Once upon a time, it was frequently lamented that Orlando had no culture, no artistic edge, no soul. Nowadays, that perception is just plain dumb. Meet some of the people who continue to dispel that myth with their work and support, their fingers on the pulse of a surprising creative world that many locals still don’t know exists. You may not recognize their names now, but you will. All of them live on the bleeding edge of Orlando’s very real, if underappreciated, underground arts community. We asked these folks two simple questions:

No. 1: What was the most memorable performance, exhibit or event you attended in 2007?

No. 2: What arts event are you most looking forward to in 2008?

Megan Bardoe: Independent curator and art dealer, host of MB Art Projects Salon series at the China Glass Lofts (

2007: “Doug Rhodehamel’s Migration – a one-night-only event on July 27 that took place in a classroom at the CityArts Factory. The installation involved 4,011 camels fashioned from matchbooks that were accompanied by an original soundscape composed by Nigel John. Rhodehamel and John have also worked together on a series of installations titled UFO1 and UFO2 which took place at the former [location of] Etoile Boutique on Mills and at MB Art Projects at the China Glass Warehouse. Their installations combine sight with sound and offer a nonpareil multisensory experience.”

2008: “MB Art Projects will produce two traveling exhibitions in addition to our Friday Salons and exterior activities. The first will combine the private collections of three major NYC street artists from the ’80s – Robin Van Arsdol, Paolo Buggiani and Andre Charles – including works by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Second, in collaboration with artist/curator Robin Van Arsdol, MB Art Projects will begin production on Orlando Furioso II – an exhibition and publication featuring Orlando-based artists which will travel to Europe in the summer of ’09. Both exhibitions will be a distinct opportunity to have the collections and work of Central Florida artists represented in NYC and Europe.”

Rick Jones: Visual artist and president of Thread, Orlando’s Contemporary Arts Collective (

2007: “Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time at the Timucua White House. A professional performance of a virtuosic modernist masterwork in Orlando? In a venue that didn’t cost thousands of dollars to reserve? That was well-executed, organized and promoted? And included visual artist Carla Poindexter? Yay for private enterprise! Benoit Glazer and family seem to be able to pull off things underground that the ‘official’ arts and music organizations can’t – or don’t want to – relevance!”

2008: “Brian Feldman’s trilogy of performance art pieces: one I’m not allowed to talk about, one I forgot, and one that features Feldman leaping off a very tall ladder 366 times for the duration of Leap Year Day (Feb. 29) in downtown Orlando. Don’t worry; there’s a safety net of some sort. Most people won’t understand the point of his work, but we could use a little more of that around here.”

David “Wavy Davy” Jordan: Fifth-generation native Floridian swamp rat and full-time artist working in children’s television and puppetry (,

2007: “Heather Henson explored an exciting theatrical piece, an ecological/spectacle show named Panther and Crane performed as the closing piece of the Orlando Puppet Festival this year. She built an exciting theatrical show that melded puppetry, dance [by Genevieve Bernard and Voci Modern Dance], projections and kite art into a spectacle that wows an audience while introducing them to the ecological plight of Florida. The story is of the decimation of the wildlife of our home and how some scientists try to aid our planet. I pray this is a beginning of a long relationship with this alive exploration of art and consciousness in this growing city.”

2008: “My real hope is that events like the Orlando Puppet Festival will further Orlando as a wide and deeply textured city. This is my home and I so know we are a beautiful, fun, smart, honorable people here in Central Florida, and I’m jazzed to watch us grow culturally.”

Anna McCambridge: Artist, arts activist and curator for the monthly art exhibits at Dandelion Communitea Café (

2007: “Heather Henson’s outdoor staging of her creation, Panther and Crane, during the Orlando Puppet Festival was both beautiful to watch and moving due to its timely message. Can you believe she put this on for free to the public? A close second would be She Loves Me at Mad Cow Theatre. It’s charming, as are several of the characters in it.”

2008: “Of the dozens of things I’m looking forward to, it’s a toss-up between the L.I.F.E. (Love Is for Everyone) Exhibit, with an opening reception on Jan. 24 at the gallery in Orlando City Hall, and my solo exhibition at Avalon Island Gallery, which opens on Nov. 20, 2008. The L.I.F.E. exhibition is great because it’s great artwork on a unique medium, or rather, base. There are many wonderful, friendly, cool artists involved, including the founders of this ‘movement,’ Julia West and Mark Goldthwaite.”

Frankie Messina: Founder and director of Apartment E, the Orlando grass-roots arts support organization (

2007: “The Third Thursday art exhibit opening and continued exposition of 25 Years of Figurehead – a collection of original rock poster art designed for local shows from 25 years of the promotions company called Figurehead Records. Curated by Jim Faherty and Gene Zimmerman, it was presented by the Pound Gallery at the CityArts Factory. Proof that Orlando has had culture [and] has a rich musical history, and all the new young talent was shown ‘their’ local cultural/musical history (not the boy-band image). I feel that this exhibit did what an art exhibit is supposed to do: ‘Create, communicate, celebrate and educate.’”

2008: “Third Thursday Art Stroll will remain a night not to be missed – an incredible testament to what the Orlando cultural scene is all about. There are 12-plus art galleries open and free to the public, and there is always live music to close out the night at over 20 live music venues. There is going to be a great building for the performing arts in downtown, but not until 2012. There is no need to wait for the right building. There are plenty of struggling arts organizations that need everyone’s support now. I am kicking off an awareness campaign called ‘ORLANDO CULTURE NOW’ ... with the tagline ‘growing RIGHT now.’”

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