Thursday, January 14, 2016

Local artist Thomas Thorspecken says he won't sketch in Winter Park anymore due to newly passed ban on artists

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 3:35 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DEANNA FERRANTE
  • Photo by Deanna Ferrante
The streets of Winter Park will be a lot quieter, and much less colorful, now that the city has voted to ban street performers from its sidewalks.

On Dec. 14, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Winter Park City Commission had unanimously voted to ban street performances after receiving complaints from merchants who said performers were blocking streets outside their shops and blasting loud music from speakers.

The ban is modeled after a similar ordinance passed in St. Augustine in 2009, which has since faced legal action from artists calling the ban unconstitutional. 

Originally, it was reported that the city's plan was to designate two small "First Amendment zones" at opposite ends of the park. 

Ordinance No. 3023-15 bans performances – including acting, singing, playing musical instruments, puppetry, pantomiming, miming, performing or demonstrating magic or acts of illusion, dancing, juggling, or the public display of and composition or creation of crafts, sculpture, artistry, writings, or compositions – from the Central Business and Hannibal Square districts in Winter Park. Performers are also prohibited from entering the SunRail station, the Winter Park Farmer's Market and the Winter Park Historical Association.

Essentially, if you like to draw, dance or sing, you can now only do so in Central Park or in a corner lot outside the Farmers Market. If Central Park is closed for an event, a small park at the corner of Park and Whipple avenues and the lawn outside City Hall will be made available. 

Thomas Thorspecken, an artist who has been sketching around Central Florida every day since 2009 and runs a blog called Analog Artist Digital World, says the city is no longer a worthy subject for his work. 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DEANNA FERRANTE
  • Photo by Deanna Ferrante
"My work was on display in the Winter Park City chambers probably while this insane ordinance was being drafted," he says. "The short answer: It pisses me off."

Now, the artist plans to take his work elsewhere, and he said he will only return to sketch to cover any protests planned against the ordinance. 

"The city just needed to draft an ordinance to keep loud amplified musicians off the street. Instead, they banned all artists. The city sells itself as being cultural," he says. "They love art, as long as it is in the Tiffany museum or one of the few remaining galleries, they just don't like to see it being created. They are trying to turn Winter Park into a sterile shopping mall."

The city has established a way for artists to request permission to work outside of the designated zones, but for Thorspecken, that just won't work. 

"The city has set up a permit program where you can fill out paperwork to request permission to sketch in the restricted zones, but I decide what to sketch when inspiration hits. I refuse to beg for the right to sketch," he says. 

Thorspecken recently posted to his blog (in a post titled "Winter Park welcomes dogs but bans artists") that on Jan. 5 he sketched some men drinking wine outside the Wine Room on Park Avenue in Winter Park, and after he was done he "slipped away like a criminal in the night." Thorspecken also recently traveled to St. Augustine to protest that city's law banning artists from working on eight public streets and four city parks. You can read about his experience here. 

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