 7 at the Hippodrome State Theatre—the audience is pulled into the turbulent world of Victor Frankenstein. The young man copes with his mother’s death, goes off to university and creates a grotesque monster, then confronts the untimely death of another beloved family member.

The consequences of all that drama leave poor Victor with unbearable anguish that only intensifies during the second act. It’s a grueling role only the toughest stage actor could pull off.

Thankfully, Candace Clift is up to the task.

For two heart-wrenching hours, Clift breathes life into a confused character that definitely could use a hug or two.

“It’s a juicy, juicy role,” Clift told “I’ve always loved old, scary Halloween movies, and Frankenstein is so iconic—the hubris of this man who attempts to play God.”

Frankenstein was the creation of Mary Shelley, who published her first novel, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, in 1818, when she was just 21 years old. Shelley’s own tragedy-filled life provided fodder for her ill-fated protagonist.

“You will never meet a character in literature so full of denial as Victor,” Clift said. “He’s very conflicted.”

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Photo Page: Active Streets/Fall 2015

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Big Little Mike’s in Charge at Death or Glory Tattoos

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little mike

“Little Mike” Mehaffey surrounded by tattoo art. (Photo by Lena Crane/Reflections of Light Photography)

The colorful owner of the downtown tattoo parlor takes an old-school approach to body art.

Mike Mehaffey’s mother was not pleased when she discovered her son’s first tattoo. After all, he was only 14.

“I had skipped school to get the tattoo from a biker named Eddie,” Mehaffey recalled. “It was completely illegal.”

A few weeks later, an exhausted Mehaffey fell asleep in his backyard after a long afternoon of chores.

“I was sitting down and my mom woke me up,” he said. “She saw the tattoo and started screaming, ‘I can’t believe you did that!’”

The humiliating episode might have scarred some teens. For Mehaffey, however, it was only the beginning of a lifelong love affair with body art.

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