Polk Museum of Art Announces Winners at 45th Annual MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake

The Polk Museum of Art is pleased to announce the following artists won awards at the 2016 MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake. The winners, their hometowns, the media they work in and the booth where they are located at the show are:


Best of show:

  • David Figueroa, Sanford, Fla., sculpture, Booth #115


Awards of Excellence

  • Cheryl Mackey Smith, Winter Park, Fla., clay, Booth #101
  • John Mascoll, Safety Harbor, Fla., wood, Booth #97


Awards of Distinction

  • Ummarid Eitharong, Orlando, Fla., painting- oil and acrylic, Booth #100
  • Jeff Ripple, Micanopy, Fla., painting- oil and acrylic, Booth #30
  • Jeff Eckert, Tampa, Fla., drawing and graphics, Booth 112A
  • Natacha Monnalisa, Waldo, Fla., mixed media, Booth #88


Merit Awards

  • Linda Apriletti, Miami Springs, Fla., painting- oil and acrylic, Booth #29
  • Chelsea Smith, Casselberry, Fla., drawing and graphics, Booth #12
  • Carmen Lagos, Jupiter, Fla., painting- watercolor, Booth #5
  • Cheri Kudja, Miramar, Fla., sculpture, Booth 44
  • Magali Cereghino-Groves, Orlando, Fla., mixed media, Booth #89
  • Christopher Roll, Lakeland, Fla., mixed media, Booth #136


Honorable Mentions

  • Alison LaMons, Lakeland, Fla., painting- watercolor, Booth #119
  • Mary May Witte, Lakeland, Fla., painting- oil and acrylic, Booth #109
  • William Kwamena-Poh, Savannah, Ga., painting- watercolor Booth #47
  • GW Arseneau, Fernandina Beach, Fla., painting- oil and acrylic, Booth #2
  • Sip-Tshun Ng, Pompano Beach, Fla., mixed media, Booth #151

Florida Outdoor Sculpture Competition Winners Announced

Winners of the 16th Annual Florida Outdoor Sculpture Competition have been announced.

Best of Show: “Ribbon of Steel #8 ‘Woman with Child,’" 2010, scrap steel, Michael Russell, Athens, TN.

2nd Place: “Plenum Orb,” 2014, stainless steel assemblage, Donald Gialanella, St. Petersburg, FL. 

Honorable Mention: “Native Homage,” 20115, mild steel and copper, Jason Smith, Hillsborough, NC.

"The three works selected for awards in the sixteenth annual Florida Outdoor Sculpture Competition in Lakeland all display the perfect bend of artistry, creativity and craftsmanship,” says Holly Keris, chief curator of the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville, and this year’s judge.

Most notably, Keris adds, “Woman with Child” by Russell features a curvaceous continuity of metal, delicately balanced, with a graceful gesture. Scrap steel juxtaposes with softness of the flowing lines and the subtle motion of the sculpture. The ribbon embraces itself and the viewer, drawing in on itself protectively while extending toward those nearby, inviting interaction.

Gialanella’s “Plenum Orb” is an assemblage of diverse stainless steel objects including everything from kitchen paraphernalia to hubcaps. The objects, artfully arranged, become a perfect sphere, tightly bound but seamless in the uniformity of its surface.

“Walking around the piece becomes a journey – is that a tea kettle? – with a whimsical sense of discovery,” she says.

Likewise, in Smith’s “Native Homage,” a quirky bird struts in the landscape. Its simplified form belies its craftsmanship and entices a smile, Keris says.

There are 10 sculptures in the Florida Outdoor Sculpture Competition. They are placed along the Lemon Street Promenade between South Florida Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue in Downtown Lakeland and will remain there for one year.

The Polk Museum of Art worked with the cities of Lakeland, Sebring and Bonita Springs this year to install new sculptures in downtown parks. A committee comprised of community members and Museum staff selects the sculptures for the competition.

An independent judge selects the Best of Show, Second Place and Honorable Mention awards. For more information on the Florida Outdoor Sculpture Competition, click here.


Ruben Ubiera Points Out the Gorilla in the Room

Ruben Ubiera’s larger-than-life murals prompt onlookers to see the gorilla in the room. Often, literally.

This neo-figurative artist known for his graffiti-inspired technique will help the Polk Museum of Art celebrate its 50th anniversary in April by painting a 16’ x 24’ mural onto an interior wall of the Museum.

The project is groundbreaking for both parties. This is the first time the Museum has dedicated such a large space to an interior mural and incorporated street art into its exhibition programming. This is also the first time Ubiera has painted a mural inside a museum. Doing so is symbolic for this artist who was heavily influenced by the graffiti he saw all around him while living in the Bronx as a teenager, and for the Museum, which is embracing and promoting street art.

“Graffiti was like a different language to me,” says the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native. “I would go around with a sketch book and sketch what I saw on the walls. It changed how I draw and paint.”

When he began painting professionally 10 years ago, he noticed galleries weren’t exhibiting urban postgraffism artists inside their spaces. Postgraffism is the term used to describe graffiti and street art that frequently includes images influenced by skateboard imagery, comics and typography.

That’s when the gorilla began making appearances in Ubiera’s work. He uses it as a simile, “so you can say it’s the big gorilla in the room that everyone was ignoring,” he says, adding that postgraffism was treated like a gorilla: too wild, too crazy, too strong.

The gorilla will be an element in the Polk Museum of Art’s mural. He has created a design, but will freestyle other elements as he paints.

To fill in those elements, he simply starts from the left of his canvas and uses his environment as inspiration for his work.  In this process, the structures, the people, and the community tend to be incorporated.

When Curator Adam Justice conceived the mural idea two years ago, he knew Ubiera, who is based in Miami, was the artist for the job. He specifically wanted the mural to represent street art in an effort to erase its stigma as being just vandalism.

It’s a bold move in that direction, for the artist and the art form, Ubiera says.

“To me, in many ways it’s a huge step in my career,” he says. “This is a reputable institution that is patting me on the back and agreeing with me as far as what this is. I think it opens a door for many other artists.”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and those who grew up seeing graffiti see it as art, he says. It’s a powerful hook for getting kids interested in art. While he is in Lakeland painting the mural, Ubiera will talk about postgraffism with students at Harrison School for the Arts.

The manner in which this mural was funded also is symbolic. Since the economic downturn in 2008, museums all over the country have had to broaden their bases of support. The Polk Museum of Art, founded as a private, community-based museum by the Jr. Welfare League of Lakeland 50 years ago, has followed suit. Their funding sources are diverse, and they are all important.

The project had been cut from the Museum budget two years in a row. Crowdfunding finally brought this mural to life. Everyone who gave, whether their donation was $5 or $5,000, was instrumental in making this dream a reality.

“This museum relies on a broad base of support,” says Claire Orologas, the Museum’s executive director. “We need everyone's support, and we need everyone to feel invested in their museum. This project really would not have happened if the community didn't pitch in.”

Just as traditional graffiti often is painted over within days of its appearance, Ubiera’s mural won’t last forever. His exhibition likely will remain for one year.

Knowing that it eventually will be painted over is “not a problem at all,” he says. In fact, it’s fitting.

“Hopefully, it will attract people,” Ubiera says. “It won’t be there forever, so go see it before it’s gone.”

Clearwater Couple Donates Sculpture to Museum

Friends and family members miss seeing the shiny, curling ribbons of metal that form the sculpture “Introspection” when they visit the home of Moshe and Ella Kedan these days.

But the good news is that this beautiful work by artist Gino Miles will be seen by tens of thousands in the coming years.

The Kedans recently donated “Introspection” to the museum, and Miles installed it outside the museum entrance in February. Now the sculpture is on display for all to see, perched atop four rocks totaling 2,000 pounds pulled from the Pecos River in New Mexico.

The Kedans determined the Polk Museum of Art was an ideal spot for exhibiting Miles’ work after visiting here last Spring.

“We were impressed with this particular museum because it is really geared toward contemporary art,” Moshe Kedan said.

The Kedans met Miles several years ago at Art Basel Miami and instantly felt an attraction toward his work for his ability to mastered “such a tough, hard, heavy metal and make it like a rubber toy,” Kedan said.

They have purchased five pieces, and opted to donate “Introspection” so that others could see and be inspired by Miles’ work.

Claire Orologas, executive director of the Polk Museum of Art, says she is grateful for the generous gift, and she views the donation as a sign that the museum’s regional outreach efforts are working.

“We serve the entire region, not just Lakeland or Polk County,” Orologas said. “The fact that this gift was made by collectors who live in Clearwater shows that people outside Polk County are noticing and appreciating our facility and our programming.”

About Gino Miles

A native of the Western slopes of Colorado, Gino Miles received a Master of Art in sculpture from the University of Northern Colorado in 1979.

He lived in Florence, Italy for several years and helped found Italart, a school for American and German students in the Chianti region. He also taught design and sculpture classes while making and exhibiting his own pastels and sculpture.

Today Miles and his wife live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has owned and operated his own gallery, Sculpture 619, since 2003. You can learn more about Miles here.

“Visible Rhythms” Exhibition Opens at Lake Wales Arts Center

The Polk Museum of Art installed its second annual exhibition at Polk State College's Lake Wales Arts Center on Monday.

It is on view in support of the college’s annual Jewel of the Ridge Jazz Festival April 6-10 along the shores of Lake Wales, and remains through May 16.

The exhibition titled “Visible Rhythms” includes 22 works by 20 artists that are part of the museum’s permanent collection. They were chosen for their ability to visually correlate with the sounds from the jazz festival.

Although these works of art can be appreciated when viewed alone, their visual vivacity is enhanced when coupled with the rhythmic power of modern jazz, Curator Adam Justice says.

“Essentially, it's equating color with rhythm,” Justice says. “All of these pieces are abstract works that are characterized by their vibrant colors.”

This exhibition is one of many ways the Polk Museum of Art brings art to residents who live throughout Polk County and the Central Florida region, says Executive Director Claire Orologas.

In addition to this exhibition done in partnership with Polk State College, the museum is a partner in the Winter Haven arts incubator, The Outer Space Gallery, which opened in 2015. 

The Polk Museum of Art also has sculptures in Polk, Highlands and Lee counties as part of the Florida Outdoor Sculpture Competition.  

The Lake Wales Arts Center is located at 1099 FL-60. The center is open Monday- Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed weekends.

The Story Behind “Visible Rhythms”

In 1911, Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) penned his now famous treatise “Concerning the Spiritual in Art.” Through this momentous work, Kandinsky was the first artist to lay out the connections between music and painting, Justice says. He equated certain tones of sound with specific shades of color. For example, the lowest frequency tones, or bass sounds, were the auditory equivalent to deep blue hues.

People don’t connect sound and color exclusively with the ears and eyes, but with our souls, according to Kandinsky. He believed, as so many artists and theorists before him, that sensitivities to music and visual art are innate in every human, and we connect the two in our own respective and unique ways. By outlining the relationships between painting and music, Kandinsky helped us understand the basis for our spiritual interpretations of the two art forms.

Perhaps the best modern example of Kandinsky’s theory is the relationship between modern jazz and 20th-century abstract art. Just as a visual artist composes a canvas according to the interaction of color and shape, a jazz musician composes a piece of music according to the interaction of tone and rhythm. What ultimately connects these two sorts of compositions is the similar energy innate in each.

“Visible Rhythms” seeks to emphasize that energy.


Polk Museum of Art is Awarded its First Disney Grant

Walt Disney World Resort awarded a $12,000 grant to the Polk Museum of Art on March 4.

The money will be used for two youth-oriented programs in the Parker Street neighborhood.

The Parker Street Teen Program has about 12 participants who have created a business to design and sell clothing. This program incorporates the arts, entrepreneurship and life skills training, says Laura Putnam, outreach manager for the Polk Museum of Art.

Putnam works with teens to design, plan, develop and market a silk-screened clothing line. Profits from the T-shirt sales are split, with one half going to a local charity of the teens' choosing and the other being spent as a class. This unique aspect flips participants from being recipients of charity to being community benefactors, she says.

“The teens are doing everything from the ground up, which includes creating a business plan,” Putnam says. “Giving back to a local charity promotes civic engagement, and the role reversal from recipients of charity to community benefactors is a key component to the project.”

The Disney grant will help cover supplies, production and administrative costs for the program’s third year, which begins in October. Putnam also will use the funds to purchase iPads so participants will have access to design apps that will be useful in designing more clothing.

The remainder of the grant funds will be used in the Parker Street After School Program, which provides an outlet for about 80 children to express themselves creatively and safely.

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