The Orlando Museum of Art (OMA), at 2416 North Mills Ave., Orlando, is another small fine arts museum. The permanent exhibition galleries are: the American Art Collection, art from the 18th, 19th and 20th century; the Art of Ancient Americans spans North and South American, from 2000 BCE to 1521 CE; the African Art Collection displays ceremonial objects, common artifacts, jewelry and elaborate beaded pieces. The three other galleries are used for temporary exhibits and special events.

During the year, the first Thursday of every month is a special event. From 6 to 9 p.m., adult admission is reduced to $5. Museums are normally quiet, sedate places but not on 1st Thursday. The rooms are filled with electricity as people mingle, questioning the artists about their techniques and inspiration, comparing and critiquing the works on display. The opportunity to actually discuss a work with its creator is a not-to-be-forgotten experience. Finding out why an artist takes a particular view of a situation, the specific medium was chosen, the shades of meaning the artist wants to convey, discovering an unusual historic perspective will all deepen your appreciation of the piece. The art is selected as much for its provocative nature as for its quality. And because the work is only on display for the one night, art lovers from all walks of life come out, sharing their opinions and insights freely.

Local restaurants have snacks, tapas and assorted finger foods for sale. Two beer and wine bars are set up for the adults, with soda and bottled water for those underage. Jazz bands or quartets set up in the Chihuly gallery in the shadow of the “Citron and Cobalt Tower.” Wandering minstrels add to your musical enjoyment. You can take a break in the Chihuly room to listen to some music or sip a glass of wine before you go on to the permanent exhibits, other temporary galleries or watch the performance pieces in the auditorium.

The February “1st Thursday” was dedicated to W.O.M.A.N.: Wisdom, Originality, Mystique, Ambition, Nurturing, all works by or about women. Pieces by local artists Julie Kessler (juliekesslerart@cfl.rr.com), Ellen Lindner, Marcy Lane Witmer (marcylane1@embarqmail.com) and Claudia Backes (cgbackes@aol.com), and over 40 other artists were included in the exhibit, which spilled over into the adjoining hallway. Oil, watercolor, ceramic, wood and metals were among the media used in this exhibition. The Fusion Dance Troupe and GO PURE Dance Troupe (www.pure-on.com) performed in the auditorium and paraded through the gallery.

Temporary exhibit Points of View: Exploring Identity, Commenting on Society and Comparing Visions, through October contains works normally in storage due to space constrictions. The corridor leading into the gallery holds Faces in the Crowd, photographic retrospectives of persons famous, infamous and unknown. The themes of self-knowledge, the individual’s place within society and how individual and societal needs converge and diverge worked very well with the 1st Thursday exploration of women’s changing roles.
Through July 6, as an enhancement to the permanent African Art Exhibit, Of Cloth and Culture: African Textiles from the Norman Canelas and William Roth Collection, displays kente cloths and beadwork, aprons and fine wovens, most made by women.

Previous 1st Thursday events have explored woodturning, illustrative art (posters and book art), the color red, photography and graffiti artists. Upcoming 1st Thursday themes are: March 6th will be “Beatniks and Bongos: Abstract Art,” art of or inspired by the 50's, with plenty of ‘snaps’ for local poets Frank Messina, Brad Kuhn and Darlyn Finch, former Kerouac House Artist in Residence, who will be reading selected pieces from their books. April 3rd is “Beyond Geppetto,” the history and evolution of puppetry and puppet performance, famous puppets in literature, stage, film and television. May 1st is “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Art of Assemblage & Collage,” art which is composed of other art. Think Alexander Calder, Eric Carle, Henri Matisse, all famous artists who work with bits of paper and glue. June 5th honors “Art<12: Small Works/Large Images,” powerful works in miniature, confirming that less CAN be more. All works will be less than 12" by 12" including mat, frame and base.

Every spring, the medium gallery hosts an exhibition of children’s book art. Artists previously honored include Clement Hurd, who illustrated Margaret Wise Brown’s classics, Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny, and his son Thacker Hurd, author/illustrator of ArtDog and Mama Don’t Allow, and Margaret and HA Rey of the Curious George books. Themes have included geographic alphabet books and optical illusion. “The World of William Joyce,” creator of the Dinosaur Bob books, opens May 18 until August 31. Special areas are set up for reading, acting out scenes in the works and where children can create their own renditions inspired by the artist or theme of the exhibition.

“American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell” opens March 1 until May 26, traces the artist’s career, cultural influences and the broad accessibility of his work. Paintings, original illustrations and the complete set of Saturday Evening Post cover tearsheets are just part of the exhibit.

In November, a ten day “Festival of the Trees” takes over the museum. Christmas trees, tableaus, wreaths and gingerbread houses decorated or sponsored by local businesses and families are displayed in every available space. All of the displayed items can either be purchased or are raffled off as part of the “Council of 101" fund-raising event. The main area also has a children’s craft area, letter writing to Santa via snail mail or email and of course, the Big Man himself, Santa, puts in an appearance each day. Jazz bands, pianists, and high school choirs perform throughout the day.

The Orlando Museum of Art is located at 2416 North Mills Avenue (I4 East to Exit 85E, Princeton Street East. Go past the Orlando Science Center and make a left at North Mills into Loch Haven Park). Hours are Tues to Friday, 10 to 4; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4 pm. 1st Thursday is the first Thursday of each month from 6 to 9 p.m. The phone number is (407) 896-4231 and the web address is www.omart.org. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for those 65 and over and college students with ID. Children 5 to 18 are $5, children under 5 are free at all times. 1st Thursday events, admission is reduced to $5 for adults, seniors and college student

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