ny walk that starts on Park Avenue is a good walk. No need for a guidebook to figure that out: All it takes is a firm grasp of the obvious. Bookended by a tidy golf course and a picturesque 32 LIVING IN WINTER PARK college campus, with an engaging array of coffeehouses, upscale shops, wine bars, al fresco eateries and a well-curried park in between, the heart of Winter Park is a what’s-not-to-like delight. Something less apparent is that from any point along Park Avenue’s European meets-Mediterranean shopping and dining district, you’re within walking distance of no fewer than six eclectic (and in some cases worldclass) museums. And you’re just a short drive away from three other important cultural attractions, one in Winter Park and two in neighboring Maitland. Here’s an insider’s tour of the six museums within bipedal range. You’ll have a sense of the community, as well as its arts attractions, by the time we’re through. You’ll also understand why Winter Park bills itself — not inaccurately — as “The City of Culture and Heritage.” We’ll follow that up with a bonus round of three other museums that are just a short drive away. THE CORNELL FINE ARTS MUSEUM AND THE ALFOND INN They’re a pair, these two, a pioneering partnership that has drawn national attention from art lovers and art experts alike. The Cornell overlooks Lake Virginia from the back side of the Rollins College campus at the southern end of Park Avenue. The Alfond Inn, which is owned by Rollins, was built three years ago on the footprint of the old Langford Hotel, just across Fairbanks Avenue from the campus and a short walk east of Park Avenue. The 112-room boutique hotel provides upscale lodging and meeting space in a market where both had been lacking. Plus, for all practical purposes, it’s a high-profile satellite location for the eclectic Cornell Fine Arts Museum. Plenty of high-end hotels have collections of beautiful artwork on the walls. But the Alfond’s is a cutting-edge, contemporary selection that may include, at any given time, the work of such widely recognized artists as revered abstract mini malist Carmen Herrera (she’s 100 and still painting) and conceptual artists Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner. The pieces on display are part of the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, named for Ted and Barbara Lawrence Alfond, both 1968 Rollins graduates. The Alfonds, through the charitable foundation established by Ted’s late father, Harold, provided a $12.5 million gift to jump-start construction of the hotel. In addition, with the assistance of private curator Abigail Ross Goodman, the Alfonds assembled a world-class collection of contemporary art and donated it to the college. More than 260 pieces from the Alfonds have become part of the Cornell’s permanent collection. Roughly 140 of those pieces, on a rotating basis, adorn the hotel’s walls. “Adorn,” though, is almost certainly not the right word. Unquestionably, much of the collection is visually pleasing, even to the untrained eye. None of it, however, was meant to be merely decorative. Some of the pieces are decidedly puzzling, while others are downright provocative. “These works were intentionally acquired to have a teaching purpose,” says Ena Heller, the Cornell’s director. “It’s a collection with a point of view. It’s about issues our students will be confronted with.” The “visual syllabus,” as Goodman has dubbed it, revolves around such topics as war, censorship, critical thinking, and relationships between different cultures and religious traditions. There are prints, paintings and photographs, as well as many pieces where words rather than images convey the message. “With this collection, artists expect viewers to participate,” Heller adds. “A A PHOTO BY WINTER PARK PICTURES Left to right: The Cornell Fine Arts Museum contains the region’s most eclectic collection, with thousands of pieces ranging from Old Masters to contemporary work. The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens salutes the work of one man: world-renowned sculptor Albin Polasek.
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