I spent the month of July doing some freelance grant writing for two local arts organizations in Orlando that I have never worked with before. First up was Voci Dance, my favorite dance company in town whose work I’ve supported for years as an audience member. I helped Voci prepare an application for a new multi-media performance piece that is going to rock Orlando’s performance scene when it opens (sorry no spoilers!) – they sought project support from United Arts of Central Florida*, the local arts agency that (in my opinion) does a tremendous service to the local community through its grants and programs.
*Full disclosure: I was a member of the Literary & Performing Arts review panel for United Arts’ 2012 Individual Artist Development grant program and helped award 20 local artists direct support for their work totaling over $30,000. It was a hugely valuable experience for me and I was honored to volunteer my time to serve.
My second new client was The Mennello Museum of American Art, a City of Orlando-owned museum that houses the permanent collection of Earl Cunningham, a Florida “primitive” (meaning self-taught) artist who was a seaman & ship’s captain by trade. I worked with their staff to prepare a big proposal for the Orange County Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs in support of a large scale exhibition of never-before-seen work by Cunningham, Rob Storter and Eugene Savage. Storter is a FL native who is self-taught like Cunningham and Eugene Savage is an American master muralist from the WPA-era who taught at Yale University for many years. What brings them together is that they all documented the Seminole Tribes in their natural environment – the wonderland that is Everglades – during times of major urban development and environmental destruction. There will be Seminole art and artifacts included in the show on loan from a local collector as well.
I absolutely loved working on this grant because I am a bit of a history buff and my research wove together local & international history in contrast with environmental and art history in a very profound way for me. These artists were driven to paint and document what they saw by the rapid industrialization that was occurring and how it impacted the native people and environment they lived in and depended on. Given that 2013 marks the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of Florida and the recent federal commitment to cleaning up the Everglades due to industrial pollution, it is a fitting time for such an important exhibit to be made available to residents and visitors of Central Florida. Talk about a cultural excursion in contrast to the usual Disney trip…!
Florida is more than just sunshine and agriculture as these two great organizations prove.