Things are looking up for Harry Korpela. A few weeks ago, I wrote about this formerly homeless man who makes some pretty engaging and unusual art from seashells. His most fervent wish was to move to Hawaii with his cat Joycie. There, he said, he would continue to hunt shells and make artwork, in hopes of someday selling it. Angela Dickerson, the artist and Project Return art teacher who discovered his work at a Tampa flea market and told me about him, called recently with an update.
Jan Roberts, a longtime Planet friend and crusader to save the world, read about him here and decided to include his work in an exhibit she was putting together at Matthews Gallery in Tampa. The opening reception was Aug. 8, but Harry missed it. He was on his way to Maui, where he plans to spend the rest of his life. "I guess I'm now officially in charge of the Harry Korpela collection," said Angela. Since then, the gallery has sold three of his pieces, and the show is up till the end of this week.
The Matthews Gallery exhibit is designed to raise awareness about the Earth Charter, which Jan calls a "people's declaration of interdependence" and defines as an international agreement to work toward a compassionate, just and sustainable world. It's a cause she has devoted her life to over the past several years — and one that could give hope to people who worry about governmental malfeasance.
The Charter, a simple, elegant document drafted over the course of several years by an international commission, is "part of the worldwide global ethics movement which seeks to identify common goals and shared values that transcend cultural, religious and national boundaries," according to the Charter's website (www.earthcharterusa.org). It addresses human rights, economic and social equality, environmental responsibility and nonviolent solutions to conflict.
Earth Charter organizers are working toward getting the charter adopted by the United Nations General Assembly first as a soft law document, but they have also drafted a hard law treaty to provide a legal framework for future international law and policy.
Imagine how different things would be right now if people like Dick Cheney and George Bush and companies like Halliburton and Chevron were legally bound to treat people and the environment around the globe in a responsible manner.
The Earth Charter Awareness Exhibition closes with a party from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 22. The gallery and artists are donating a portion of their sales to the local Earth Charter organization. Matthews Gallery is at 119 S. Hyde Park Ave. in Tampa. Call the gallery at 813-259-0305 or Jan Roberts at 813-254-8454 for details. If you're tired of feeling helpless, you might consider joining up.
Things are also looking brighter around the University of South Florida College of Visual and Performing Arts. The dust is settling after budget cuts, reorganization and the mass exodus of retiring art and music professors. What is emerging is a leaner machine with new energy, more collaboration across departments and more cooperation with arts groups outside of the university. The man behind many of the changes is Dean Ron Jones, now in his sixth year in that position. Jones has struck arrangements with The Florida Orchestra, the Master Chorale and Moving Current dance company to share resources and personnel. It's a smart move that benefits the groups and gives students access to successful working artists.
One particularly promising collaborative project is the planned 2005 arts festival that will focus on Latin American, Caribbean and Cuban art. The music, art and theater departments will work with the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and other groups on this project led by Margaret Miller, Director of USF's Institute for Research in Art (a product of the reorganization that linked the Contemporary Art Museum and Graphicstudio).
The huge shift in personnel, especially in the visual arts, promises to bring some interesting art our way. Jones described the new art department faculty as more interdisciplinary, experimental and confrontational. The most recent hires are painter Elisabeth Condon and photography/digital media/ performance artist Wendy Babcox. Art Depart Chair Wallace Wilson says Condon brings an awareness of and contacts in the New York City art scene. He calls Babcox "a real sparkplug" and says the students were very enthusiastic about her. Among her performances: "She's involved with a wrestling group that does wrestling performances," says Wilson. Sounds like she'll fit right in here.
Professors have also been retiring in large numbers from the music department, providing an opportunity for refocusing there as well. "We're returning to a greater emphasis on composition — more experimental and contemporary," says Jones. He also says jazz is getting a special focus because it has become a strong program. "It's getting recognition beyond the borders of Tampa. It's a fast horse."
It's beginning to look like the whole college is starting to gallop.
The bad news for the arts community is that two of its bright lights are temporarily dimmed. Photographer Bud Lee, who often shoots for this paper and who has long been at the center of Tampa's creative vortex, is recovering from a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. His family was unsure at press time where he would be for rehabilitation, but said cards are most welcome and should be sent to him at 1105 Pinedale Drive, Plant City, FL 33563. St. Petersburg curator/artist/arts activist Lance Rodgers is conscious but still in critical condition as of this writing after suffering a shutdown of vital organs. His friends are discussing a fundraiser to help with expenses during his recuperation, but details were not yet available.We're hoping to see them both up and around and stirring up trouble again soon.
Contact Senior Editor Susan Edwards at 813-248-8888, ext. 122, or [email protected] weeklyplanet.com.