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Florida Orchestra names St. Petersburg painter first-ever ‘visual artist-in-residence’

The orchestra’s new partnership with Geff Strik launches in October with ‘Don Quixote.’
Artist Geff Strik poses in front of his 5- by 12-foot piece inspired by Arnold Schoenberg's "Verklarte Nacht" in March in St. Petersburg. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Sep. 13
Updated Sep. 13

Back in March, the Florida Orchestra collaborated with St. Petersburg artist Geff Strik on a multimedia performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht. Strik painted a series of scenes inspired by the piece, which were filmed and projected above the orchestra during the concert.

Among those knocked out by the result: conductor and music director Michael Francis.

“It’s a really powerful, moving experience to see an artist bring this to life in a very respectful but compelling way," Francis said. "That, I think, is something that we’re doing that no one else is doing anywhere in the world. It’s really quite unique. If people want to see that, they’ve got to come to us.”

Now comes another first. On the eve of its 2019-20 season, the Florida Orchestra has named Strik its first-ever “visual artist-in-residence.”

For his first official project, Strik is working on another series of paintings that will be filmed and screened during the orchestra’s Oct. 11 to 13 performances of Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote, featuring cellist Maximilian Hornung.

Strik has sketched and painted 29 interpretations of scenes from Miguel de Cervantes’ novel, painting one atop the other, with a film crew capturing each image as he worked. The result: a 42-minute art film synchronized to the music.

“It’s a brilliant, condensed way of telling the overall story of the knights and Sancho Panza,” Francis said. “You’ll see very clearly from these images what is going on, musically, and also his interpretation of that — but also, at the same time, allow the music through.”

That was evident from the orchestra’s three March performances of Verklarte Nacht, each of which received a standing ovation.

RELATED: A poem, a painter, a ‘transfigured’ performance — and it all came together over coffee

“It was far bigger and better than I imagined,” Francis said. “When you trust gifted artists, and they feel that trust, and they feel your backing, then they can do extraordinary things. And Geff really blew me away. It was so much more moving and powerful than I could have imagined from a basic idea that I had. He ran with it in a way that was beyond my artistic understanding at that point.”

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(1) A few weeks ago, I chatted with St. Petersburg artist @geffstrik about a painting he was asked to create for @thefloridaorchestra, inspired by Schoenberg's 'Verklarte Nacht (Transfigured Night)' (and the poem that inspired it), which the orchestra performs this weekend in Tampa, St. Pete and Clearwater. (2) Today at the @strazcenter, I sat in on a full run-through of the end result: The orchestra's string-symphony performance of 'Verklarte Nacht,' with @joeyclaystudio's short film of Strik painting, re-painting and re-re-painting his work on a huge screen behind them. The pin-drop tension in the performance was just gripping, all the more so because of the palpable sense of hand-crafted labor and genuine transfiguration captured in the film. It's layer after layer after layer of artistic inspiration, most of it local and collaborative in nature, and it's only happening this weekend across Tampa Bay. Read more about it via the link in my bio. #floridaorchestra #geffstrik #tampabaylive

A post shared by Jay Cridlin (@cridlin) on

Francis and Strik will discuss their partnership at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 10 at the Salvador Dalí Museum. Hank Hine, the St. Petersburg museum’s executive director, will lead the talk, and Hornung will perform. The event is free.

The Florida Orchestra’s Don Quixote program takes place Oct. 11 at the Straz Center in Tampa, Oct. 12 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg and Oct. 13 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Click here for details.

RELATED: Fall Arts Preview: A guide to Tampa Bay’s top stage and museum events of 2019-20

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