Musicians, storytellers and visual artists all gathered to showcase their work on Saturday at the 3rd Annual Hannibal Square Heritage Center Folk Art and Craft Festival in Winter Park.
Artists sat under shaded booths all day to showcase sculptures, up-cycled clothing, paintings and local soul food. Families and children wandered from booth to booth gazing and tasting.
Peter Schreyer, executive director of the Crealdé School of Art, expressed his opinion about the value of folk art.
“Everybody can relate to it,” Schreyer said. “It reflects the everyday experiences people have, and it can be on canvas or made with a piece of junk.”
Of the notable artists present were the Florida Highwaymen including Mary Ann Carroll and the oldest of them all, R.A. “Roy” McLendon.
“I've been painting for over 50 years,” Carroll said. “One thing I've learned is that you can survive if you try. I'm the only woman of the Highwaymen.”
“I was so happy to meet Mary Ann Carroll,” Pina Covelli of Maitland gushed. “She signed my painting!”
Covelli walked away from Carroll's booth with a canvas boasting Florida's vibrant evergreens.
Aside from visual arts, the festival also featured music groups including the husband and wife African folklore and drumming team OrisiRisi.
“OrisiRisi means 'different things' in Yoruba,” Tutu Harrell said while adorned in a traditional sage -colored dress. “Our music represents all the cultures and religions of my country, Nigeria.”
OrisiRisi's lyrics typically express cultural values and ethics, such as respecting one's elders.
“Respect one another regardless of where you are from, because everyone is a human being,” Harrell said.
Tying in with African American and minority culture was the Florida Slavery Museum hosted by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farm workers' rights activism group. The museum consisted of posters detailing the stories of mistreated farm workers, as well as a truck filled with court cases and photographs plastered on the inside of the walls. Oscar Otzoy of Guatemala is a farm worker and member of the coalition.
“I worked in the fields for many years and received low wages,” Otzoy said. “I began to get involved in changing the industry, and now I'm seeing the changes happening. My friends are benefitting from the strength of the organization.”
Heritage Center's assistant manager and organizer of the art festival, Barbara Chandler, had been submersed in preparation for the event for the past year. The festival's purpose was to reflect the African American and minority cultures that have influenced Winter Park's history, Chandler explained.
“I had a clear vision of what we would like to represent the community with,” Chandler said. “Florida consists of so many blended cultures. Last year's festival had a Caribbean flavor and this year has an Aztec component with the children's art parade.”
“We're enjoying this [festival] a lot. There are lots of activities and we just appreciate art,” Ahtziri Fitz of Mexico said as she watched her five-year-old daughter, Efrén, put on the Aztec hat she made during the art parade.
Chandler explained next year's plans of gripping the 50-year-old and up crowd with step dance and senior activities.
“Sure, they like watching the children's parade, but I want something that connects them in a little more,” Chandler said.
Hannibal Square Heritage Center is Crealdé School of Art's second campus and hosts cultural art classes for all ages. The Center's next celebration will be for Winter Park's 125th anniversary from May 11 to September 1 and will feature an exhibition titled “The Sage Project: Hannibal Square Elders Tell Their Stories,” in which Winter Park's eldest members showcase their experiences through photographs and storytelling.
For more information about classes or upcoming events visit the Crealdé School of Art's website: Crealdé School of Art.