Culture 2 Go 

On Feb. 4, United Arts of Central Florida, a collaboration of pro-arts businesses, schools and arts organizations, kicks off ArtsFest, an annual celebration of the arts in which more than 220 venues open their doors to the public for free for a week – dance, music, performing arts, galleries – all free, all week long. It’s a push that benefits both the arts world and the community: People who like what they see might end up donating to, buying from or subscribing to an arts organization that wasn’t on their radar before. Members of the community, in turn, get a chance to view arts performances and exhibits that may have eluded them – or perhaps been beyond their means.

This year, United Arts is trying to expand its reach to people who fall into that latter category. As part of this year’s ArtsFest, the organization has partnered with a handful of community 
organizations to bring the arts to audiences that don’t traditionally have enough access to them. Three “diversity and outreach-based events” will be held for participants of programs at local nonprofit social-services organizations.

The Orlando School of Cultural Dance will perform for kids at the Walt Disney World Boys & Girls Club and MicheLee Puppets will hold performances for families at the Ronald McDonald House on the campus of the Arnold Palmer Hospital and at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.

Last year, says United Arts’ event manager Cory Warren, ArtsFest included one event for kids at the Boys & Girls Club, and it was successful enough that they decided to expand the initiative for 2011.

“This is really reaching out to people who might never get to attend arts performances, simply because they don’t have the money or don’t have a car, or a plethora of other reasons,” Warren says. Particularly in this economy, Warren says, “the arts can be an escape for people from the hardships going on in their lives.”

The performances for these nonprofit organizations won’t be listed in the ArtsFest schedule or booklet because they won’t be open to the public – they’re available only to those being served by the nonprofits hosting them.

Closing this week: Last week in this space, we noted that Ken Austin’s show at Leu Gardens, Watercolor Country, was closing Jan. 27. Austin called Orlando Weekly to let us know that the show has since been extended to Feb. 26, so you’ve got a whole month more to catch it before it’s gone.

A must-see show is closing this week: The Maury Hurt & Grady Kimsey show, which features the work of two iconic Central Florida artists, at the Mennello Museum of American Art closes on Jan. 30.

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