a performing and teaching company

Key West

Read The Final Installment! July 14
Read The Fourth Installment! July 9
Read The Third Installment! July 2
Read The Second Installment! June 24
June 16, 2017. The adventure begins flying into Key West. Only one 50-lb. checked bag allowed!The airport’s runway, located on the southeast end of the island, is only 4,801 feet. Landings can be abrupt. Ours was! We landed with a thud. This offbeat Welcome message greets the arrivals.A quick cab ride to the other side of the island takes minutes. Do not expect to be in a car much. Walking and biking are the preferred modes of transportation here. The residency has given each of us–am here with two other artists, both painters–a bicycle and lock for the month. It’s a one speed bike. No gears to switch. No handbrakes. Given the flat topography the bike is perfect. And what fun it is to ride and explore the charming and impressive streets. Key West is the southernmost point in the continental U.S., approximately 90 miles north of Cuba. Residents call themselves “conchs,” a reference to the past, when Bahamian immigrants called this place home. It’s a quirky and beautiful island with a distinctive laid-back and friendly vibe. Pre-Columbian history: the Calusa Indians lived here. Ponce de León was most likely the first European to visit the island in 1521. When the Spanish colonized Florida it became a fishing village. The British took over in 1763 and exiled the Spaniards and Native Americans to Cuba. 1780s, back in Spanish control. U.S. businessmen invested in the island (John Simonton, John Whitehead, John Fleming, all who have streets named for them in the Old Town). 1869-1890s it was Florida’s largest and wealthiest city. It remained isolated until 1912 when linked with the mainland via the Overseas Railroad. This cottage on Ashe Street with the green shutters is where I’m staying. Have the whole top floor. Ceilings are low–it’s sloped over the bed–but I fit and there’s plenty of room to stretch and even choreograph! A desk faces the street and there’s a comfortable easy chair from which I’m reading about Key West’s history. A view of the side of the house with a renown mango tree. The mangoes–called peach mangoes or referred to as Goode mangoes, for the family that lived in the property for a very long time–are noted for not having any stringy pulp. They cut like butter and are ripening now! Found four on the ground this morning. People have been known to jump the fence for them. These beautiful red flowers are royal poinciana. The windows of a building are often referred to as the “eyes” of the structure. Eyebrow houses, an architectural style unique to the Keys and the Caribbean, got their name due to the overhanging porch roof that partially obscures second floor windows. This protects them from direct sunlight and rain like one’s eyebrows protect our eyes. The design was used to lower the internal temperature long before a/c. Circa 1874, this house! Click to expand.The Studios of Key West is a professional non-profit cultural organization celebrating its tenth year as a multidisciplinary presenter, arts center, and artist residency provider. The Studios was established in 2006, and serves as the cultural center of the arts in Key West. The Studios is driven by a distinct cultural and educational mission to support creative community development, nurture artists and the artistic process, while forging collaborations that celebrate and advance Key West’s unique sense of place. TSKW promotes multidisciplinary arts, provides artist-in-residency opportunities for artists worldwide, and maintains long-term studio spaces dedicated to Florida Keys artists. Through classes, performances, lectures, gallery exhibits, partnership projects, and special events, TSKW unites Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and world-renowned artists with local audiences and art practitioners at all stages of their creative careers. A rooster from the current Members show on exhibit and an actual one, a common sight all over the island. Beautiful Emma Street, part of the Truman Annex, near the Little White House, a winter White House for Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.

June 24, 2017: Second Installment

Today, Sunday June 24, is the beginning of the 10th day in residence, counting the arrival. It’s almost unfair to keep track like this, as it means it’s a third over. I have only just arrived. Where has the time gone? Biking, exploring, shooting, meeting people, collaborating, making friends. A week ago, before Tropical Storm Cindy headed out toward Louisiana, it came by without too much warning. Had planned to check out some new areas but the sky indicated something was about to change. Plus the woman next to me on the plane’s husband was a meteorologist and had told her Sunday night was going to be something. So I kept local and shot on Ashe Street, right across from the cottage. This photo was taken an hour before the sky opened and the rains began. The sun came out for a few minutes too, before the wind and rains lashed the island. This brief video, Ashe Street, showcases the stage-like house across the way. It’s actually a garage in the front that opens up.

After being driven to the New Town to shop for groceries at dear old Publix I visited he Key West Wildlife Center. This great blue heron, even though it’s all white, is particular to southern Florida. The iguanas are rampant on the island, the kind of problem that many communities have with deer. It is legal to shoot them, but not to maim them. A vigorous debate between whether and how to eradicate them and allowing them to stay untouched–they do not have a natural predator–is happening on the island. The ones I saw today were two to three times this size, on Stock Island. They are on the golf courses, the Florida Key Community College’s campus, the homes built alongside the canals. For one Key West local, they’re akin to New York’s rats. Fooling around in the Wildlife Center, it was the first day of summer, I made this little video. A highlight of my time here is the nature preserve I stumbling upon off of Atlantic Avenue, near Higgs Beach. The tiny preserve is simply a short trail which empties into the ocean, passing through the mangroves on the way to a rocky authentic Key West shore, as opposed to the beaches that have been manufactured with sand. This, coupled with the fact that low tide is occurring mid-day, has magnetized me to the water. A second day in a row out there caused patchy burns on the tops of my hands and feet and parts of the back, neck and shoulders. I have shellacked 30 SPF on since arriving, but after hours in the sun, re-application is a must. Will continue to pursue a project there. Ballet class at the Coffee Mill Dance Studio allowed me to meet several local dancers, teachers and choreographers from the island’s dance community, all most welcoming and generous. Drinks on the beach at one of Key West’s many bars offering a Happy Hour is a common occurrence. This coming Wednesday the Studios hosts a Meet the Artists in Residence Potluck On The Deck event. In their words: “This event brings our “Studios family” together at our Ashe Street cottage to celebrate the most recent artists, coming from near and far, to grace us with their talent and share their work and aspirations for their time on the island.” I will speak about my work and show some excerpts on video. Last year, exactly a year ago, I was explaining my work at the Salon at Maison Dora Maar. How fortunate to have another incredible residency to soak up a year later with another opportunity to engage with a vibrant and unique community! Fort Zachary State Park boasts one of the best beaches, plus the historic fort and moat, on the island. Intend to spend time here and not just swimming! I am out in the sun each day choreographing and sketching out ideas, trying things out for the camera. A culminating event will occur on Wednesday, July 12 at The Studios of Key West’s theater. The program is called Snapshots: A Program of Dance and will feature live performance, dance films, and new collaborative work with guests artists from the island. More about that in next week’s installment! I leave you with a ripe mango, a daily gift! Happy to share these with you!

July 2, 2017. I’ve been developing Street, a site-specific dance being filmed in the street.

Meeting and rehearsing with islander Kyla Piscopink has been great. Street is about exploring a technical, virtuosic construct, abstract choreography, in a pedestrian environment that is constantly affected by walkers, bikers, and cars. It’s only 85 degrees, on average, in the afternoons, but there’s typically not much cloud coverage and well, it’s just hot. We’ve been working in the afternoons but this weekend have started to work in the morning when the sun is masked behind this building!

Key West has become intoxicating. It’s hard to describe the simple joy of riding through the empty streets of Old Town at night, when the temperature is ideal, a breeze against the warmth. Today is the 15th day, half way through the residency and the number of friends has swollen to two hands. My skin color has darkened. I am living as much as I can outdoors, specifically by and in the water.This great photo is of Bree, a volunteer who makes sure we have everything we need, and artist Lori Larusso. Lori made these banana dolphins for the On The Deck program, a subject matter she has also painted! Her paintings take one on a tremendous journey, from her technical, compositional, and artistic brilliance to the provocative conceptual ideas underpinning them all. Last Wednesday we had the On The Deck program, at which the public was invited to our cottage’s back deck to enjoy a social potluck and meet the artists. Fried chicken from Dion’s, a local island favorite, is attached to the Mobil station. That was brought to the night along with the requisite key lime pie from another artist friend and a bowl of cut fresh mango, thanks to the bounty right here in the yard. Artist Joseph Sweeney, a plein air master teaching workshops on the island, showed his work and spoke, as did Lori. I decided to improvise a little instead of immediately talking. Seated in the back corner of the deck the woman next to me, after being introduced by the Marketing Director, says: “I think you’re supposed to go up there and speak.” Unbeknownst to her, and all, I had already started an improvisation. I have not taken a day off yet and there are multiple other projects being filmed. Will post more soon! Yes we have mangoes!

Sunday, July 9. The final Sunday with just one week left. So much happened this week, starting with a terrific 4th of July celebration. This beach towel and a perfectly blue sky made for a natural flag! The evening of the 4th I entertained pool-side at a spirited gathering. These snapshots were taken from a friend’s phone. After a terrific BBQ of portabella mushroom burgers, grilled corn, watermelon salad and blueberry cake we watched Key West’s fireworks from the front porch. This week is the culminating event of the residency, a performance on Wednesday, the 12th. This is a detail of the hand-cut lettered poster, designed by artist Lori Larusso, on The Studio’s website. The full image can be seen HERE. Kyla and I have continued working on the development of Street, which will screen this week. Here’s Kyla with her beautiful lines by a well-loved mural in the Bahama Village section of Key West. Dancer Leigh Pujado and I have been working on a separate dance film which no one has seen any footage from yet! Leigh, a longtime islander, is originally from Nebraska! Skin, a third film project in development, is another exciting collaboration. My partner in art is choreographer, aerialist, performer Mara Neimanis. Skin will also screen in a preview format this week. These three women are all stars on the island, all teachers, performers and choreographers. How fortunate to not only work with them professionally but develop wonderful friendships with each. This morning’s rainbow appeared after a strong deluge. Storms come without warning and leave in a similar fashion. In the blink of an eye all is dry again! The mangoes are ripe now and even without the rain are falling every few minutes. An embarrassment of riches to have so many! Friends leave with many in tow. So much more to share, but the day awaits! Here’s a little doodling from yesterday morning. Enjoy!

July 14, 2017. Wrapping up a phenomenal residency.

With one of Lori Larusso’s paintings in the window of the Harrison Gallery. These Blue Sand Crabs were hanging out along the path to the ocean, waiting for low tide. By the end of our time we could not keep up with the bounty of mangoes, giving to neighbors and strangers alike. The construction workers fixing the sidewalk on Southard really appreciated a bag brought over! Happy Hour at Salute’s is a favorite spot among islanders. Here with my sister-in-law Eleni visiting from Athens, Greece, Stefanos, collaborator Leigh Pujado and other friends. Hard to see the beautiful mural here inside the theater at The Studios. Stefanos videotaped the July 12 event, which was a tremendous success. We had to keep adding extra rows of chairs to accommodate the capacity-filled audience. Skin, the film I made in collaboration with artist Mara Neimanis, moved the audience with its intimate portrayal of a conflicted couple. She and the other artists contributed to a robust question and answer session following the screenings. With Lori Larusso after the event. The night was stormy but nothing could rain on our parade after the remarkable night. Lori’s tremendous poster was largely responsible for the super turnout. The iguanas are always around at the cemetery. The beautiful Jewish part of the cemetery. The requisite Florida photo of a pelican. It was amazing to be in the water with it and watch it dive repeatedly and eat just feet from where we were swimming. Another day in paradise at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, where the Atlantic meets the Gulf. Stefanos called it the best beach he has been to in the U.S. With Mara at the airport. How fortunate the residency resulted in the creation of several important artistic collaborations and friendships. Leaving Key West with a full heart and gratitude for the support from so many. What’s in “plane” view: Key West is a most special, vibrant place and I cannot wait to return to do more work. Stay tuned…new chapters are already being designed! The Beachcomber at Work!