"Painting a Nation" Showcases Distinct American Painting Style

American artists set out to blaze a unique artistic trail in the early 19th century by developing their own distinctly American landscape narrative. In doing so, they developed the first native school of painting in the United States.

Called the Hudson River School, it isn’t a physical institution or academy, but is a term used to describe a grand, romantic style of landscape painting championed by its founders.

Nearly two dozen examples of that effort are part of “Painting a Nation: Hudson River School Landscapes from the Higdon Collection,” which is on exhibit at the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College March 10 through May 20.

Together, these paintings celebrate the picturesque beauty of the United States and reflect the collective desire of the Hudson River painters to develop an American visual language that was independent of European schools of painting. Prior to this effort, American artists had looked to Europe for aesthetic themes and painterly methods of depicting the world around them.

The second generation of Hudson River School painters — many of whose works are in this exhibition — extended the visual vocabulary to include subjects along the Atlantic Coast and Far West, which reflected the expansion of the United States during the mid-19th century. The Higdon Collection also includes a selection of still-life paintings that complement Hudson River landscape themes by interpreting nature in an indoor setting.

This exhibition organized by the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina features works by significant American artists including Albert Bierstadt, William Bradford, Jasper Francis Cropsey, William Hart and William Trost Richards.

The exhibition showcases the private collection of Charleston residents Ann and Lee Higdon. Natives of New York, the Higdons developed an interest in art as teenagers. They often visited museums and found themselves drawn to Hudson River School paintings. After marrying and purchasing a 19th century home overlooking the Hudson River, they began to collect paintings of the Hudson River School in the 1980s. For nearly 40 years, their interest in this artistic period has endured, resulting in the collection of works in this exhibition.

You can learn more about this important body of work by joining us for our Point of View Gallery Talk March 9 at noon. Registration is not required, but his appreciated. The Members Reception to celebrate the opening of this exhibition and the "Masters of Spain: Goya and Picasso" exhibition is March 23 at 6 p.m. It is free for members and students with a valid ID to attend. Nonmembers are $10 per person.




HeartMath® Comes to the Polk Museum of Art

Does your voice get shaky when you speak in front of an audience? Do you feel yourself breaking out in hives when you’re in a high-stress meeting? Do you get butterflies in your stomach when you anticipate an uncomfortable conversation with someone?

There are constructive ways of coping with these types of stressors, and a program taught by wellness consultant Kelly Andrews will teach these valuable techniques during a one-hour session in our galleries on Feb. 28 at noon. This free class, called HeartMath®, will be held quarterly.

“There is a lot of research and literature about the health benefits of visiting art museums, including the reduction of stress,” said Claire Orologas, the Polk Museum of Art’s executive director. “The HeartMath® class is another way to engage the public and to facilitate experiences with works of art that have meaning for them, which is ultimately what we want.”

Learn to Handle Stress

Andrews will teach resilience tools including basic emotional tracking techniques and simple breathing practices that help you prepare for, recover from or adapt to stress, anxiety and challenges. These tools will help shift your inner state to one of peace and stillness, even in the midst of chaos.

“We can learn to prepare our bodies for situations that may trigger anxiety, stress and sadness,” Andrews said, adding that the museum is a good space for this training because “it’s such a quiet, receptive environment. The magic of the energy in the space is that it just slows you down.”

Breathing techniques can be performed ahead of time to help calm nerves and promote clear thought. These methods provide a way to intentionally slow the heart rate and breathing.

This is beneficial because research shows there’s more communication from the heart to the brain than the other way around. Research also shows that energy levels are related to emotions, and emotions are directly connected to the ability to cope with stress. 

HeartMath® uses science-based technology and programs to help people take charge of their lives. The methods it employs help reduce stress and anxiety by increasing inner balance and self-security.

Breathing techniques and self-regulation tools help increase awareness in difficult situations. Instead of getting triggered, they enable a person to step back and address the situation calmly.

Trigger Emotions

“When we’re angry or sad, we don’t always realize it,” Andrews said. “For most of us, we have a trigger emotion.”

Those emotions are labeled high- or low-energy. High-energy negative emotions that deplete energy include anger, irritation and impatience. Low-energy depleting emotions include sadness, withdrawal and low anxiety.

Examples of high-energy renewing emotions are joy, passion, excitement and love, and low-energy renewing emotions include peace, serenity, ease and calm.

“A lot of people think they have to be in the ‘low-energy positive’ realm all the time,” Andrews said. “What’s cool about the research is that it doesn’t matter if the renewing energy emotions are high or low. They’re all beneficial.”

A Practical Tool with One Huge Benefit

These tools for developing resilience could have the most practical applications in your work.

“If you get your button pushed in a meeting, you can practice these techniques and they will help you dial down those emotions that are coming up,” Andrews said. “This is something you can do as you’re walking from one place to another or sitting in a staff meeting.”

One of biggest benefits people who practice these tools report is better sleep. Adults who sleep fewer than eight hours a night report higher stress levels than those who sleep at least eight hours a night, according to the American Psychological Association.

Register Today

Registration for this class is not required, but it is appreciated: Reservations@PolkMuseumofArt.org. For questions, call Membership and Marketing Manager Diana Smith: (863) 688.7743, ext. 249.


The Art of Film

A new film series at the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College encourages people to look at films as more than just entertainment, but to see them as works of art as worthy of being in a museum as a Renoir or a Picasso painting.

The Art of Film is a free monthly series that begins Feb. 10. The museum doors open at 6 p.m. and the galleries will be open to view the current exhibitions prior to show time at 6:30 p.m.

The first film in the series is “The City of Lost Children,” directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, and starring Ron Perlman.

Released in 1996, this French film was selected to accompany the current “Renoir: Les Études” exhibition, which runs through March 11. “The City of Lost Children” is about a scientist in a surrealist society who kidnaps children to steal their dreams, hoping that they slow his aging process. 

A discussion will be held at the film’s conclusion, and will include the Florida Southern professors who created the film series:

·      Matthew Herbertz, a filmmaker  and film studies professor

·      William Allen, a filmmaker and digital communication professor

·      Alex Rich, an art history professor and the Polk Museum of Art’s curator

Many museums throughout the country offer film series, and Rich was excited to collaborate with Herbertz and Allen to bring a series to the Polk Museum of Art, he said.

The series will expose attendees to films that aren’t likely to be seen elsewhere in the community, and will encourage the viewing of films in a new light. The professors approach the films more from the standpoint of appreciating filmmaking as an art instead of just an entertainment form, Herbertz said.

 “The series creates an opportunity where we’re encouraged to critically think about the medium,” Herbertz said.

Allen looks forward hearing what the audience brings to the conversation. As people have learned about the film series, Allen has heard from those who are excited to have something like this in Polk County.

“There are people who live here and attend similar events in Tampa,” Allen said. “There’s a craving here to have these sorts of discussions within our community.”

The organizers hope to shed light on how art and media infiltrate society and entertain us, and to encourage viewers to look at how films impact them, as well as the broader messages they send.

The goal is to expose the community to film in a new way that includes discussions on content and form.

The museum and film connection makes sense because film comes from still art, Herbertz said.

“I think that it’s really easy to discredit filmmaking in general as just entertainment,” he said. “Every film is a piece of art. Hosting this series in a museum setting allows audiences to approach the viewing more from an appreciation standpoint instead of just escapism.”

The selected films, which will often echo the themes of one of the museum's current exhibitions, will include internationally-renowned independent and arts-related movies.

Visit our events calendar for future dates in the film series.


MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake 2018 Cover Artist Announced

The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College announced the cover artist for MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire-by-the-Lake 2018 on Thursday.

Long-time Mayfaire participant and past Best of Show winner Ummarid "Tony" Eitharong will produce the cover art for the 47h annual fine art show.

The artwork that Eitharong, who lives in Orlando, created for this year’s Mayfaire by-the-Lake is titled “Green River.” Its water element reminds him of Lake Morton, he said, adding that he was flattered to have his work used for Mayfaire publicity.

His art will be featured on Mayfaire T-shirts, posters and other materials used to promote the event that attracts more than 60,000 people to the shores of Lake Morton annually, as well as on the T-shirts for the MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire 5K Road Race presented by the Lakeland Runners Club.

“It's very fitting to have Tony's work represent Mayfaire this year,” Executive Director Claire Orologas said. “He has won awards in art fairs throughout the state for many years, he is an anchor at Mayfaire, his work is in private collections throughout the region, and he is in the museum's permanent collection.”

Eitharong was trained in superrealism, in which art resembles a high-resolution photograph. He transitioned into abstracts and mixed media collages, and for about the last decade, Eitharong has worked primarily in abstracts using acrylics on watercolor paper.

“I always have a good soft spot for abstract,” Eitharong said. “People say it’s easy to do. I’ve found abstract is one of the hardest things to do.”

MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake is presented on Mother’s Day weekend each year by the Polk Museum of Art. This year’s event is May 12-13, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free to attend. For more information, visit the event’s website: https://www.mayfairebythelake.org.

Registration Opens for Spring Art Classes

The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College has a gift that will fit in any stocking or gift bag this holiday season, and it’s guaranteed to be the right size and color.

Registration for the museum’s six-week art classes for teens and adults has opened, and gift certificates are available. The registration deadline is Jan. 28. Registrations submitted after the deadline will include a $35 late fee. Click here for more information or to register.

All classes are held at the Polk Museum of Art, 800 E. Palmetto St. in Lakeland.

Spring session classes: 

Art Appreciation: Survey of American Art

Feb. 5 – March 12, 6-8 p.m.

Cost: free for members; $60 nonmembers

Discover the major personalities, works and styles that have come to define American painting, sculpture and architecture.

Beginning Photography

Feb. 6 – March 13, 6-9 p.m.

Cost: $145 members; $185 nonmembers

Learn the technical skills to use your digital camera, and learn to take better photos with your mobile phone. This class will teach you how to photograph landscapes, portraiture, sports, night photography and other subjects and techniques.

Creative Concepts in Photography

Feb. 5 – March 12, 6-9 p.m.

Cost: $145 members; $185 nonmembers

Take your photography to the next level by learning lighting techniques and advanced compositional tools. Learn how to get great shots of outdoor scenes, wildlife, events and more.

Alternative Watercolor Methods

Feb. 5 – March 12, 6-9 p.m.

Cost: $145 members; $185 nonmembers

Learn the basics of watercolor, as well as salt and water techniques, wax resist and wet into wet watercolor.

Figurative Sculpture

Feb. 5 – March 12, 6-9 p.m.

Cost: $210 members; $250 nonmembers

Learn to build and sculpt figurative pieces through basic carving, modeling and sculpture techniques with clay, paper clay and foam.

Realistic Portraits

Feb. 5 – March 12, 6-9 p.m

Cost: $145 members; $185 nonmembers

Learn how color, lighting and a variety of rendering techniques combine to create the stirring illusion of 3-D space. Experiment with the use of colored pencils and the layering of alcohol-based art markers.

Oil Painting and Mixed Media

Feb. 6 – March 13, 6-9 p.m.

Cost: $145 members; $185 nonmembers

Explore the use of oil color and mixed media. Learn to create texture with applications such as gesso and plaster, transparencies with liquin impasto glazes, techniques of mixing “fat and lean” combinations with linseed oil and blending effects with the oil paint medium.

Printmaking Fundamentals and Application

Feb. 6 – March 13, 6-9 p.m.

Cost: $145 members; $185 nonmembers

Learn the basics of print tool techniques, two-layered linoleum block cuts, monotyping and collographs.





Polk Museum of Art Helps Form East Lake Morton Neighborhood Watch

The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College is working with the Lakeland Police Department to start a neighborhood watch program for the East Lake Morton area.

The first meeting is Dec. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the museum. It is open to area residents and business owners, as well as members of First United Methodist Church and parents of students at Lakeland Montessori Middle School. 

"Hurricane Irma helped neighbors see the value of looking out for each other when no one had electric, and the neighborhood watch program is a natural extension of that," said Gregory Mills, the museum’s director of security, operations and technology.

Mills approached the Lakeland Police Department with the idea of starting the neighborhood watch program. He has lived and worked in this neighborhood for more than 20 years.

The East Lake Morton area boundaries are from East Palmetto Street north to East Lime Street, and from Lake Morton Drive to Michigan Avenue. The area encompasses the Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland Public Library, Mister Fish, Red Door Lakeland, First United Methodist Church, Stahl & Associates Insurance and the Junior League of Greater Lakeland. 

The museum added 24 outdoor security cameras in their parking lot over the summer to help prevent crime.

For more information about the East Lake Morton Area Neighborhood Watch program, please call Gregory Mills: 688-7743, ext. 243, or LPD Crime Prevention Practitioner Gwen Stanislowski: (863) 834-3974.