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Escape to Create

Posted on Jan 01, 2017 in Whealy , Whittall , Modrak , Blakeslee , Flynn , January–February 2017

Judith Modrak is among the featured artists at this year’s Escape To Create artist residency program in Seaside. Photo courtesy Judith Modrak

Seaside hosts resident artists for the 25th year, illuminating the world of the arts to the 30A community By Marsha Dowler

When the first group of Escape To Create artists arrived in Seaside for a month’s retreat in the pre-digital era of 1993, theirs was literally a leap of faith into the unknown. While hotly debated by architects and builders for its radical departure from suburban building formulas, Seaside had not yet emerged from the dunes of 30A onto the national consciousness and was not even included on the Rand McNally Map, America’s national atlas of highways and towns.

Since that quiet but adventurous beginning, Escape To Create (E2C) has emerged as one of our country’s most unique residencies available to artists, writers, musicians and scholars. Now the longest running arts and humanities program in Seaside, E2C is sustained only through the continued generosity of homeowners who contribute cottages as artist housing. Through the year-round efforts of a volunteer homeowner board and long-standing partnerships with town merchants and Seaside’s outstanding network of non-profits, E2C has greatly expanded its impact in area schools as it continues to build local audiences seeking cultural experiences through artist lectures, readings, exhibits and performances.

Thank you, Seaside friends and neighbors, for your generosity and support over the years by fostering artists whose works enrich, inspire and have made lasting contribution to our beloved community. Incredibly, 25 years have passed since the first group of artists arrived as guests of a town still emerging from the uncharted outback of 30A. Almost 200 artists later, that early audacious spirit remains well represented by the 11 distinguished artists who were awarded a residency in our special anniversary year.

We are proud to present the 2017 artists who will be guests of our community in January and February. They are among our nation’s most valued educators, accomplished performers and innovative practitioners in their fields. We hope you will join us for our 25th celebration of art, life and community.

Jan. 4 - Feb. 1

Dr. Dorothy Hindman is associate professor of music composition at Frost School of Music, University of Miami. A prolific composer whose works are marked with a probing intelligence and “terrific romantic gesture,” Hindman returns to Seaside to complete her first piano concerto written for her son, 18-year-old virtuoso pianist Jacob Mason. In a special concert celebrating E2C’s silver anniversary, Mason will perform Dr. Hindman’s awarded compositions as he did during their shared Carnegie Hall debut last spring. Praised by New York music critics as “a charismatic performer” and “an extraordinarily gifted young pianist,” Mason will also perform a major composition by another family member, E2C alum and recipient of the coveted Rome Prize, composer Charles Norman Mason. This unique family presentation and performance will also include celebrated works by Gershwin, Cowell, Ravel and Brahams. The Jan. 6 performance is produced in partnership with The REP Theatre.

Internationally awarded poet Jodie Hollander grew up in a Wisconsin family of classical musicians but found her own creative voice in poetry as a student in Bath, England. A recent guest editor of Poetry Quarterly, Hollander is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship in South Africa, a Hawthornden Fellowship in Scotland and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship among her many awards and fellowships in the U.S.

Her poems, described as “a gift to all who hear or read them,” found early inspiration in the works of Robert Frost, Philip Larkin and Sylvia Plath. Hollander will devote her Seaside residency to completing a third collection of poems, a response and re-imagining of Arthur Rimbaud’s prose poem collection “Illuminations.” She also plans a series of poems inspired by Peter Lichlet’s short documentary film “Rimbaud,” which provides symbolic representation of the poet’s time spent in Africa. Hollander will conduct a poetry workshop at South Walton High School and will give a reading of her awarded works in a special patron salon.

Winterpark, Fla., fiction writer Vanessa Blakeslee burst upon the literary scene with the 2014 publication of “Train Spots,” her debut short story collection that continues to garner accolades and awards. Blakeslee’s debut novel, “Juventud,” won the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award Bronze Medal in Literary Fiction. She has been awarded residencies at Atlantic Center for the Arts, Yaddo, and Edward Albee Foundation, among others. During her residency, she will continue work on a speculative literary novel set in the Florida panhandle. The Coastal Branch Library will host Blakeslee in a reading of her award-winning fiction. She will also speak about her process in developing “the story behind the story,” a topic of interest to both readers and writers. Blakeslee will share selected writings in a special patron salon with poet Jodie Hollander.

William Flynn is a jazz guitarist, composer, and educator currently serving on faculty at Wichita State University (Kansas). A Midwest native, Flynn is emerging as one of the most important current creative voices in jazz. His music is an all-too-rare combination of old-school training and a thoroughly contemporary aesthetic that will keep jazz relevant for his and future generations. Flynn’s group, Driver, has been described as being able to “[lift] the music off the page and into the hearts of the audience.” He is creator of “Jazz on the Rox,” a regular concert series that he voluntarily created and administers to promote quality jazz in South-Central Kansas. During his Seaside residency, Flynn will complete his second collection of modern jazz arrangements for his multi-volume “The Songbook Project.” Flynn will perform at 45 Central Square Wine Bar and will conduct a jazz improvisation clinic for music students at Seaside Neighborhood School.

Matt Otto is assistant professor of Jazz Studies at Kansas University, teaching Jazz theory and performance. He is also adjunct professor at the Rutgers New Brunswick, teaching online courses in jazz improvisation, theory and performance.
Having lived in Japan, New York City and Los Angeles, Otto has performed with an extensive list of international artists. While in Los Angeles, he co-founded the Los Angeles Jazz Collective (LAJC) to create opportunities for jazz composers and performers to showcase original artistic work. LAJC also operates an ongoing Jazz outreach program for young jazz musicians in and around Los Angeles.
Otto’s original compositions are performed by his Kansas City-based band, which includes E2C alum Jeff Harshbarger. Otto has recorded and performed with the Grammy nominated artists including Alan Ferber Big Band and performs on more than 50 CD’s as both a leader and a sideman. Otto will perform at 45 Central Square Wine Bar and plans a jazz clinic benefitting Emerald Coast Middle School Jazz Band.

New York Playwright and E2C alum Rich Orloff returns to Seaside as the 2017 Goody Playwrighting Fellow, a $1,000 Fellowship founded by a Seaside family to honor their love for theater across generations and administered by Escape To Create and The REP Theatre. Orloff’s winning script, “Radio Ridiculous,” will be developed in an intense month-long workshop at The REP, culminating in two staged readings near the end of month. Prior readings of Orloff’s sidesplitting comedies, “Romantic Fools, Big Boys” and “Skin Deep” resonated strongly with the 30A audience. A prolific writer for the stage, Orloff’s plays have received more than 1500 productions worldwide. While growing up in Chicago, Orloff first wrote comic strips to entertain friends and teachers. As a high school senior, he discovered the slapstick genius of the Marx Brothers. While in college, the film “It Happened One Night” introduced him to nuance and satire with compassion, a signature element expressed throughout his body of work. During his January residency, Orloff will contribute a master class benefitting the drama department at South Walton County High School. The playwright will be present at both readings of Radio Ridiculous at The REP.

Escape to Create

Diane Ott Whealy and Matthew Whittall

Feb 1 - March 1

Kristina Marie Darling is an influential literary critic and the author of more than 20 collections of poetry. Her reviews and essays appear in leading national literary magazines and her lyrical, hybrid poetry is praised by critics as “haunting,” “mesmerizing” and “complex.” Her work has been honored with numerous prizes and awards including nominations for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and fellowships at Yaddo, Ragdale and the American Academy in Rome. While in Seaside, Darling will continue work on a new collection of hybrid poems, which will take the form of a textbook introducing students to formal literary study and challenging boundaries between critical analysis and creative writing. Darling will contribute a reading from her awarded poetry as part of a special multi-disciplinary program at The REP. She also offers a writing workshop exploring experimental literary forms.

Over the past decade, New York sculptor Judith Modrak has remained fascinated with scientific advances that increase our understanding of the mechanisms that trigger and regulate thought, memory and feelings. Her figurative forms, imbedded with messages of hope and despair, seek to decode inner psychological and emotive worlds as she tackles universal issues of aging and mental illness. Her work has exhibited in solo and group shows in galleries and museums throughout the United States including Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, the Chelsea Art Museum, the Trenton Art Museum, Point Park University, the Palm Beach Art Armory and the Woodstock Museum. Modrak has received a chashama/National Endowment for the Arts grant and two gold medals in sculpture from the National Association of Women Artists, among other awards. Her work has been featured and reviewed in literary, scientific and news publications, including SciArt in America, Sculpture, and The Pittsburgh-Tribune. While in Seaside, she plans a series of figurative works in response to the diverse natural forms found in the 30A environment. Modrak will give an illustrated artist talk at The REP as part of a multi-disciplinary celebration of the arts and will contribute a master class for college level art students.

Canadian-Finnish composer Matthew Whittall returns to E2C to complete a major international orchestral commission, a classical concerto for piano and orchestra scheduled for European and North American premiers in October 2017. Whittall is on sabbatical from Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland, where he was an honors graduate in one of the most demanding doctoral programs in the music world and where he now teaches composition, orchestration and music history and analysis. Recipient of numerous awards, prizes and commissions in Europe and Canada, Whittall is considered one of the leading voices of the next generation of Finnish composers. His compositions are marked with a bold, emphatic artistic statement that fuses modern gestures and techniques with a post-minimalist harmonic language. Critics praise his broad range of works as “magical,” “fascinating’” and “summoning the Arctic light.” Whittall will contribute a preview of his piano sonata commission and a video illustrated presentation on the role of nature imagery in his compositional process as part of a multi-disciplinary celebration of the arts hosted by The REP Theatre. He will also visit Walton County music classes.

Diane Ott Whealy has been a national leader in the heirloom seed movement and a strong advocate for the protection of the earth’s rare genetic food stocks for more than 40 years. She is co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), the nation’s premier nonprofit seed-saving organization that began as a simple exchange for Ott Whealy’s heritage seeds among gardeners in the Midwest who sought to preserve the rich gardening heritage of their immigrant ancestors. Ott Whealy’s book “Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver” tells the story of how that initial exchange grew into one of the nation’s most admired nonprofits in the field of genetic preservation with more than 13,000 members and 20,000 plant varieties preserved on the 890-acre Heritage Farm in Winneshiek County, Iowa. A member of Garden Writers of America, her articles appear in numerous publications including Organic Gardening, Cooking Light and Vegetarian Times. Featured speaker at garden shows and botanical gardens across the country, Ott Whealy will give an illustrated presentation of “Gatherings” and her residency project, an exploration of her rural heritage drawing on the diaries of her mother. Ott Whealy will mentor the Seaside Neighborhood School in a heritage seed and exchange project.

Judith Dupré is a writer, architectural historian and public speaker. She is the New York Times bestselling author of several works of narrative nonfiction on art, design and architecture. Her books, translated in 11 languages, are renowned for their spectacular visuals, masterful narrative structures, and in making complex topics engaging and accessible to general readers. Her works appear on multiple holiday gift and Top 10 lists including People and Oprah Magazine and are critically praised in leading national publications such as the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Christian Science Monitor. Dupré has appeared on NPR, PBS, BBC, History Channel and major national television channels. Among her many accolades, Dupré is 2015 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar. She will devote her E2C residency to completing several essays planned for a revised and expanded edition of her bestseller, Bridges, scheduled for re-issue in 2017/18. At the REP Theatre, Dupré will present a talk illustrated with stunning photography and behind-the-scenes stories from her international bestseller “One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building.” She will also lecture at county high schools.

Performance schedules, pop-up events and updates on artists’ projects and educational outreach appear on the Escape To Create website at Tickets to presentations at The REP Theatre can be purchased at

Escape to Create

Vanessa Blakeslee and William Flynn