Elves Shelves Returns to the Polk Museum of Art

Santa’s elves are helping children do some holiday shopping for their friends and family members with Elves Shelves at the Polk Museum of Art.

Elves Shelves runs Nov. 26 through Dec. 11, and features items priced mostly between $2 and $10. It is geared toward children ages 5 to 13, and is set up outside The Shop in the main gallery. 

This shopping event is held during regular museum hours, and it provides a comfortable, fun atmosphere for young shoppers who may have a limited budget to buy small gifts for their family and friends. Children can make their lists and add up their gifts to see if they are within their budgets.

Shop and Visitor Services staff and volunteers provide paper, pencils and calculators to help children. If they don't find what they are looking for on Elves Shelves, there are other low-cost items throughout The Shop.

Elves Shelves also offers a free giftwrapping station where children can wrap their gifts by themselves or with assistance. Staff and volunteers also can wrap gifts for children.


Southern Homes Becomes PMOA Strategic Partner

Polk County builder Southern Homes has joined the Polk Museum of Art’s Strategic Partnership program to provide free admission to the museum on Sundays through November 2017.

Becoming a partner was a natural next step for Southern Homes, which has donated to the museum for several years, says Southern Homes Marketing Manager Ashley Link.

“At Southern Homes, giving back to the community we call home is very important us,” Link says. “We believe that to have a vibrant community, there must be good schools, good hospitals, and good cultural activities; that includes an art museum.”

Executive Director Claire Orologas says the partnership is vital to the museum’s long-term success because it shows that the community understands the value the museum provides in terms of social, educational and economic benefits to the community.

“Partnerships such as this make the museum accessible to people from throughout Central Florida, including those in our community who otherwise couldn’t afford to visit a museum,” Orologas says.

As a hometown builder, Southern Homes operates under the philosophy that it is important to continually strive to make Polk County a better place to live. Through this museum partnership, Southern Homes is able to give back to their customers, and all community members, by ensuring they have free access to the museum.

“We are excited to help increase access to the museum so that children and adults gain more exposure to art of all varieties,” Link says. “We have such a tremendous cultural asset in our local Polk Museum of Art, and we hope that, as a result of this partnership, even more people will have the opportunity to experience it.”

The museum unveiled its Strategic Partnership program in 2013 and saw attendance increase 12 percent the first year. Since then, the program has made it possible to offer free admission every day the museum is open.

The Polk Museum of Art is located at 800 E. Palmetto St. in Lakeland. It is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays 1-5 p.m.


Polk Student Goes From Art Camper to Major Contest Winner

A long-time student of the Polk Museum of Art’s Summer Art Camp and Spring Break Art Camp recently won a poster contest sponsored by Bank of Central Florida to promote The BIG Event.

Taylor Haynes, 14, went “a little ballistic” when she learned last month that she had won. She even cried.

“I’ve never won a major contest like this,” Taylor said. “I’m excited about the publicity, and I’m very honored.”

The Bank of Central Florida announced the winner Oct. 21. She will receive her $350 cash award on Saturday, Nov. 12 at The BIG Event. Her artwork has been printed, signed, and numbered and will be available for sale that night.

“We are encouraged by the number, and quality, of submissions,” said Paul Noris, President and CEO of the Bank of Central Florida upon announcing the winner. “It was difficult to just pick one. But Ms. Haynes’ piece really stood out.”

The BIG Event is a celebration of Lakeland. This free, family-oriented event is held at the Frances Langford Promenade at Lake Mirror after the Red Ribbon Half Marathon, 5K & Kids’ Run. It features live music, food and drink, a Kids Zone, Business Expo, Makers’ and Artisans’ Row, and more. 

Taylor, an eighth grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, has loved art as long as she can remember. Her mom, Jennifer, said Taylor started drawing as a toddler. One of her pre-school teachers drew pictures for her every day.

“I loved it so much,” Taylor said.

Today, one of her favorite things to draw is dragons.

Jennifer registered Taylor for her first Summer Art Camp five years ago, and she has attended every summer since. She has participated in Spring Break Art Camp for three years.

The variety of art classes available keeps the young artist coming back.

“I like that it exposes you to different types of art, and I really like the teachers,” Taylor said. “It really encourages kids to get involved in art around your community.”

One of Taylor’s Summer Art Camp instructors encouraged her to participate in Art Crawl in 2015. She sold several pieces of her work, including ocean life paintings on wood and prismacolor marker drawings. She credited her instructor with always offering his honest opinion, and pushing her to do more.

Jennifer credits the Museum staff with helping Taylor build her confidence. The sense of family and community has helped her grow as an artist, she said.

“I am so incredibly grateful for all the amazing opportunities she has had through the Museum and city,” Jennifer said. “It is so great for Taylor to be part of the local arts community.”

Would you like to get your children involved in our Spring Break Art Camp and Summer Art Camp in 2017? Click here for more information.


MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake Breaks into Sunshine Artist Top 20

The Polk Museum of Art’s MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake has claimed the 20th position in Sunshine Artist magazine’s list of the top 200 art shows in the country for 2016.

This is the highest that Lakeland’s annual juried art show has ranked on this prestigious list. The magazine ranked Mayfaire 55th in 2015. Mayfaire first appeared on the list in 2012.

“We were all ecstatic to see where we placed on this year’s list,” says Executive Director Claire Orologas. “I hope our entire community can take pride in the fact that what began 46 years ago as a small craft fair on the lawn of the library has become a major event in Polk County with national recognition.”

In considering the 2016 rankings, Sunshine Artist asked show participants to vote on all aspects, including sales, artist amenities and the quality of art or craft. The magazine noted that 100 percent of voters reported earnings between $2,000 and $5,000 at Mayfaire.

Orologas anticipates this year’s ranking will attract higher caliber artists and more first-time applicants to the 2017 show. She also believes it could result in larger attendance, she says. Organizers estimated attendance at roughly 70,000 in May.

Eight of the top 20 shows on the magazine’s list are in Florida. Among the factors in ranking are low costs to artists and strong sales.

“All of the top 20 shows demonstrated support from the community,” Orologas says. “Awards are another factor. The Polk Museum of Art gives nearly $17,000 in prize money to winning artists. Artists also have always remarked on the great hospitality they experience here.”

This community event is successful due to our title sponsor, MIDFLORIDA Community Credit Union, all of our sponsors, the museum’s team of staff and volunteers, the participation of the Lakeland Runners Club, and the City for the pride taken in making it such a well-run event, Orologas says. The lion's share of the credit goes to Brenda Friedman and Maya Beck, who served as Mayfaire coordinators for the past 10 years. They have left the event in the capable hands of incoming coordinators Joy Williams and Leslie Norman.

About the Magazine

Sunshine Artist is the leading publication for art and craft show exhibitors, promoters and patrons. Since 1972, the magazine has provided its readers with comprehensive reviews of everything from fine art fairs and festivals to small craft shows around the country. Each issue includes hundreds of art and craft show listings, including contacts, booth fees, application deadlines and the type of art/craft that the event accepts. 

Curator of Art Adam Justice Announces Departure

The Polk Museum of Art announced Monday that Adam Justice has officially resigned from his position as curator of art, effective July 31.

The Board of Directors will conduct a national search in the fall to fill the position.

Justice recently accepted the position of assistant curator of modern and contemporary art at the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, NC. He will begin there Aug. 15.

He has been the curator of art at the Polk Museum of Art since Jan. 4, 2010. During his tenure he curated and oversaw the installation of more than 80 exhibitions and worked with numerous contemporary artists and arts institutions throughout the country. He built strong relationships with regional artists as well as art collectors throughout Florida, and facilitated several important acquisitions for the permanent collection, including works by Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Iva Gueorguieva. Along with artist Trent Manning, Justice also served as co-curator and resident artist at Winter Haven’s Outer Space gallery.

Although his departure advances his professional career at the Mint Museum of Art, Justice is also weighing the personal implications of relocating. He will be closer to his wife, Elyse, who is pursuing a doctorate degree at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and their 11 month-old daughter, Livia Rey. 

Justice leaves this position feeling as though the museum has “upped its game” in the contemporary art world, he said. It has developed an identity as a museum that fills a gap for emerging artists who have gained some notoriety in the gallery circuit, but have no foothold in the museum world. He and Executive Director Claire Orologas also opened the museum to exhibitions of artists from the immediate community.

“Adam has been a wonderful colleague who will be sorely missed by all of us,” Orologas said. “His contributions have been significant and will have a lasting impact.”

(Image via)

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.