Meet the MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake 2017 Cover Artist

Natacha Monnalisa calls her artistic style “abstract reality,” a blend of surrealism, realism, and abstract designs that convey feelings and ideas in a whimsical and fantasy-like manner. 

That style is conveyed in the cover art she designed for the Polk Museum of Art’s 2017 MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake, “Nesting in Lakeland.”

In addition to featuring a pair of Lakeland’s iconic swans, the artwork includes one of Monnalisa’s signature elements in the form of a dreamlike creature that serves as a swan’s nest. She says her creatures help her showcase life as seen through a child’s eyes, and they represent the unexpected.

“Last year was my first time doing the show and my first time visiting Lakeland,” Monnalisa says. “I was blown away by all the swans. They truly make the place magical. I want my piece to show non-Lakeland residents the beauty of your city.”

This Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native was happy to be invited to create the art for Mayfaire 2017.

“It is a great honor to be selected among many talented artists participating in the show,” she says.

This isn’t the first time Monnalisa’s work has been recognized in Lakeland. She won the Mayfaire Award of Excellence in 2016.

Monnalisa showed interest in the arts from a young age, and won several contests for children. She moved to Miami in 1990 and attended the prestigious magnet school program Design and Architecture, where she excelled at fashion design. Monnalisa earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Miami in 2007, followed by a Master of Arts degree a year later.


Monnalisa lives in Waldo.

New Coordinators Take the Wheel for MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire 2017

The Polk Museum of Art’s MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake features new leadership this year.

Joy Williams and Leslie Norman have taken over as the coordinators of this signature event.

The museum hired Williams in January 2016 and Norman joined the museum staff in April 2016. They worked alongside former coordinators Brenda Friedman and Maya Beck last year to learn the ropes. Friedman and Beck have since passed the baton into the capable hands of Williams and Norman.

They each bring more than a decade of event-planning experience to the position, as well as a love for this fine art show.

I've always attended Mayfaire with my family and loved meeting all the artists and purchasing their work,” Williams says. “I enjoy planning events and thought my love of art and planning events would be a great combination.”

Norman enjoys event planning, and views the position as a great way to do what she loves while serving her community.

Both women have experience in planning another iconic event: Lakeland Pigfest. Williams served on the Pigfest board for two years during her presidency in the Junior League of Greater Lakeland. 

Norman served as Pigfest co-chair for five years. She oversaw the festival layout and ensured logistics were planned and executed. She also served on the Pigfest board for three years as a liaison to the Junior League and a member of the Grounds Committee.

“My involvement with the Junior League gave me the knowledge and experience in planning events of all sizes,” Williams says. “I've helped plan many of their events and came to realize I really enjoyed the process.”

Williams and Norman have introduced a few key changes to Mayfaire 2017, including new food selections during the two-day show and at Mayfaire Saturday Night. They also have relocated the children’s activity tent to Chiles Street.

“We wanted to make the children’s area more convenient for families to enjoy without having to leave the show,” Norman says.

Regarding the beefed up food selection at Mayfaire Saturday Night, that change also was done with families in mind.

 “We wanted to make it easier for families to participate in the event without having to tote coolers and chairs to the event,” Norman says. “This year, just bring your chairs or blankets. We will have plenty of food and beverages for everyone to purchase and enjoy that night.”




Meet the Judge of MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake 2017

Each year, numerous cash awards are presented to artists whose work is on display at the Polk Museum of Art’s MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake, and one judge plays the important role of determining those winners.

Jennifer Sudul Edwards will serve as the judge of the fine arts competition for this year’s edition of Mayfaire, held May 13-14, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Edwards has worked as the curator at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, North Carolina since June 2015. During her time there, she has organized seven exhibitions, and she is preparing a survey of the pioneering kinetic artist Jean Tinguely.

She grew up in the New York suburb of Freehold, New Jersey where her father worked in advertising at J.C. Penney, and her mother was an English tutor, according to a Charlotte Observer article.  As a child, she frequented the Metropolitan Museum of Art with her mother, who enjoyed seeing the Asian collection. Edwards preferred the Egyptian exhibits.

This lover of European modern artists graduated from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in English and an art history minor in 1992. In 2004, she earned a master’s degree from Hunter College in Manhattan.

She went on to earn her doctorate in 2014 from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, and wrote her dissertation on the early works of Niki de Saint Phalle under the advisement of Linda Nochlin and Robert Storr. She spent seven years in Los Angeles and held curatorial jobs at Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California while pursuing her doctorate.


Art Authentication & Conservation Lecture

If you’ve ever wondered how art experts determine authentic works of art from fakes, here’s your opportunity to learn.

Author Rustin Levenson, president and founder of Art Care Conservation in New York and Miami, will offer these insights and more during a free lecture and book signing at the museum on Feb. 4, 2-4 p.m.

Levenson co-authored the prize-winning book “Seeing through Paintings” with Andrea Kirsh. It is a handbook that introduces the layperson to the examination of easel paintings from medieval times to the present.

During the lecture, Levenson will discuss how conservationists use the materials and techniques used in paintings to make art historical assessments and determine authenticity. She also will share some secrets of the conservation studio and the work performed in them. 

“The materials can authenticate the era of the painting,” Levenson says. “For example, if radiocarbon testing dates the canvas of a painting from 1979, it can't have been painted earlier than that, or if X-ray fluorescence shows the element Titanium, the work would have to be from the 20th century.”

“Seeing through Paintings” was awarded the American Library Association Excellence Prize.  The authors were also awarded the Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation Prize by the College Art Association and Heritage Preservation. The Boston Bookbuilders awarded “Seeing through Paintings” its prize for design. 

Levenson earned a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and a Diploma in Paintings Conservation from Harvard University. Her resume includes stints at the Fogg Museum, the Canadian Conservation Institute, The National Gallery of Canada, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

She is a Fellow in the American Institute for Conservation and The International Institute for Conservation, and has served on numerous professional committees as well as chairing the Paintings Specialty Group of the American Institute for Conservation.

Please RSVP for this lecture via email:

“Seeing through Paintings" is available for purchase at the book signing. Pre-orders are $42.50 and can be made by emailing Terry Aulisio at 

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Collections Storage Refurbishment Nears Completion

The Polk Museum of Art has let out its proverbial belt a notch or two with the recent refurbishment of its Collections Storage area.

The $150,000 project funded through an anonymous donation creates additional space within the same amount of square footage for its growing body of work. The museum’s Permanent Collection has tripled since moving into its current location in 1988.

Just what is Collections Storage, you ask?  

“It implies a physical space, as well as a process,” Executive Director Claire Orologas says.

It is a dedicated space for storing artwork and related archival materials. It also is an ongoing process for caring for the collection.

“Good collection storage is a major component of any museum’s preventive conservation and collections care program,” Orologas says. “A well-planned and organized storage space reduces risks to the collection and provides accessibility.”

The museum’s Collections Storage includes two rooms – one that stores mostly 2D artwork, and the other is for 3D sculptures, including items from the Pre-Columbian, Asian and African collections. 

The construction project included enclosing a doorway to create one way in and out, which increases security, says Collections Manager Loren Plunkett. They also relocated a doorway to create room for additional shelving.

Much of the framed artwork in the Permanent Collection hangs on metal screens, but some of it is sturdy enough that it can be stored on shelves.

“This makes room for additional screen space needed for future acquisitions and gives us room for growth,” Plunkett says.

The frame shop was moved from the second floor of one of the Collections Storage rooms into an empty office, which opened up about 360 square feet of space. An added hinged gate enables curatorial staff to store large sculptures that are not often moved.

The project began in July 2016 and will be completed by mid-April when the shelving is installed.

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.”

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