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Time to give artists their due 


Arts in April Extravaganza, Artists' District, April 26, 1997

Organization will not be the hallmark of Saturday's Arts in April Extravaganza, a late entry in the month set aside by the city to celebrate the arts. That's because this special event has been organized by local artists themselves, and while the talent pool runneth over in this arena, a Disney-like orchestration this won't be.

What counts at this Arts in April Extravaganza is effort. And original plans were grand, even by Disney standards: a madcap parade, a fiery floating sculpture finale, a festive street party. Give these creative minds their due for trying to get the attention of the community, overcoming what many artists feel has been a slight of visual artists in favour of high-profile affairs like the Orlando International Fringe Festival and the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival.

And getting their due is pretty much the theme of this event, which calls simply for open studios, live music and general merrymaking along the corridor henceforth referred to as The Artists' District.

That's what artist Robin Van Arsdol, better known as R.V., suggests as the designation for the pocket of studios East of Orange Avenue, on Alden Road and Philidelphia Avenue. Included in this artistic mecca-in-the-making are Van Arsdol's Warehouse Gallery, the grandfather of the district, established by the grafiti artist in 1983; the McRae on the Lake Studios, home to 40 well known local artists; and the Flying Turtle Gallery, a newcomer celebrating one year in May. But there are many other, and the number is growing.

Traditionally, Warehouse and McRae hold open houses in spring and fall, so this year a collaboration was undertaken - considering strength in numbers and all. But back to organization, the cost of closing the streets and paying for barricades and fire extinguishers oevrwhelmed. So the extravaganza will have the informal, unstructured feel of early Light Up Orlando events: regular people coming together to appreciate what artistic people are achieving. Just park nearby and start walking. Next year, says R.V., who has already tapped funds and administative minds, look for a spectacular extravaganza.


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