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Creative City Project's aim: Build community locally, globally

Matthew J. Palm
Contact ReporterOrlando Sentinel Arts Writer
Orlando's Creative City Project partners with Haiti aid group, Orlando City Soccer

While acrobats soar, magicians conjure and musicians play this Saturday evening in downtown Orlando, more than a hundred Central Floridians will be helping send aid to hurricane-ravaged Haiti.

During Orlando's annual Creative City Project, which fills downtown with free performances, some attendees will spend half an hour with Feeding Children Everywhere, packing emergency meals to send to the Caribbean nation devastated by Hurricane Matthew last weekend.

Meanwhile, other festivalgoers will vote on a mural to grace the Orlando City Soccer Club's new stadium.

And around the world, people are leaving drawings, poems and messages for strangers to encounter, thanks to a Creative City Project initiative at the kindness.org website.

It's all part of the mission of the Creative City Project, founded in 2012 by Orlando resident Cole NeSmith. It's a mission that goes well beyond simple song and dance.

Creative City Project aims to cultivate the Central Florida arts scene, build a stronger sense of community in Orlando and shape the global perception of the city as a place of innovation.

"In building these partnerships, we help make Orlando a better place to live and visit," said NeSmith.

He points to Miami's Art Basel or the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, as examples of how the arts can define a locale.

"Those experiences truly have shaped the identity of those cities," he said.

NeSmith was inspired to use the festival to aid Haiti after Central Florida escaped the brunt of Hurricane Matthew, relatively speaking.

"Orlando isn't just a creative city, it's a caring city," NeSmith said. "When tragedy strikes, we come together to help."

About 7,500 emergency meals bound for Haiti will be assembled Saturday under a tent on Orange Avenue by shifts of volunteers who signed up at the Creative City Project's Facebook page.

Nearby, four local artists will paint scaled-down versions of their proposal murals for the new soccer stadium, being built west of downtown. Those at the festival can vote for their favorite, helping to guide the decision.

"Embracing our city's arts culture is going back to the basics for us," said Teresa Tatlonghari, Orlando City's vice president of marketing, in announcing the collaboration. "It's the freedom to express themselves creatively and openly that make our fans proud to represent Orlando together, and we hope to carry this same passion in our new home."

Orlando City's logo was designed by fans, and the soccer club enlisted local artists to create murals and other artwork for its "Paint the City Purple" campaign, which culminated with a special event at the Snap! Orlando art gallery.

NeSmith hopes sports fans will turn out and try something artistic.

"Partnering with so many organizations brings these different groups of people together for a shared experience, which is so important," he said.

Joshua Vickery, executive director of Central Florida Community Arts, said the diversity of offerings helps the festival with community building.

"It just breaks down walls and barriers so everyone can come together," said Vickery. "It encourages people that the arts can be for everyone."

Central Florida Community Arts has performed at the festival each year since its inception. Also participating this year are institutions such as Orlando Ballet, Sak Comedy Lab and Cirque du Soleil's "La Nouba," which stages an acrobat act over Orange Avenue. For the first time, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra will be part of the lineup.

Although everything is free, donations are welcomed and tickets for VIP experiences are available at creativecityproject.com.

Even those who can't attend Saturday, can get involved by participating in the art-for-strangers program at kindness.org, a Britain-based initiative to make the world a happier place.

"We can help shape Orlando in the global sense," NeSmith said. "But also help people here."

mpalm@orlandosentinel.com

Creative City Project

What: More than 1,000 artists, musicians and other performers display their creativity

When: 5-11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15

Where: Downtown Orlando, in the blocks surrounding the intersection of Orange Avenue and Church Street

Cost: Free

Information: CreativeCityProject.com

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