Arts on the Horizon

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by Rodger Skidmore

Lying on a beach towel under the broiling sun for two or three hours – not so much. Yet, sitting in a beach chair at sunset on the gulf with a glass of chilled chardonnay in your hand – yes, comfort comes to mind. Especially if there is a gentle breeze caressing your arm – and if you’d just spent some time in an earlier part of the day in the air-conditioned multi-room galleries within Art Center Sarasota.

That experience is Beyond Comfort, a series of five rooms containing more than 100 works of art in the latest annual Juried Show, on view through July 27.

    As you enter the art center and move past the donations/information desk, turn right and enter a room with a two-part greeting of its own. On the far wall there is a banner declaring Desire Makes Everything Blossom, situated above a floating fabric full of flowers, an oil on fabric work rendered by Isabelle Klauder. And almost directly in front, enhancing rather than blocking one’s view, is Music of the Spheres, a ceramic and mixed media piece by P.A. Kushner. And on the wall to the right is an arresting piece by Jim Stewart, Ambitions, done in India inks on watercolor paper.

     In the room to the left of the entrance, three images catch the eye. Street, Miami by Laura Campbell, Reconstruct Withered by David Bush, and Rafael Montalvo’s Eating Beauty Donna are photos printed on metallic photo paper on acrylic, on archival paper, and by inkjet on stock, depending upon the desires of these artists.

     A stroll down a long runway ramp leads to another left/right group of display spaces. There one can see a young Art Deco lady lounging on the beach in the style of a Tamara de Lempicka oil painting, but done in Petit Point by Betsy Tomasso, titled Bella Donna.

     From there one enters the main gallery where even more art works reside. There, art goes from whimsey to monumental to statement, in all mediums – oil, collage, sculpture, photography, chalk, and colored pencil. A fun piece is Just Listed: End Unit with Ocean View by Robert Shade. A 4-foot by 5¾-foot work, Polymorphing by Art Venti, is made up of 780,426 colored pencil strokes (approximately), and is worth looking at in depth. And finally, a lasting impression is made by Walking on Broken Glass, acrylic and tempered glass on wood by Viktorija Bulava.

     The works described above are just subjectively highlighted parts of this annual show, which is filled with many others of equal merit.

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Statue to a song

    It seems that every country in the world, and every people of the world, not matter the continent, peninsula, or island, where they have banded together to be a unity, all have yearned to be free.

    To seek liberty, no matter the stony road they trod, was the goal they sought, the hope they hoped for with their voices resounding as the rolling sea. All have sought it and all seek to keep it. And if they keep forever on that path, then forever may they stand.

    In 1900 some of the above phrases and many others just as poignant were crafted in Jacksonville by James Weldon Johnson in a poem he wrote to honor Abraham Lincoln and the idea of freedom. 

     That year the poem was recited by 500 students from Florida Baptist Academy and surrounding schools. Five years later James’ brother J. Rosamond Johnson wrote the music, thus creating an anthem that has been sung in churches; at school commencements, dedications, and graduations; and at sporting events, births, and funerals.

    That poem, which became a song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” has been sung at thousands of events by a multitude of classical and popular artists – by Beyoncé, the students at Maya Angelou’s eighth-grade graduation ceremony, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Alicia Keys, and Ray Charles; played by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Jon Batiste; recited by James Brown before a Muhammad Ali fight, by Joseph Lowery at President Obama’s inauguration ceremony, and at Super Bowl LVII, and referenced by political and religious leaders around the world.

    Augusta Savage received a commission to create a statue symbolizing African-American music for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. She lovingly sculpted a chorus singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Unfortunately, it was not cast in bronze and the painted plaster statue was destroyed in 1940.

     At long last, a new statue, sculpted by Brian Owens, honoring both the poet and the composer has been cast at the Bronzart Foundry here in Sarasota and was put on display near their birthplace in Jacksonville last month. Also, here in Sarasota is Marian Anderson Place, on a 14-acre site acquired by the city in 1944. A developer plans to house some light industry there. It would be nice if the city and the developer would commission a statue to Marian Anderson, who sang so many beautiful songs, uplifting spirits across America and the world, and be honored, like the Johnson brothers, with more than just a street sign.

Send in the clowns

     The Summer Circus Spectacular is back at the Historic Asolo Theatre through Aug. 17. These for-kids-of-all-ages shows (from 3 to 93, and everywhere in between) are performed up to three times each day, when the sun is at its hottest, so this gem of a theater will be most enjoyable.

    What would you do if your mother was the first woman in the world to walk on stilts on a circus high wire? Probably join the circus yourself, along with your siblings, to form the Bello Sisters Acrobatic Balancing Act.

     A lot of the acts performing at this year’s summer circus have some connection with Canada. For many of these performers, they or a parent performed with Cirque du Soleil, graduated from the Circus School of Quebec, or from the National Circus School of Montreal. The main thing is that great acts ultimately wind up being associated with the Circus Arts Conservatory in Sarasota, world famous home of so many circuses.

    At this year’s spectacular there will be contortionist Uranbileg Angarag, who first performed with the Mongolian National Circus when she was 6; the Bello Sisters, famous for their hand-balancing act and who perform as the halftime entertainment for various NBA and NCAA basketball shows; Zorè España who will thrill you as she careens around the stage, spread-eagle within a giant hula hoop; Camille Langlois, who like many kids dreamt of hanging out around the circus, fulfilled that dream by hanging around by her hair while swinging above the circus ring to ethereal music; and while you might have been able at some time in your life to stand on your hands while leaning against a wall, it probably wasn’t your dream to do so while on a rope high in the air, like Antino Pansa the slack wire artist.

     All this and more (the more being the Circus Museum and the Tibbals Learning Center) at

Rodger Skidmore
Author: Rodger Skidmore

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