Norman Gitzen: Heeding the Siren’s Call

By Robert Luce

For decorative metal sculptor and naturalist Norman Gitzen, a good day for him is when he doesn’t need to leave the driveway of his South Florida home. The Liverpool NY native isup very early, drinking his skinny coffee while he sits by his pond feeding the turtles, koi, rabbits and squirrels. He then “downs a quick eggnog” and tries to decide which of the twenty or so projects, some he has already started, to work on that day. “Paying jobs and commissions come first of course,” he laughs.

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Visions of the New Miami: Alexander Mijares

By Eleanor Cecconi

Standing in his bright white artist’s loft and residence that overlooks glorious views of Miami’s Biscayne Bay, I listen to artist and businessman Alexander Mijares talk about how his humble artistic beginnings led to a recent meteoric rise to fame. Exceeding even his own early expectations, Mijares has wowed the local and national art world with his stunning paintings and sculpture. Selling his painting “Alter Ego” at a record high in October 2012, Mijares has met with great success after painting for only one year. I met Alexander at a charity benefit for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in September, and was excited to sit down with Miami’s hottest new artist in his studio and find out what makes him tick.

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Miami Artist Uses Love of Art to Promote Education And Health

By Eleanor Cecconi

Miami artist and HIV/AIDS counselor EmilioAponte-Sierra gives me a tour of his elegant Bal Harbour apartment, telling me the details of the extensive renovation just completed. His heavily-accented voice is soothing and combined with the cool colors on the walls, it is easy to see why his specialized method of art therapy, counseling using art, is such a success at the PRIDE Center at Equality Park in Broward County. Aponte-Sierra serves at PRIDE as the coordinator of RESPECT, an Effective Behavioral Intervention and individual client-focused HIV prevention counseling program funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Steve “Mongo” McMichael Tackles Child Illness

By Robert Luce

Former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Steve McMichael is no stranger to pain. After years of playing pro football, and wrestling in the WWF and WCW, it was only a matter of time before the hits and injuries he sustained caught up with him. The need for therapy eventually led him to the Illinois Back Institute where, thanks to Dr. Jeff Winternheimer and his wife Stella, he was showed an affection he hadn’t experienced in his years of dealing with his assorted injuries. “Dr. Jeff developed a non-surgical, natural treatment to live pain-free,” says McMichael of the breakthrough treatment he’s been receiving. “The man has become my BFF.” This admiration led McMichael to become part of the Chicago Legends Golf Classic benefiting The Dr. Jeff Foundation for terminally ill children taking place on Friday, August 10 at the Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort (3500 Midwest Road, 630.850.5555) in Oak Brook, Illinois. Along with McMichael, attendees will have the chance to golf with Kevin Butler, Otis Wilson, Reggie Smith and James Thornton, among others. “In this profession there’s passion, but where can you find compassion?” says McMichael of the Illinois Back Institute’s capable doctors. “These people are givers and that’s why I’ve fallen in love with them.”

What makes the The Dr. Jeff Foundation special is that it works with Normal Moments Inc.—an organization dedicated to helping parents with critically ill children enjoy as many normal moments as possible as they deal with their child’s illness. “Normal Moments is the immediate benefit,” says McMichael. “It’s like Make-A-Wish, but it’s not just for the kid, it’s for the parents, too.” Normal Moments helps ease the burden set on parents of critically ill children allowing them to spend more time with their kids. “Can you imagine just what fifteen minutes of relief means to somebody?” says McMichael. “Seeing the smile on a terminally ill child’s face is a blessing.”

It’s no wonder then that the College Football Hall of Fame inductee enjoys being head coach of the Chicago Slaughter indoor football team. “It’s a fun and relatively inexpensive day out with your family to watch a Chicago sports team,” beams McMichael of his championship team. “You’re closer to the action and you can reach out and touch the players.” But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to see the Bears win the NFC Championship Game and go to the Super Bowl—since it would be an immediate benefit to his restaurant, Mongo McMichael’s, in Romeoville, Illinois. “I told Lovie Smith I’m dispelling this rumor that the ’85 Bears won’t let you win the Super Bowl, because when they get there, my restaurant is going to make a ton of money,” laughs McMichael. “So I told Lovie I expect him to go to the Super Bowl every year.”

With a host of Chicago luminaries at his side—coupled with dinner, cocktails and a live auction—McMichael promises the Chicago Legends Golf Classic will spawn plenty of Chicago memories. “It’ll be a rowdy dinner,” he says with a smile. But when it comes down to it, it’s all about raising money for the kids. “We need to always remember scriptures like, ‘I am my brother’s keeper’”, says McMichael. “When we stop taking care of each other like all the great civilizations before ours did, then that’s when things will all go to shit.”

For more on the Chicago Legends Golf Classic visit Chicagolegendsgolfclassic.com.

Monstrous Honesty

By Jamie Degraaf

Bethany Barton dreams of having a pet dinosaur. “It would probably smash my house,” says the 30-year-old artist/illustrator/Angeleno, “but it would be awesome.” We like Barton because she draws robots, writes about monsters and unearths big emotions with concise free-form poetry.  Also, she was born in Chicago. Barton calls her aesthetic fun, messy, emotional, childlike and expressive. “I want to say what everyone is thinking,” she says. “I want to show how completely unique and original we are, and yet as just-plain-human as the person next to us.”

On August 8, Barton’s work will be featured as part of the EFFEN Art of Design mixology contest in Los Angeles. She is currently finishing up three exclusive prints for this event and is extremely excited. “I think what EFFEN is doing is great; artists and boozing go hand-in-hand,” says Barton. “And my mom never thought I could get paid to make art and drink vodka!”

The progeny of creatives—her mother an actress and father a journalist—Barton has dabbled in the arts her entire upbringing: singing, acting, art—the works. In college, she was artistically indecisive and changed her major some five odd times before ending up with a theatre degree from California State, Northridge.  Post-grad, Barton made the move to live the artist life. “I had been speaking other people’s words, singing other people’s words,” she says. “I just wanted to make my own work and say things in my own words.”

So Barton decided to live in her car, “because that is what artists do.” At that point, she lived what she calls a “buy sandwiches and pay bills kind of life.” It was her husband who encouraged her to make something more of her talent. “I was rolling around in the napkin scheme, always sketching here and there. He was the one who said ‘Maybe you should hang these napkins on the wall and tell people to look at them.’” Soon after, she bought her own gallery and began painting sets and making custom art work for commercials. She began blogging and posting new work on a daily basis, which is how her agent discovered her in 2010.

Currently, Barton is getting a lot of love for her newest project, a self-written and illustrated children’s book, This Monster Needs a Haircut (Dial/Penguin). She calls this her debut into the “kids-book –please-buy-me” world, and credits her agent for seeing protagonist potential in her drawing of Stewart the monster. With her first story, Barton aims to imitate her favorite children’s books: those through which readers can see the author, not those that try to do what they assume kids would like. She wants readers to say “Hey, I want to get a coffee with that author!”

Looking back from where she is now, Barton admits to having wanted to give up on her art, which her friends bring up periodically, saying, “Hey, remember that one time you were going to become a nurse?!” Barton remembers, and is sure it won’t be her only grapple with doubt. “I’m making loads of things and really putting myself out there, but then one day I ask ‘Is this working?’” she says. “But I continue to make art every day, terrible art, too. It’s how I figure out what is going on inside my brain. I have to get all the images out of my head or I can’t sleep; my brain will be like ‘Hey, you should get up and make this…right now.” We are glad that Barton listens to her brain and would be more than happy to grab a coffee with her.

EFFEN Art of Design takes place at Marvimon in Los Angeles on Wednesday, August 8 starting at 6 PM.

Fashion designer Anna Hovet on being the weird kid, sleeping in her backyard and jockin’ on the art kids’ swag

By Jamie DeGraaf

“I used to think I was going to be a doctor when I grew up, but then I realized I would spend the whole time looking at people’s clothes,” explains 26-year-old fashion designer Anna Hovet as she examines the waistband of a coral linen skirt. She leans against a high-top table in her West Town warehouse studio, which has a remarkably tidy wooden floor despite the general explosion of fabric, patterns and sewing paraphernalia on every surface. “I sewed it on backwards,” she sighs, holding up the circle skirt and tromping to fetch her seam ripper. “I don’t have the patience for sewing. Or seam ripping.”

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