Monday, June 14, 2010

The Orlando You Don't Know: Art in Orlando

I suppose we could all make an argument for the artistic side of the theme parks, and anyone who has ever spent time looking at high-end collectibles and sericels knows the art value that comes from entertainment and cartoons. But Orlando has a significant Arts scene as well, beyond the confines of International Drive and the gates of the parks.

The first and most obvious place to take a break from the noise and get a little culture (and perhaps some extra credit for the kids) is the Orlando Museum of Art (OMA). Admission ($8 for adults and $5 for kids) is a lot easier on the wallet than one of the parks, or even a trip to the movies. While a trip to the art museum may not be as hair-raising as a roller coaster, it is definitely a different experience that will keep the family talking and maybe even debating the meaning of art.

OMA has an excellent permanent collection of American artists, some well known, and others who should be. The collection ranges from the 18 century to the present and includes some very interesting Modern and Post-Modern works, as well and photography and sculpture. Also as a part of the permanent collection of the OMA are galleries dedicated to both the Ancient Americas and Africa, including fascinating textile work from Africa. The OMA web site lists the traveling exhibits, so you can see what will be available for your trip.

If your love of art tends to be more toward the modern side of the scale, contemporary art gallery Comma offers a smaller and more intimate setting. Their collection includes works in ceramic and glass as well as painting photography and mixed media. If you’d like to rub elbows with other art lovers, the gallery hosts receptions on the second Tuesday of the month.

If you like your art on the go, or want a bit of caffeine while you soak in the local color of art, there’s Roho Art and Coffee. It features the works of up and coming local Hispanic artists in a coffeehouse setting, which I feel can make a work a bit more approachable (no pun intended). If you want to sit and appreciate the art a little longer, they offer a full menu with an emphasis on Cuban cuisine.

If you’d like a gallery with a focus on Florida artists, there’s the lovely Gallery at Avalon Island. Like the Comma, it’s a very intimate space. Since the Gallery features different monthly exhibits, it’s a new experience every time you visit. The cafĂ© next door is a perfect spot to stop and rest, discussing the art and the architecture of the historic district.

Art isn’t always about painting and photography. If, like me, you love to watch the shows at the parks, there is the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. During the regular season which runs from September through April, they have staged some of the Bard’s greatest works as well as the plays of other famous playwrights. They offer a more family friendly fare during the summer months, the holidays and spring break, and what better way to introduce kids to a real theater-going experience? The Orlando Shakespeare Theater also has a really cool program called “$20 Under 30”. They offer discounted tickets and happy hour to 20-somethings before certain shows. It’s a different and interesting way to meet other young people in Orlando.

Watching a show is a lot of fun, but sometimes I want to really be a part of it! I have had a great time participating in murder mystery dinners at Sleuths. Not for wall flowers and shy violets, the actors mix and mingle with the guests, and you have just as important a role in solving the crime as the actors do laying out the scene. There is the added benefit of the improv styling, which keeps the shows fresh and the outcomes unexpected. While I can say I have always guessed whodunit, I have always had a lot of fun trying to figure it out. It may not be high art, but it certainly makes for an interesting evening and a great memory of a visit to Orlando (that isn’t necessarily theme park related!)


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