City Hall focuses on agricultural roots through an art show as part of its centennial celebrations
The walls of Lake Alfred City Hall are lined with artwork. Not just any artwork, but art depicting the city’s history and ties with agriculture. It is a testimony of the area’s agricultural roots, as well as the community’s support for the artists in its midst. “I love the fact that they understand how important art is,” says Christy Hemenway, executive director of Ridge Art Association, a nonprofit competition gallery in nearby Winter Haven.
As Lake Alfred prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary June 29, 2015, the city is showcasing artwork from its second City Hall Art Show, which was themed 100 Years of Agriculture. Thirty-eight pieces of art were chosen for display in the City Hall entryway, hallway, and commission chambers at 120 E. Pomelo St. The art can be viewed during normal business hours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or during commission or board meetings, until September 30, 2015.
“We really enjoy the show being in the chamber,” says John Duncan, the city commissioner who coordinated the art show for Lake Alfred. “All of the pieces in the show are exceptional. Everyone really honed in on the theme.”
The show was sponsored by the city and run by Ridge Art, with judging by Cathy Futral, who holds a master’s of Fine Arts degree from South Florida State College in Avon Park. Cash prizes were awarded.
Agriculture is an important part of the heritage of this town of 5,000 sitting at the geographic center of Florida. Although the settlement began in 1839-40 as a military outpost during the second Seminole Indian War, it wasn’t officially established until 1915. By that time, the Tampa-Sanford railroad had brought new settlers. Armenians had logged the area, and citrus groves began filling the landscape.
Today, Lake Alfred is home to the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Citrus Research and Education Center, which houses the research staff of Florida’s Department of Citrus. Many are looking to researchers to find a cure for the dreaded citrus greening disease threatening the citrus industry. “We still have groves everywhere,” Duncan observes. “Some have switched to peaches [or blueberries] because of greening and canker.”
Among the art being showcased is “Roadside Market,” a watercolor by Dana Daydodge of Haines City, who regularly competes in art shows. She claimed the Best of Show Award for her artwork based on a photo of a man at a roadside stand. The watercolor is done in what she describes as a “fracture style.”
“It gives the appearance of a stained glass window,” she explains. “I do it because I think people are puzzled. We’re all puzzles even to ourselves sometimes.” Her colors are intense rather than pastel. “I’m not a wimpy watercolor [artist],” she says. A retired nurse and avid gardener, she studied at the Academy of art in Chicago. “Watercoloring was one of the things that interested me a lot,” says Daydodge, who works with mixed media, including acrylics.
Also on display is “Central Florida 1960— Setting Celery” by Margaret Wheaton of Lake Alfred, which was awarded second place. It shows farm workers planting in a field. “Bountiful,” an acrylic by Duncan’s wife, Heather, claimed third place. It shows oranges, peaches, and strawberries in boxes with the Lake Alfred water tower and citrus groves in the background. Heather prefers to work with acrylic because of its faster drying time. “I never seem to stick with one style very long,” says Heather, who serves on the Ridge Art board. Bountiful also was chosen for the Banner Award. It will be printed on canvas material and hung outside City Hall.
An Award of Excellence winner, “Tragedy in the Groves” shows a train wreck in a citrus grove. The entry was developed by Jerry Sherman of Lake Alfred from a six-by-six inch photograph he acquired about two weeks before the submission date. A professional artist who co-owns Sherman’s Antiques in Winter Haven, he used pen and ink to colorize the image. He framed it with vintage toy train tracks.
“It looks like a passenger train and freight train,” says Sherman, who tried to trace the wreck and learn what happened. He uncovered an accident in Eloise involving two freight trains around 1956.
Other Award of Excellence winners were Jean Comier of Sebring, with “The Boss,” in charcoal; Brenda Poff Hill of Winter Haven, with “Celebrate Lake Alfred,” an acrylic; and Joseph Ott of St. Petersburg, with “Diet Food,” photography. Honorable Mentions went to Preston Stafford of Lakeland for “The Fruit Dealer,” photography; Don Stone of Winter Haven, for “100 Years of Agriculture,” an acrylic; Fred DeMichael of Lakeland, with “Up the Road a Piece from the Water Tower,” an acrylic; and Greg Jones of Lakeland, with “Plowed Landscape,” mixed media.
Ridge Art also manages art shows at Winter Haven City Hall and Municipal Airport. Its signature event is the Central Park Art Festival in Winter Haven.
The City of Lake Alfred purchased four pieces of art last year, with a fifth purchased for the library. It is adding two more this year. The city’s devotion to supporting local artists and their craft has not gone unnoticed, as Hemenway concludes, “Their commitment is big and we’re very pleased with that.”
story by CHERYL ROGERS
photos by MATT COBBLE