ArtCalusa: Reflections on Representation opens Friday, November 1, at the City Pier Building (formerly Art of the Olympians). Designated a signature Viva Florida 500 event by the Florida Department of State, the group exhibition visualizes the indigenous history of Florida through the arrival of Spanish conquistadors. But at Friday's opening, curators Theresa Schober and Barbara Hill will appeal to more than attendee's visual acuity. "At the opening reception, and in the Making History Memorable initiative in general, Lee Trust has been inspired to captivate all of the senses as we raise awareness of the history of this area," Schober advises.
In addition to the art and meet-and-greet with contributing artists, Kat Epple will be providing original Calusa-inspired music and Chef Michael Gavala will be serving up a menu that celebrates the cultural fusion of Viva Florida 500.
As Viva Florida 500 strives to commemorate the diverse cultural heritage of Florida instigated by Spain's claim to La Florida, Gavala has combined uniquely Florida flavours with products that came with the Spanish through colonization attempts in the 1500s. Though fraught with culture clash, the Florida of today is an eclectic mix of cultures and Mike has created an experience of culinary fusion.
"The Calusa lifeways focused heavily on the rich estuaries of Southwest Florida, while the Spanish were accustomed to agricultural production and livestock," explains Schober, who is both an archaeologist and museum curator. "The earliest livestock in Florida dates to Ponce de León's 1521 settlement attempt - possibly at Punta Rassa. The disparity in lifestyle made the Spanish more reliant on the Calusa for support while living at Mound Key in the 1560s and probably helped the Calusa remain strong and isolated after this time. Spanish settlements were initially successful in north Florida where the Timucua and Apalachee also grew crops like corn. Interestingly, although corn is a New World crop, it was the Spanish who brought it to the Calusa, offered as a reward for attending catechism."
Although Gavala does use corn in several menu items, fried alligator tail, swamp cabbage cups and pumpkin mousseline on spoons headline a tantalizing list of culinary treats.
Many know Michael through FineMark National Bank & Trust, where he delights clients and employees daily with gastronomic treats as the bank's Executive Chef and Food and Beverage Director. He is no stranger to putting on the ritz for big crowds. When when Finemark Bank and Trust celebrated its fifth anniversary with a bash at the Fort Myers bank in 2012, Michael treated the more than 600 guests who turned out for the event to grilled lamb, chocolate teacup tiramisu and other fab concoctions, with wines paired as appropriate.
Michael attended The Culinary Institute of America, is the former owner of Sasse's restaurant in Fort Myers, and has more than 25 years of experience in the food service industry.
Whether you come for the art, conversation, music or the food, you can't miss at ArtCalusa. Tickets for Friday's opening night reception are still available. For more information or purchase tickets, please contact the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center at 239-333-1933 or www.sbdac.com.