Observations about interesting people, places and events around downtown Gainesville. (Scroll down for previous blog posts.)
June 10, 2019: Hipp Cancels Performance, Replaces Actor After Mishap
Brady Wease, the talented actor-musician who played Jerry Lee Lewis in the Hippodrome Theatre’s summer musical, Million Dollar Quartet, was injured on his way home from the theater on Saturday night and will be replaced in the production beginning Tuesday night.
Wease suffered minor injuries when he was struck by a vehicle while returning to his apartment a few blocks from the downtown theater.
“Please join us in wishing our very own, immensely talented Brady Wease a speedy recovery as he heals from his accident,” said a post on the Hippodrome’s Facebook page.
In a press release on Monday, the Hippodrome announced that: “While [Wease] is expected to make a full recovery, he is unable reprise his role as Jerry Lee Lewis at this time.”
The Hippodrome took the unusual step of canceling Sunday’s sold-out matinee performance. However, the production will continue as scheduled on Tuesday night at 7 with Brian Michael Henry performing as Jerry Lee Lewis.
“We are grateful to have Brian Michael Henry able to fly down to Gainesville and jump into the role at such short notice,” said Stephanie Lynge, the Hipp’s artistic director.
Henry has performed as Jerry Lee Lewis in three previous productions of Million Dollar Quartet, most recently in Indianapolis.
“Brian has played Jerry Lee in several productions of Million Dollar Quartet … so it was just luck that we were able to grab him while he wasn’t in a production,” Lynge added.
Most recently, Henry was seen as Father in Ragtime at the Eagle Theatre in Hammonton, N.J.
Wease, 25, appeared in only 12 Hippodrome performances of Million Dollar Quartet before his injury. The production, originally scheduled for a four-week run, has been extended until at least July 21.
Wease, a North Carolina native, wowed Gainesville audiences not only with his piano-playing skills and acting ability, but also with his physicality. In one scene, his character leaped high off the piano.
“We are sending good thoughts to Brady and wish him a speedy recovery,” the Hippodrome Facebook post said. “We hope to see him back on stage, making audiences smile, very soon!”
June 4, 2019: NEA Awards Dance Alive, Choreographer $10,000 Grant
Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), has approved more than $80 million in grants as part of the Arts Endowment’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2019.
Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $10,000 to Gainesville’s own Dance Alive National Ballet to support artist fees for the creation of two dance works by choreographer Brian Carey Chung. Art Works is the Arts Endowment’s principal grant-making program.
The agency received 1,592 Art Works applications for this round of grant-making and will award 977 grants in this category.
“These awards, reaching every corner of the United States, are a testament to the artistic richness and diversity in our country,” Carter said. “Organizations such as Dance Alive National Ballet are giving people in their community the opportunity to learn, create and be inspired.”
Chung, recently named Resident Choreographer for Dance Alive National Ballet, created a work for the company that premiered in February.
Kim Tuttle, DANB artistic director, noted that the company had been looking for an additional choreographer who would stimulate and excite both audiences and dancers. After working with him through February and following much conversation, the invitation was extended and accepted.
As a choreographer, Chung’s work is conceptual, drawing inspiration from history, literature, music, nature, philosophy, poetry, pop culture, psychology, religion, the sciences, sports, technology, the visual arts and yoga. He is particularly interested in where the formal in classical ballet intersects and participates with the informal in gesture and movement. Methodologies utilized to create vocabulary for each piece embrace elements of chance, spontaneity and individuality, which allows unique associations and resonances to arise and influence scripted choreographic phrases.
Chung will work with students in a workshop setting during June and return in August to begin work with the professional company. One of his new works will be presented in a February performance, “Loveland,” while the other, “Athletes of the Gods,” will premiere in March.
Chung is a Jamaican-born, naturalized American dancer, choreographer, poet and registered nurse. His 16-year dance career (1991-2006) spanned the country’s most celebrated contemporary ballet companies, touring internationally with Lines Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Armitage Gone! Dance and Ballet Hispanic of New York.
After retiring from the stage, Chung was rehearsal director and assistant choreographer to Karole Armitage; both for her company and for her 2008 re-creation of the musical, Hair, for the Public Theatre in New York City. In 2009, Chung formed Collective Body Dance Lab in New York City. The lab, a project-based, creative think tank, brought together independent artists, designers, musicians, singers, composers and dancers in the production and performance of new dances.
Chung has taught on the faculties of Lines Ballet in San Francisco, and Peridance Capezio Center, Broadway Dance Center and the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. He has guest lectured and taught masterclasses for Lines, Complexions and Armitage, and at universities throughout the U.S. From 2011-13, he was Assistant Professor of Ballet at Northern Illinois University.
Chung holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from UF, a Master of Fine Art in Creative Writing: Poetry from New York University, and a Master of Science in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University. In addition to being Resident Choreographer for Dance Alive National Ballet, Chung works as a nurse on the Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cardiac Surveillance Unit (D1) at Stanford Health Care, Stanford University.
May 23, 2019: Rockeys Dueling Piano Bar Goes Out With Flourish
In terms of entertainment, downtown Gainesville’s loss is Celebration Pointe’s gain when it comes to Rockeys Dueling Piano Bar.
The downtown nightclub closed last weekend after nine years at 112 S. Main St., according to owner Brad Heron. But the good news is that Heron’s dueling piano show will resume later this summer as part of The Keys, an island-themed seafood restaurant and bar opening in Celebration Pointe off Archer Road and I-75.
“We had a terrific run downtown with Rockeys, but we feel this is the best move for our piano show,” Heron, 37, told gainesvilledowntown.com. “We had a great send-off last weekend with record crowds.”
Rockeys opened in 2010 and was known for its Thursday-Saturday night dueling piano shows that featured Heron and other talented pianists from throughout Florida and the U.S. The club also featured Wednesday comedy nights that drew local and regional talent as well as such well-known celebrities as Carlos Mencia and Pauly Shore.
Heron said that he had always wanted to add a kitchen to Rockeys for serving food but couldn’t obtain the proper permits.
Heron will be one of three co-owners of The Keys along with Diego Ibanez and Tony Espetia. Ibanez is co-owner of Emiliano’s Café, which opened in 1984 at 7 SE 1st Ave. in downtown Gainesville. Espetia, a real estate professional with Coldwell Banker M.M. Parrish Realtors, is former owner of Rum Runners and Fat Tuesday in Gainesville.
The Keys, which has a double-meaning associated with both the Florida Keys and piano keys, is projected to open as early as mid-August.
In the meantime, Heron, a resident of the Duckpond neighborhood, will continue with the Rockeys Road Show starting this weekend in Fort Lauderdale.
“Thank you to everyone who was a part of Rockeys Dueling Piano Bar!” Heron wrote on his Facebook page last week. “It became far more than a bar or business. It grew into a family and network of people who care about each other. ... The memories and friendships will live on!”
April 29, 2019: Hipp, Collier Companies Launch 10-Year Pledge Drive
The Hippodrome Theatre has announced the launch of The Collier Challenge. Nathan S. Collier, of the Collier Companies, and his wife, Ani Collier, a former professional ballet dancer from Bulgaria, have generously offered a 10-year dollar-for-dollar challenge grant to help secure the future of Gainesville’s 46-year-old professional theater and its many associated educational and community programs.
“The Hippodrome Theatre is a cultural jewel for Gainesville, an incredible asset,” Nathan Collier said. “Ensuring its long-term viability is important for our artistic future.”
The Collier Challenge is a true matching-gift program. The Colliers will match every new 10-year pledge, up to $100,000 per year, for the full 10 years. Donations will go toward such costs as actor salaries, script royalties and educational programming. The Colliers’ gift will go into an unrestricted endowment fund that will help stabilize the theater’s operations into the future.
In recent years, federal funding for arts grants has decreased dramatically while the Florida state legislature’s funding decisions have been erratic. Theater companies such as the Hippodrome, along with all the educational and cultural programs attached to them, now live or die on home-grown support.
“This is a community that truly values the arts and their impact on the quality of life in our region,” said Stephanie Lynge, the Hippodrome’s new artistic director. “We have a long history of people stepping up when it counts, like Nathan and Ani are doing now. We know Gainesville will follow their lead and couldn’t be more grateful and excited.”
Interested donors can make their pledge online, through a form found HERE or by emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dec. 26, 2018: Tom Miller to Read Every Trump Lie in 38-Hour Spectacle
Gainesville-based performance artist Tom Miller will be reading every fake claim President Donald Trump has made since becoming president — 3,924 at current count — in a 38-hour marathon event while consuming only McDonald’s products.
The marathon reading will take place Friday and Saturday at the new home of Hardback Cafe, 920 NW 2nd St., in downtown Gainesville.
The event begins Friday at 6 a.m. and continues all day and into the following day until the mission is completed. The reading is expected to conclude on Saturday around 8 p.m. During this time, Miller will take only two 20-minute breaks per day to practice Transcendental Meditation. Three bathroom breaks of three minutes each per day are also included in the artist’s performance.
“The real problem,” Miller said in a press release, “is that by the time I finish the event, the Donald may have said a bunch more fibs. Theoretically, I could be stuck in a loop forever, like someone caught in the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disney. I expect to be psychologically and physically challenged — possibly damaged. I’m doing this for the continuation of the species.”
Why would Miller undertake such a masochistic feat?
“Because,” he said, “none of the other presidents has any kind of an accomplished record of fibbing like this — nothing on the level of Mr. Trump. Nobody is better at this than him. Performance artists enjoy taking work to the extremes, and Mr. Trump provides that extreme. This is the right president for the right performance artist. It’s going to hurt real bad. And that’s what we like. That’s pain, that’s art!”
Miller added: “This is not a partisan work of art. All I’m doing is repeating stuff President Trump has actually said, so nobody should be angry. This could actually be a great event to bring people together in commonality to embrace how fake everything is.”
Miller will be reading from the Toronto Star’s Fact Check Project, an ongoing survey of Trump’s false claims. (http://projects.thestar.com/donald-trump-fact-check/)
Canadian Minister, The Reverend Angeldust, will be on hand to bless the event on behalf of the Tabernacle of Hedonism, a Gainesville-based Church of Absurdity.
Miller’s last political event, immortalized in the Huffington Post, was staring into the gaping mouth of then-presidential candidate Ted Cruz for two solid hours without breaking eye contact. Miller has only recently recovered from that 2016 ordeal, but said the effort was worth the reward.
“When you face your darkest fears, you become a better American,” Miller said. “Participation in the political process is vitally important, even for blue-collar performance artists.”
In the event of a natural disaster, Miller will toss out several new rolls of paper towels before the event.
The public is invited to observe and support — and perhaps even mock — Miller throughout his performance.
Sept. 26, 2018: Matheson Museum Restoring Stained-Glass Windows
The Matheson History Museum is raising $2,500 to save a unique piece of Gainesville history.
Once upon a time, area residents visited the Melting Pot Restaurant on East University Avenue to celebrate milestones. Others got engaged there. It was a place where memories were made and tucked away to be treasured.
Today, the former Melting Pot building houses the Matheson Library & Archives. The beautiful stained-glass windows, which were commissioned by restaurant owner Hope Meucci and designed by Tallahassee artist Bob Jones, were featured prominently in the restaurant.
The stained glass features fondue pots, champagne, seafood, cheeses, chocolate, fruit, bread, etc. The windows were installed in 1982 when the restaurant opened and removed to storage when the building was renovated in 2016.
The museum is now taking the stained glass from the three original front windows and framing them with heart pine wood.
Mike and Mary McIntyre, Gainesville stained-glass artists, are in the process of restoring the glass and designing the frames. The heart pine will be supplied by the Goodwin Company, which also supplied the heart pine flooring in the Library & Archives. The completed framed stained glass will hang in a place of honor in the Library & Archives Reading Room.
With the dramatic slash to state funding, though, the Matheson History Museum cannot complete the restorations without the help of the community.
Those interested in being a part of this important project can visit www.mathesonmuseum.org/stained–glass–campaign to find out how to donate.
June 5, 2018: Hippodrome Hosts 24 Hour Play Project
The Hippodrome Theatre, celebrating 45 years as North Central Florida’s only professional theater, presents the 24 Hour Play Project showcase, a series of eight plays created in just 24 hours, on Sunday, June 10, at 6 p.m. in the Hipp Cinema.
The project engages artists from across Gainesville’s thriving theatrical community, including the UF School of Theatre + Dance, Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, Actors’ Warehouse, Gainesville Community Playhouse, Santa Fe College Theatre Department and the Hippodrome.
The project features Gainesville playwrights Esteban Alvarez III, Michael Presley Bobbitt, Deborah Dickey, Jane Edwards, Sloane Henry, Gregg Jones, Chuck Lipsig and Charlie Mitchell.
The playwrights will be given a series of prompts and a theme 24 hours before showtime. (The prompts include a high five, a cactus and mention of the Tony Awards.) Playwrights will work through the night, and Sunday morning will meet their directors and actors, who will see the script for the first time and begin to prepare for performances taking place Sunday evening starting at 6 p.m.
The local directors who will bring the playwrights’ words to life are Lola Bond, Steven H. Butler, Gabrielle Byam, Susan Christophy, Matt Lindsay, Sara Morsey, Mikell Pinkney and David Young.
“The goal of this project is to unite all of the theatrical groups of Gainesville for 24 hours of creative fun and exploration,” said Hippodrome Artistic Associate Stephanie Lynge, who is spearheading the project. “The public is invited to experience this burst of theatrical creativity with us at the showcase on Sunday at 6 p.m.”
This project is the third in a series of events created by the Hippodrome’s Company of Actors. Previous projects included the “Motherline Project” spearheaded by Lauren Nordvig and “The Brothers’ Size” spearheaded by Ryan George.
After the showcase, everyone is invited to stay in the Hipp Cinema for the free live stream of the 72nd Tony Awards from Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (The Hipp’s bar will be open.)
Seating is limited. To purchase $10 tickets for the 24 Hour Play Project showcase, call the Hipp Box Office at 352.375.4477 or visit thehipp.org.
May 11, 2018: Mai Kai Kava Bar Opens for Business
The flavor of Polynesia has finally arrived in downtown Gainesville with the opening of Mai Kai Kava Bar at 17 W. University Ave., next door to Gainesville House of Beer.
The kava bar opened Wednesday at noon and soon served its very first shell containing the non-alcoholic beverage derived from the crushed roots and stems of the South Pacific kava plant.
“We’re the first traditional kava bar in Gainesville,” said Heather Casey, who owns the bar along with her partner, Erin Hart.
Mai Kai is open daily from noon until midnight and will eventually stay open later on weekends.
The establishment serves two types of kava — lawena and waka — as well as an assortment of coffees, teas and other beverages in the $3-$6 price range. The $10 Mai Kai “double” is served in a shell, the way kava has been enjoyed by Pacific islanders for hundreds of years.
“Whenever we serve it in a shell, we say ‘Bula!'” Casey said. “That’s Polynesian for ‘to health and happiness.'”
Casey and Hart want people to know that Mai Kai is a welcoming place. Even the front door has a saying from Buddha that reads: “Each morning we are born again. What we do today matters most.”
The kava bar in some ways resembles a tiki hut with artwork and other decorations that give the place a Polynesian feel. Handmade benches line a wall opposite the L-shaped bar, which the owners had custom-made.
There are boxes of games that customers are invited to play and free wifi. Also, employee Candace Kopelakis provides free card readings.
“We wanted to create a laid-back, positive vibe where you can hang out with your friends,” Casey said. “It’s island-y, quaint and very Zen.”
Casey and Hart are new to Gainesville. They were long-time residents of West Palm Beach but currently live in Summerfield in Marion County. They plan to move to Gainesville soon.
“The reason we chose Gainesville is I felt it would be a good kava community,” Casey said. “We figure it would give college students and other residents an alternative to the bar scene.”
One of the health benefits of kava is that it helps reduce stress. Traditional Polynesian kava is believed to cause euphoria without impeding cognitive ability.
“Kava is from the pepper family,” Casey said. “It’s a fruit ground up into powder form that is supposed to reduce anxiety and insomnia. There are so many benefits. It’s very medicinal.”
Casey admitted that kava is “outside the norm” and can be an acquired taste for some people. She didn’t experience her first kava bar until five years ago but soon fell in love with it.
“It was an alternative to alcohol and hanging out with my friends without a hangover,” she said.
Although Mai Kai Kava Bar is opening during summer break for college students, Casey is not worried about drawing customers.
“The kava community is like a small world, so word gets around,” she said. “I feel it’s going to bring something new and positive to downtown Gainesville.”
May 3, 2018: Early Breakfast Arrives Downtown with The Grand Café
Early risers can finally get breakfast at a downtown eatery starting at 6 a.m. and enjoy a full lunch with beverage for well under $10 — all thanks to the opening of The Grand Café, 13 W. University Ave.
The 20-seat restaurant, offering counter service and table service as well as takeout and free delivery, occupies the former Stubbies & Steins pub that closed in 2014.
Owner Michael Fiorillo, a native of Long Island, N.Y., said The Grand Café will emphasize good food and good service at reasonable prices.
“I’m not trying to make people pay an arm and a leg,” he said with an unmistakable Long Island accent. “We’re gonna keep the place clean and make sure the customers are all happy.”
The breakfast menu includes a variety of egg sandwiches starting at $2 and a breakfast platter of two eggs with home fries or grits and toast for $4.50. Three-egg omelets start at $4.25 while pancakes, French toast and waffles start at $4.50. The Grand Café also offers an assortment of bagels, muffins and danishes, along with fresh-brewed coffee.
Sandwiches on the lunch menu start at $4.25 for egg salad and $4.50 for grilled cheese or a classic burger served with choice of cole slaw, potato salad, macaroni salad or chips and a pickle.
Specialty sandwiches include the Monte Cristo ($6.25), Reuben ($6.50), Grilled Chicken Classic ($6.25) and other sandwiches with such names as the Proud Floridian Hero, the Smokey Turkey Hero, the Coach, the Gator and the Gainesville (ham, turkey and Swiss on rye).
There’s also a full lineup of specialty burgers, hot sandwiches, homemade salads, hot soups and beverages, including milkshakes, smoothies and sodas. The drink menu also includes a vanilla or chocolate egg cream. An egg cream consists of milk, carbonated water and flavored syrup. (Fun fact: The Brooklyn-born concoction contains neither eggs nor cream!)
Fiorillo, 52, already operates two Grand Cafés on Long Island, including one in his hometown of Babylon. He chose downtown Gainesville because his parents have owned a home in Ocala since 2001 and he became interested in expanding the family business to Florida.
“I don’t see anything else like this here,” he said.
Fiorillo will travel back and forth between Florida and New York but will leave the managing of The Grand Café to his 80-year-old father, Joseph. Fiorillo’s younger sister, Victoria, will also help run the Gainesville location along with cousin Tommy Luna and Vicki’s boyfriend, Justin Darling.
The Grand Café opened with little fanfare on April 27, but customers have been finding their way inside the restaurant.
“We’re doing really well without advertising yet,” Fiorillo said. “We’re getting all types of people — college kids, suits and ties, the courthouse folks. … Everybody’s been nice and friendly.”
The Grand Café is open weekdays 6 a.m.-3 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m.-3 p.m. The eatery is closed on Sunday.
In decorating the place, Fiorillo has redone the cobblestone floor from Stubbies & Steins and kept some of the coats of arms that adorned the front of the beer pub’s bar. Although Fiorillo grew up in New York a Yankees and Rangers fan, Orange and Blue are dominant colors in The Grand Café.
“I want to make it a Gators’ place,” he said. “I want to see the Gators do well. I’m a big fan of all sports.”
April 28, 2018: Downtown Thai Restaurant Plans June Opening
Downtown Gainesville will get its first Thai restaurant this summer when If It Is Kitchen & Cafe opens at 104 S. Main St., a corner location that has been vacant since the closing of Five Bar almost three years ago.
“My restaurant will be authentic Thai, both of traditional and fusion sushi, full bar and cafe,” Khetpapol “Up” Limphoka, a 2017 UF graduate and co-founder of If It Is, told gainesvilledowntown.com.
Limphoka said If It Is Kitchen & Cafe will be open seven days a week, offering an extensive lunch and dinner menu from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. The cafe inside the restaurant will serve alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages until midnight.
“From our Thai kitchen, we are proudly introducing one of the Thai traditional noodles that has never been brought to the U.S. called DooDee Noodle,” Limphoka said. “It is the rich taste and relatively dry traditional Thai noodle (Tom Yum taste).”
“From the sushi bar, we are proudly serving real and traditional Omakase sushi that customers will experience with their own personal chef and are served one-by-one nigiri throughout the dining time — as well as the fusion special rolls that we combine Thai and Japanese together.”
From the full bar and cafe, If It Is Kitchen & Cafe will serve alcoholic beverages that pair well with Thai and Japanese foods. There will also be specialized non-alcoholic beverages, such as a daily brewed, loose-leaf premium milk tea supplied by Tampa-based TeBella Tea Company to blend with the restaurant’s own signature milk tea.
“We will also use fresh milk rather than the milk powder to pull out the fresh taste of the tea,” Limphoka said.
The co-founders, Limphoka and his sister Punnada (Val), are Thailand natives — and biology majors. Up graduated last year from UF; his sister from Portland State (Ore.) University.
They signed a lease on the building on March 29 and have been working daily, along with Val’s boyfriend, to get the building ready for a soft opening sometime in May. They plan to hire a full-time staff of at least 20 employees.
Limphoka acknowledged that downtown Gainesville already has one upscale sushi restaurant in Dragonfly Sushi & Sake Company, 201 SE 2nd Ave. However, he said If It Is Kitchen & Cafe intends to introduce “the real way” of consuming the traditional sushi with Omakase dining as well as the best-quality food that can be found.
“In addition, our Gainesville community needs real Authentic Thai food that you will feel like you are having food in Thailand while dining with us,” he said. “All ingredients are made from scratch to ensure the freshest and tastiest foods.”
And why did Limphoka, 23, and his sister, 26, choose the unusual name for the restaurant and bar?
He explained: “If It Is Kitchen & Cafe, it is the place in town that people need to go.”
Stay turned to gainesvilledowntown.com and our Facebook page for further updates on If It Is Kitchen & Cafe and other businesses opening soon.
April 3, 2018: Hipp Offers Theatre and Self-Discovery Adult Course
The Hippodrome Theatre and the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding present a groundbreaking new six-week adult course at the Hippodrome titled “Theatre and Self-Discovery,” starting Monday, April 9, at 6:15 p.m.
The focus of “Theatre and Self-Discovery” is in what lies below the surface — how self-esteem impacts people and people’s needs list. In theatre, actors ask of their character: What drives this person’s behavior?
This course bridges the mediums between non-violent communication work and theatre in a non-threatening way, a way to step away from your own self in creating a character that is not you. One of the goals of this collaboration between the River Phoenix Center for Peace-building and the Hippodrome Theatre is peace-building within oneself.
Through this six-week intensive adult theatre class, participants will explore the nuance of relating human behavior to the craft of a theatre artist. First, participants will go below the surface of these characters with writing. The initial classes will be facilitated by Heart Phoenix of the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding and Gabrielle Byam of the Hippodrome Theatre and the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding.
Then participants will bring the writing to the stage with real theatre artists Matthew Lindsay and Cameron Pfahler of the Hippodrome Theatre, and the course will utilize these introspective discoveries with a focus on character development and scene construction. Each individual will create and write a monologue that reflects the experiences accumulated throughout the course; the class will culminate with a showcase of student monologues.
Heart Phoenix has been facilitating workshops for non-violent communication for 15 years. Gabrielle Byam has worked at the Hippodrome Theatre for 20 years and has been facilitating workshops for non-violent communication for eight years. Matthew Lindsay is a theatre director, and a teacher at the Hipp for 10 years. Cameron has worked at the Hipp for several years, has a degree in psychology and has had work featured at a local playwrights’ festival.
The sessions continue each Monday through May 14, from 6:15-7:30 p.m. Class size is limited. Sign up here
Oct. 9, 2017: White Buffalo Bar Opening Soon on South Main Street
A new craft cocktail and craft beer bar is getting ready to open at 111 S. Main St., in a storefront previously occupied by The Rock Church of Gainesville and, before that, Happy Hour Billiards.
White Buffalo is expected to have a soft opening this weekend and its grand opening a week or two later, according to owner Erik Zika, a partner in Gainesville-based Three Points Hospitality, which owns Original American Kitchen (O.A.K.). However, Zika said that White Buffalo is a solo project of his.
“I’m featuring the small-batch distilleries that are popping up everywhere,” Zika told gainesvilledowntown.com. “It will be a west-coast influence on cocktails. They use things like hop-infused oils in their cocktails.”
The 3,300-square-foot building will feature a large square bar with a walk-in cooler in the center of the bar that will hold enough kegs to supply 14 taps of craft beer. There will also be a small bar-food menu.
Zika describes the bar’s atmosphere as “antique,” but he added that it will not be a so-called country bar despite its name.
The name White Buffalo pays homage to an animal that is considered sacred or spiritually significant in several Native American religions. Such buffalo are often visited for prayer and other religious rituals.
“If you look it up in the dictionary, it’s one of the rarest animals out there,” Zika said, adding that the term “white buffalo” is also urban slang for “the one that got away” or “first love.” It was coined in the movie Hot Tub Time Machine.
A large stenciled white buffalo was recently painted on the building’s facade, directly across Main Street from Rockey’s Dueling Piano Bar.
Oct. 3: Civic Media Center to Celebrate Life of Stetson Kennedy
Long before white supremacy became a daily topic of conversation, Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s, exposing its secrets to authorities and the outside world on the popular children’s radio program “The Adventures of Superman.”
Kennedy, who attended the University of Florida during the Great Depression but never graduated, authored 10 books and led a life of activism right up until his death on Aug. 27, 2011.
The folklorist, human rights organizer and environmentalist would have turned 101 years old on Thursday.
On Wednesday night, the Civic Media Center will host a celebration of Stetson Kennedy’s life highlighted by a Power-Point presentation by Sandra Parks, the woman he shared the last years of his busy life with and the director of the Stetson Kennedy Foundation (SKF). There will also be music, cake and a sale of Kennedy’s books.
“Living a Life of Purpose” covers 80 years of activism, from organizing against anti-Semitism as a 14-year-old to marching with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in their fight for higher wages at 94 years old. In between those years, Kennedy infiltrated the KKK and engaged in other organizing and journalistic endeavors in support of the Black freedom movement.
As a journalist, he wrote innumerable articles, was awarded many speaking engagements and cultivated friendships with Woody Guthrie, Studs Terkel and Jean Paul Sartre, among many others.
The CMC has a special relationship with Kennedy as he donated over 2,000 books from his personal library to the CMC’s collection, where they are available to be checked out with a donation-based membership.
This celebration of Stetson’s life and work will feature a birthday cake and other refreshments.
Musical entertainment for the evening will be provided by singer/songwriter Cathy DeWitt, Kennedy’s longtime friend, co-founder of the UF/Shands Arts in Medicine program, and winner of SKF’s Fellow Man and Mother Earth award. (DeWitt’s own birthday happens to fall on Oct. 4.)
The event begins at 7 p.m. and is free, but donations are accepted.
Oct. 1, 2017: Festival Poster to Feature Gainesville Folk Artist
Longtime Gainesville folk artist Alyne Harris, whose colorful paintings of flowers, animals and religious themes have earned national recognition, has been selected as the poster artist for the 36th annual Gainesville Downtown Festival & Art Show next month.
Harris, 75, was at a loss for words when she first heard the news.
“It’s such a nice honor,” she said on the front porch of her home in the Porters Community, less than a mile from where the festival will take place Nov. 11-12.
This year’s festival poster will feature two animal-themed images by Harris. One is a red dog with pointed ears whose nose appears to be snooping around. There is an even redder bird that has landed on its back.
The other painting by Harris is a wide-eyed black cat who has “trapped” three mice in its belly. Over the cat’s shoulder, three mice “ghosts” appear to be floating through the sky.
“The cat painting is one of Alyne’s particular imaginary — but so sincere — tales,” said Anne E. Gilroy, curator of the Thomas Center Galleries and owner of the artwork. “The cat ate cheese to lure the mouse [the square is the inside of the cat] and then the cat ate the mice. The three mice in the sky are the mice angels (or maybe souls) going to heaven.”
Sunny Andrei, second-year coordinator of the Downtown Festival & Art Show for the City of Gainesville, said it was difficult to narrow down the artist’s work.
“We looked at a lot of Alyne’s paintings and decided these two pieces captured the artistic features as well as the fun of the art show,” Andrei said.
Andrei added that it was Gilroy’s idea to recommend Harris as the poster artist.
“I’ve done a lot of shows in the past couple of years that feature the work of artists from Gainesville who are no longer with us: Lennie Kesl, Jesse Aaron, Eddy Mumma,” Gilroy said. “It just struck me that honoring Alyne, who is in the national canon of self-taught artists, while she is still a living and working artist, would be a great idea.”
Gilroy credits Harris with having “an intuitive, unschooled and vigorous style” of painting.
“She likes to tell a tale with her work — animals, landscapes, imaginary subject all have something going on that she likes to talk about and that was important to her as she painted.”
Harris’ Americana-style work has often been described as “primitive” or even “naive” for its rough and simple look that resembles children’s drawings.
“I met her years ago— her work literally stopped me in my tracks when I first saw it,” Gilroy said.
“Like many self-taught artists, her work is uneven in many ways. But the power of her imagery and the tale she is telling make the successful pieces quite powerful and wonderful. People respond to her work.”
Being the Downtown Festival & Art Show poster artist does not carry a cash award, but Harris will receive free booth space this year and will be provided a batch of festival T-shirts with her painted images on them. She said she has already received requests from relatives for the T-shirts.
Also, Harris will sign a number of posters that will be sold to attendees of the festival.
For further info on this year’s art show, visit the Downtown Festival & Art Show website.
Aug. 18, 2017: Hippodrome Embarks on “Stand with the Hipp” Campaign
As the Hippodrome Theatre prepares for its 45th season, Gainesville’s only professional theater company is calling for community members to “Stand with the Hipp” to assure its long-term success.
This year, the Florida state legislature further slashed its allocation for cultural grants. Facing over $100,000 in state grant cuts, the Hippodrome is fundraising to bridge the gap and provide uninterrupted programming and services to the community.
For more than four decades, the Hippodrome has been steadfast in its commitment to inclusion, diversity and acceptance. Exploring shared humanity and tackling tough questions through the arts has been at the core of its mission — and it has never been more important than now.
As Gainesville and UF move up in the ranks, the Hippodrome Theatre is moving right with them. The theater has expanded its independent cinema offerings, opened up more acting classes for kids and adults, and established its first permanent company of professional Equity actors.
Recent shows such as Hamlet and the summer musical Forever Plaid have been hailed as among some of the Hippodrome’s best productions in years, and anticipation is growing for its co-production of George Orwell’s 1984 in conjunction with the UF School of Theatre + Dance. The production opens Sept. 1 following two nights of discounted previews.
“Our theatre is a home to many and a safe space for all,” said Hippodrome managing director Jessica Hurov. “Art is meant to create an open dialogue, start conversations and allow for genuine human connections. That’s why we need our community to stand with us now, as it’s always done.”
To “Stand with the Hipp,” community members can donate directly to the organization via its Facebook donation page.
Feb. 14, 2017: Matheson Museum to Cut Ribbon on New Library
The staff and board of directors of the Matheson History Museum will welcome guests and supporters of the museum to enjoy an evening of champagne and hand-dipped chocolate strawberries on Thursday from 6-8 p.m. to celebrate the completed renovation of the new Matheson Library & Archives building, 418 E. University Ave. Tickets are $75 in advance or $80 at the door and can be purchased through the Matheson Museum website.
The building, which was purchased by the museum in 2014, began as the Gainesville Gospel Tabernacle Church in the 1930s. Most recently it was the Melting Pot Restaurant from 1982-2009, where many Gainesville couples had their first date or became engaged.
Melanie Barr, historic preservationist and member of the Alachua County Historical Commission, will give a brief history of the building. Hope Meucci, former owner of the Melting Pot restaurant, will share memories of that time. There will also be remarks from Alachua County Commissioner Ken Cornell and former Matheson Board member Dr. Mark Barrow.
Proceeds from ticket sales and a silent auction will raise money to furnish and equip the Library & Archives with furniture, archival supplies, computers and shelving.
In July 2015 the museum received a $300,000 special category grant from the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources. This generous grant, along with donations from private donors in the community, funded the preservation and restoration of the historic building, which has been renovated as a place for future visitors and researchers to enjoy.
The museum’s main building, at 513 E University Ave., will remain an exhibition space. The former library will become additional exhibition space once the books and archives are transferred to the new building.
Feb. 12, 2017: Hippodrome Wearing Forever Plaid as Summer Musical
Forever Plaid, a revue of the close-harmony “guy groups” (The Four Aces, The Four Freshmen, etc.) that reached the height of their popularity during the 1950s, will take over the mainstage at the Hippodrome Theatre this summer. Opening Night is June 2, following two nights of previews.
Forever Plaid is the heartwarming and charming story of four young men who are killed in an automobile accident and then, through a series of bizarre events, get one last opportunity to entertain — proving that their spirits still live on.
The show, which offers an entertaining musical mix of ’50s and ’60s rock n’ roll, and popular show and dance tunes blended with witty comedy, has delighted audiences nationwide since its off-Broadway debut in 1989. The songs they sing during the course of the musical include “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Moments to Remember,” “No, Not Much,” “Rags to Riches” and “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.”
The New York Times called Forever Plaid “Letter-perfect! Sweet, funny and thoroughly amusing.”
For ticket info, visit the Hippodrome website or call the box office at 352.375.4477.
The Hippodrome’s production of Becky’s New Car, starring Nichole Hamilton in the title role, opens Feb. 24. Hamlet opens on April 14, followed by Forever Plaid.
Through Feb. 14, the Hippodrome’s regular six-ticket Flex pass is on sale for $125, a savings of 40 percent off the regular ticket price.
Nov. 19, 2016: Tom Miller To Provide Definitive Conclusion on Eagles
Tom Miller, the Wikipedia-listed Gainesville performance artist known for his daring stunts, will endure a six-hour marathon Sunday by listening intently to every studio album recorded by The Eagles. At the conclusion, he will decide for America once and for all whether or not The Eagles suck.
“Many people have a strong opinion one way or the other about the Eagles,” said Miller, “… and people need to just take a step back and let me decide for them. Only I can decide this for the American people.”
Miller cites the following reasons why he alone can make this decision for America:
1. “I’m a musician, and I know what it takes to write both wonderful and horrible songs. I’ve done both.”
2. “I’m a Gainesville resident, and one of the founding members of the Eagles [Don Felder] is also from Gainesville. This uniquely connects me to whether or not this music sucks.”
3. “Based on my research on Google, nobody has managed to officially sit and listen to all these songs in a row. I’ll be the first person in the history of Google to actually actively listen to and evaluate every single Eagles song on all of their official studio albums.”
4. “If I don’t make this decision for everyone in America, the fight will continue, and I will endure the struggle for a good peace. And I am not afraid to endure six hours of The Eagles. In fact, I’m eager to make the sacrifices necessary to subject myself to this band.”
Inspired by Donald Trump’s “I alone” message, and also the scene in the Coen Brothers film, The Big Lebowski where The Dude is thrown from a taxi cab because he couldn’t stand the Eagles, Miller hopes to finally bring to an end the Eagles gridlock that has plagued fans and foes alike.
What: Tom Miller Endures Six Solid Hours of Eagles Music (He will listen to every studio album by The Eagles and render a decision, song by song, tallying each number with either a “SUCK” or “DOES NOT SUCK” rating. At the conclusion, Miller will announce the results and the matter will be entirely settled forever, for America. Nobody will ever have to confront this issue again because the answer will be unequivocally decided to a certainty for everyone in the United States and parts of Canada.
When: Sunday, Nov. 20, at 4 p.m.
Where: Maude’s Cafe Patio, 101 SE 2nd Place (the Known Center of the Universe and adjacent to the Hippodrome Theatre). Rain or shine.
Cost: This event is free.
Other details: A professional medic will be on hand throughout the entire six hours in case Mr. Miller suffers any mental or physical issues during the course of this event. There will also be security on hand to protect Mr. Miller from any hostility from The Eagles, or any of their fans or foes until the official decision has been rendered. The Reverend Angeldust (courtesy of the Tabernacle of Hedonism) will conduct a short prayer service before the event.
“They [The Eagles] might suck, but then again, they might be a really terrific band,” said Miller. “We won’t know until I listen to all the songs on every Eagles studio album and decide once and for all for the great people of this country. There will finally be unity in the land, one way or another.”
(By the way, Sunday also just happens to be National Absurdity Day, but that is just a coincidence!)
July 19, 2016: Sister Hazel Williams Leaves Legacy of Kindness, Compassion
Sister Hazel Williams readily admitted that “I’m not a rock star.” Even so, she was the inspiration for the name of the Gainesville-based rock band.
Truth be told, she was the closest thing Gainesville had to a living saint. (Apologies to Tim Tebow.)
For more than four decades, Williams helped downtrodden souls of Alachua County and elsewhere turn their lives around with warmth, hope, inspiration and guidance.
“I preach love,” she told us in a 2014 interview. “It is the greatest power on this planet—and it works!”
Williams, a missionary and the founder of Gainesville’s Angel of Mercy Ministries, passed away last Friday night at age 91. Her death was felt throughout the community, especially the downtown area where she was a staunch advocate for the homeless and St. Francis House.
Williams was always working on some worthwhile project. One of her latest missions was creating the Rainbow Center for Children of the Incarcerated as well as for poor and underprivileged children. The center provided ministry and a place of counseling for youths.
She often operated charities out of her East Gainesville home, collecting toys, bicycles and food items to distribute to those in need.
“The happiest time of my life is when I’m helping somebody,” Williams said. “God told me to do this.”
Although she had no living family members, “The people in the street have been my relatives,” she said, adding that “There is something that makes me feel really kin to them.”
Williams had a full life. She grew up in Atlanta. Her father was good friends with the family of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he served as a pallbearer at his funeral service.
Sister Hazel had a nursing degree and a doctorate in humanities. She did medical missionary work on Native American reservations and in Haiti. She last visited the impoverished island nation after the devastating 2010 earthquake and helped with relief efforts.
For 45 years, Williams selflessly crusaded for the betterment of the Gainesville community. She was recognized for her work with a number of awards and honors that she accepted with great humility.
In late 2014, Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones and outgoing UF president Bernie Machen presented Williams with the inaugural Citizen of Grace award. The ceremony took place at the Grace Marketplace homeless shelter and was attended by the people Sister Hazel reached out to most over the years.
Sister Hazel band members Ken Block, Drew Copeland, Ryan Newell, Jett Beres and Mark Trojanowski were saddened by the passing of their namesake. They paid respects to her on their Facebook page:
“Regardless of race, religion, income, age, orientation, education — or anything else that could be used to define or divide people — she would do whatever she could to get people who were down on their luck back on their feet, always making sure that they felt loved and valued. …
“In her 91 years on this Earth, [Sister Hazel] created powerful waves and the humanitarian ripples of her life will roll on forever. As a band and as ambassadors for Gainesville and for her good name, we will do our best to continue to impact our world in positive ways with kind messages, thoughtful music, and powerful community experiences that are filled with love, inclusion, service, and joy.”
Now, it is up to all of us to carry Sister Hazel’s torch of compassion and understanding in the community.
July 11, 2016: Novelist and Buchholz Alum Rajakumar Has Homecoming
Award-winning author Moha Rajakumar flew halfway around the world to speak at the Alachua Headquarters Library tonight.
Well, at least the first part of that sentence is correct. Rajakumar did indeed fly to Gainesville all the way from Qatar on the Arabian Peninsula. However, the 6 p.m. library event downtown is just one element of a visit to the city where Rajakumar grew up and attended high school.
On Saturday night, Rajakumar attended the 20th reunion of her Buchholz High Class of ’96. “I’m happy to have happy memories of high school. I’m so lucky!” she said.
That celebration was sandwiched around two Millhopper Branch Library appearances. On Saturday, she did a reading of her children’s picture book about the importance of gratitude. On Sunday, she spoke about book-marketing strategies to the Writers’ Alliance of Gainesville.
Tonight’s talk at the downtown library is to promote her latest book, The Migrant Report–The Sequel. It is a follow-up to her novel The Migrant Report–Book One. The first book was a mystery that took place in an unnamed country on the Arabian Peninsula.
The new e-book, which had the working title No Place for Women, centers around ex-pat women who go missing in that unnamed country and the four people who try to solve the mystery.
“The sequel to The Migrant Report is much darker than the original and involves two dead bodies,” she posted on Facebook.
Rajakumar, 36, has written 10 books, including crime novels, romance, children’s literature, short stories, nonfiction works and academic titles. All the books are written under her full name, Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar.
“I just write about whatever interests me,” she said.
Born in India, Rajakumar and her family immigrated to Texas but moved to Gainesville when she was 11. Her father was a researcher in the UF pharmacology department. She graduated from BHS and did her undergraduate studies in literature and psychology at Peace College in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Rajakumar earned her master’s degree in literature from North Carolina State and then returned to Gainesville for her doctorate studies. She also got married here in October 2006. The couple have two children.
Although she had a Ph.D in English, Rajakumar could not find a job in her field.
“No one was hiring Ph.Ds in the United States, so that’s why I went to work for Georgetown University at their Qatar campus,” she said.
And Rajakumar has lived in the small Arabian Peninsula nation for almost a decade. She now teaches for Texas A&M at Qatar while continuing to write.
“Imagine New York City in the desert,” she said of the bustling metropolis. “The temperature there is exactly the same as Gainesville.”
She has used Qatar as the basis for many of her books. For that reason, many of her books have been banned in Qatar, which she does not consider a bad thing because it makes readers curious and ready to read.
Her books will be available for purchase and signing tonight at 6 in Meeting Room A of the Alachua Headquarters Library, 401 E. University Ave. Then Rajakumar is off to Tampa, New York and Alexandria, Virginia, on a book tour for The Migrant Report–The Sequel.
For further info and to order her books, visit Moha Rajakumar’s website.
April 30, 2016: High Dive Makes Top 100 List of U.S. Music Venues
Pretty much everyone in Gainesville already knows that High Dive is a terrific venue to watch concerts and for enjoying a good time. Now the secret is out nationally.
On Friday, High Dive was listed No. 74 on the “100 Greatest American Music Venues” by online music publication Consequence of Sound. The Fillmore in San Francisco earned the top ranking.
High Dive, at 210 SW 2nd Ave., typically books three or four acts a week–a strong mix of local acts and national acts that crosses the music spectrum. In May, for example, High Dive hosts Bob Marley’s old band, the Wailers, on the 24th. Gainesville’s ever-popular Savants of Soul is the opening act.
This is what Consequence of Sound’s Dan Pfleegor wrote about High Dive:
“High Dive exists at SW 2nd Avenue as Gainesville Rock City’s demilitarized zone. Like the Dothraki holy site Vaes Dothrak, you’re welcome as long as you aren’t an asshole. And it’s been that way for many years. The spot has welcomed several owners and name changes since the early 1990s, but it’s perhaps best known as the flagship location of Nigel Hamm’s legendary venue Common Grounds — which officially closed in 2011 after a meteoric 15-year run.
“During Common Grounds’ run, the likes of Hot Water Music, Less Than Jake, Morningbell, Holopaw, Isaac Brock, and Conor Oberst could be spotted hanging out, whether they were scheduled to perform or were just enjoying a cold Mexican beer as the Florida humidity burrowed past the outdoor porch and into the midsize rectangular structure.
“As such, Common Grounds lived up to its name, improving on the whimsical, albeit slanted, design of the Covered Dish before it by transforming the weekend venue into a daily town hall that mingled national acts with emerging indie artists and side projects, comedians, college kids, The Fest punks, and plenty of sun-baked locals. Years later, High Dive continues this tradition, ensuring that Gainesville remains Florida’s most alternative city and a cool place to see live music.”
Congratulations to Mat Poe, Pat Lavery and everyone else at High Dive for achieving rock-star status!
To read the entire Top 100 list, visit the Consequence of Sound website.
April 17, 2016: UF Students Produce Newest Downtown Mural
The scaffolding came down Friday on the newest mural to grace downtown Gainesville. Designed by UF art major Rafael Moura, the aquatic-themed mural at the Sun Center was a collaboration with students of UF’s School of Arts and Art History and the 352walls/Gainesville Urban Art Initiative.
The mural was painted in an alcove to the right of the entrance to Alter Ego Fitness, facing the Sun Center East parking lot, at 101 SE 2nd Place.
Moura, a senior, earned the opportunity to paint the mural after his design won a contest judged by a three-member selection panel comprised of two UF faculty members and Raquel Vallejo, coordinator for the 352walls mural project.
For the past week, Moura served as project manager for the mural, but his entire Site Specific Painting class worked as artist assistants to complete the project.
Vallejo said that participation by students adds even more diversity to a mural project that already includes the work of more than a dozen international artists throughout downtown Gainesville.
“This is a never-before-been-done project where instead of painting a campus wall, the winning student was given a wall downtown among the other 352walls murals,” she said.
For the contest, students of UF Associate Professor Julia Morrisroe were encouraged to visit the proposed mural site at Sun Center and consider the ways a mural could change or impact the public’s use of the space.
In preparation for the project, students studied a variety of muralists, including those who participated in the 352walls project, as well as Shephard Farley, SWOON, Maya Hayuk and Sol LeWitt.
This initiative is the first of its kind, taking art students outside the UF campus and positioning them alongside world-renowned urban muralists as well as regional and local artists.
Feb. 18, 2016: The Gainesville Iguana Turns 30!
The Gainesville Iguana, which calls itself the city’s “progressive events calendar and newsletter,” recently reached the 30-year mark. It’s a milestone worthy of a “Gainesville Iguana Day,” but there has been no such proclamation by the mayor. Yet.
While some publications might produce a special anniversary edition or throw a party to mark the occasion, the Iguana quietly chugs along on its mission to inform and perhaps enlighten.
Volume 30, Issue 1/2 rolled off the presses in January and publisher Joe Courter, who’s been with the Iguana from the very beginning, couldn’t wait to distribute the 4,500 copies around town. We caught up with him at the Union Street Farmers Market, where on most Wednesdays he hands out his black-and-white newspaper next to the Civic Media Center table.
That current 24-page issue has a photograph of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on the cover (again) with a headline reading: “The rise of the decent people.” You have to turn to Page 3 and Courter’s regular column to read about the 30-year milestone.
“Why do we do it?” Courter asks his readers. “It is a belief and commitment that an informed citizenry is a necessity for making the community and world a better place. …”
No argument there. The Iguana represents the little guy. The paper stands up for women’s rights, labor rights, gay rights, prisoners’ rights, civil rights—all human rights. There are also articles about animal rights, the environment and, of course, politics.
That’s the way it’s been for three decades now, since Courter and his wife, Jenny Brown, came up with the idea for the Iguana in the midst of the 1986 resistance to the Central American policies of the Reagan Administration.
“That was a radical period,” Courter recalled. “We were doing a lot of organizing of the anti-war movement against Nicaragua during the Iran/Contra scandal. We had compiled a mailing list of 500 to 600 people and felt it was time to put out a monthly newsletter.”
In October 1986, the Gainesville Iguana was born. At first, each copy was four legal-sized, multi-folded sheets. Then, as Courter puts it, “We discovered newsprint and realized we could print 2,000 copies for the cost of 500 photocopies. That sounded like a deal.”
The newspaper’s name comes from the Central American reptile but also plays off the reptilian theme started by the Independent Florida Alligator—the other independent voice in town.
Courter said his paper prides itself on publishing original-source material, including transcribed speeches by such human-rights activists as Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Turé) and Black Panther leader Geronimo Pratt.
“We’re a newspaper that tries to get information out to people that isn’t always covered,” Courter said. “Our coverage really stood out during the two Gulf wars.”
The double-spread in the middle of each issue is devoted to an impressive, if not exhaustive calendar of events around town. It’s not unusual for Courter to list meetings of the Interfaith Alliance for Immigration Justice, PFLAG or the Labor Coalition.
The Iguana gladly accepts advertising. The rate is only $20 for a business card-size ad and $40 for a quarter-page ad. Shockingly, those rates are the same as they were 30 years ago. The paper also makes money off $15 annual subscriptions (about 360 of them) and through donations.
To no one’s surprise, Courter is not in it for the money. He just wants people to read it and make informed decisions.
“I’m for a political system that promotes education and healthcare for all citizens,” he said. “Then you have intelligent, secure people who can vote.”
The Iguana appeared to go away for good in early 2010, after Brown headed to New York for a job.
“We decided to give it a rest,” Courter said. “Then I started hearing from people who said they missed the Iguana.”
In March 2011, the Gainesville Iguana was back in business. Today, Courter works with a copy editor in North Carolina and a layout editor in California to produce nine issues a year, including three combined issues.
So, just in case nobody else mentions it, Happy 30th, Iguana!
(For further info or to look at the paper’s archives, visit the Iguana website.)
Jan. 19, 2016: Cat Under a Warm Steel Hood
Most drivers like it when their engines purr, but the sound Jasmine Hall heard when she put her Toyota Camry in reverse on Tuesday morning was the real thing—a cat not so much purring as screeching.
“I think there’s a cat in my engine!” she told passersby on Southeast 1st Avenue, just off Main Street, across from Emiliano’s Café. Her car was stopped halfway out of a diagonal parking space.
Pedestrians and delivery people were drawn to the commotion, including James Parker, a detective with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. He parked his unmarked car in the street, lights flashing, to investigate.
Hall released the latch on her hood. When she slowly lifted it up, bystanders expected the animal to leap out of the engine compartment and dash to freedom. But there was no animal in sight, just more crying.
Parker took out his penlight and aimed it behind the engine block of Hall’s vehicle.
“He’s right there!” Parker told onlookers.
A pair of tiny, frightened eyes stared back up at Parker.
“Can’t be more than a few weeks old,” said another observer leaning over the engine for a look.
There was a chorus of “awws.”
The kitten appeared to be stuck near the bottom of the engine behind hoses and wiring going into the firewall.
“Maybe he’s tangled up down there,” someone said.
It was a possibility. All initial efforts to free the feline failed. The kitten was just beyond arm’s reach. Attempts to gently nudge him (or her) out of hiding with a stick also didn’t work.
Another woman said the kitten had darted out of her car’s engine earlier that morning after she had found a parking space. She realized she might have taken the animal for a ride. Prevailing wisdom was that the kitten had climbed into her engine area for warmth when temperatures dipped below freezing early Tuesday.
A younger man with long arms finally felt around for the cat’s tail.
“I can pull it up and out, but I don’t want to hurt the poor thing,” he said.
“Don’t worry, you won’t,” someone assured him.
With Parker directing him where to reach, the man soon got a firm hold on the kitten and extracted it from behind the engine of Hall’s car.
“He’s adorable!” several people said of the wide-eyed kitten with gray and black fur.
But the celebration was short-lived. The kitten bit or scratched his way from the man’s hold and leapt to the red-brick street. Groans were heard as the cat scampered back under Hall’s car, then under two other parked cars before disappearing into the engine area of yet another vehicle.
At some point, someone called the Alachua County Animal Services. When Angel Rodriguez arrived a half-hour later, the kitten had found yet another hiding spot underneath the cargo bed of a large pickup truck.
The kitten was nesting on top of the spare tire attached to the truck’s underbelly. Still, he was out of reach.
Rodriguez laid down on the hard brick surface behind the truck’s left rear tire. Wisely, he pulled on a pair of gloves before getting an angle on the kitten. He then reached above the spare tire, got a grip on the furry thing and lowered it to safety.
This time the kitten didn’t offer a fight. In fact, it seemed to appreciate Rodriguez’s gentle touch and calm demeanor. (Touched by an Angel?!)
A few minutes later, the nine-year Animal Services veteran caringly placed the lost kitten in a cage in the back of his truck for the trip to the shelter. He said a veterinarian would examine the kitten for any issues. If the checkup went well, the cat would be available for adoption by the end of the week.
That would be a purr-fect ending to this cat’s tale.
Jan. 16, 2016: Another Downtown Mural Going Up at Market Street
The large wall on the east side of Market Street Pub & Cabaret, at 112 SW 1st Ave., is ready for its extreme makeover! Work began Friday on the latest mural as part of Gainesville’s 352walls project.
The Ukrainian duo known as Interesni Kazki (Aleksei Bordusov, aka AEC, and Vladimir Manzhos, aka Waone) began marking the wall with a grid pattern from which to begin their massive painting. The public is invited to watch their progress over the next couple of weeks as they transform the wall into a huge piece of public art.
In 2015, international artists flocked to downtown Gainesville and painted murals on eight walls—three north of University Avenue and five concentrated within a block of Southwest 1st Avenue. Another large mural was painted by local and regional artists on a wall of the old Stereo Hi-Fi building on South Main Street.
Interesni Kazki has taken the street-art world by storm in recent years with their colorful and surrealistic murals on all types of buildings, from India to Mexico, and from Miami to Moscow. The are famous for their unusual and imaginative imagery, as well as their wide range of characters, elements and symbols used, bright colors and smooth gradients.
Iryna Kanishcheva, the curator and founder of the 352walls project, is also a Ukraine native. She was born and raised in Lviv. Interesni Kazki are from Kiev.
The 352walls project is ongoing. In February, renowned Portuguese street artist Add Fuel will create multiple public artworks on downtown utility boxes.
Nov. 26, 2015: Ten Things to be Thankful for Downtown
With today being Thanksgiving, it’s only appropriate to look around downtown Gainesville and be thankful for several things that are obvious and maybe not so obvious:
The Hippodrome State Theatre: This is a no-brainer. Artistic director Lauren Warhol Caldwell and her incredibly talented team have provided Gainesville audiences with live professional theater for more than three decades. If you haven’t been to a show at the Hipp lately, make it a point to see The Snow Queen and/or A Christmas Carol this holiday season.
The Matheson History Museum: Executive Director Peggy Macdonald and her staff make the history of Gainesville and Alachua County come alive with engaging exhibits and guest speakers. Don’t miss the museum’s Polar Express Train Show Dec. 5-6.
Outdoor art shows: The Santa Fe College Spring Arts Festival and the Downtown Festival & Art Show each fall draw huge crowds to downtown streets. They’ve been doing so for decades. Artists rave about the support they receive from the Gainesville community, and downtown restaurants and businesses appreciate the economic boost these vibrant events provide.
The Downtown Gainesville Public Art Initiative: Nava Ottenberg from Persona Vintage Clothing got the ball rolling a few years ago, and now 22 sculptures adorn the downtown landscape around Union Street Station, the Hippodrome and the Sun Center. Kudos to the artists who have offered their talents and to others who recognize the importance of public art.
352walls/Gainesville Urban Art Initiative: In the past month, Gainesville’s downtown area has been graced with a dozen large-scale murals by several world-class street artists. This is not graffiti but gorgeous artwork that will enhance Gainesville’s image for years to come. We are indebted to curator Iryna Kanishcheva for having the vision and determination to carry out such a massive, eye-opening project that will be the envy of cities much larger than ours..
The Historic Thomas Center: Attending an event at the city-owned Thomas Center is like traveling back in time. The one-time residence and hotel, built in the Revival style, serves as a classy venue for art exhibitions and other cultural events. The two-story Spanish Court is ideal for formal affairs. On Dec. 5, from 6-8 p.m., the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting will take place there. It’s well worth a visit.
Friends of the Library: You will never meet a friendlier and more knowledgeable group of dedicated volunteers than the ones who organize the two annual book sales that raise big bucks for the Alachua County Library District. The five-day sales in the spring and fall offer up more than 500,000 books and other items to the public for as little as 10 cents apiece.
First Magnitude Brewing Co.: Oh, sure, they produce great beer at First Magnitude, but the two-year-old brewery has also become a gathering spot for worthwhile causes and cultural events. The recent MASS 5 Visual Arts show was a success thanks to curator Bill Bryson, but also because brewery co-owners John and Christine Denny and Wells and Meg The Losen want to give something back to the community.
Fest: Although some people might not appreciate the music, no one can deny that the annual punk-rock festival brings 10,000 enthusiastic people from all over the world to downtown Gainesville on a weekend when the Gator Nation is away in Jacksonville for the Florida-Georgia game. Fest taskmaster Tony Weinbender of No Idea Records calls on a huge team of volunteers to coordinate almost 400 acts at 20 venues.
Civic Media Center: Activism is alive and well thanks to this South Main Street institution. The CMC’s mission is “to provide community access to information and points of view that are under-reported or distorted in mainstream media.” How cool is that?
Dance Alive National Ballet: Sisters Judy Skinner and Kim Tuttle transformed their mother’s local dance company into a professional touring company with world-class dancers from Russia, Brazil, Cuba, Italy, Turkey and Ukraine. This is the dance company’s 50th season overall, and Gainesville couldn’t be more thankful.
Okay, that was actually 11 things (if you’re keeping count). Perhaps you are thankful for something related to downtown Gainesville–a restaurant or club perhaps, or maybe a specific person. Please let us know by sending an email at email@example.com, and we’ll gladly re-post your comments.
Nov. 8, 2015: Tranforming Gainesville Into Artsville
Gainesville has long been known for its vibrant music scene. And the performing arts have thrived with a number of theatre groups and dance companies. Now, almost suddenly, the visual arts are dominating the conversation–and the local arts calendar.
Just look around downtown Gainesville. The MASS Visual Arts show is going on at First Magnitude Brewing Co., where the works of 48 artists are being displayed through Nov. 14 in a unique industrial setting. The Doris Bardon Community Cultural Center (the new Doris) just cut the ribbon on a new gallery/building at 1315 S. Main St. And this weekend (Nov. 14-15), the City of Gainesville welcomes 230 artists and nearly 100,000 visitors to the 34th Downtown Festival & Art Show.
Meanwhile, the city will be undergoing a quite striking visual transformation over the next few weeks and months in the form of an ambitious project known as 352walls/The Gainesville Urban Art Initiative. Thirteen local artists and 13 others from around the world will be taking blank walls around the city and painting colorful murals on them.
“The city is our canvas!” said Iryna Kanishcheva, 352walls curator and photographer who conceived the project. “This international project serves to strengthen our cultural stature.”
The project actually began over the summer when Italian street artist 2501 (that’s what he goes by) was commissioned to paint the exterior on what is now Cowboys Saloon at 201 W. University Ave. Beginning Nov. 16, a group of world-famous urban artists will converge on Gainesville and start creating more large-scale public murals.
The artists and their respective walls include:
- Pastel from Argentina (The Top restaurant wall, 30 N. Main St.)
- Franco Fasoli JAZ from Argentina (Shadow Health wall, 15 SW 1st Ave.)
- Alexis Diaz from Puerto Rico (High Dive wall, 210 SW 2nd Ave.)
- Axel Void from Spain (The Bull wall, 18 SW 1st Ave.)
- L.E.O. from Miami (Loosey’s wall, 120 SW 1st Ave.)
- Evoca1 from the Dominican Republic (Southwest Parking Garage wall, 105 SW 3rd St.)
- Gaia from Baltimore (Southwest Parking Garage wall, 105 SW 3rd St.)
- 2Alas duo from Cuba and Puerto Rico (Hector Gallery wall, 702 W. University Ave.)
In January, a Ukrainian duo known as Interesni Kaski will paint a mural outside Market Street Pub & Cabaret (112 SW 1st Ave.). In February, renowned Portuguese street artist Add Fuel will create multiple public artworks.
A group of local artists got a head start on the 352walls project in late October by going to work on a block-long wall outside the old Discount Stereo Hi-Fi building (now known as the Make.Work building) at 722 S. Main St., across the new traffic circle from Depot Park. Each artist was assigned a section of the wall and given a Nov. 12 deadline for completion.
Those artists selected from an application process are Blake Harrison, Tiara Henderson, Jefreid Lotti, Carrie Wachter-Martinez, Jesus Martinez, Turbado Marabou, Rachel Sommer, Point108, Ras Justo Luis Rodriguez, Evan Galbicka, Senta Achee, Clea Lauriault and Jenna Horner.
The mural-filled wall currently is partially hidden by scaffolding but will be unveiled at a reception later this week. On Nov. 19, the public is invited to meet and greet all the mural artists from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Historic Thomas Center.
Keep up with the progress of the mural project at the 352walls Facebook page.
Oct. 12, 2015: Sister Hazel’s Class Act
If there was ever any doubt that Sister Hazel embraces Gainesville (and there wasn’t), the band gave their hometown fans plenty to cheer about on Saturday night with a free downtown concert that oozed authenticity.
From the popular opening song “Change Your Mind” to a rollicking, two-song encore 90 minutes later, Ken Block, Drew Copeland and Co. blended classic tunes with a batch of new songs before about 2,500 “Hazelnuts” crowded into Lot 10. The show, sponsored by 104.9 WOW FM and JVC Broadcasting sister station 101.9 Smooth FM, ended only when the Florida Gators’ football game against Missouri began on the big TV screen at the opposite end of the lot. (The 21-3 UF victory sealed the memorable evening.)
The concert was basically a large tailgate party. Sister Hazel made the crowd feel at home not only with their catchy brand of alternative rock but also with their folksy banter with the enthusiastic audience, which ate it up. At one point, Block reeled off all the Alachua County schools–from colleges all the way down to grammar schools–that the five band members attended during their youth. And after all these years, Gainesville remains home.
“We could’ve lived anywhere in the country we wanted to, but we chose Gainesville, Florida,” Block told the audience that included his mother, Judy, and many other family members and friends. The group even covered the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” to celebrate Mrs. Block’s birthday.
While Block and Sister Hazel are grateful for Gainesville, likewise Gainesville should be grateful for Sister Hazel. The group not only is on the shortlist of great bands and musicians hailing from Hogtown, but has done wonderful charitable deeds for the area and beyond.
Block started Lyrics for Life cancer-research benefits to honor the memory of his little brother Jeffrey, who died of T-cell lymphoma in 1987. Meanwhile, the group strongly supports Feed the Children efforts and other noteworthy causes. The band, of course, is named after Gainesville’s own Sister Hazel K. Williams, whose charitable work for the homeless and incarcerated is renowned.
Formed in 1993, Sister Hazel continues to crank out solid music. In 2014, they released “20 Stages, ” a CD and DVD compilation of live recordings and videos culled from 20 of the band’s favorite venues over the past two decades. “20 Stages” also is available in a limited-edition, double-vinyl LP. The band is also wrapping up a new album, “Light in the Dark.”
Saturday night’s crowd got a taste of the new, such as “Could You Kiss Me Without Whiskey,” but cheered at such Sister Hazel classics as “All For You,” “Mandolin Moon,” “Champagne High” and Drew Copeland’s melodic keyboard solo of “This Kind of Love.”
Block, Copeland, Ryan Newell (lead guitar), Jeff Beres (bass) and Mark Trojanowski (drums) epitomize everything that is right about Gainesville.
Oct. 7, 2015: Shadow Health on the Move
Shadow Health, whose unique storefront offices and oversized aquarium often attract window watchers on Southwest 1st Avenue, will soon be moving from one side of downtown Gainesville to the other. As of Jan. 1, 2016, the software developer for nursing and allied-health educational programs will occupy the former Grooveshark space in Union Street Station.
“The new offices will give us room to expand in size, personnel and staff,” Shadow Health CFO Patrick Bizub told gainesvilledowntown.com on Tuesday. “The McGurns gave us an excellent offer to join them in their building, and we’re excited about it.”
McGurn Management Co., owned by Ken and Linda McGurn, operates a number of commercial and residential properties in and around downtown Gainesville. The company has been seeking a tenant to fill the vacant 10,500-square-foot office suite on the second floor of Union Street Station since Grooveshark shut down earlier this year.
Shadow Health and its nearly 60 employees currently have about 6,000 square feet in the former Rice Hardware building at 15 SW 1st Ave. The company opened there in 2011 and expanded two years later, but now finds itself outgrowing the space.
Shadow Health, led by co-founder and CEO David Massias, began with six nursing schools utilizing its proprietary software program. Today, about 50,000 graduate and undergraduate nursing students at some 800 schools throughout the United States and Canada (and as far away as Africa) use the product to learn how to accurately assess patients’ healthcare needs.
Relocating to Union Street Station, at 201 SE 2nd Ave., carries several advantages for Shadow Health. Not only is it a larger space for growth, it is already wired for a technology firm, uses solar electricity, has more restrooms and includes parking for employees in the adjacent parking garage, also operated by the McGurns.
“We love downtown and we truly wanted to stay here,” Bizub said. “We like the vibe. A large percentage of our employees ride their bikes to work.”
Shadow Health’s lease at its current location doesn’t expire until the end of the year, but Nautilus Realty posted two large “For Lease” signs on the building on Tuesday, raising eyebrows of passersby. Bizub said Shadow Health has just about outgrown the building, which his company extensively renovated.
“It’s a great space, an eclectic space that’s served us well,” Bizub said. “But it’s also an old building with old problems.”
Oct. 5, 2015: Cathy DeWitt’s Big B-Day
Cathy DeWitt received the best birthday gift possible on Sunday when the Stetson Kennedy Foundation presented her with its annual Fellow Man & Mother Earth Award during a ceremony at the Civic Media Center. “He’s my hero. He should be everybody’s hero,” DeWitt said about Kennedy, the award’s namesake who was an author, folklorist and staunch human-rights activist before his death in 2011.
Sandra Parks, William Stetson Kennedy’s widow, gave DeWitt the award on the singer/songwriter’s birthday and one day before Kennedy would have turned 99. The crowd of 60 was rewarded with a performance by DeWitt’s five-women band, Patchwork.
DeWitt knew Kennedy the final decade of his life and even wrote a song about him called “Stetson and Superman.” One verse begins, “It was Superman on the airwaves, but Stetson was the hero on the ground…”
To anyone who knew Kennedy, the lyrics don’t need explaining. To the uninitiated, Kennedy took it upon himself to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups near the end of World War II. Kennedy approached producers of the popular Superman radio program and proposed a storyline in which the caped superhero battles the evil forces of the KKK. Sixteen episodes were broadcast under the “Clan of The Fiery Cross” title.
In his 1954 book “The Klan Unmasked” (known originally as “I Rode With the Ku Klux Klan”), Kennedy detailed his undercover work and exposed the KKK to authorities. Kennedy received death threats and his home on Lake Beluthahatchee in St. Johns County was firebombed. According to DeWitt, Kennedy had to leave the country for awhile. Nonetheless, he continued to champion causes that drove his life of activism.
“He was working for human rights until the day he died,” DeWitt said.
DeWitt has followed Kennedy’s passion for causes by giving of herself as a folk musician. In 1995, she joined the pioneering Arts in Medicine program at Shands, where she has helped transform the hospital environment and experiences of patients. For several years, DeWitt hosted the radio show “Across the Prairie” on WUFT-FM. She also is a tireless member of several local bands that have played in benefits to support the environment, arts and human rights.
On DeWitt’s Stetson Kennedy Foundation Fellow Man & Mother Earth Award plaque, the inscription salutes her “for the inspiration and understanding that her work communicates.”
DeWitt’s husband and fellow musician Rob Rothschild is rather proud of his wife.
“Cathy selflessly gives herself to the community and has been doing so for 30 years.”
In 2009, Stetson Kennedy donated his extensive personal library to the Civic Media Center. Visitors to the CMC, at 433 S. Main St., can browse the collection of more than 2,300 books. The titles are available on the Civic Media Center website.
As of this past weekend, the CMC is also home to the Travis Fristoe Zine Library. The collection honors the memory of Fristoe, who worked tirelessly to grow and promote zines and zine culture in Gainesville.
Sept. 23, 2015: Whirlwind Weekend
Fall is in the air. Well, ok, maybe it’s not. Although the calendar says today is the first day of autumn, so far only a few sycamore leaves have floated to the ground around Gainesville. But it is starting to “feel” like fall. The Tennessee Volunteers come to town on Saturday for their annual showdown with the undefeated Gators (3-0) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
In downtown Gainesville, the change of seasons will be refreshing not only from a weather standpoint but from a business standpoint as more people visit the area to see what’s new and different. This week is a great week to explore downtown. Things will be hopping on Friday with the monthly Artwalk taking place from 7-10 p.m. at 18 locations in and around Gainesville. For a list of the September venues, visit the Artwalk Gainesville website.
While strolling the downtown streets and checking out the art, be sure to drop by the Free Fridays Concert Series taking place from 8-10 p.m. at Lot 10, the city parking area at the corner of SW 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street. This week’s music is provided by The Shambles, a local classic-rock cover band.
If you haven’t seen the crowd-pleasing play “Peter and the Starcatcher” on the Hippodrome’s main stage yet, this will be the final weekend of performances. And on Sunday, noted author Ilyasah Al-Shabazz speaks at 2:30 at the Alachua Headquarters Library. She is the third daughter of civil rights activists Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz and wrote the memoir “Growing Up X.”
Sept. 16, 2015: Crossing the Intersection
We’re glad you joined us on the corner of University & Main, the blog area of gainesvilledowntown.com. We’re still trying to figure things out involving website design (what’s a plug-in anyway?!), so please be patient until we announce our official launch in Fall 2015. Why call our blog University & Main? If you know anything about Gainesville — and we’re sure you do — you know that the intersection of University Avenue and Main Street is at the very heart of downtown Gainesville. At gainesvilledowntown.com, we intend to be at the center of all things happening in the downtown area.
Defining downtown Gainesville in terms of geography can be a little tricky. Some people would argue that downtown extends only a few blocks in each direction from University and Main. After all, that’s the area where many of the restaurants, clubs, businesses and government offices are located. For our sake, however, “downtown” Gainesville is much more extensive, stretching south past the new Depot Park, north to beyond Eighth Avenue, east to Waldo Road, and west pretty much to the University of Florida campus. Anything that happens within that area is fair game for gainesvilledowntown.com.
You can expect to read articles from the Duckpond neighborhood (northeast), the Porters Community (southwest), the Sweetwater Branch/Southeast Historic District (southeast) and the Pleasant Street District (northwest). All are within walking distance of University and Main. We will provide you with stories about the people and places and events that make each of these areas unique but with emphasis on the downtown core, where most people gather and socialize.
On the other hand, downtown Gainesville should not be defined solely by geography. At gainesvilledowntown.com, we will define downtown Gainesville by its vibrancy and uniqueness. If you have a story to share or want to suggest a story idea, we’re all ears. Send us an email.