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Get Fit Orlando!

Sometimes, my personal favorite fitness plan is fitness whole pizza in my mouth. Needless to say, this makes it even more crucial for me to stay active to help my body and mind stay healthy. Jogging around my College Park neighborhood is nice for about two weeks in the fall, and then becomes unbearably hot, and it’s totally impossible for me to stay motivated under these circumstances. So, how to stay motivated, active, fit and healthy here in Orlando this summer? Never fear, fitness buffs! There are gym and fitness club options to suit every level, goal, and budget! So, lace up those snazzy new sneakers you bought when you made that New Year’s resolution to start working out six months ago, and let’s hit the gym!

Looking for more than just a lonely row of exercise bikes and intimidating weight benches? Need some camaraderie in your fitness quest? Look no further than the Orlando Sport and Social Club, Orlando’s largest organizer of adult sports leagues! They organize leagues for flag football, softball, soccer, sand volleyball, and kickball, as well as happy hours, bar crawls, and other social events! The best of both worlds, fitness, bars and FUN! Check out http://www.orlandosportandsocialclub.com/ to learn more!

Boxing at Orange Avenue Gym
Boxing at Orange Avenue Gym

Are you looking to take your fitness and athletic abilities to another level? Are you ready to commit to a community to like-minded folks looking to improve their body on every level, with coaches who will drive you to excel to the best of your capabilities? Well, Crossfit Milk District may be the fitness community for you. They consider all of their clients athletes, and help them train accordingly, with a consideration of the whole human body’s physical capabilities and needs. Head on over to http://www.crossfitmilkdistrict.com/ and follow @CrossFitMilkDistrict on Instagram to get started!

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Is indoor cycling more your style? Do you want fantastic instructors, great music, and a great environment to help you on your fitness journey? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, spin on over to CycleBar Winter Park, the place for premium indoor cycling in Winter Park! The offer classes open to all ages and fitness levels, offering an unparalleled multi sensory journey each time you spin! Each ride is complete with amazing music, stunning video-graphics, and rider-specific performance data in the CycleTheater. Rock the Ride at https://winterpark.cyclebar.com/ and @CycleBar on Instagram.

Are you ready for the ultimate gym experience? Do you want classes covering all the basics, such as ultimate cardio, kickboxing, and yoga? Looking for a gym that’s close to home? Orange Ave Gym has a state-of-the-art facility, offers flexible classes and instruction as well as membership options without contracts and registration fees! This gym is exactly what YOU need it to be! Their trainers are dedicated, experienced, and ready to help you get into the best shape of your life! Check out http://www.orangeavegym.com/ to find out more.

So, whether you’re a soft-bodied pizza fanatic looking to do some cardio so you can not be out of breath after walking to the corner store, or you’re a committed athlete with a desire to challenge your body to its physical limits, Orlando has the perfect fitness option for you. From organized sports leagues, intense whole-body training, and indoor cycling, to a classic and convenient gym experience, you will find YOUR fit with Orlando Sport and Social Club, Crossfit Milk District, CycleBar Winter Park, and Orange Ave Gym! I’m about to start my new gym regimen, but right after this slice of cheese with pineapples…

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Art and Community: David Matteson

David Matteson is an artist, curator, and arts advocate extraordinaire. A graduate of Rollins College, Matteson is currently Associate Curator of Education at the Orlando Museum of Art, and has been included in exhibitions at A Place Gallery, the Orlando Museum of Art, A.I.R Gallery in New York, and Art In Odd Places Orlando. 

Matteson’s artistic practice is focused on identity, taking a confessional approach to multiple mediums, including book arts, journaling, and performance. Much of his practice is driven by confessional writing, which he uses in combination with visual imagery to create intimate, vulnerable and heartfelt work.

As a curator, Matteson is dedicated to creating inclusive and engaging programming that emphasizes accessibility. The Museum currently offers many programs for community members, such as the Art With Purpose program at the Zebra Coalition. The weekly program introduces at-risk LGBTQ youth to constructive creative projects and facilitated studio activities relating to identity, such as visual journaling. The program was spearheaded by another Rollins graduate, Grace Loescher, and is currently directed by Matteson. 

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Other programs Matteson oversees include Art’s The Spark, which has a mission of increasing the museum’s accessibility to memory-impaired individuals. The program provides guided tours of the galleries for individuals and their caregivers as well as art-related discussion and private studio time, and is free of charge. Creative Connections is a similarly structured free program, offering sensory-friendly guided tours of the galleries as well as private studio sessions, catered towards adults with learning and developmental disabilities. Off the OMA campus, the Coalition for the Homeless and OMA offer a weekly Family Art Reach program at the Coalition’s facilities, with studio activities guided by an instructor, which is also free of charge.

If you are interested in hearing David Matteson speak, he will be giving a lecture on the Wyeth family of 20th Century Realist painters on March 8 at noon as a part of the Art Sandwiched In program. He also hosts first Wednesday gallery tours of the permanent collection and current exhibitions on view.

Image credit: Orlando Museum of Art

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Engaging In Art With Amy Galpin

Amy Galpin’s approach towards curation is constantly evolving. “I am drawn to strong sight lines and work that is multi-layered and rich in content. I like to create moments of wonder and also provide content that people can choose to read or ignore.” Galpin has worked at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum since 2013. She previously worked as associate curator of art of the Americas at the San Diego Museum of Art, gallery coordinator at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, a non-profit gallery with a mission of promoting women’s contributions to the arts, and has held faculty positions at Depaul University, Columbia College, and University of Illinois, Chicago. Since she has been in Orlando, Galpin has facilitated many awe-inspiring and thought-provoking exhibitions at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, as well as programs providing our community with an opportunity for deeper understanding of and engagement with the arts.

Galpin has an interest in creating exhibitions that reflect current events and elicit dialogue and debate. Her curatorial projects since working at CFAM express this interest, with the inclusion of two of the most critically engaging exhibitions to grace the walls of an Orlando museum in recent memory— Fractured Narratives: Strategies to Engage (2014) and Displacement: Symbols and Journeys (2016). Galpin is currently working on several upcoming projects, including an exhibition titled “Time as Landscape: Inquiries of Art and Science” and several long-term projects, including one on Margaret Bourke-White and a show on the relationship between modern American art and Christianity.

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As curator of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, an educational museum, she fulfills an additional role as an educator through the creation of programs and exhibitions reflecting CFAM’s mission. “Teaching is at the core of our mission. We always ask ourselves when planning a program: How does this relate to our mission? How does this relate to teaching?” The Cornell Fine Arts Museum occupies a special place in the community because of its free admission and programming. Galpin says she is very proud to work at a museum that is free, stating “Not all museums are able to do this—so it is a real treat to work somewhere that can offer opportunities for families, for example, without asking them to pay.”

There are many opportunities to engage with Amy Galpin and discussions about contemporary art at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, including weekly tours on Saturdays at 1 PM, as well as Sundays at 1 PM at the Alfond Inn. There is a lecture by Dr. Adrienne Childs, co-curator of The Black Figure In The European Imaginary on March 8th at 6 PM, and a performance art piece at Knowles Chapel on March 21st at 6 PM. All programing is free and open to the public.

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Anna Cruz and Adam Lavigne Collaborate

Anna Cruz and Adam Lavigne are luminaries of Orlando’s DIY art scene. A collaborative artistic effort, and each a powerhouse in their individual practices, the pair’s zines, murals, and other works are a presence in a vibrant and active community of artists, makers, and other creatives. I first came across Anna Cruz’s work in 2015 as a part of Agencies, a feminist art show that was originally held in now-defunct the Space, a crusty and enigmatic venue above the Anthony’s Pizza on Colonial Drive that had mostly hosted punk shows until 2014. When the Space shut down and  Time Waste Management’s A Place Gallery opened in the “sister space” next door, Anna and Adam held their first collaborative show, Do Aliens Perceive Kerning? as the gallery’s inaugural event.

Cruz’s graphite drawings and mixed media works are intriguingly expressive, frequently employing text and sequential formats as well as self portraiture and subtle references to art history. Anna says about her studio practice, “My background is in painting, although drawing has always been my favorite medium. I like the simplicity that line allows for in describing form, and then figuring out how shape and color can play into my image-making without disrupting the drawing. Recently, I have been making work in the form of murals, zines, digital collages, and .gifs developed from imagery and text I find from the internet.” She lists her biggest artistic influences as Matisse and Picasso, as well as contemporary painters such as Dana Schutz and Dasha Shishkin.

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Lavigne has an academic and studio background in drawing, and says he only worked with graphite, colored pencil, pastel, and other dry media for a long time. Recently, however, within the last year, he has started painting on walls. He draws inspiration from alternative and small press comics and manga, as well as artists such as David Shrigley and Dash Shaw. “The idea of a comic has always attracted me, but I always end up making something that’s not really a comic.” Lavigne and Cruz both list a week-long workshop with artist Aidan Koch at the Sequential Artists’ Workshop in Gainesville as a major influence on their practice.

Lately, the two have been creating and releasing zines under their imprint, Lemon Press, which recently had tables at both Orlando Zine Fest at Will’s Pub and St. Pete Zine Fest. The first title they released collaboratively under the Lemon Press name was Art Historical Survey, a zine of drawings created on samples of colored paper the two passed back and forth in a drawing-and-responding process. They are both currently attending a residency in North Carolina with other Orlando artists. You can see their work here in in town at the Orlando Museum of Art gift shop, where they have zines and paintings available for sale as well as the District at Mills 50, where their collaborative mural (a part of the show Permanent vacation) graces the walls. Follow them on Tumblr for a look at more of their work:  Here and Here

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Studio Visit: Lesley Silvia

Lesley Silvia always seems to have an incredibly ambitious art project in progress in her home studio in Casselberry. The artist moves between multiple mediums in her explorations of identity, perceived hysteria, mental illness, and dysfunction in human connection, creating large-scale plaster sculptures, intimate 2D paintings and cut paper, as well as time-based video and sound works, and projects based in relational aesthetics. Reminiscent of contemporary artist Kiki Smith, Silvia frequently chooses animals as one focus of her subject matter— a cat with two bodies, a wolf with two heads, a fox with three heads— using them as empathetic analogies for amplified and distorted human characteristics and emotions. The resulting works are uncanny and striking manifestations of the anxieties of identity, which seem to draw from some universal anima and animus of our collective unconscious.

Frequently, Silvia’s sculptures and larger works begin as simple pencil sketches in a personal sketchbook, which she translates expertly into 3D, using a variety of traditional and non-traditional materials, including taxidermy supplies.  While her work is conceptually driven, Silvia is equally committed to craft and expression, her own hand and skill visible across the many diverse disciplines she invokes in her practice.    

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Having recently graduated from Pacific Northwest College of Art with her master’s degree in studio art in mid-2016, Silvia has carried the momentum of her thesis show That’s Hysterical! into a flurry of local exhibitions and appearances. In September of 2016, she participated in Art In Odd Places Orlando, an outdoor contemporary art festival, working with her husband Jared Sylvia on Rhizomatic Sounds. Sounds was an interactive installation that allowed participants to experience hearing spontaneously generated sentences in an unexpected location— right outside the Orlando Public Library downtown! More recently, Silvia’s work has graced the walls and spaces of a number of beloved local establishments, her delicate paper cut outs framed and displayed at Redlight Redlight, and her large, plaster sculptures and a video at Gallery at Avalon Island as part of the Artborne Annual group exhibition.

Things haven’t slowed down for Lesley Silvia in 2017. In the past several weeks, she has worked tirelessly creating new work for the FLAME group show at Orange Studio, curated by Winston Taitt, which opens on February 16th. She is also currently working on her addition to the new Sam Flax wall mural project, accompanied by contributions by artists Boy Kong, Chaya Av, Chris McAlister, Danny Rock, Jack Void, and SKIP. Be sure to check it out next time you are at Sam Flax! If you keep track of what Lesley Silvia is up to, chances are you’ll get a good introduction to all the best art that is happening in Orlando.

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Adopt, Don’t Shop!

Searching for the purr-fect companion? Get whiskered away at these fabulous pet adoption spots right here in Orlando!

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Have a New Years resolution to spend more time with friends? How about exercising? Doing something good to give back to your community? Adopting a rescue kitty could help you achieve all of these resolutions, and add so much to your life! Your new cat will be your best friend, your exercise and play companion, and will be eternally grateful to share your life! Start the new year off right with your new furry friend!

Orlando Cat Cafe in Clermont is the coolest spot to meet cats and sip on java— it’s a bit of a drive, but so worth it for these fine felines! They even offer fun activities, such as yoga with cats, and kitty-themed pilates. Or, just chill, drink coffee, and snack on pastries while you meet lovable, adoptable cats! Make a reservation today!

Orange County Animal Services always has hundreds of adoptable pets to choose from, and they could all use a helping hand. While adopting a kitten is tempting, the shelter is a great place to think about opening your heart and home to an older kitty— they easily fit into busier lifestyles and often have a harder time finding homes. Your adoption fee includes spay/neuter, micro-chipping, vaccinations, and even an Adoption Welcome Kit!

Before you take a new family member into your home, it’s really important to make sure you’re ready for the commitment and work that entails. Potty training, litter maintenance, clawed furniture, expensive and unexpected vet bills, etc. Also, keep in mind that a pet is NOT a good surprise gift for anyone. Adopting a pet is a commitment to that animal for its entire life! However, if you still think a pet is the perfect idea, and you are ready, you should look into adopting a rescue kitty here in Orlando!

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Carnival of the Animals!

Kangaroos, elephants, tortoises, and even a swan! A menagerie of fun and musical activities for your family…

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Carnival of the Animals, the humorous musical suite by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, is pretty great in its own right. Each movement is represented by a different animal— hens and roosters, swift animals, tortoises, elephants, kangaroos, the aquarium, animals with long ears, birds, fossils, and the swan. One of my personal favorite poets, Ogden Nash, even wrote a few funny lines inspired by the piece!

“At midnight in the museum hall

The fossils gathered for a ball

There were no drums or saxophones,

But just the clatter of their bones,

A rolling, rattling, carefree circus

Of mammoth polkas and mazurkas.”

A rolling, rattling, carefree circus sounds a little bit loud for midnight, but fun for an afternoon! So much for the imagination to go wild with! But can you imagine this fantastic piece of music brought to life, by an actual orchestra, actors and narrators, and illustrations? How about themed activities, coloring stations, and a chance to try out a real musical instrument? Well, if you’re looking for an outrageously fun, kid-friendly, musically themed activity, you’re in luck! The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra is presenting Carnival of the Animals at the Plaza Live lobby as its second season of the Symphony Story Time Series, just for young kids! It’s the perfect way to satisfy your young ones’ desire for playful cacophony and wild fun, without doing any damage to your living room furniture, or adopting an exotic animal as your new family pet!

Bouncing kangaroos, some particularly plucky dinosaur bones, pecking hens, flitting fish, a jungle buzzing with excitement and anticipation, all presented by professional musicians and artists! Showtime begins at 10am with thirty minutes of fun-filled activities! 

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Old Orlando Has A Farm…

From petting zoos to local, organic gardens, Orlando’s farming communities have a whole lot to offer. Ei Ei Oh!

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Before Orlando was famous for theme parks and attractions, it was farmland! Farming is still a big part of many Floridian lifestyles. Sick of life in the city and ready to spend some time with the animals away from it all? Be a farmer for a day (or for the weekend) and learn about Florida’s local farming communities!

Trying to figure out a way to spend the day outdoors with your kids? Little one obsessed with ponies? How about hay rides and pond fishing? Well, look no further than Family Farm Day, on January 28th at Pony Tales in New Smyrna Beach. A lovely road trip and afternoon for the whole family, and all proceeds go towards animal upkeep!

If you can’t make it to Family Farm Day, or are in the mood to go somewhere a little bit closer to the Orlando area, head over to Green Meadows Petting Farm! One of my personal favorite field trips as a kid, Green Meadows is a local gem. Milk a cow, learn all about farm animals such as sheep, cows, goats, chickens, geese, donkeys, and even meet an Asian water buffalo named Elmer!

Another great place to learn all about the farm-to-table movement, permaculture design, and other aspects of the sustainable farming lifestyle is Econ Farm in Orlando, located on the Econlockhatchee River, in between UCF and Christmas. It is the personal homestead of Terry and Tia Meer, and they offer many classes and activities. Look at their website for more information and a full schedule of classes!

You don’t actually have to commit to the rigors of a farmer’s life to experience the simple joys of gardening at home, but if you really want the full experience, think about heading over to one of Orlando’s local farms! Get your finest overalls ready!

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For the Birds!

Central Florida is the perfect place to check out many different species of birds in their natural habitats! Here’s a rundown of our top 5 favorite spots to watch and learn about birds!

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Our beautiful and naturally diverse state is home to many species of birds, including endangered and threatened species such as the double crested cormorant, the Everglade snail kite, and the great egret, to name just a few. Central Florida is also home to several rehabilitation centers and bird sanctuaries where you can visit these beautiful creatures in person, and also learn about their conservation and how you can be more bird-friendly! Here are our top five ways to make your day one for the birds…

Audubon Center For Birds of Prey in Maitland

The Audubon Center focuses on rehabilitation and release of Florida’s native birds of prey. They also have education programs for the public, as well as a beautiful sanctuary that is open to the public. The Audubon Center is the perfect place to see a tiny, adorable, baby owl, take a selfie with an eagle, and learn all about conservation and rehabilitation of birds of prey.

Mead Gardens in Winter Park

Listed on the “Great Florida Birding Trail,” Mead Botanical Gardens is a 47 acre park, large enough to encompass several different diverse ecosystems. The park also boasts a boardwalk, amphitheater, bike trail, and butterfly garden.

Leu Gardens

While Leu Gardens is mostly dedicated to the horticultural and botanical side of things, it is one of the most beautiful nature spots in Central Florida, and just minutes from downtown!

Orlando Science Center

The Science Center is one of my personal favorite Orlando attractions. They offer many fun, interactive  educational programs and exhibitions, where you can discover so much about our home state’s amazing ecosystems!

Gemini Springs in DeBary

I grew up a few blocks away from Gemini Springs, an absolutely gorgeous, 210 acre nature preserve in DeBary with a bike trail, nature trail and camping! It is also home to many species of native Florida birds.

So take advantage of our home state’s resplendent nature and diverse ecosystems! Go on a birdwatching adventure, a hike, or a camping trip this weekend, and learn more about what natural Florida has to offer.

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How to be a Good Gopher Tortoise Neighbor

A threatened species, Gopher tortoises are super important to Florida’s unique and delicate ecosystems. Learn more about these adorable creatures, and how you can help protect them!

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Did you know that the Gopher tortoise is the state tortoise of Florida? Despite this highest of honors, these big guys are a threatened species, affected by both predation and habitat destruction (here’s looking at you, Florida land developers…) So, how can you help? The first step is educating yourself! Read on to learn a bit more about this fascinating and endearing species.

Gopher tortoises can live a really, really, really long time if their lives aren’t cut short by predation and habitat destruction. Their average life span is about 60 years! They are herbivores, and their diets consist primarily of grasses, flowers, mushrooms and fruits. They are also extremely valuable to Florida’s diverse ecosystems, as the burrows they dig provide shelter for hundreds of other species. Because of this, Gopher tortoises are known as a “keystone species.” They usually live in sand dunes, pine flatwoods, and scrubs, all places with lots of sandy soil for them to burrow in! They tend to dig their nests May-June and produce about six eggs a year, many of which never hatch due to predators.

So they need our help, right? The answer is yes, but it’s important to be mindful of whether your assistance is actually benefitting the animal. It is crucial to know the difference between an animal that needs help, and an animal who is just chillin’ in the wild and should be left to its own devices, as well as the proper steps to take if you do find a tortoise that needs a helping hand. The most important thing to remember is that tortoises are NOT turtles, and they don’t live in lakes or ponds. Never put a Gopher tortoise in the water! If you see one in the road you can help it across in the direction it was already headed, however, the best thing to do in most other situations is just leave them alone, and don’t block their burrows.

There are a few local organizations that are dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating injured tortoises, such as Turtle Rescue USA (a part of the Central Florida Wildlife Center, a non-profit wildlife rescue), the Gopher Tortoise Council, and City Bats Conservancy (yes, they are dedicated to educating the public about gopher tortoises as well as bats). You can even see a gopher tortoise in the flesh at the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford! If you love natural Florida, you owe Gopher tortoises a helping hand!

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