Miami Springs-based Linda Apriletti says she wants her work “to communicate the uncommon beauty found in nature.” Apriletti is a regular at the annual Winter Park Paint Out.

IT’S A PURPLE PATHWAY TO PEACE

Miami Springs-based Linda Apriletti says she wants her work “to communicate the uncommon beauty found in nature.” Apriletti is a regular at the annual Winter Park Paint Out.

Plein air artist Linda Apriletti’s primary goal through her work “is to communicate the uncommon beauty found in nature.” The Miami Springs-based artist prefers Florida settings, and says she enjoys hearing from viewers that her images evoke a sense of peace.

Apriletti was recently in Central Florida for the 2022 Winter Park Paint Out, held by the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. This issue’s cover image was created during the event.

Purple Wreath Pathway checks a lot of boxes for Apriletti, not the least of which is that there’s plenty of purple. Her last cover image for Winter Park Magazine, in Fall 2019, was called A Passion for Purple. It showed the queen’s wreath (petrea volubilis) in full bloom on the exterior staircase leading to the upper floor of the Polasek.

This year, she originally headed to downtown Winter Park to paint the rose garden in Central Park — but another queen’s wreath caught her eye. 

“I kept looking at where to stand so I could include the pergola with the queen’s wreath,” she says. “I really liked the composition. Using that color and the shadow and light would help draw the viewer into the painting and scene. I also loved the purples against the green of the leaves.”

Purple Wreath Parkway is Apriletti’s third Winter Park Magazine cover. The first, “April Showers Bring May Flowers,” was in Summer 2018. It showed foliage overlooking Lake Osceola and was also set at the Polasek. 

Although her college degrees are in accounting and taxation, Apriletti pursued her lifelong love of painting while employed as an accountant. She also honed her skills — first in pastels and later in oils — by attending workshops during her vacations.

It was at a workshop in Rocky Mountain National Park that Apriletti discovered her passion for plein air painting. She launched a full-time career as an artist in 2011 — and never looked back.

“Painting outside is critical to helping me observe and understand patterns in nature,” she says.

Much of Apriletti’s work focuses on Everglades National Park and Big Cypress Nature Preserve, adjacent to the Everglades, where she has staged solo exhibitions. She was artist in residence at Big Cypress Nature Preserve in 2012, but also paints in the Blue Ridge Mountains and on Martha’s Vineyard.

Apriletti particularly likes palm trees as subjects. Luckily for her, inspiration is always close at hand — she has more than 25 species growing in her yard.

Says Apriletti: “In both my plein air and studio paintings, I’m trying to bring a fresh and accurate portrayal of the many moods, quality of light and clarity of color of the changing seasons in Florida. I want to draw the viewer into my paintings and perhaps rekindle a personal memory.”

Visit lindaapriletti.com to see more of Apriletti’s work. 

SILLY OR SERIOUS, ALL DAYS MATTER

Chronological History of Winter Park, by Claire Leavitt MacDowell, was published in 1950. It is, as the name implies, a year-by-year (almost day-by-day) account of events in and around Winter Park from the time the Spanish ceded Florida to the United States in 1819 through the middle of the 20th century.

No context or commentary is offered, and no distinction is drawn between the silly and the significant. An ice-cream social is treated as seriously as a mayoral race or a bond issue. Yet, the book is a must-read for any Winter Parker.

I first wrote about MacDowell’s magnum opus in 2017. But every so often, I want to remind readers that it exists. It’s no longer in print, but you can sometimes find used copies for sale online.

Or you can peruse it — but not check it out — at the Winter Park Library. I just read my copy again and yes, it’s a slog in some places. But the terseness of the prose — though “prose” is perhaps not the right descriptor — creates mystery and raises questions.

For example, MacDowell transcribes a 1909 letter sent by local boosters W.C. Temple, W.C. Comstock and E.H. Brewer, along with Rollins College President W.F. Blackman, to various pillars of the community:

You are invited to meet us and a few other gentlemen at Dr. Blackman’s office in Carnegie Hall, on Saturday, March 6, at 3 p.m. to consider the following questions: First, what is the matter with Winter Park? Second, what can be done to promote the interests of the town?

The meeting results in formation of the Board of Trade, the precursor to the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary next year. But the scrupulous scribe fails to elaborate on the impetus behind such a harsh call to action.

“What is the matter with Winter Park?” Did something happen — or fail to happen — that incited or annoyed these prominent movers and shakers?

The Board of Trade pops up time and again in MacDowell’s book, perhaps most notably in 1920, when the group led a fly eradication campaign.

MacDowell reports that “Corbett Dodd caught and destroyed 2,200 flies during the year and won a pair of shoes contributed by Mayor [William H.] Schultz.” She also refers to a “crematorium” for flies at town hall, where citizens are paid 15 cents per 100 insects delivered.

The years roll by. Businesses are started or sold. Schools are built. Roads are bricked or paved. There are births, marriages and deaths. The Winter Park Telephone Company announces that the operator can no longer be expected to know you, and whomever you’re calling, by name.

“Winter Park is no longer a small town,” subscribers are scolded. “And therefore we must discontinue small-town methods and practices.”

There are clubs for every interest. There are churches for every faith. In its workmanlike account of the events comprising daily life, Chronological History of Winter Park brings to mind Grover’s Corners in Our Town.

In the play, when Emily Webb asks the Stage Manager if anyone truly understands the value of life, even the seemingly mundane moments, he responds, “No. The saints and poets, maybe — they do some.”

I doubt that MacDowell wrote her book to make any philosophical points. Yet, in her meticulous, minimalist manner, she describes what matters in a quintessential small American town; one that surely Thornton Wilder would have recognized and appreciated (especially with its aura of New England).

Of course, MacDowell’s perspective is that of a well-to-do white clubwoman. Issues of race — which rose to the surface at several crucial junctures in the city’s history — aren’t glossed over. They simply aren’t mentioned.

Nonetheless, everyone who has ever written about Winter Park history consults this quirky compendium, dry and deadpan as it is.

In Our Town, when Emily — who has died in childbirth — ponders which day in her past she should choose to revisit, the Stage Manager advises: “Choose the least important day of your life. It will be important enough.” 

Exactly! That’s the (probably unintended) message of Chronological History of Winter Park. There are no unimportant days — even if you’re just bounty hunting flies.

Emily finally comes to understand this when, as she prepares to return to the afterlife, she exclaims: “Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute? I’m ready to go back. I should have listened to you. That’s all human beings are! Just blind people.”


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Barbara K. Allen, William Baggio, David Baker, Richard Baldwin, Jim Barnes, Gail Baxter, Jeffrey and Caroline Blydenburg, Rita Bornstein, Pam Brandon, Renee Charlan, Leslie Chiarello, Cliff and Elaine Clark, Peg and Grant Cornwell, Laura and Mark Cosgrove, Ann Cross, Craig and Suzanne DeLongy, Steve and Suzanne Dukes, Dawn Duross, Tillman Eddy, Linda Eriksson, Dykes and Lisa Everett, Scot French, Sara Furey, Sandra Giacalone, Alan Ginsburg, Edward Haddock, Denise Hammond, Ann Hicks, Allison Hosbein, Marni Jameson Carey, Isis Jones, Allan Keen, Orman and Kay Kimbrough, Steven Kramer, Jim Lane, Molly and Ralph Losey, Nina Lutjens, John Mangine, Jesse Martinez, Andrea Massey-Farrell, Robert and Terry Neuman, Jay Noble, David Odahowski, Betsy Owens, Esther Mae Phelps, John and Betsy Pokorny, Alexis Pugh, Jessica Purslow, Florencia Reynoso, John Rivers, Rollins College, Laurence Ruggiero, Kyle Sanders, Jerry Senne, Rebecca Shanahan, John Sinclair, Doris Singleton, Robert Smither, Chuck and Margie Pabst Steinmetz, Stan Sujka, Shawn Swetmon, Ann Thomas, Ellen Titen, Laura Walda, Adam Wonus, Cynthia Wood.

 

The institutional implosion at the Orlando Museum of Art makes this as much of a pull-together moment as it would have been if a hurricane had hit the place.

BASQUIAT BUNGLED. LESSONS LEARNED?

The institutional implosion at the Orlando Museum of Art makes this as much of a pull-together moment as it would have been if a hurricane had hit the place.

The Orlando Museum of Art is one of Central Florida’s most beloved village elders. Created by a group of art lovers in 1925, it’s just a little more than two years shy of its 100th birthday, which is pretty rotten timing for one of the worst disasters to befall a venerable institution to turn up and crash the party.

That would be the pre-centennial institutional implosion brought on by a recent OMA exhibition Gods & Monsters: a long-lost cache of 25 paintings purported to be created by the late neo-expressionist wunderkind Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose works sell for millions. 

The supposed windfall had languished in a storage facility for years before turning up. The FBI, however, had previously launched an investigation that poked gaping holes in a narrative that was too good to be true and a story that would have no happy ending.

On a sweltering June day near the end of its run, agents shut down Gods & Monsters, stringing crime-scene tape around OMA and carting the allegedly counterfeit paintings away through the parking lot — all duly recorded by the nightly news cameras. 

In the aftermath, Aaron De Groft, the newly installed OMA director who had championed the exhibition despite warnings from the FBI and misgivings from his curatorial staff, was fired. Board Chair Cynthia Brumback, who had not only shrugged off the FBI’s involvement but kept other board members in the dark about it, resigned. 

Museum representatives, including attorney Mark Elliot, the new board president, have issued apologies and promises about restoring the museum’s reputation. It’s a task I don’t envy them. I can only pass on a few observations and suggestions. 

Some are gleaned from interviews with Ena Heller, director of the Rollins Museum of Art, and a round-robin discussion I arranged with nine local artists from the highly regarded McCrae Art Studio collective: Stephen Bach, Todd K. Fox, Mimi Hwang, Patty Kane, Marlene London, Martha Jo Mahoney, Fern Matthews, Rob Reedy and John Whipple.

This isn’t just about art lovers. I don’t care whether you know Van Gogh from Van Morrison. The days when art museums were snooty enclaves reserved for a la-tee-dah few are long gone. 

OMA is a haven, a longstanding community resource, a source of civic pride built up over the course of a century by both volunteers and dedicated professionals — and it was summarily hijacked. That makes this is as much of a pull-together moment as it would have been if a hurricane had hit the place.

The collateral damage to the art community at large is considerable. “This hurts all of us,” says the Rollins Museum of Art’s Heller. “This puts us 10 years behind. I have friends in New York who say, ‘Well of course this would happen in a place like Orlando.’”

NYC snootiness aside, OMA’s besmirched reputation may make it more difficult, even after a thorough housecleaning, to maintain art-world credibility and to land high-profile touring exhibitions. 

The issue has been turning up at other local institutions as well. Says Heller: “I have also had people come into the museum, look at something in our collection, and ask me: ‘Is that real?’ In my 30 years with museums, I’ve never had to answer that question.” 

As an unintended consequence of trust in OMA being shaken, a windfall came Heller’s way when the campus museum recently accepted a 22-piece collection of 18th- and 19th-century paintings owned by the Martin Andersen-Gracia Andersen Foundation.

The works were previously on long-term loan to OMA. And they are indeed real.

There’s a bit of dark déjà vu in play here. To reestablish trust with the community, any new leadership at the museum needs to take the past — both recent and distant — into account. 

This is the second consecutive time a director was fired on the heels of a doomed museum initiative, as Glen Gentele was two years ago after making an unpopular pitch to move the museum to Lake Nona. 

Because OMA is an anchor of the Loch Haven Cultural Park, loyalists felt betrayed that the museum would entertain the idea of moving to far-flung Southeast Orlando.

Nor was the Basquiat brouhaha the first time De Groft had been associated with something seemingly inexplicable during his tenure at OMA. He announced last fall that the museum might move to a grand new downtown campus — with a Chihuly-adorned rooftop sculpture garden funded by Winter Park philanthropist Alan Ginsburg — in time for its centennial. 

Now that was something the arts community could get behind. Later, though, the museum’s board quietly backed out of the project, offering no public explanation beyond “bad timing.”

It’s time to build new bridges — and reconsider some that were ignored. Several years ago, the School of Visual Arts & Design at the University of Central Florida suggested a partnership with the museum to develop exhibitions. According to Reedy, a UCF arts professor, the school never got a response.

I can’t help but wonder whether an alliance between OMA’s board and curatorial staff and UCF’s art professors might have been strong enough to persuade De Groft — who at a previous directorship had acquired and displayed works of ambiguous authenticity — to reconsider his pursuit of the suspicious Basquiats.

Ties to numerous grass-roots artists and artist collectives might have had a moderating effect. Failing that, perhaps someone whose livelihood wasn’t dependent on the museum would have raised a red flag.

When life gives you lemons … set up a lemonade stand. Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus. The Getty Kouros. Woman Taken in Adultery. The Netherlandish Proverbs. Bella Principess. Fake. Fake. Fake. Fake. Probably fake. 

Numerous works of art purported to be masterpieces by the likes of da Vinci and Vermeer have been proven to be forgeries. It would be a bold and perhaps redemptive move for OMA to stage an event or exhibition about them — including an introspective look at the museum’s own contribution to the genre. 

Yes, an apology is due. But it’s due to a community that extends far beyond our own. Any art museum is a sanctuary, a refuge for free-thinking spirits devoted to art, to those who love it and, most of all, to those who create it. 

We can’t apologize to Jean-Michel Basquiat, who died in 1988. But he is survived by his two sisters, Lisane and Jeanine, who knew him for the gentle, easily wounded soul that he was. They staged a recent tribute to him that reflected as much in West Chelsea, New York. 

Send them a letter of apology. And say that it’s from all of us. 

Michael McLeod, mmcleod@rollins.edu, is a contributing writer for Winter Park Magazine and an adjunct instructor in the English department at Rollins College.

The institutional implosion at the Orlando Museum of Art makes this as much of a pull-together moment as it would have been if a hurricane had hit the place.

I AM NOT ITALIAN

My speaker protests too much in the title, proclaiming that he is not Italian, while it is clear from the poem that his wish is to be just that. Of course, this American tourist would rather look at paintings than sweep streets or be confined to an office, but here at a coffee bar he finds himself participating in an everyday, very Italian ritual. That he is imbibing an espresso along with actual Italians is enough for him to imagine a solidarity. He has become Italian, if only for a self-deluded moment. And as if to prove it, he ends with an existential flourish about life and death. Or was that me?

I AM NOT ITALIAN

I am not Italian, technically speaking,
yet here I am leaning on a zinc bar in Perugia
on a sunny weekday morning,
my foot up on the worn iron railing
just like the other men who,
it must be said, are officially and fully Italian.

It’s 8:40 and they are off to work,
some in offices, others sweeping the streets
while I am off to a museum or a church
to see paintings, maybe light a candle in an alcove.
Yet here we all are in our suits and overalls
joined in the brotherhood of espresso,

or how is it said? la fratellanza dell’espresso,
draining our little white cups
with an artful rotation of the wrist,
each of us tasting the same sweetness of life,
if you take a little sugar, and the bitterness
of its brevity, whether you choose to take sugar or not.


Photo by Suzannah Gilman

Billy Collins is a former two-term U.S. Poet Laureate (2002-03) and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. “I Am Not Italian,” ©2020 by Billy Collins, originally appeared in Whale Day and Other Poems (Random House) and is reprinted with permission.

The institutional implosion at the Orlando Museum of Art makes this as much of a pull-together moment as it would have been if a hurricane had hit the place.

THE STARE

My father (1901–1994) lived a long and often colorful life, all of it quite coherent until his last three years spent in a nursing home, alone with his own dementia. He’d lost the bearings of time and place. He was forever at his golf club, and the time was always now. No sense of duration, therefore, no sense of confinement. A gift. Another gift was that he always recognized me.”Hey Champ,” he’d exclaim with every visit. He called me that from birth, I was told. We never hugged. Men hugged women. We shook hands. That was just enough. But in his diminishment, I could touch him, even shave him, and comb his still luxuriant hair.

THE STARE

With a basin of warm water and a towel
I am shaving my father
late on a summer afternoon
as he sits in a chair in striped pajamas.

He screws up his face this way and that
to make way for the razor,
as someone passes with a tray,
as someone else sobs in a corner.

It is impossible to remember
such closeness,
impossible to know too
whether the object of his vivid staring is

the wavering tree tops,
his pale reflection in the window,
or maybe just a splinter of light,
a pinpoint caught within the glass itself.


Billy Collins is a former two-term U.S. Poet Laureate (2002–03) and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. “The Stare,” ©2010 by Billy Collins, originally appeared in Horoscopes for the Dead (Random House) and is reprinted with permission

Photo by Suzannah Gilman

HE’S THE EARL OF THE CHICKEN STRIP

Central Floridians have known Robert Earl (above left) for years, thanks to the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood. So, when you team Earl with a character like Guy Fieri (above right and below) you’re likely to get something like Chicken Guy!, one of numerous poultry places along Winter Park’s burgeoning Chicken Strip.

Not long ago I dined at one of Winter Park’s best-known restaurants with a connected companion. He had arranged for a sampler to be waiting for me via a dozen or so delicate paper cups filled with savory concoctions dreamed up by the restaurant’s celebrity saucier. 

A nearby diner, gawking at the delicate beakers filled with the likes of “Cumin Lime Mojo” and “Nashville Hot Honey” on our table, wondered: “How come you got so many?” 

“I have some influence here,” said my companion. It was something of an understatement. He owns the joint.

Robert Earl is a British-born, 70-year-old international restaurateur and entrepreneur, best known in Orlando for his ownership of Hard Rock Cafe and for opening one of his Planet Hollywood franchises at Disney Springs. 

Since moving here in 1981 Earl has invented or acquired numerous themed chain eateries, including the one where we met, dubbed Chicken Guy! 

Its presence since December just north of Fairbanks Avenue, where Steak ’n Shake stood for decades, is within honking distance of four rival chicken joints: a PDQ, a Chick-fil-A, a recently opened Chick’nCone and a soon-to-close Popeye’s.

This proliferation of poultry places has inspired a nickname among locals for the busy stretch of U.S. Highway 17-92 just a few yards away from our table: “The Chicken Strip.” 

Robert Earl is the strip’s cock of the block along with the “Guy” in Chicken Guy! That would be collaborator and fellow restaurateur Guy Fieri, a chef and television personality.

Fieri is best known for his series on the Food Network, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, which once garnered a left-handed compliment from The New York Times for bringing “an element of rowdy, mass-market culture to American food television.”

The pair bonded while Fieri was in town tuning up the menu at Planet Hollywood and came up with the fledgling franchise, which Earl wanted to explain to me while we dined. 

I first asked him why, at age 70, he wasn’t content to enjoy a life of ease with his longtime wife, Tricia, with whom he shares a gated lakeside mansion in the posh Windermere community of Isleworth.

“Retirement is not in my vocabulary,” he said, then conceded, “You have to adjust the pressure on yourself” before adding a nostalgic non sequitur: “I’m on the Scarsdale diet. It doesn’t work.” 

The menu at Chicken Guy! — I haven’t used so many exclamation marks since my alma mater won the College Football National Championship — revolves around pressure-cooked chicken tenders served on sandwiches, skewers and in salads. 

Earl has a theatrical way about him, perhaps having absorbed it from his father, who was an actor. He seemed to channel it into a maître d’ persona, doling out our rapidly disappearing sauce samples to passers-by one moment, flagging down a manager he called “luv” to get a vacated table bussed the next.

I knew that Earl had owned several other area restaurants but was surprised when he told me that one of them was the old Park Plaza Gardens on Park Avenue, whose elegant presence he misses. On the other hand, he’s clearly engaged by the more mundane challenge of the high-volume, high-tech strategies involved in a fast food — he corrected me, “fast casual” — restaurant franchise.

Earl coaxed me into sampling a chicken sandwich, one that combines a generous stack of seasoned tenders, nicely sauced and smooshed down beneath what appeared to be half of a well-constructed tossed salad. It was the best fast-casual sandwich I have ever knowingly consumed, and it put me in my happy place.

Then I remembered how grouchy I am about the traffic on 17-92. You tell me how a chicken could possibly cross that road at rush hour, with drivers making left turns from hell into dining places such as this, causing traffic to congeal into the kind of slow-motion vehicular sludge I associate with New York City cab rides.

I groused about it. Earl blithely shifted the conversation to the restaurant’s cleverly engineered parking lot just steps away from our table. Being from the UK he referred to it as a “car park” — which sounded more like “cah pahk” given his accent — and explained that it’s laid out not only to handle traffic from drivers who dine in but to smoothly channel those who don’t to a two-lane pickup window. 

Then he mentioned another pet project, Virtual Dining Concepts, which fosters franchises called “ghost kitchens” that function strictly as delivery-based diners. Chicken Guy! is also set up with a special system to speed third-party delivery, so diners can enjoy their Cumin Lime Mojo minus migrating en masse to 17-92.

Otherwise, see you in the cah pahk. 


Michael McLeod, mmcleod@rollins.edu, is a contributing writer for Winter Park Magazine and an adjunct instructor in the English department at Rollins College.

WON’T YOU BE OUR FRIEND?

To paraphrase Mister Rogers: “Won’t you be our friend?” Actually, that should be “Friend” with a capital F, since it’s now an official designation for readers who join a new program called “Friends of Winter Park Magazine.” Here’s how the idea came about:

Several years ago, when visiting homes in Winter Park for various gatherings, I began to notice that collections of Winter Park Magazine were being displayed not only on coffee tables but saved in bookshelves. I hadn’t seen that since my grandmother collected every issue of National Geographic a generation ago.

I came to realize that many of our readers think of Winter Park Magazine as indispensable. It’s carefully read and frequently shared — but not discarded. I also increasingly received calls from readers who just wanted to say “thank you” for providing a publication that truly captures the spirit and the vibe of this one-of-a-kind city.

“This magazine has changed our lives here,” one prominent local businessperson told me. “We’ve always been proud of Winter Park. But now, when we’re asked why, we can just show any issue of Winter Park Magazine and there’s the evidence.”

Great stuff! In addition, readers routinely offer suggestions for content. (Did you know most of our stories are initiated that way?) Other readers — more than a few, in fact — ask how they can more tangibly support what we do beyond just the compliments (which are much appreciated, by the way).

So, we’ve implemented an exciting way that you can bolster award-winning, grassroots publishing locally through an annual gift in any amount you choose — with some terrific perks just for members.

There are three levels of participation: “Publisher’s Circle,” Editor’s Desk” and “Reporter’s Roundtable.” Select one and enjoy not only the benefits of continuing to receive Winter Park Magazine but “extras” that are just for you! 

By logging on and signing up, you’ll enjoy every-
thing from attendance at Friends-only special events, to valuable offers from our advertisers, to complimentary gift subscriptions for friends and family. You’ll even get a fun and funky Winter Park Magazine tote bag! 

We’re extremely thankful to you for reading what we believe is a beautifully designed and smartly written tribute to Winter Park — unquestionably the coolest city in Florida. Now you can help to support the cause in a more formalized way. 

This is a fact: No other U.S. city the size of Winter Park has a magazine like this one. And we look forward to publishing it to for many years to come — with your help, encouragement and participation. 

So, will you do me a personal favor? Type the link in the adjacent blue box into your search engine, or point your smartphone camera at the QR code. You’ll be directed to a Friends of Winter Park Magazine page that will allow you to join the club online — no muss, no fuss — and to learn about its benefits.

Thanks in advance for your readership, your good wishes and your membership — and thanks for everything you’ve done for us so far.

Click on the link below or point your smart devise at the QR code to join Friends of Winter Park Magazine. 

winterparkmag.com/friends


Correction

HARRY AND HAMILTON: HERE'S WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

In the Spring issue of Winter Park Magazine, a story about former Rollins College President Hamilton Holt’s lifelong quest for world peace (“Holt’s Elusive Dream”) conflated the dates of several events involving the college, Holt and U.S. President Harry Truman. The story said that Truman visited the campus in 1946 to receive an LHD (an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters) in ceremonies at Knowles Memorial Chapel and listened as Holt delivered a pointed “Open Sermon” on disarmament and world government. In fact, Truman was scheduled to visit the campus on February 11, 1946, but abruptly canceled the trip two days earlier because of an ongoing steel industry strike. (Actress Greer Garson received an honorary degree that day instead.) Holt delivered his Open Sermon, in which he directly addressed Truman, on May 2, 1948, without Truman present. On March 8, 1949, Truman did come to Rollins during a Florida vacation and received his belated honorary degree. During the event, he graciously congratulated Holt, who was to retire that year, for his many accomplishments. Since many readers use Winter Park Magazine’s local history stories as a reference, we are usually scrupulous about the details. We apologize for this error.

Greg Dawson, one of our top feature writers, has a poignant connection to Ukraine through his mother, who as a young girl in 1941 escaped a death march following the country’s invasion by Nazi forces. A previously published book and a newly released book tell the tale. And you’ll hear it firsthand from Greg in the summer issue.

ON WAR, IDEALISM AND RESILIENCE

Robert Rivers (left) and Hamilton Holt (right) responded to war in general through art, in the case of Rivers, and activism, in the case of Holt. Abruptly, their stories became more relevant with Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and the human suffering that the world is witnessing from inside the war zone.

Quarterly magazines don’t cover breaking news. At least, not intentionally. Because we work so far in advance, many of the stories that appear in this issue were written in January or early February — before Russian President Vladimir Putin began raining hellfire on Ukraine in an unprovoked attack that continues at this writing. 

No one knows what the situation will be in early April, when Winter Park Magazine arrives in your mailbox. But as of now, the Ukrainian people are demonstrating patriotism and heroism in the face of astonishing brutality and long odds against them

Coincidentally, we had already planned for the spring issue to include several feature stories that dealt with the common theme of war. 

One, about former Rollins College President Hamilton Holt, focused on his lifelong advocacy for world government as a means to prevent armed conflict. One major premise: A multinational military force — by design the largest in the world — would be granted the authority to punish aggressor nations. 

Although much has been written about Holt’s educational reforms, this controversial crusade has received considerably less attention.

The other, about artist Robert Rivers, focused on his print series The Promised Land, which he created (and is still creating) after losing his nephew, Thomas, a service member in Afghanistan, to an improvised explosive device. 

Rivers has also explored themes of war in a series of prints inspired by The War Prayer, a provocative prose poem by Mark Twain that we’ve published as a sidebar to the feature.

As we were putting the issue together, Putin’s forces moved in. And suddenly, our long-established editorial lineup had become relevant to today’s headlines — which is an unaccustomed situation for a magazine that primarily covers local people, local history and arts and culture.

Current events didn’t make Holt’s quixotic notion seem wise in hindsight — it was not wise, for reasons that will seem obvious to readers — but writing about his passion for this lost cause served as a reminder that periods of relative peace can be deceiving and are constantly vulnerable to terrorists or thuggish madmen who command armies. 

At least Holt’s heart, if not his logic, was in the right place.

And then I remembered that one of our top feature writers, Greg Dawson, had an extraordinary story to tell about his Ukrainian mother, Zhanna Arshanskaya, who as a young girl in 1941 had escaped from a Nazi death march with her sister, Frina (Greg’s aunt). 

The pair survived by assuming Christian identities and entertaining the German invaders with their skillful piano playing. Ultimately, Zhanna married an American soldier and moved with him to Bloomington, Indiana. She didn’t reveal her experience to her children and grandchildren until decades later.

Once his mother decided to tell her terrifying tale, Greg, ever the reporter, quizzed her (gently) for more detail and eventually traveled to Ukraine, where he visited some of the cities that we hear about today on the evening news. The result was a book, Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy’s Story of Survival, 1941-1946 (Pegasus Books, 2009).

Again coincidentally, the story has been retold in a just-released book aimed at younger readers. Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis (HarperCollins, 2022) was written in verse by Susan Hood, an acclaimed author of more than 200 children’s picture books, with Greg as co-author. 

Greg Dawson, one of our top feature writers, has a poignant connection to Ukraine through his mother, who as a young girl in 1941 escaped a death march following the country’s invasion by Nazi forces. A previously published book and a newly released book tell the tale. And you’ll hear it firsthand from Greg in the summer issue.

I’m pleased to announce that you’ll learn more about Alias Anna — and read a first-person account of how Greg followed his mother’s perilous pathway through Ukraine — in the summer issue. It’s strong stuff and will surely raise chill bumps with writing like this:

“I had to walk their final walk — their exact route, on the same day, in the same weather — to the killing field of Drobytsky Yar. I needed to see the spot where my mother jumped out of line into the woods, cheating Hitler.”

Perhaps there’ll be better news out of Ukraine come summer. But whatever happens, stories about resiliency of the human spirit are always timely.  

“I try to write not as a lofty figure from on high, smashing stone tablets over the heads of character actors and prima donnas, but as someone who has spent his whole adult life immersed in the world of art.” — Terry Teachout

FOND FAREWELL TO A ONE-MAN BAND

Terry Teachout, shown here in 2011 when he was commencement speaker for the Hamilton Holt School, could do it all, juggling his day job as drama critic for the Wall Street Journal with writing two plays, authoring seven books and playing bass in a jazz band. To him, Winter Park was like a parallel universe where he could savor the balmy nights whose stars weren’t crowded out by bright lights and concrete canyons.

Maya Angelou, Paul McCartney, Gloria Steinem, Ken Burns, Jane Goodall: As executive director of the Winter Park Institute, a speaker series that brought an eclectic roster of celebrity artists and intellectuals to Rollins College before being shuttered two years ago, Gail Sinclair saw plenty of overachievers come and go. 

Then there was Terry Teachout: occupation, one-man band. 

What the longtime Wall Street Journal theater critic lacked in mainstream name recognition, he made up for in versatility — juggling his day job with writing two plays, crafting lyrics for four operas, authoring seven books, filing numerous book reviews for the The New York Times and maintaining several blogs, including a candid one recounting the joys and trials of his personal life.

Oh: and he also played bass in a jazz band. That may account for his gift at improvisation. 

In 2009, two years following a WPI lecture entitled “Confessions of a Critic,” Teachout was invited to return to campus as a visiting scholar. One night, Sinclair asked him to moderate another speaker’s post-lecture Q-and-A, when audience members are asked to scribble questions on small cards and pass them up to the podium to be read aloud.

“What Terry was handed that night was mostly a blank stack of cards,” Sinclair remembers. “He calmly flipped through them, adding comments such as, ‘Oh, here’s a really interesting one,’ and proceeded to make up question after great question.”

By then, Teachout had fallen in love with Winter Park. In an essay he wrote that year for this magazine, he mused that the town had come to feel like a parallel universe to him: He could visit restaurants on Park Avenue that rivaled his favorite haunts in New York City while savoring the easygoing atmosphere and balmy nights whose stars weren’t crowded out by bright lights and concrete canyons.

Unlike most big-city critics, Teachout, born and raised in Sikeston, Missouri (population 1,600), enjoyed writing about regional theaters — and during visits to Winter Park would review productions throughout the state. In 2011, he also oversaw the staging of a play of his own, Satchmo at the Waldorf, a one-man show about Louis Armstrong, the early 20th-century jazz trumpet and cornet player, at Orlando Shakes.

While making new friends in Central Florida, he also renewed ties with an acquaintance of long standing: Gail Sinclair’s husband, John — a music professor at Rollins and artistic director of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. The fellow Show Me State natives shared an alma mater, William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri.

“I try to write not as a lofty figure from on high, smashing stone tablets over the heads of character actors and prima donnas, but as someone who has spent his whole adult life immersed in the world of art.” — Terry Teachout

“We were cut from the same cloth,” says the musical Sinclair (his wife is the literary one). “He was my little brother in our fraternity. He was also one of the smartest people I ever met.” 

When it came to music, says John Sinclair, Teachout could hold his own. “I remember once we were in Winnie’s Chinese Restaurant, having lunch with several local jazz musicians,” he recalls. “I said to Terry: ‘Right now, I’m the least cool guy at this table.’”

But the two were members of a mutual admiration society. In 2016, the Bach Festival Society debuted a newly commissioned cantata in celebration of its indefatigable conductor’s 25th anniversary at the podium. Music, Awake!, was composed by Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Moravec and featured lyrics by none other than Teachout, who wanted to honor his friend’s commitment to the arts.

Critics, by definition, are critical. Teachout’s reviews were tempered by his small-town upbringing and a sympathy born of firsthand experience. He once wrote: “I try to write not as a lofty figure from on high, smashing stone tablets over the heads of character actors and prima donnas, but as someone who has spent his whole adult life immersed in the world of art.” 

Given the circles in which he ran while in Central Florida, it was inevitable that Teachout would catch the attention of Chuck and Margery Pabst Steinmetz, two of the region’s most generous philanthropists and patrons of the arts.

The Winter Park couple had been looking forward to hosting Teachout as an honored guest at one of the early productions staged in Steinmetz Hall, the long-awaited and newly completed acoustic theater at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The hall was named in the couple’s honor following a timely $12 million donation that jump-started the project.

But Teachout would never visit Steinmetz Hall. In January of this year, at age 65, he died in his sleep of congestive heart failure while at a friend’s home.

“He was so astute. His knowledge was so broad-based,” said Margery Pabst Steinmetz. “But what set him apart from most theater critics was that he thought about and often wrote about the audience — how did they like it.” 

No doubt he would have done exactly that, if given the chance to write about a theater that meant so much for the people — and for the place — that had come to mean so much to him. 


Michael McLeod, mmcleod@rollins.edu, is a contributing writer for Winter Park Magazine and an adjunct instructor in the English department at Rollins College.

“I try to write not as a lofty figure from on high, smashing stone tablets over the heads of character actors and prima donnas, but as someone who has spent his whole adult life immersed in the world of art.” — Terry Teachout

OSPREY

Traditionally, poets are expected to be familiar with the fauna and flora around them, or at the very least know the difference between the two. Osprey inhabit their high perches up north but not in the abundance I encountered when I moved to Florida. The poem admits my ornithological ignorance but also stresses the urgency of my need to fill in the blank, the bird taking priority over my usual routine. As for its form, the poem is one sentence broken into quatrains and addressed to the osprey itself. But what’s that white one with the long neck stepping slowly across the Publix parking lot?

OSPREY

Oh, large, brown, thickly feathered creature
with a distinctive white head,
you, perched on the top branch
of a tree near the lake shore,

as soon as I guide this boat back to the dock
and walk up the grassy path to the house,
before I unzip my windbreaker
and lift the binoculars from around my neck,

before I wash the gasoline from my hands,
before I tell anyone I’m back,
and before I hang the ignition key on its nail,
or pour myself a drink —

I’m thinking a vodka soda with lemon —
I will look you up in my
illustrated guide to North American birds
and I promise I will learn what you are called.


Billy Collins is a former two-term U.S. Poet Laureate (2002-03) and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. “Osprey” originally appeared in Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins. ©2013, reprinted by permission of Random House.

Photo by Suzannah Gilman


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