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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Jul. 17, 2014 5 years ago

Introducing a festival of culture and arts

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by: Shari Roach

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November will be an exciting time for Winter Garden and all of Orange County when the city streets are filled with art and music, celebrating the various cultures that make each person unique and honoring traditions from the past, along with those carried on today. Including the area along Plant Street and Lakeview Avenue, Boyd Street and Main Street — and many connecting roads — the Winter Garden Culture Fest will transform the small town into a full-on global experience.

For the first time, the Florida Film Academy, in partnership with the city of Winter Garden, is putting together this one-of-a-kind event that will bring people of all different backgrounds together November 1-2. Fusing artists, music, food, street performance and film across two days, this non-profit program will immerse residents and visitors into a wealth of heritage and artistic expression.

“It is something that is highlighting culture and heritage as a whole, putting education and entertainment together,” said Stefanie Esquijarosa, Florida Film Academy director of operations. “The patrons that come are not only seeing art in a traditional art festival, but also performances where it is their culture, whether it’s Asian, German, etc. They are experiencing other cultures and fine art in that.”

The festival will involve much more than Plant Street, the main road that runs through downtown Winter Garden. It will reach out and encompass the surrounding areas that all make up the heart of the town, allowing performers and artists to spread out and visitors to feel like they are stopping through different parts of the world. There will be a variety of sections, each with a new theme and purpose. Around each corner, visitors will step into a new experience and cultural adventure.

“The idea is that literally everywhere you go there will be something to see. And if you’re on one block, you’re missing something on the other,” Esquijarosa said.

Travel the town

Tremaine Street will turn into an Artists Avenue where paintings, drawings, photography, sculptures and more can be viewed and purchased. Passersby can also enjoy seeing some of the creators hard at work and watch the process behind creating a piece that might end up in their own home. The artists will express their own unique style and portray their cultural interests, creating a wide variety of exhibits.

The Artists Avenue will begin next to City Hall on Tremaine and continue into the “Made in the USA” showcase on parts of South Main Street

and Plant Street to South Woodland Street (near the Heritage Museum). This section will honor American culture with artists from all over the nation sharing their talent, including Native American artwork. Main Street will host the festival’s main music stage and beer tent, as well.

Plant Street will come alive with street performers scattered along the West Orange Trail for three blocks. Visitors can leisurely walk by these artists and throw a tip in their hat, popular in places like New Orleans. The street performance lifestyle has been practiced all over the world, with gratuities widely accepted as the norm to show appreciation. These acts of showmanship could be musical performances, acrobatics, magic shows, pantomime and more.

The old Winter Garden railroad, where the Central Florida Railroad Museum now lies, will transform into Dickensian London. Part of South Boyd Street and Tremaine Street, on to Grace’s Gifts, will be temporarily converted into Dickens Lane where actors, storytellers and artists will perform and re-create Dickens’ work. Performers will interact with those who stroll through and really bring to life old London, transporting guests to a world in the 1800s.

South Lakeview Avenue will host the Youth Performing Arts Main Stage, reserved for youth artists who are welcome to display a variety of creative performances. On the same street, there will be an international food experience – in addition to the extensive cultural cuisine already available downtown.

The World Film Festival will take place at the Garden Theatre, featuring international films and free workshops by national and international artists. On the final night of Culture Fest, the town can witness a “City Canvas” light show that will cover the outside walls of City Hall and illuminate Plant Street when the sun goes down.

“Many communities host an art show, but very few communities host such a wide array of the arts at the same time,” said Tanja Gerhartz, economic development director for the city of Winter Garden. “Hopefully, the festival will help to galvanize the arts community in West Orange [County] and create an event that is set apart from other festivals in the region.”

Still in the works

The Florida Film Academy also hopes to create a special area for painters on easels in the walkway between Axum Coffee and Urban Flats, as well as a Vendor Village along South Boyd Street. The academy is still seeking artist applications for all areas of entertainment, as well as merchandise and food vendors and sponsors.

Maps detailing each section of the festival will be available as the event date approaches, as well as a complete schedule of events. All the funds raised during Culture Fest will benefit underprivileged students in the arts. To get involved in any capacity, contact Esquijarosa at [email protected] or (407) 654-8400.

“We anticipate this event really being that star in the Winter Garden area,” Esquijarosa said.

Calling all artists

The Culture Fest will be a juried event with cash prizes in multiple categories for participating artists. There is a one-time $25 application fee, but once selected, artists will not be charged a booth fee.

Qualifying artists will offer sufficient artwork available for sale and works must be displayed for the duration of the festival and manned continuously. Volunteers will be available for essential breaks. Participants also must provide a 10- by 10-foot tent with all necessary fixtures. The festival requires that all artwork be appropriate for family audiences. Participants may provide one piece to be judged for the Festival Awards, but it is not required.

The festival committee will give preference to “interactive art,” whereby artists work alongside their work for sale. “Cultural and heritage artists” and street performers are highly encouraged to apply, as well.

The application deadline is July 31, and booths will be allocated on a first-come basis to artists meeting the festival criteria. To apply, e-mail a jpeg sample of work and an artist bio to [email protected].

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