There isn’t much that’s confusing about Hannibal Square in Winter Park. Tucked in cozily behind Fairbanks and Pennsylvania avenues, the area is home to day spas, hair salons and upscale restaurants; it’s a small nod to simple luxury, and the adjoining beer bar, Redlight Redlight, is no different. Within two years of opening their doors, Redlight was rated the fourth-best ale spot in the world. The atmosphere is comfortable and elegant and the beer even more so. What’s not to get?
“So I have to go outside to smoke?” says a heavily imbibing newbie who heard there were some good bands playing, one of whom “is supposed to sound like Dylan but I ain’t heard it.”
“Who are the guys in the corner?” says his friend.
“I think they’re students. We need a shot,” says the drunk.
“No liquor,” his friend shrugs. “I don’t get this at all.”
The kids in the corner are visual artists, and they’re part of a community that’s sprouting up every month at the Winter Park hangout. On the first Friday of every month, organizer and local musician Jordan Wynn hosts the Sabbath Sessions, a sometimes bewildering but potent stew of art, culture, music and friendship that was cooked up, of all places, around a campfire.
“We have a little house in the woods and we don’t have neighbors, so we had big bonfires,” says Wynn, formerly a guitarist for the Wynn Brothers and currently making spiritual country tunes with his wife, Heather Lee. “It turned into 15 or 20 of us in our living room, all of us with a different instrument, and we’re just jamming to Gram Parsons tunes or the Band, singing ‘The Weight.’ We wanted to mix live visual art. So we thought if we all get together, different bands, different artists, with the idea that ‘I don’t know it all but I love art and I want that to affect other people,’ `then` great things can happen.”
Now in its sixth month, Wynn admits the first few Sessions were more ramshackle than most nights at the maroon-tinted loft. The artists were shyly tucked away in a corner, at one point behind a black curtain. But in January of this year, the “art” aspect of the art-music mélange officially came out of the shadows with some extra lighting and attention. The focus is now on the crafts themselves, even at the expense of certain distilled pleasures.
“I love liquor when I’m going to play a rock and roll show, but if you’re trying to put on something that’s arts-based, we figured we’ll just make it easier for everyone to be a gentleman or a lady,” he says.
The Sessions kicked off Sept. 7 with Matt Butcher, Heather and Jordan. It quickly grew into an experimental night of creativity. Artists like Florida’s Billy Johnson, a five-time veteran of the Sessions, pencil and charcoal images of the artists onstage at the moment (or whatever else the atmosphere inspires them to create), then present their work in real time. Others practice woodcarving, jewelry-making and sculpture, all designed to be inspired by the music and vice versa. Most of the artists, Wynn says, have never created in front of other people.
“The idea of mixing music and art is something very close to my heart,” says Jacob Kaplan, Redlight Redlight’s booking representative. “Every Session has been comprised of amazing musicians and artists both sharing their love. They don’t seem like shows and no one is concerned with looking or acting cooler than the other person.”
“I think the Sabbath Sessions are great,” says Redlight Redlight owner Brent Hernandez. “Jordan and I have been friends for a few years. He’s building a community. I’d like to see `them` expand, maybe spread out.”
Besides a great night for art, the Sessions have also served as a bonding experience, one that weaves the artists’ lives together in ways they don’t always predict.
“It’s funny, I played a show the next night after the Sabbath Sessions that was just the antithesis of that, so it’s really a rare thing,” says singer-songwriter Ryland Bojack. “Lauris Vidal also played `the Sessions` and we played together shortly thereafter. Heather Lee and I have played a couple shows together since then, so it really does build that up.”
To encourage that sense of community, all of the artists who participate must first agree to a lengthy, in-depth, sit-down dinner with Wynn the week prior to the event.
“When you’re hanging out at a show, you can think of something to talk about for 20 minutes without having to expose who you are. It’s much harder to do at a two-hour dinner when there’s no reason to be there except to talk,” says Wynn. “Are you willing to invest more than one night in the arts scene? I’m doing this because I enjoy hanging out with other creative people and if we help each other, as we learn more about each other, we learn more about ourselves. And then art can actually impact people.”firstname.lastname@example.org
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