Art31 offers a different art event every day in March 

Art & History Museums – Maitland makes the public part of the art

  • Painting by Trent Tomengo


through March 31 | Art and History Museums – Maitland, 231 W. Packwood Ave., Maitland | 407-539-2181 |

As of today, the Art and History Museums – Maitland is halfway through a grand experiment. The arts complex is devoting the entire month of March to an all-out campaign to educate and delight, premiering experimental artistic events, exhibitions, films and hands-on workshops every single day. Dubbed Art31: Thirty-One Days of Experimentation and Collaboration, this marathon of visual expression features unprecedented opportunities for the public to engage with notable local and regional artists creating innovative work while participating in their artistic process.

Made possible by a $40,000 grant from Orange County Arts and Cultural Affairs, Art31 evolved from A&H’s annual on-site fundraising party, Participation. The goal of Participation is not simply to raise money and show guests a good time, but also to open up the creative process by featuring tables and booths hosted, built and decorated by visual and performing artists, including muralists, poets, cellists, sculptors, belly-dancers and fire-breathers.

“It’s an opportunity for the public to take part in the creative process with professional artists and gain a better understanding of it,” says Andrea Bailey Cox, executive director and CEO of the Art and History Museums – Maitland. “It’s such a great event, but at $100 a seat, it’s unaffordable for a lot of Orlandoans. We wanted to make it more accessible, and from that simple idea, Art31 was born.”

According to Cox, the staff was the driving force behind the inspiration and execution of the concept right from the start: “All the staff just had a million ideas, really coming up with innovative ways to engage every type of audience so that there’s something for

The colossal undertaking began March 1 with Artist’s Colony day, when guests had the opportunity to wrap the Maitland Art Center in blue cellophane (à la Christo) and participate in workshops with artists including Trent Tomengo and Elysia Mann. The next day featured the beginning stages of the transformation of a donated Toyota RAV4, which will serve as a community outreach vehicle for A&H. Anyone who showed up could contribute to the decoration of the interior, while Central Florida artist Andrew Spear painted the exterior. (The finished version was revealed a week later at the Art Car Party.)

“The car will have a life well after Art31,” says curator and director of education Rebecca Sexton-Larson. “We’ll use it to take our art educators to area schools for workshops.”

A&H’s monthly Culture Pop event was all about screens and printing this month. On March 14, at Culture Pop: Roll, Repeat, Enzian Theater screened Florida Film Festival shorts in the courtyard, local letterpress company Mama’s Sauce led guests through screen-printing the exclusive event posters, and the A&H Artists-in-Action created a steamroller print. Yes, that’s right: They used a construction-grade steamroller to do the pressing. (The Mama’s Sauce poster was designed by Simone Guillaume, who altered her Roll, Repeat illustration slightly for this week’s Orlando Weekly cover.)

The most rigorous and resonant piece at Art31 is the multiday live performance art installation La Finca de Parchman: Seven Days and 16 Hours in Parchman Farm. Florida artist Jake Fernandez created this piece in remembrance of the civil rights Freedom Riders jailed at the Mississippi State Penitentiary (aka Parchman Farm) in 1963. From March 23-30, Fernandez will have absolutely no outside contact, attempting to continuously create for more than a week while confined to a blacked-out 8-by-12-foot studio on A&H’s campus. The performance will be live-streamed to the world on Fernandez will only be provided a bathroom (no shower), dry food, water, one light and his art materials: oils, charcoal and canvas.

“He wanted to learn what isolation would do to his creative process,” Cox says. “He originally wanted to be in a bamboo tiger cage in the middle of the garden for weeks, but decided to be completely isolated from social interaction instead.”

A new exhibition titled Film Stories takes over galleries 2 and 3 from March 14-May 25, featuring installations created from coiled celluloid by sculptor Nancy Cervenka. On Tuesday, March 25, famed Miami gallery owner and presenter Mindy Solomon is the featured panelist of the Artists’ Critique and Conversation, a long-running A&H event at which artists sign up to have their work critiqued by visiting professionals.

“To crank it up for Art31, we reached out to Mindy to provide the ultra-level gallerist perspective,” Larson says. “This free event is a great opportunity for career artists to get feedback on their work or take it to the next level of getting a gallery or museum exhibition.”

A&H is no stranger to trying new things. The Maitland Art Center was founded in 1937 by modernist artist and architect J. André Smith, who envisioned an artist colony where people could live and create away from the distractions of everyday life. It was a place where artists could come to experiment and develop new styles and techniques in solitude and warm weather.

A&H development director Devin Dominguez thinks Smith would be proud of Art31. “This is the first time we’ve been able to offer the same kind of programming and experience André would have offered if he were alive today.”

Must-see Art31 events

March 19
Film Stories and Moving Pictures
Curator’s tour of current exhibits by Nancy Cervenka and Joyce Ely-Walker (3 p.m.)

March 20-23
Four-day watercolor workshop with Bernard Martin
6-8 p.m. Thursday, meet and greet; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Saturday, work all day on the Maitland Art Center grounds and gardens; 9 a.m-noon Sunday, conclude workshop by painting at Casa Feliz during a live musical performance
March 23
La Finca de Parchman: Seven Days and 16 Hours on Parchman Farm
The performance piece by Jake Fernandez begins. Kickoff includes a lecture and Q&A session. Live video stream of the weeklong performance will be revealed. (2 p.m.)
March 25
Artists’ Critique and Conversation
Artists’ work is discussed and critiqued by renowned Miami gallerist Mindy Solomon. (6 p.m.) 
March 29
Annual fundraising gala with visual and performing artists, gourmet food and wine (6 p.m.)
March 30
La Finca de Parchman
Performance finale features Q&A session with Jake Fernandez (4 p.m.) 


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