In today’s world, there is a significant amount of people that are constantly striving to do what they feel most passionate about. Visual artists are among those people.
Orange County, Florida is one of the most important travel destinations for local, and international tourists. The theme park industry put Central Florida on the map and in the bucket list for people around the world after the opening of The Walt Disney World Resort on October 1, 1971, with their first theme park in the area, The Magic Kingdom.
The Walt Disney World Resort has grown in the past 50 years, as well as other companies decided to create more options for visitors and locals. Universal Orlando Resort and Sea World Parks and Entertainment are other options for those who visit the County.
The theme park industry in Orange County, has made Central Florida have talented people that have dedicated their professional lives to entertain others as well as being able to bring entertainment for audiences worldwide. Visual arts play an important role in the world of storytelling.
The world of Visual Arts is a fantastic way of telling stories with the use of colors and paintbrushes. Orange County in Florida offers the world of Visual Arts and its artists a variety of events where they can showcase their artwork.
The County’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Office led by its Director of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Mr. Terry Olson has an Advisory Council. The Council is in charge of recommending the office of Tourism and Tax Revenue where to spend their budget that the county has for the arts and culture. At the same time, the Council has different committees that oversee promoting new ideas. One of these committees is the Sustainability Committee which mission is “to pursue and implement the long-term sustainability and resiliency of the arts community, and its place in the natural, built and human environment of Orange County,” said Theo Webster, Chair of the Sustainability Committee and Member of the Advisory Council.
“One of our goals is to increase tourist awareness by promoting art and cultural offerings to hospitality industry and transit providers. We are also working on creating a unified, centralized marketing campaign for arts organizations,” said Theo.
While Orange County, Florida and the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs make great efforts to ensure that the community has access to new opportunities, visual artists around the County share their experiences.
For local artist JJ Gonzalez Acosta “Orange County has done a great job offering us the opportunities to showcase our talents. Activities such as Fusion Fest, and platforms such as City Arts Gallery, offer great opportunities to have our art out there. However, being an artist requires not only time and dedication, but also requires money for materials and the constant expectations to have our art sold. We must rely on having full time jobs to make our ends meet. Unfortunately, art itself does not pay our bills.”
The County does offer grant opportunities for the arts and culture. United Arts of Central Florida is a Non-profit Organization in charge of reviewing and approving applications from local non-profit organizations. Their main goal is to distribute the money the County has to the organizations who qualify. However, these grants are only accessible by those who have a Non-Profit Organization.
For some artists, registering a non-profit not only takes time, but it also requires a certain level of knowledge of the process that most of them do not know. For some, this information is new, and they did not even know that the County does offer opportunities and resources. “I did not know that there were those options. I would love to have more information. I will certainly investigate more information on it. It is always good to feel that we are supported as a community by the local government,” said Sarahy Boraure local artist.
The arts and the entertainment industry was the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Greater Orlando Performing Arts Relief Fund, or ‘GOPAR’ was organized in 2020 to provide relief grants to individual arts workers of Central Florida affected by the pandemic.
“To date GOPAR has raised over $100,000 and assisted artists and arts workers covering mortgages, car payments, and medical bills, and perhaps just as critical, providing hope, reassurance and needed connectivity in the midst of debilitating isolation,” said RK Kelley, entertainment business executive, an advocate and board member in the community.
“We have an enormously talented arts community here in Central Florida and statewide. With stabilization and insightful support, we can help these artists and arts workers reach their potential, retain these talents in Orlando, and continue to enrich all our lives,” said RK.
Orange County, Florida, is constantly growing. The growth provides opportunities to our talented community. COVID-19 cases significantly decreased. The County’s state of emergency expires this November. More activities are coming back to life. Fusion Fest, Art in the Chambers, and other important calls to artists are being sent to a database of approximately 2500 local visual artists. Allowing them to showcase their artwork to a bigger audience.
For Byron Walker, Director of Facilities at the Polasek Museum, “the county does a great job offering us visual artists opportunities to showcase our artwork. The opportunities are out there. Part of our job as visual artists is to apply, apply, and apply. It is our responsibility to put our name out there.”
It seems that the most difficult part for a visual artist is treating their talent, and the passion for storytelling, colors, and paintbrushes as a business.
For visual artist Cheri Riechers, “I studied art in college. Art Festivals were not a thing. I decided to go into the computer industry. There came a time when I made some hand-painted fabrics, that lead to murals, and one day a local art dealer in Orange County said she wanted to see my artwork. I went to a gallery on Park Ave. in Winter Park and brought all my artwork with me. They loved it. They sold everything within two weeks. That was my first art lesson. I stayed with them for 18 years. I started painting in Café Tu Tu Tango on International Drive. The experience was amazing. I was invited out to Disney’s Festival of the Arts. After having a consulting company, I learned to treat my art as a business. It is a passion. It is storytelling but, it is a business.”
During the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, Mexican visual artist and architect Patricia Cavazos said, “the most important thing for me is knowing all the talents of my fellow artists. I am happy that the city does these types of events. More than the economic part, it is just a platform to let my art be shown in different places, knowing me. It’s more like being supporting each other and showing the people around. For me is more to show that the Hispanic culture and what we have to offer. The economy part of it is good but is more about showing what we have and who we are.”
Visual arts can become a main source of income. Opportunities are out there. Visual Artists are encouraged to continue telling colorful stories while taking advantage of the outstanding job that Orange County, Florida is doing through the Arts and Cultural Affairs office to provide platforms to showcase art and stories.
For more information on the Orange County Arts and Cultural Affairs office visit: https://www.orangecountyfl.net/CultureParks/ArtsCulture.aspx#.YX7ter3MJb_