I recently visited an important and moving exhibit at the Maitland Art Center Gallery titled Images of Eatonville: Then and Now. Eatonville is a community northwest of Orlando which is the oldest incorporated city in America founded by African-Americans. The work exhibited is a magnificent collection of watercolor and oil paintings by André Smith, founder of the Art Center, depicting life in Eatonville during the 1930s and 1940s. Smith was a colleague of Zora Neale Hurston, the famous author who hailed from Eatonville. Smith and Hurston had worked together at the Center during the ’30’s and ’40’s and had planned on building a cultural folk center in the area which unfortunately never materialized. There are also paintings from other artists including current Maitland Art Center artist Trent Tomengo.
There’s another area showing photographs of life in Eatonville today taken by Rollins College students. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to see the differences and the similarities in life today and as it was over 60 years ago.
The adjacent Maitland Historical Museum also has some unique mementos and photos from life in and around Eatonville during the early 20th century. If you live in Central Florida, this is a connection to the past. A past which is all too often forgotten or completely unknown in these parts. Check out their website for more info: www.artandhistory.org