Gaining Perspective in Gainesville

Regaining balance with our arts getaway

Viewing the entries in the Santa Fe Spring Arts Festival, I felt a renewed sense of energy. The amazing works of art on display formed a visual feast. As my husband of 18 years, Sean, and I strolled hand-in-hand we speculated about the early influences of each artist and how those were woven into their creative process; other times, we simply marveled at the incredible detail that gave certain pieces a heightened sense of realism. It reminded me of some of our first dates, when we took advantage of free art walks offered monthly in our hometown. We were madly in love and could talk endlessly about anything and everything.

Sean and I were still deeply in love. Over the years, however, our fun dates had gradually turned into date nights in our pajamas, watching the newest episodes of our favorite TV shows. It had started to become clear: we needed to get out of our house and rediscover all of the things we enjoyed doing together.

One night, as Sean was intently swiping and tapping his tablet—I figured he was looking for something to watch—I decided it was time to bring up the subject. I had just started to say the word, “date” when Sean responded with: “Two steps ahead of you, my dear!” Turning his tablet around, so that I could see the screen, he said, “I just booked a trip for the two of us to Gainesville for the Santa Fe Spring Arts Festival.”

“And we’re staying in this bed & breakfast?” I asked, as I switched from one tab to the next and scrolled through the beautiful pictures of the Victorian-style mansion and grounds at The Magnolia Plantation. “It looks so charming!”

“Just like you,” he said, leaning over and kissing me on the cheek.

Finding art in architecture

Our accommodations were perfect. The inside featured intricate woodwork, the grounds were spotted with water features that were a treat to stumble upon, and there was a private, walled garden that was filled with vibrant flowers, a pond, and walking paths. The location was also fabulous: it was just a short walk to countless shops and restaurants in downtown Gainesville.

All of the homes in the Northeast Gainesville Historic District were just as striking. We enjoyed our walks to the arts festival and other area attractions almost as much as the destinations. Almost.

Late that afternoon, we went on a treasure hunt. A project called 352walls brought urban mural artwork to Gainesville. Embracing the idea that urban artists can bring creativity to a city, they hired 13 artists from around the world to create as many murals. My favorite was one created by a world-renowned Ukrainian team (Interesni Kazki, I later learned online). The piece gave me the feeling of Alice in Wonderland meets Greek mythology. It’s something you could examine for hours and create hundreds of stories from its characters.

Dynamic displays of talent

Gaining Perspective in Gainesville

We excitedly headed to the Santa Fe Spring Arts Festival on our first full day in Gainesville. There was such an energetic vibe in the vendor booths, and everyone was incredibly friendly. Artists from all over the world vied for spots to showcase their paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other pieces in the festival. Sean and I were particularly impressed by the two- and three-dimensional entries—we had never seen anything like them! Dancers and musicians also performed throughout the day, and we finished the evening with a concert.

We spent the next day wandering through The Thomas Center Galleries. There was a broad range of art displayed inside, but my personal favorites were the site-specific paintings in the Mezzanine Gallery. The brilliant blues in the oil paintings perfectly complemented the arched glass ceiling above.

After that, we headed over to the Matheson Museum to immerse ourselves in the rich history of the area. This complex encompasses four different museums, each offering an interesting glimpse into the past—from the halls of the second-oldest residence in Gainesville to the antique tools used to construct the historic homes in Alachua County.

An expression of love

That night we got all dressed up for a special night out. Sean bought tickets to see the Gainesville Master Chorale and Philharmonic Orchestra. When I emerged from the bathroom wearing a new black dress that I had purchased for our getaway, Sean’s eyes widened.

“I’m a lucky guy,” he said softly.

“Better than my baggy, plaid pajamas?” I jokingly asked.

“I love you no matter what you wear,” he said, “but especially in that dress.”

“You clean up pretty good yourself.” I said with a smile. “Now let’s go. We don’t want to be late.”

The world-class musicians and vocalists of the chorale and orchestra performed songs across a variety of genres, but there was a special strength in their classical works. The silken strings of the cellos and violins seemed to sing in harmony with the choir, while the rhythmic beats of the percussion section punctuated each piece.

As we headed back to the B&B, Sean turned to me and said, “We need to do this more often. It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend getaway, a casual afternoon at a museum or a formal evening at the symphony. It’s important for us to be alone, together, sharing experiences.”

I agreed wholeheartedly. Our time in Gainesville reminded us of our love for the arts and helped us reconnect.

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