Tuesday, February 28, 2012

NWSA 25th Anniversary Celebrates Their Rising Stars with an Evening of Dance, Visual Arts, Music & Theater

New World School of the Arts’ 25th Anniversary celebration has begun! The school has prepared one of the most anticipated events & performance calendars in its young history, for your enjoyment. With a warm welcome, the excitement at New World School of the Arts escalates as they explore new partnerships and alliances that not only benefit the students and supporters, but also brings a renewed level of energy to Miami.

As a 25th Anniversary spotlight NWSA presents The Rising Stars showcase; a three-part program celebrating the talents of its high school and college students in both the performing and visual arts. It begins with an exhibition of artworks by NWSA, followed by a performance of dance, music and theater and concludes with an evening gala in celebration of yet another year of academic and artistic excellence.

Also in celebration of the 25th year anniversary, NWSA college will launch their theater season in a grand and daring scale, as it presents the Tony-award winning musical Spring Awakening, based on the play by Frank Wedekind. Directed by NWSA theater faculty and renowned actor James Randolph, this musical highlights the artistic talent of the college sophomores, juniors and seniors.

A controversial play, due in part to its sexual connotations in the western culture, Randolph notes that:
“This play has had a life in Universities because it deals with those issues that directly impact the youth of this country. In fact it was produced at New World School of the Arts in 1994. Having been familiar with it in graduate school but seeing it performed, I was truly engaged and intrigued.”

The Knight Arts Challenge (In the Spotlight) (Meet the Artist)

This month’s spotlight focuses on The Knight Arts Challenge and Dennis Scholl who oversees the foundation’s national Arts Program, including the Knights Arts Challenge and Random Acts of Culture series.

The challenge, a program of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is a communitywide contest helping to transform South Florida through the arts.

In just four years, Knight Foundation has invested close to $19 million in Arts Challenge projects – an amount that local arts supporters are doubling with matching funds. The 2011 challenge has invested $2.9 million in projects that will bring the arts into people’s everyday lives, through opera performances in unexpected places, pop-up sculptures on Miami Beach, concerts downtown and in Miami-Dade parks and artist-lead bus tours of Miami’s lesser known points of interest.
Many of the projects funded tell Miami’s unique story, by portraying coral as a living art form in public exhibits, expanding an artist-in-residence program in the Everglades and creating a mentorship program for African-American playwrights. These endeavors develop a recognizable “Miami” style of dance by launching a new dance company and offering opportunities for local and international choreographers.

Probably the most poignant of the Challenge’s fulfilled objectives is to provide tomorrow’s artists and arts enthusiasts with enriching experiences – such as a chance to meet one of Haiti’s most prominent artists, be mentored by an author of teen novels or participate in art institute classes. Even the ability to introduce more Hispanic masters to South Florida, through a theater festival, exhibits and performances at the Cuban Museum.

Big ideas that have already become a reality include the Borscht Film Festival, helping to forge a new cinematic identity for Miami, The LegalArt Residency, Miami’s only live/work residency for artists, Sleepless Night Miami Beach, where tens of thousands enjoyed 12 hours of nonstop culture, just to name a few.

The best part…they are getting ready to do it AGAIN! From February 21 – March 19, 2012 South Floridians can apply for a share of millions in funding through the fourth annual Knight Arts Challenge. The community-wide contest is committed to finding and funding the best ideas for the arts in South Florida. There are only three rules for applying: The idea is about the arts; the project takes place in or benefits South Florida; and applicants must find other funding to match the Knight Foundation grant. Individuals, nonprofits and for profit organizations are eligible to apply.

Leading the initiative for the
Arts Challenge
The person leading the helm of the Arts Challenge is Dennis Scholl. He joined the Knight Arts Foundation in 2009.  “This contest is about innovative ideas, artistic excellence and inspiring our community. The best projects will help weave culture into the everyday fabric of this region.  We want to hear from everyone with a great idea,” said Dennis Scholl.
As a contemporary art collector for over 30 years, he has had a long involvement in philanthropy in the visual arts. Over the last dozen years, he was the founding chair of the Guggenheim Photography Committee, the Tate American Acquisitions Committee and the Miami Art Museum Collectors Council. Each group raised funds and acquired contemporary art for their respective museums.
He has also been a board member of the Miami Art Museum, Aspen Art Museum, North Miami Museum of Contemporary Art and the chair of Locust Projects, an alternative art space.
For his philanthropic service in the Miami art community, he was honored with a Shining Star by the Arts & Business Council, the Big Heart in the Arts award by the American Heart Association and the Mover & Shaker award by Miami Today.
A three-time regional Emmy nominee for his film making and on-camera work, he wrote and co-produced a short film “Sunday’s Best” that recently won the Suncoast Emmy Award, and was accepted by numerous film festivals including the Aspen Shortfest and Cinequest.
He was an early leader in the redeveloment of the South Beach historic Art Deco District and the Wynwood Arts District.
Previously he was a practicing attorney and a C.P.A. Scholl received his bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and a law degree from the University of Miami. He and his wife Debra live in Miami Beach, Florida.

Have an idea?
Visit www.KnightArts.org through March 19th. The two-question application is designed to be simple to attract applicants who aren’t traditional grant seekers.

As part of Aroundtown’s “Meet the Artist” series, we will feature a selection of Knight Arts Challenge
recipients from 2008 – 2011 as their projects come to fruition.
To introduce the series….a selection of 2011 winners: Festival Celebrates Overtown’s Rich Artistic Heritage

Project: Overtown Rhythm and Arts Festival
The Overtown Rhythm and Arts Festival will celebrate the musical and artistic heritage of Overtown with an annual street festival that draws top acts. Organizers, originally part of a Leadership Miami team, will set up workshops to organize fundraising, marketing and community partnerships. The resulting annual festival of music, art, food and local vendors will draw increasing numbers of diverse audiences, higher-profile acts and sponsors.

Project: Aqua/Cultural Transformation: The New Miami Science Museum
Coral Morphologic has teamed with the Miami Science Museum to build excitement for its arrival downtown at Museum Park by collaborating on a multimedia art-science project at Miami International Airport. This public project will promote the world-class aquarium exhibits that will be central to the new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, to be completed at the end of 2014. High-definition screens will be installed in airport terminals and waiting areas to portray fluorescent corals as living art forms and icons of the city. These installations will engage, relax and entrance travelers of all ages, while reinforcing Miami’s position as a gateway to the coral reefs of the Caribbean. Additionally, coral aquascapes also will be shown on the New World Symphony’s 1,700 square foot outdoor projection wall during a night of underwater film.

Project: Unexpected Opera in Unexpected Places
Florida Grand Opera will bring opera to new audiences by
presenting new or updated operas in a unique, intimate space once a year. This project aims to attract younger audiences to bold and modern productions in nontraditional venues. The opera company will find new production spaces and create a custom marketing strategy, following up with new patrons and establishing a model that can be replicated by other opera and performing arts groups.

Project: MOCA Art Institute at the Museum of
Contemporary Art
Recipient: Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami
The Museum of Contemporary Art will inspire teens to become lifelong learners and lovers of art by creating an institute to provide free year-round programs in art history, museum studies, studio art, design, creative writing and more. The MOCA Art Institute will offer enriching experiences for thousands of students through an array of comprehensive educational programs in art and communications that use engaging curriculum and a dynamic museum environment to build skills, develop aesthetic analysis and promote creativity through exposure, experience and interdisciplinary discussion. Instruction includes an after-school program for teens, summer journalism and photojournalism courses for inner-city youth and the teen-produced MOCAZINE, an arts and literary journal.

For a full description of all the recipients please visit

Wine & Culinary Celebration

At Museum of Discovery and Science, March 30

On Friday, March 30, 2012, Museum of Discovery and Science will host its 17th Annual Wine & Culinary Celebration, made possible by Bank of America. All proceeds from this spectacular event benefit the Museum.  The big news this year is we now have twice the space because of the EcoDiscovery Center expansion, which means more attendees will get to enjoy a larger selection of restaurants, wineries, distilleries and breweries. An estimated 1,800 guests are expected to attend this year’s Celebration.

The Wine & Culinary Celebration will showcase a sequence of wine with food pairings, each bound to delight, educate and entertain guests and their palates. And this year, for the first time, the Celebration will feature an array of champagne, spirits and craft beers.  More than 40 of South Florida’s top restaurants and chefs will be represented, as well as wines from around the world, courtesy of Southern Wine and Spirits. The event also features a silent auction, tasting seminars in the new learning labs, and a complimentary Reidel wine glass for every guest.

The evening will start off with an exclusive VIP Martini Reception from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. VIP guests will enjoy a champagne tasting with champagne expert, “Champagne Wayne” Ballard, paired with a culinary demonstration featuring one of the Chef Spotlight chefs. This year, Chef Spotlight will shine on Chef Angelo Elia of Casa D’Angelo’s, Chef Sean McDonald of ilios at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, and Chef Chi Chan of Truluck’s.  The VIP evening concludes with exclusive access to the ultra chic Hilton Fort Lauderdale VIP Lounge to eat, drink and dance under the stars from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m

Highlighting the evening are the following South Florida top restaurants  & more to come!
3030 Ocean, A Thierry’s Catering and Event Design, Big City Tavern, Bistro Mezzaluna, Bravo Ristorante, Café Ala Carte, Café Vico, Capital Grille, Casa D’Angelo Ristorante, Cookies by Design, Crepemaker, Grateful Palate, Hey Cupcake!, Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-six,  ilios @ Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, Johnny V’s, Las Olas Wine Café, The Melting Pot,  Michele’s Dining Lounge, PL8 Kitchen, ROK:BRGR, Rocco’s Tacos, SA1A, Sea Level Restaurant and Ocean Bar, Sette Bello, Solita’s, Steak 954, Susie’s Scrumptious Sweets, Tarpon Bend, Texas de Brazil, Timpano, TK Oriental Fine Foods, Inc., Tower Club, Tundra, Truluck’s, Via Luna and Yolo Restaurant.

Tickets are available for
VIP $150 & general admission $85
For advance tickets:

Fish-Food & Family Fun at Deering Seafood Festival on the Bay

Escape to an island celebration at the 8th annual Deering Seafood Festival and savor Florida’s freshest fish and seafood prepared in an infinite number of delectable dishes. Virgin Island stilt walkers dressed in their colorful costumes tower above steel drum musicians as they welcome guests of all ages to the historic Deering Estate at Cutler. What keeps people returning each year, and others eager to attend for the first time, is the wholesome family experience, delicious food, and on-going live entertainment that has become the key to the
festival’s success.

The bar has been set high for this year’s event on Sunday, March 25. After being selected one of the Top 100 Events in 2011 (#7 in the food category) and chosen one of Florida’s Top Ten Food Festivals in 2010 by BizBash Media, the staff and volunteers at the Deering Estate Foundation have been working overtime to keep the festival unique.

Set on the biggest backyard on Biscayne Bay, on-going entertainment includes the Pan Paradise Steel Band and and Caribbean Crew each performing their reggae/calypso sound, and the popular free-spirited Bahamian Junkanoo musicians who weave throughout the crowd.
Under the big top tent, sponsored by Whole Foods Market Coral Gables, local celebrity chefs conduct cooking demonstrations and share their unique recipes. Chefs Giorgio Rapicavoli (Eating Room), Simon Stowjanovic (Altamare) and the Executive Chef of Islamorada’s Green Turtle Inn prepare their seafood specialties. During the food samplings, the chef’s hold an informal Q and A. This year the winner of Johnson & Wales University’s Seafood Competition, demos the winning recipe at the festival. Fellow culinary students work alongside the chefs and offer assistance in food preparation. Following all cooking demos, a sommelier from Crown Wine & Spirits discusses wine  pairings and offers tastings.

Throughout the day seafood markets, restaurants and caterers such as Golden Rule Seafood Market, Whole Foods Market,  Eating Room, River Oyster Bar, Black Point Ocean Grill, Imlee Indian Bistro, Shibui Japanese Restaurant, Iggy’s Street Wok and Paella Party prepare scrumptious seafood including shrimp, lobster, oysters, conch, fish and crab prepared in a variety of ways. For land lovers Sports Grill is on hand with their famous wings and burgers.
To experience all that is the Deering Seafood Festival, save time for pontoon boat rides aboard the Pelican Skipper to Chicken Key, explore the Artists’ Village featuring local artists and artisans crafters with original paintings, photography, crafts and jewelry, and enjoy one of the nature hikes and tours of the historic Stone House and Richmond Cottage.

In the Lil’Shrimp Kids Zone is the Deering Discovery Cove, featuring Five Oceans of the World, created by the estate’s Educational and Interpretive Staff, with a hands-on adventure. The Kids Zone also offers unlimited fun on the inflatables, and serves kid-friendly food.

The Deering Estate at Cutler 16701 SW 72 Ave., Palmetto Bay. Admission: Adults $15 in advance online/ $25 at the gate, Children 4-14 year $5, and Foundation Members Free, includes park entrance and all activities, excluding food, drink, pontoon rides and rock wall, from10am-6pm.
305.235.1668 ext. 263
Proceeds from the event benefit the Deering Estate Foundation.

Upcoming Arsht Center Events:

March 20 – 25, 2012
Come Fly Away is the new Broadway musical that brings together the legendary music of Frank Sinatra and the creative vision of Tony Award-winning legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp (Movin’ Out), a fan favorite with Miami audiences who, in 2008, collaborated with Miami City Ballet and Elvis Costello on Nightspot which had its world premiere at the Adrienne Arsht Center. This one-of-a-kind experience combines the seductive vocals of “Ol’ Blue Eyes” with the sizzling sound of a live on-stage big band and the visceral thrill of Tharp’s choreography. As 15 of the world’s best dancers tell the story of four couples falling in and out of love, you will experience the exhilaration of a first kiss, the excitement of a first dance, and the bittersweet moments of a first good-bye in a world of sparkling romance and astonishing beauty. Come Fly Away features a score of beloved Sinatra classics including “Fly Me to the Moon,” “My Way,” “New York, New York” and “Witchcraft”.

LANG LANG, Solo Piano Recital
May 17, 2012 AT 8 P.M.
As the grand finale of the classical Masterworks Season the Arsht Center features a one-night-only solo piano recital by the inimitable classical music superstar Lang Lang.
Heralded as the “hottest artist on the classical music planet” by The New York Times, the 28 year-old Lang Lang has become an international phenomenon, playing sold out recitals and concerts in every major city in the world. In 2008, he was seen by more than five billion people when he performed in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. He has played for numerous international dignitaries and was recently invited to perform for President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jin-tao at the White House State Dinner. The superstar pianist’s influence and status in China has helped to inspire over 40 million Chinese children to learn to play piano – a phenomenon dubbed by NBC’s The Today Show as “the LANG LANG effect.” Testimony to his success, Time magazine included Lang Lang in its 2009 list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.

MIDORI, Violin
Osmo Vänskä, Music Director March 10, 2012 AT 8 P.M.
As a part of the Masterworks Season Midori celebrates the 30th anniversary of her professional debut performing with the Minnesota Orchestra as guest soloist in Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor. The violinist is recognized not only for the evolution and scope of her meteoric career -- which took off when the legendary conductor Zubin Mehta invited her at the age of 11 to be a surprise guest soloist for the New York Philharmonic-- but also as one of the most dazzlingly gifted performers before the public. Midori continues to enthrall audiences worldwide with her impressive technique and increasingly mature interpretations of violin masterworks.
The Minnesota Orchestra currently led by esteemed Music Director Osmo Vänskä, is widely considered one of America’s most treasured symphonic ensembles. Renowned for its extraordinary music making, the orchestra boasts a distinguished history of riveting performances in the greatest concert halls of the world.


Cavalia’s all-new spectacle, comes to Miami March 13, 2012

Cavalia, whose horse-and-human production received standing ovations and critical acclaim in Miami in 2010, announced today that, in partnership with the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, it will make Miami its second US tour stop for its all-new show. Set to open March 13, 2012, Odysseo will be performed at the same site as in 2010 – Bicentennial Park in downtown Miami – but this time under a White Big Top more than twice the size.

Surrounded by awe-inspiring projections and visual effects, some 70 horses and 55 artists embark together on a journey, travelling through amazing natural landscapes. “The horse has been a partner of humanity throughout the ages,” explained Normand Latourelle, President and Artistic Director of Cavalia. “It’s thanks to horses that humans imagined they could travel to the ends of the earth. This powerful and natural wonder of an animal, enabled mankind to bridge cultures, to create alliances amongst people, and thus to freely roam the planet. He has been one of the most important instruments in the evolution of humanity. This is the essence of Odysseo.”

Cavalia’s new production marries the equestrian arts, stage arts and high-tech theatrical effects at never-before-seen levels. The 80-ton technical grid, as big as that found in the best-equipped permanent theaters in the world, supports lighting, a full-size merry-go-round, and 18 cinema projectors that create high-definition landscape backdrops on screens twice the size of a standard IMAX. These scenes surround the world’s largest touring stage, 27,000 square feet, rendering Odysseo a 5-D mega-production, a feast for the eyes that still succeeds in delivering the spectacular with soul.

Tickets are available under the White Big Top at Bicentennial Park in downtown Miami. You can also go online at cavalia.net or call 1-866-999-8111.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

AT THE HEART OF THE ART in Miami: Laura Bruney

AROUNDTOWN is excited to feature an extraordinary mover and shaker of arts in Miami as our Spotlight and Artist for the month of February.  

The Executive Director of the Arts & Business Council of Miami for more than two decades, Laura Bruney, has helped strengthen South Florida’s cultural community. Under her direction ABC has become a vigorous and effective catalyst for building working partnerships between the corporate & cultural communities.

Since 1985, the Arts & Business Council has been South Florida’s leading service organization for the arts.  Working to “keep the arts in business” by promoting mutually beneficial partnerships between the private sector and non-profit arts groups, Ms. Bruney has created innovative programs which leverage expertise, resources and leadership talent from the business world and direct them to the arts.

Ms. Bruney joined ABC during its second full year of operation and was instrumental in the development of the organization’s vision during its early years. She is credited with creating more than 20 innovative programs and services and generating more than $9 million in resources that benefit the non-profit cultural sector. Under Ms. Bruney’s leadership the Arts & Business Council has expanded by more than 1,000% attracting hundreds of volunteers and community leaders.

When asked why she chose a career as an arts executive, Ms. Bruney replied with passion, “I was a business volunteer for the arts while working at the University of Miami, where I met many artists and fell in love with the energy and creativity behind the scenes.” As a child she was heavily exposed to the arts. Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she recounts, “My parents would take us to museums and cultural events. We even traveled to New York to see Broadway shows.” Ms. Bruney travels extensively and always emphasizes her attraction to the arts, “no matter what city I go to, I always find the museums and cultural destinations to visit. I love the sense of place you get when you invest your time as a cultural tourist.”

Under Ms. Bruney’s leadership, the Arts & Business Council serves as a vigorous and effective catalyst for building working partnerships between Miami’s corporate and cultural communities. They accomplish this with programs that promote voluntarism, build capacity, develop new audiences, strengthen boards and leadership, encourage collaboration and increase networking and outreach. Business professionals interested in the arts can get involved in a myriad of volunteer opportunities including Arts Connection, Business Volunteers for the Arts, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, Arts Board Match, BRAVO: Boomers & Retired Arts Volunteers and the pARTnership Movement.  

According to Michael Spring, Director of the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs, “Ms. Bruney is a vital partner to the Department in providing meaningful and instructive technical assistance to Miami Dade’s burgeoning nonprofit cultural organizations. Under her stellar leadership, ABC Miami innovates important and dynamic ways in which talented and interested business volunteers can access opportunities to participate with arts groups and for arts groups to identify necessary technical expertise to improve their operations or attract prospective board members. For more than 25 years, we have collaborated on many projects from which we have seen direct, measurable growth and improvement in the management quality in the arts.”

Community is very important to Laura Bruney. She was elected to Americans for the Arts Private Sector Council in 2008. Additional involvement includes: serving on the Executive Committee of the Arts Action Alliance, the Miami Beach Women’s Commission, the Coral Gables Chamber Arts Committee and the Miami Beach Chamber Women’s Business Council. She is a graduate of Leadership Miami and the National Arts Strategies Leadership for the Arts.

Ms. Bruney will be honored with an American Red Cross Spectrum for Women award this March. She has also received Miami Today’s Up & Comers Award - Arts & Culture Category, Miami Beach Chamber’s Non-Profit Leadership Award, Who’s Who of American Women, International Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women, Miami Arts Exchange Maxie Recognition Award, and Who’s Who of Women Executives.

Ms. Bruney received a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Miami, School of Business and a Bachelor of Science in Communications from the University of Florida. Prior to her work with the Arts & Business Council Ms. Bruney worked for the University of Miami School of Medicine and with CBS Sports on a freelance basis.
What you may not know is that Laura Bruney herself
is an artist; a professional photographer…
Laura has been an avid photographer for over two decades. Her passion for photography is fulfilled by her search for the glories of nature. “I have stood in awe of sculptured landscapes touched by the emerging light of dawn, the day’s last rays and the haunting glow of moonlight.”

Laura’s favorite subject is landscapes and national parks. She has traveled extensively to photograph the wonders of nature. Many of her images were created during before dawn or right before the last rays of sun are overcome by darkness. “I love being in wild and out-of-the-way places. It is while exploring secluded areas that you get to experience something exceptional.”

She recalls that her passion for photography began when she purchased a camera from a colleague while working at the University of Miami.  On a trip to Europe she took several rolls and fell in love with the art of photography. Subsequently, she joined a photography group, took classes and pursued her hobby avidly. This hobby has produced some gallery shows over the last 5 years and indulges her passion for the art.

“The reason I photograph is to experience the beauty of nature, of genuine untouched places.  Through my camera lens I get to discover the magic and mystery of scenic panoramas and the beauty of the changing light.”


210 SW 2nd St.
Downtown Ft Lauderdale
(954) 524-1818

As if committing to a cuisine weren’t hard enough, it’s even tougher to narrow down entree selections at most restaurants these days with prices remaining high amidst the recession and lower paychecks. The people behind former Riverfront staple, Himmarshee Bar & Grille, knew this and decided to take bold measures -- they scrapped their 14-year-old success story for a totally revamped new concept restaurant focusing on smaller plates and representing an array of global delicacies. South Florida, meet PL8, the best new place to hit downtown Fort Lauderdale since ROK:BRGR settled in last year. 

At PL8, you can expect to find lots of exciting flavor combinations featuring everything from garlicky Italian style meatballs to Korean grilled short-ribs in pineapple ponzu glaze. Utilzing fresh, local ingredients, from the heirloom tomatoes and watercress with the buratta cheese caprese, to the watermelon adorning the fried chicken sliders, the chefs at PL8 always overcompensate for their “small” plates with BIG booming tastes.

Speaking of sliders, PL8 has five varieties and a Thursday special where they’re sold for $2 each. The seared scallop sliders with spicy aioli and house-made purple kimchi will give you that moment of culinary bliss you’ve been missing; the Creekstone Farms beef sliders with ground brisket and
short-rib, topped with raclette cheese, caramelized onions, garlic-herb spread and ketchup will give PL8’s aforementioned burger-slinging
next-door neighbor a run for their money. There’s also shiitake mushroom sliders with spinach, grilled tomato, mozzarella and balsamic aioli, and grilled bratwurst sliders with violet mustard and red potato salad.

My recommendation is to go to PL8 when you want to look like a winner on a first date. With a chill, unpretentious vibe and menu offerings for any kind of eater, whether they possess an adventurous or Plain Jane palate, it will provide the perfect ingredients to jump-start any evening and make a great initial impression based on your restaurant-picking abilities. The interior features plenty of interesting eye-appeal, including an enormous chalkboard wall with inspiring culinary quotations, to add to the charm. The buzz you’ll get from the craft beers and artisanal cocktails will make the experience even more memorable.

Grab a bite at PL8 the next time you find yourself at a loss for where to eat in Lauderdale, and you’ll be pleased by the surprising international choices, as well as the wallet friendly prices. From the rosemary, garlic, and caramelized onion covered brick oven chicken wings, to the pancetta and brussels sprouts pizza, to duck-fat roasted marble potatoes, there will always be something intriguing to try when you dine at this extraordinary new eatery. 

Flamingo Gardens Celebrates 85 Years

Floyd and Jane Wray came to Florida in 1925 and were deeply intrigued with the horticultural possibilities of the subtropical locale. They purchased 320 acres of land on Long Key in the Everglades, and on January 2, 1927, Floyd L. Wray incorporated Flamingo Groves, beginning what was to become one of the first botanical gardens and tourist attractions in South Florida. 85 years later, Flamingo Gardens remains a gem in South Florida, and celebrates its legacy.

When Floyd Wray and his business partner Frank Stirling founded the botanical collection in 1927 it was largely a flat field, surrounded by reclaimed agricultural land. They planted the first citrus tree on February 22 and eventually the grove grew to 2000 acres with over 60 varieties of citrus and included a 20-acre citrus laboratory. In the 1930‘s the botanical gardens received foreign plants and seeds from the federal government for test planting, and to showcase rare tropical fruit, flowering trees, and shrubs, further expanding the botanical collection.

From the beginning the Wrays welcomed visitors and the public to the gardens. They built a weekend home atop the 200 year old hammock in the groves where annual barbeques were held on the vast lawn. Tours of the citrus groves and botanical gardens, as well as the fruit shipping area, were given daily. Wild Turkeys roamed freely on the property, and Mrs. Wray introduced Peacocks and Flamingos to the gardens in the 50’s to the delight of the visitors. In the 60’s reptiles and alligators were introduced with daily demonstrations and shows, and later a petting zoo was added.

The Floyd L. Wray Memorial Foundation was established in 1969 by Mrs. Wray in honor of her late husband to preserve the core property for future generations and emphasize the history of the Florida Everglades. The name was changed to Flamingo Gardens, and the botanical gardens was preserved and expanded. In 1990 the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary opened with the Bird of Prey Center, followed by the half acre Free Flight Aviary featuring the 5 ecological zones of Florida. One of the first of its kind in the country, the sanctuary gave residence to permanently injured or non-releasable Florida native wildlife. Other wildlife displays opened including River Otter, Bald & Golden Eagles, Bobcats, Tortoise, and a Florida Panther Habitat.

Today Flamingo Garden’s Botanical Collection boast one of the last natural jungle growths in South Florida with over 3000 topical and subtropical species of plants and trees, including the largest single collection of State Champion trees which are the largest tree of their species as determined by the Florida Division of Forestry. The Wray Home is now a Museum giving visitors a glimpse of life in the 1930’s. Over three dozen peacocks roam the Wray lawn’s unique 200 year old Live-Oak Hammock and 19 Flamingos splash in the small pond below. The Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary is home to 83 different Florida native species of birds and animals, including River Otter, Bald & Golden Eagles, Bobcats, Tortoise, and a Florida Panther Habitat, making it the largest collection of Florida native wildlife in the state. The Free Flight Aviary boasts over 250 birds representing 45 species, with the distinction of being the largest collection of Florida wading birds in the state. In the last 20 years the birds in the Aviary alone have successfully bred close to 2000 birds which have been released back into the wild.

Flamingo Gardens hosts ecological tours for over 26,000 school children of different ages each year, educating them on Florida’s unique wildlife, plants, and environment. Special events are held throughout the year which focus on the unique ecosystems and ecological concerns of Florida and the Florida Everglades, from invasive reptile species to native Florida plants and butterflies.
Flamingo Gardens will celebrate its 85 year history with a variety of special events throughout the year which continue its legacy of preserving the beauty of South Florida Wildlife and Landscape, including Flamingo Fest in January, the Butterfly & Garden Festival in March, the annual Orchid & Bromeliad Show in April, and the Native Bird Festival in September.

A special exhibit featuring archival photographs of Flamingo Gardens and its 85 year legacy will open on February 22, 2012 to mark the planting of the first tree at Flamingo Groves.
As Mr. Wray wrote in 1939, “You are welcome to Flamingo [Gardens], and are invited to spend as much time as you desire, my only request being...that you help us preserve this beauty spot for others.”

En Pointe

Miami City Ballet Ballerinas Offer An Intimate Look At Giselle Miami City Ballet Corps de ballet member and award-winning blogger, Rebecca King, discusses Miami City Ballet’s production of Giselle, with its star, principal dancer Jennifer Kronenberg

When I was a student with Miami City Ballet School, I got the opportunity to dance in Giselle with the company.  Now, six years later we are revisiting this classic masterpiece and bringing this dramatic love story to South Florida. As a Corps de Ballet member with Miami City Ballet, I have always wondered what it would be like to dance the title role of Giselle. So I decided to ask my fellow colleague and Miami City Ballet principal dancer, Jennifer Kronenberg, about her experiences dancing this iconic ballet.

RK: How many runs of Giselle have you danced in throughout your career? What parts have you danced?

JK: This will be my fourth run of Giselle with Miami City Ballet. My husband Carlos and I also danced Giselle with The Peoria Ballet a few years back. Each time I have danced the ballet I portrayed the lead role of Giselle. This season I am again dancing Giselle, but I am also learning “Myrtha - Queen of the Wilis” and “Berthe”, Giselle’s mother.

RK: How did you feel the first time you performed the title role of Giselle?

JK: It was exhilarating! I was extremely excited, but very nervous at the same time during the whole rehearsal period. I even went all the way to Paris to get extra coaching from some of the Etoiles of The Paris Opera Ballet who had been known for their own portrayals of the role. At that point I’d never danced the lead a full length ballet other than in The Nutcracker and I felt a little bit overwhelmed. Since I wasn’t dancing on opening night, I sat in the audience to watch. Seeing the ballet from the audience’s perspective inspired me so much that all of my inhibitions truly subsided. I had an overwhelming desire to get out on the stage the following night and feel what it was like to perform the ballet for myself. I suddenly found myself having a new confidence and I think that first performance signaled a  turning point in my career - from that day forward  I began seeing myself as a true ballerina, and I think the public did too.

RK: What makes the role of Giselle special to you?

JK: It will always be special because it was really my first principal role in a full length story ballet. The role of Giselle encompasses, for me, all that the art of ballet itself is about. It is pure classicism, the root of all that we do. Working on the details of classics like Giselle have made me appreciate and understand all the more the specifics of the other styles that we perform more often - Balanchine, Robbins, Tharp. Of all story ballets, Giselle offers the most wonderful combination of emotion (love, joy, betrayal, jealousy, death), strong technical dancing, sylph-like delicacy. I also find that it is choreographed to one of the most beautiful scores ever written (Adolph Adam). Dancing it with my husband Carlos has also been a dream come true and  makes everything seem so real.

RK: At the end of Act I, Giselle discovers that her fiancé has betrayed her, launching her into a whirlwind of emotions, known as the “mad scene.” I remember the first time I saw you perform this. The faces you made and the risks you took were so incredible.  Your character’s fiancé and your real-life husband looked on, with tears streaming down his face. What do you think about during this moment to make your performance so believable?

JK: I try to really take myself to a frightening place. I truly become Giselle and let go as if it were really happening to me. I can’t imagine anything worse than giving yourself over to love with a pure and vulnerable heart only to realize that it was all a big charade; the ultimate betrayal. If the very person that you love with all your being turns out to not at all be who you thought they were, I imagine one could easily lose touch with reality. Every truth that Giselle believed in, lived for, minutes earlier is suddenly no longer of consequence. Her world is shattered instantaneously and she reverts quickly to a very dark, almost infantile and hysterical place. For her there is no reality anymore. The world that she knew and loved has been destroyed and all dreams of a happy ending have been stolen. When I dance with my husband, I look at him and imagine that it is he who has done such a horrid thing to me. It is awful and scary to imagine, but it really helps me get real emotions flowing. I think he goes to the same place in his mind, which is probably why he sometimes cries while standing on the side!
RK: This ballet is a classic, seen and performed all around the world. To you, what element of this ballet makes it timeless and beloved?

JK: Ultimately, I really believe it is the perfect combination of the beautiful story of love, betrayal and then forgiveness set to gorgeous music and the “white” second act that keep people coming to see it time and time again. The audience can easily identify with it on so many different levels. It is pure entertainment - they don’t have to analyze or think very hard, they just have to sit back, be human and feel - which can be very refreshing sometimes in this crazy and hectic world we live in.