Arts and Culture – North Central Florida
At the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida in Gainesville see one of the world’s iconic Hammering Man statues by Jonathan Borofsky plus more than 9,000 pieces of African, Asian and contemporary art. Also on display are comprehensive collections of Ancient American, oceanic and natural history art. Five outdoor spaces include the Asian Water Garden and an Asian Rock Garden.
Theater-goers find live professional productions as well as art cinema and art exhibits at Gainesville’s architecturally impressive Hippodrome. It’s housed in the historic Federal Building, richly designed with Corinthian columns and elaborate trim.
Anchored by an early (1857) Gainesville homestead, Matheson History Museum showcases local history and native plants in its botanical garden. The complex also includes the original tool barn and a quaint 1935 tabernacle that serves as the museum library. The Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus is best known for its Butterfly Rainforest. Don’t miss its extensive collections in fields of archaeology, paleontology and ethnology. Outdoors, stroll along nature paths.
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs has campsites, cabins, ranger-led events and hiking trails, the same as other state parks, but resident artists make this stop a vibrant center for Florida folk art every day. Programs feature performers, songwriters and expert crafters.
Heading west to Tallahassee via 1-10, stop briefly in Greenville. Tour the restored home of jazz legend Ray Charles (1930-2004) by appointment or just grab a quick photo of the impressive bronze statue of the blind musician. Continuing west to Monticello, see the historic Monticello Opera House. In the vaudeville era, touring troupes played the area’s many opera houses. This one still hosts live performances.
The Tallahassee Museum is a 52-acre collection of buildings representing 19th-century commercial, farm and social life in North Florida. One of the most intriguing is Bellevue, a modest but caringly restored plantation home of a real princess. Catherine Daingerfield Willis, great grandniece of George Washington, became a royal when she married Prince Achille Murat, a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. When Napoleon was exiled, the couple fled from France to the United States. The prince served as Tallahassee postmaster and Catherine bought a 520-acre cotton plantation. Their burial plot is in the St. a John’s Episcopal Church Cemetery in co downtown Tallahassee.
Tallahassee’s performance arts include a fully staged Florida State Opera productions at Florida State University. A large outdoor venue for seasonal festivals, concerts and events is the Capital City Amphitheater at Cascades Park downtown. Civic venues offer occasional touring shows such as a Broadway series.