AT CREALDÉ, EVERYBODY CAN LEARN TO DRAW, PAINT, SCULPT, SHAPE, BIND, ETCH AND PHOTOGRAPH. IT HAS PROVIDED AN ARTISTIC OUTLET FOR FOUR DECADES AND COUNTING.
A young woman is poised atop a fabric-draped platform, surrounded by four men and five other women. The nine, each at an easel, are fully clothed, while the woman on the platform wears nothing but a few tattoos.
Do the others even notice she’s nude? They do, it seems, but only in a particular way. For them, the lithe lady with the soft smile and the wiry chestnut hair is a study in light and shadow, composition and balance, anatomy and expression.
She’s a model and they’re all students in a life-drawing class at the Crealdé School of Art, a Winter Park-based nonprofit organization currently celebrating its 40th anniversary.
As the model shifts from pose to pose, a lulling instrumental version of “The Girl From Ipanema” plays gently in the background. Meanwhile, the teacher, Marie Orban, circles the room, inspecting her students’ work and calling out advice in her Hungarian-inflected voice:
“Think of composition first, before you put down any lines at all.”
“Always look at the shoulders; see which one is higher, which one is lower.”
“Hands and feet are much bigger than you think.”
The students turn from model to easel and back again, as though they’re watching a tennis match. They sketch furiously with charcoal on the large sheets of paper that rest on their easels.
Everyone is in a heightened state of alertness: teacher, model and students seem intensely aware that something special — something creative — is happening here and now. At Orban’s signal, the students turn their sketches toward the center of the room, and everyone inspects them.
“It just goes to show you,” says the model, Stephanie D’Ercole. “You can see yourself one way, but you can be seen many different ways by many different people.”
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Something special and creative happens for many different kinds of people almost every day at Crealdé — and not just in life-drawing classes. Instruction is also offered in photography, painting, ceramics, sculpture, paper-making, jewelry design, fabric arts and book-making (the legal kind) as well as in other forms of drawing.
There are workshops, exhibitions and, from time to time, a public event such as January’s A Night of Fire, a free, multifaceted celebration that featured storytelling around a fire pit, a “bronze pour” at the school’s foundry, and artist demonstrations and workshops.
For “light-painting photography” — the highlight of the evening — a man took a small boat out on nearby Lake Sterling. In his hands were kitchen whisks, stuffed with steel wool and set ablaze. As he swung the fiery objects, the scene was captured via long-exposure photography.
The resulting images, which showed the small fires as long, twisting streaks, were projected on a large outdoor screen for all to see. They did, indeed, appear to have been painted with light. “It was pretty awesome,” says Sherri Bunye, a Creadlé faculty member who supervised the photographers.
Many of Crealdé’s awesome events (including A Night of Fire), as well as its classes, are offered at its main campus at 600 St. Andrews Blvd., just off busy Aloma Avenue. The complex is an unassuming assemblage of studios, galleries and offices tucked behind a sprawling strip center anchored by a Publix supermarket.
Peter Schreyer, a photographer and, since 1995, the school’s executive director, says that being based in Winter Park is a plus for the school.
“There’s that beautiful history, that mystique of Winter Park as kind of an ‘art place’ in Central Florida,” muses Schreyer, a native of Switzerland whose accent is still detectable after 35 years in the U.S. “We have some wonderful people that we can sort of rub elbows with.”
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In downtown Winter Park, at 642 W. New England Ave., Crealdé also has the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, which hosts exhibits and preserves the history of Winter Park’s traditionally African-American west side. And in Winter Garden, it offers classes at the Jessie Brock Community Center at 310 N. Dillard St.
Schreyer would like to use these two locations even more extensively and, eventually, to add additional outposts in nearby communities. “There’s definitely potential for growth there,” he says.
Crealdé is all about outreach, collaborating with Orange County schools, the City of Winter Park, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, the Farmworkers Association of Florida and the Tajiri School of Performing Arts.
“We need to go to them,” Schreyer stresses.
While the bulk of Crealdé’s classes are tuition-based, much of its million-dollar annual budget is funded by United Arts of Central Florida, the State of Florida, Orange County and the City of Winter Park. Private foundations and individual and corporate memberships are also crucial to the organization’s fiscal health.
“Every year, it’s a challenge,” says Creadlé board treasurer Frank Schornagle, who works in wealth management for GenSpring Family Offices, a SunTrust affiliate. “We don’t have a lot of excess.” What keeps him involved, he says, is “knowing that we’re doing everything we can to take the arts to the people.”
Crealdé’s slogan, “Art Is for Everyone,” speaks to that mission as well as to the school’s strong tradition of welcoming students with varying degrees of artistic skill and sophistication.
“That goes back to Bill Jenkins,” says Schreyer, referring to the school’s founder. “No one has to ever feel they’re not smart enough, talented enough, gifted enough to come here. Part of Bill’s vision was that there was this fundamental something — creative — that was part of being human.”
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William S. “Bill” Jenkins, who was a successful local homebuilder, founded Crealdé Arts Inc. in 1975 and built the Spanish-style campus, which included an office building that was originally intended to house artists’ studios. (Today the office building to which the school is attached is under separate ownership, and leases space to a variety of businesses).
It’s said that Jenkins devised the name “Crealdé” by combining the Spanish word crear (“to create”) and the Old English word alde (“village”).
Born in rural Preston, Ga., in 1909, Jenkins told the Orlando Sentinel in 1988 that he was inspired by childhood memories of quilting bees. “When the other kids were sick or busy, I didn’t have much to do,” Jenkins recalled. “So I would go to the quilting bees and listen to the ladies talk as they worked. They had the best time, and so did I.’’
Crealdé, Jenkins said, was in part an effort to re-create that sense of community and creativity. He also wanted to foster an environment where artists — and, more importantly, would-be artists — could learn from their instructors and from one another in a welcoming environment.
“My father wanted to make certain that everyone had access to making art” says daughter Ann Jenkins Clements. “He loved children’s art, especially. We had it all over the house when I was growing up. Most of all, his goal was to make sure that people who were interested in art were encouraged to give it a try.”
Jenkins earned a BFA from the University of Florida in Gainesville and traveled to Italy, where he graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Florence. He married Alice Moberg in 1942 and served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Before Jenkins started his homebuilding business, he worked with the Veterans Administration in St. Petersburg and Tallahassee to develop a pioneering art therapy program for returning GIs. Later, as his homebuilding company grew to become one of the largest in the region, he continued to paint for pleasure.
Thirty of Jenkins’ seldom-seen works were recently displayed at Crealdé in connection with its 40th anniversary. The vividly colorful oil and watercolor canvases mostly depict landscapes in Italy, and buildings and people in Mexico. Jenkins even ventured into social commentary with a poignant painting called The Changing South. The 1940 vignette shows two young African Americans, one holding an open book and apparently being taught by the other. A rustic cabin fronting a dirt road looms in the background.
Jenkins, who died in 1996, wasn’t an artist of exceptional complexity. He was, however, certainly devoted to art — and committed to sharing and teaching it. In 1981, he reorganized Crealdé Arts Inc. as a nonprofit, which opened up new sources of funding. Ten years later, he donated the entire facility to the community.
In its earliest years, Crealdé had a sort of ad-hoc vibe. A class, notes Schreyer “didn’t really have to fit in, exactly. They did painting and photography and ceramics and so forth, but they also did tai chi — and they did all kinds of other things, too.”
After about a decade, something resembling an organized curriculum took shape. Today, the school’s offerings are each grouped under one of three core components: Educational Curriculum, Galleries and Lecture Series, and Outreach Programs.
More than 100 classes and workshops are held during five eight-week sessions for adults and five six-week sessions for children. There are also more than two dozen weekend workshops encompassing every medium imaginable. Faculty members include many of the region’s best-known artists as well as visiting artists, who teach in conjunction with exhibitions of their work.
Linda Saracino, a freelance editor from the Wekiva area whose work as an artist is currently focused on mixed-media collage, says her classes have taught her much more than simply technique:
“It wasn’t just how to mix paint, how to put the paint onto whatever, or how to use charcoal. All of that, absolutely. But it was [mainly] how to see — and make that happen on the paper or the canvas.”
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People come to Crealdé for many different reasons, some more surprising than others. Orit Reuben, an Orlando pastel artist and interior designer, found her way to the school six years ago thanks to a speeding ticket.
“I went to the court and asked if I could do community service instead of paying the $300 ticket,” Reuben recalls. “They said sure.” So she volunteered at Crealdé, answering phones. That led to her taking classes and connecting with other artists.
“I’m part of an art community [at Crealdé] that’s very supportive,” she says. “We paint together. We critique each other. They’re not just a school. They’re not just a gallery.”
Crealdé’s classes are undeniably inspiring. You can see it in the faces of the students in Michael van Gelder’s digital photography class, held the same night as the life-drawing session.
“You’re painting with light,” van Gelder tells them, as their eyes, appropriately enough, light up. His words bring to mind the Night of Fire demonstration.
The following afternoon, a group of nine students, ages 10 to 13, are seated on stools, with towels on their laps, learning to make plates on pottery wheels.
“Remember: Press down with the side of your right hand,” Belinda Glennon, the teacher, instructs her young charges. “You can only move the clay as fast as the wheel’s going.”
What do these children — artists of the future, perhaps — get out of making those plates, anyway?
“I like the feel of the clay when it’s wet,” says one kid.
“You can customize it and make it your own,” announces another.
“It’s something that I’ve made and that my brother doesn’t know how to make,” adds a girl, eliciting nods and conspiratorial smiles from other students.
One boy looks up from his work and succinctly encapsulates the Creadlé experience:
“To have fun and to make new friends and to make beautiful things.”
William S. “Bill” Jenkins made his fortune building solid, inexpensive homes throughout Central Florida. But clearly, the Georgia native had the soul of an artist — and no small amount of talent as a painter. Art, Jenkins believed, was for everyone, regardless of social stature or skill level. And he made certain that, in Winter Park at least, anybody seeking a creative outlet had one. As part of Crealdé’s 40th anniversary celebration, some of Jenkins’ own rarely seen works were recently displayed. A selection is shown on the following pages.
BILL JENKINS: DREAMER AND BUILDER
1909. William Sterling Jenkins is born in Preston, Ga.
1934. Jenkins earns a BFA from the University of Florida.
1935. Jenkins earns a scholarship to study art in Florence, Italy, and travels through Italy and Germany by bicycle and rail.
1937. Jenkins is awarded a prestigious Laurea Degree from the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Florence, Italy.
1938. Jenkins opens an art school in Columbus, Ga., and holds solo art exhibitions in Atlanta and Gainesville, Fla.
1941. Jenkins holds a solo exhibition in New York City, then travels to Taxco, Mexico to study silversmithing. There he meets Alice Moberg, his future wife.
1942. Jenkins and Alice Moberg are married in Anoka, Minn. Jenkins is drafted into the U.S. Army and contracts pneumonia at boot camp in Colorado. He is transferred to Orlando, where he recuperates in the Veterans Administration Hospital.
1944-1946. Jenkins works with the V.A. in St. Petersburg, where he pioneers a new rehabilitation method incorporating art therapy. He later works for the V.A. in Tallahassee.
1950. Jenkins earns a master’s degree in psychology from Florida State University, then leaves the V.A. to start Jenkins Construction Co. in Winter Park.
1953. Jenkins is elected to the Winter Park City Commission and starts a movement to build the Olympic-sized pool at Cady Way.
1966. Jenkins co-founds the Orange County Council on Aging, which sponsors art classes.
1975. Jenkins founds Crealdé Arts Inc., which operates as the Crealdé Arts Center. Daughter Ann Jenkins Clement serves as the first director.
1981. Crealdé Arts Inc. is granted nonprofit status and a volunteer board of directors is established. Jenkins serves as the board’s first president.
1982. Three formal departments are established at the renamed Crealdé School of Art: Painting & Drawing, Ceramics & Sculpture and Photography. The still-popular Summer ArtCamp for children and teens is launched.
1985-1989. David A. Edgar serves as the school’s first full-time general manager. Financial support is secured from the State of Florida, among other funding sources.
1986. Jenkins donates $600,000 to the University of Central Florida to establish the Jenkins Endowed Chair in Community Arts. The donation makes UCF eligible for an additional $400,000 grant from the state under Florida’s Eminent Scholar Act.
1988. Jenkins receives an award from the American Art Therapy Association for his contributions to the field of art therapy. Crealdé establishes the Alice M. Jenkins Scholarship Fund in memory of the founder’s wife, following her death late in the year.
1990. Jenkins gives the school’s property to Crealdé Arts Inc., allowing it to establish complete autonomy and secure new funding sources.
1990-2000. Crealdé expands its mission, growing the Emerging Artist Program and establishing teaching sites in underserved communities.
1995. Director of Photography Peter Schreyer is named executive director. The Crealdé Fine Arts Gallery is renamed the Alice & William Jenkins Gallery.
1996. Jenkins dies, but his legacy continues. “We are dedicated to keeping his dream alive,” says Schreyer.
1997. The Contemporary Sculpture Garden opens on the main campus.
2000. Crealdé constructs its first new building in two decades and completes a campus-wide facelift. The expansion includes a second painting studio and the Showalter Hughes Community Gallery overlooking Lake Sterling.
2007. Crealdé opens the Hannibal Square Heritage Center as a tribute to the past, present and future contributions of Winter Park’s African-American community.
2009-2010. A $220,000 campus renovation, funded by an Orange County Cultural Facilities Grant and matched by member contributions, is completed.
2010. Crealdé enters a new government partnership with the City of Winter Garden, enabling the school to offer classes at the new Jessie Brock Community Center.
2015. Crealdé celebrates its 40th anniversary and enjoys record enrollment in its 100-plus classes and workshops, taught by a faculty of more than 40 artists.