Get front-row seats to some of Orlando’s most wondrous arts organizations, including Central Florida Community Arts (pictured).
If cities are best measured by the magnitude of their dreams, then Orlando has few peers — and our most famous attractions are just part of the reason. Beyond the park gates, homegrown arts incubators and their talented dreamers are creating acclaimed work that’s turning heads and impressing critics throughout Central Florida and beyond. Use our video series to get an inside look at some of the most magical arts organizations you can only experience in Orlando.
Discover: Orlando Arts & Entertainment
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To discover upcoming productions from these and other performing arts organizations and venues in Orlando, visit our Events Calendar.
Creative City Project
You never know what the multipronged community of creative professionals at Creative City Project will come up with next, as evidenced by their ever-evolving lineup of annual events. Headed by local arts champion Cole NeSmith, Creative City Project’s goal is to cultivate a thriving local arts community, nurture a deeper sense of community ownership, and shape the global perception of Orlando’s arts scene.
“Visitors should make Creative City Project an integral part of their Central Florida experience because it offers a unique and captivating immersive showcase of local talent and innovative installations that will leave you inspired and awestruck, providing a deeper, more meaningful connection to the heart of Orlando,” says NeSmith. “Creative City Project is committed to creating experiences that both patrons and artists cannot have anywhere else in the world. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a music lover, or simply seeking a fresh and memorable experience, Creative City Project promises to make your visit to Orlando truly unforgettable.”
Creative City Project’s 2023 productions have included The Carnival in conjunction with Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the Halloween-themed Happy Frights and Haunting Nights. For the holidays, they’re offering Dazzling Nights at Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando’s Audubon Park Garden District. Stay tuned for details about their 2024 season.
Completely uncensored, unjuried, accessible and inclusive, Orlando Fringe is dedicated to keeping Orlando’s arts scene weird — in a good way. Best known for hosting the long-running Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival every May, they have since expanded to offer a wintertime event, FESTN4. They also added a year-round physical space in early 2023, with Fringe ArtSpace joining the Church Street entertainment zone in downtown Orlando’s City District.
Discover: Inside Fringe ArtSpace
“At Orlando Fringe, we believe in amplifying voices,” says Chris Trovador, Orlando Fringe marketing manager. “Our goal is to assure that we are creating and fostering an inclusive, equitable and collaborative environment.” To that end, Orlando Fringe openly recruits diverse stories and performances, providing opportunities for underrepresented artists and communities. They also facilitate and create opportunities for coaching, mentorship and scholarships.
“Ultimately, our greatest ambition is that artists and patrons of any background will see themselves represented in the work showcased at the Orlando Fringe Festival as well as all of our year-round events, and that we might serve as a model and inspiration to other artists and arts organizations in our own community and around the world.”
Timucua Arts Foundation
Diverse, inclusive and accessible for all, Timucua Arts Foundation is a one-of-kind fixture in Orlando’s vibrant music, arts and culture scene. A one-of-a-kind, 100-seat living room concert hall, the venue hosts internationally acclaimed jazz artists, indigenous and folkloric music and dance, contemporary classical music, avant-garde improv, film, site-specific theater, and more, all while visual artists work live on stage. It’s part of Orlando’s SODO District just south of downtown.
Discover: Inside Timucua Arts Foundation
“Orlando has been a hotbed for the arts for decades,” says Benoit Glazer, who founded Timucua in his own home nearly 25 years ago. “Many people don’t realize that many art forms were actually created here in Orlando.” Glazer includes acid jazz, folk art, boy bands, and film and television as a few examples of industries that thrived or were born right here in Orlando.
“Nowadays, there are many venues that offer the culturally curious a variety of options. Orlando is coming into its own as a cultural destination, and Timucua is a part of that. Musicians from around the world know about Timucua. They want to play here because of the space and because of the audience.”
Central Florida Community Arts
Central Florida Community Arts, aka CFCArts, exists to serve and build community through the arts. They also believe that every stage in our community should be accessible to all, and that performances from their choir, orchestra, youth programs and more should celebrate the community. CFCArts also offers music lessons, workshops and classes, ensuring everyone can learn from talented teachers or try something new. You can see them perform at venues all over town.
“Central Florida Community Arts stands as a vibrant beacon in Orlando’s cultural landscape, boasting the nation’s largest community choir and community symphony orchestra,” says Zac Alfson, senior director of marketing and communications for CFCArts. “These ensembles, and others, are composed of dedicated and skilled volunteer musicians from across the region, each bringing their unique talents to the stage.
“When visitors immerse themselves in a CFCArts performance, they don’t just witness a show: They delve into the very heartbeat of the region. It’s a window into how Orlando comes together, harmonizing efforts and celebrating community through the transformative power of the arts. It’s where every note played and every voice raised encapsulates the spirit of togetherness, making it an essential experience for anyone seeking to truly understand and appreciate the rich tapestry of Orlando’s community and culture.”
SAK Comedy Lab
Improv comedy takes center stage at SAK Comedy Lab, where professional improv actors have been entertaining audiences for more than three decades. Part of downtown Orlando’s City District, this small theater has produced some big talent along the way, including Wayne Brady and many other writers, actors and producers for hits such as Saturday Night Live, MAD TV, The Office, 30 Rock and Scrubs. It’s also one of Orlando’s most affordable date nights, with most performances costing $20 or less. Don’t go expecting passive entertainment, though: Audience participation is part of the fun at SAK.
Discover: Things to Do in City District
“SAK has been an improv comedy institution since 1991, and our stage is filled with some of the best entertainment talent in the country,” says Chris Dinger, SAK executive director. “If you’re a fan of comedy, you’ll find an experience at SAK that is unlike any other in Orlando and beyond. Our improv shows are highly interactive, fun for all ages, and a true local favorite.”
Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts
Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts is an intimate venue with capacity for just over 100 guests, plus an art gallery, audio and video recording capabilities, practice rooms, and more. They serve the community with affordable, family-friendly music, spoken word and visual arts, including a robust schedule of affordably priced live shows. They’re located in the upscale city of Winter Park, about 20 minutes north of our main tourism districts.
Discover: Things to Do in Winter Park
Museums, Galleries & More
Visual and performing arts coexist at CityArts, a contemporary art space and cultural destination in the heart of downtown Orlando’s City District. Housed in the historic, Queen Anne-style Rogers-Kiene Building, CityArts features seven art galleries with rotating exhibits from local, regional and international artists, all complemented by an in-house cafe and presentation and event spaces. Admission to the galleries is free.
Speaking of visiting, touring the building alone is worth the trip. Built in 1886 by English settler Gordon Rogers, it’s the oldest functioning commercial building in Orlando and on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a beautiful, vibrant space where contemporary and history meet.
Lake Nona Sculpture Garden
Designed for exploration and discovery, the Lake Nona Sculpture Garden is home to a distinguished selection of works from one of the world’s largest private art menageries, The Lewis Collection. Adjacent to the Lake Nona Wave Hotel and minutes from Orlando International Airport, the outdoor space is a must-visit for art aficionados of all ages.
Discover: Things to Do in Lake Nona
The Sculpture Garden features four pieces by internationally acclaimed and locally based artist JEFRË, but that’s not the only draw for art-lovers. You can also marvel at the legendary bronze Charging Bull by Arturo di Modica, Mother and Child and Upright Motive by Henry Moore, Leda and the Swan by Fernando Botero, Jeté II by Enzo Plazzotta, and Cloister Conspiracy and The Don by Philip Jackson.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that a lot of us come here to become creative,” says JEFRË. “Orlando is a city of creatives. People come here to visit and dream, and we are the people who make those dreams come true. Orlando is full and vast of people that have moved here to be part of this creative process. And it’s really interesting that we’re not only designing and creating fantasies and dreams for people within the gates, but we’re now trying to do it for people who live here in Orlando.”
Harry P. Leu Gardens
Even when it isn’t hosting one of Creative City Project’s events, Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando’s Audubon Park Garden District is always worth a visit. Here, art primarily takes the form of 50 acres of beautifully cultivated gardens.
Walk the paths and wooden boardwalks to peruse more than 40 diverse plant collections from around the world, including a tropical rainforest, Florida’s largest formal rose garden, and an amazing butterfly garden. And if that isn’t enough artistry for you, Harry P. Leu Gardens also features numerous sculptures and hosts live entertainment.
“Harry P. Leu Gardens is a botanical adventure that provides a relaxing and educational outdoor experience every time you visit,” says Jennifer D’hollander, Harry P. Leu Gardens executive director. “The Gardens changes seasonally with new plantings, outdoor exhibits, events and programs throughout the year, so you can visit again and again and always discover something new. A visit to the Gardens is good for the body, mind and soul any time of the year.”
Art & History Museums of Maitland
Consisting of four museums spread across five acres, Art & History Museums of Maitland is dedicated to engaging the public, preserving the past, and nurturing artists in all stages of their careers. Explore a showcase of original art and historical artifacts, watch local artists at work, or even learn from some of Central Florida’s finest art instructors. You can even witness one of the nation’s most prominent examples of Mayan Revival architecture, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2014.
“Central Florida has a vibrant history, and the Maitland Art Center at the Art & History Museums of Maitland is an important part of that,” says Hannah Miller, marketing manager for the museums. “When the Maitland Art Center was built in 1937, it was only the third art gallery in the state, and the first in the entire state devoted solely to modern art. Artists lived and worked at the site during the winter months, and today that legacy is continued with our contemporary artist residency programs and exhibitions.
“It’s a living historical site, an architectural masterpiece, and with the addition of the Maitland History Museum and Telephone Museum, it’s an experience not to be missed.” Maitland is just north of Winter Park, about 25 minutes from our main tourism districts.
Florida Film Festival
Hosted by the Enzian Theater in Maitland every April, the Florida Film Festival premieres the best in current, independent and international cinema. With more than 160 films and events over a 10-day period, it presents a one-of-a-kind opportunity for cinephiles to mix and mingle with filmmakers and celebrities.
The Florida Film Festival also one of only a handful of Oscar-qualifying U.S. festivals in all three shorts categories, including Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film and Documentary Short Subject. Check back for details about the 2024 edition as they become available.
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