Three of the most enjoyable attributes in people are insane creativity, humility and wicked humor. Mount Dora Buzz sat down last week with a local, atypical Southern belle who exudes healthy doses of all three.
Lauren Graham Cunningham is an acclaimed oil painter, who arrived in Mount Dora in 1998 by way of South Carolina, downtown Rome and a dirt road in Marion County.
During her isolated desperation in rural Florida, she impulsively picked up some cheap paint from a Walmart endcap and began creating. She never stopped.
After scouting for more compatible areas in Central Florida, Lauren and her husband, Robbie, settled in Mount Dora. “I’m drawn to cement”, quipped Cunningham about her move and her comfort in urban surroundings.
MD BUZZ: What is one thing no one knows about you? LCG: I’m truly a coward. I’m a hypochondriac, but I really am sick. (smiling)
MD BUZZ: What was your first paying job? LGC: Thom McAnn shoe store. I lied about my age and quit three days later. (more smiles)
MD BUZZ: Tell me your childhood dream? LGC: To be a fashion designer
MD BUZZ: What was your worst job ever? LGC: A typist at a law firm.
MD BUZZ: What are 3 words to describe yourself? LGC: Obnoxious, hardworking, loyal and blunt. I’m loyal to being obnoxious and hardworking. (smiling)
MD BUZZ: What is your biggest fear? LGC: Croaking. Biggest is a family member croaking.
MD BUZZ: What inspires you to paint? LGC: An addiction. Instant gratification.
MD BUZZ: You are a completely self-taught painter. What else have you taught yourself? LGC: Sewing. Patching sheetrock. I believe you can do anything you want and teach yourself how to do it.
MD BUZZ: Funniest thing you overhear at art festivals? LGC: “Did you have a bad childhood?”, but that’s what they say to me directly. (smiles)
MD BUZZ: Most annoying thing you hear at art festivals? LGC: “I like your pictures.” (smiling)
MD BUZZ: What was your inspiration for your current series of still lifes? LGC: Painter’s block. I painted a pear and it sold in 20 minutes. I thought, ‘I might be on to something’.
MD BUZZ: Who is your favorite artist, living or deceased? LGC: That’s hard. Vemeer. Love, love, love, love his work.
MD BUZZ: What was your best day as an artist? LGC: When I completed ‘Tick Tock’. (The painting took Cunningham two months to complete. See photo at right)
Then it was time for a speedy round of “Would you Rather?”
MD BUZZ: Spiders or snakes? LGC: Spiders.
MD BUZZ: Margaritas or martinis? LGC: Martinis
MD BUZZ: Rollercoaster or skydiving? LGC: Skydiving
MD BUZZ: New York City or Nantucket? LGC: New York
Artist colonies across the country are celebrated as some of the most desirable communities. In Florida, Mount Dora has garnered accolades for being such a community.
Once a month visitors and residents are reminded of one of the historic downtown's greatest assets: its local artists. Mount Dora Art Stroll happens on the second Friday of every month and invites visitors to leisurely walk to the different galleries and artists' studios to view art, sip wine and appreciate the growing creative community. Many of the participating artists also attend the top juried art shows in Florida, as well as throughout the U.S. Read more...
Even the best kept secrets eventually get spilled. The Leesburg Lightning is no exception.
Among the power hitters, double plays and curve balls, the Lightning experience delivers a big dose of summer nostalgia. During the home games, played at Buddy Lowe Field, a few bars of classic songs blare from old scratchy speakers to provide commentary to particular plays. "Free Ride" roars when a batter is walked. "The Streak" blares every time a runner steals a base, leaving fans wondering about the last time they heard that song.
The small town experience is captured when players pass a bucket through the stands for donations because there is no admission cost for this summer entertainment. After one inning, the run of the Lightning Bugs ensues which gives the team's youngest fans the opportunity to run the bases.
The Lightning, a Florida Collegiate Summer League baseball team, consists of talented players from colleges throughout the country that compete in their off-season. Commonly referred to as the Florida League, the Lightning is as close to a minor league team as Lake County claims.
In keeping with America's favorite past time, there are plenty of hot dogs, peanuts and eager kids vying for foul balls. The traditional seventh inning stretch is welcomed after sitting on the aluminum benches, but seasoned fans come prepared with their own stadium seats.
The whole experience is priceless Americana and well worth the short drive up US 441. There are only a handful of home games remaining, including a double-heade. The complete schedule can be viewed here.
Landscape paintings are a dime a dozen in Florida. Whether in central Florida or further south, the varying incarnations of beach, palm and sand scenes are ubiquitous throughout the state.
However, one local artist's landscapes are notably different and refreshing. The sophisticated abstracts of Laura Varich, often feature rich jewel tone colors with pops of vivid color for contrast and interest. Her bold style of loose geometric color fields is created by painting and scraping, all of which provide an original point of view to natural landscapes.
Varich, a California native, also paints abstract florals that feature seemingly simple flowers. However, the appearance of their ease is incredibly misleading. The contemporary flowers have depth in their layers of strokes, colors, scrapes, blends and contrast that is very difficult to achieve.
Varich's oil paintings are currently being featured in the THRIVE exhibit in downtown Mount Dora. Art lovers can view the exhibit showcased in the large windows on the corner of Donnelly Street and 4th Avenue in the heart of downtown. Varich's exhibit runs through the end of July. Besides being exhibited locally, Varich's large canvases are also featured in the Scott Laurent Collection in Winter Park.