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Award-Winning Orlando Architect James Cornetet Wields the Arts to Influence Life

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by Mellissa Thomas

 

The Urban Art Museum team (from left): Jai Gallery director Coralie Claeysen-Gleyzon, gallery owner Dennis Liddy, UAM co-founder Wes Featherston, artist Marcos Cruz and UAM co-founder James Cornetet.

The Urban Art Museum team (from left): Jai Gallery director Coralie Claeysen-Gleyzon, gallery owner Dennis Liddy, UAM co-founder Wes Featherston, artist Marcos Cruz and UAM co-founder James Cornetet. Source: Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel.

 

Imagine spending ten years of your life becoming something that never crossed your mind before – and then flourishing at that thing you never planned to become. Orlando architect James Cornetet, a prolific artist thanks to his polymath tendencies, took the lemons-into-lemonade proverb to an entirely new level. In fact, with four awards, three art exhibitions, and a book under his belt, Cornetet has rather achieved comedian Ron White’s remix of the adage: “When life gives you lemons, find someone whose life’s given them tequila, and have a party.”

 

Artist of All Trades

Cincinnati native Cornetet, who moved to Orlando with his wife when Disney recruited her for an Orlando job, is an architect by trade, but an artist at heart. He has his hands in furniture design, sculpting, painting, photography, and writing. Although, when a man’s goal is to “not just create beauty, but critique society and expose social injustices, cultural biases and identify the controversial (and irony inherent in the) issues of our time,” then it stands to reason Cornetet would work tirelessly to disseminate truth in as many ways as he can manage. However, his subtle revolutionary efforts don’t end there: he is also an adjunct professor of architecture at both Valencia College and University of Central Florida’s School of Architecture in Orlando, having molded young minds at Valencia for five years and UCF for three.

He explained that he became an adjunct professor to give back, and finds it rewarding. “I have an internal desire to help other people trying to grow and mature in this world, and guide them in a non-parental way.” Because, he said, people tend to listen to strangers they like or trust when they impart information, whereas parents are “always trying to place their own bias on you.”

There’s a reason for his stark assessment: personal experience.

 

The Forced Square Peg

College, much less architecture, was nowhere on Cornetet’s radar after high school.

“I fell into that,” Cornetet confessed to OFM recently about his architectural career. “I was going to go to California to write screenplays and skip college, which upset my family, since I would’ve been the first grandchild to go to college.” His mother ultimately “forced” him to take architecture, which, despite his success, is still a minute thorn. To Cornetet, the post-high school crossroads is “one of the most important decisions and most important financial investments” of a person’s life. He doesn’t subscribe to the now fading notion that a traditional college education is the only way for someone to find a decent job. He prefers apprenticeship and mentor programs. “I’m the kind of guy, if I want to learn something, I’m going to pick it up and learn it, but you can’t do that with architecture. You have to have a Masters degree.”

His dissent aside, Cornetet co-founded Process Architecture, LLC, his Orlando architecture firm, with Wes Featherston in 2011.

 

Parlaying His Lemons

Ten years, two degrees, a three-year internship, many exams and certifications, and $70,000 later, Cornetet is now a LEED Accredited and NCARB certified licensed designer, and holds two patents.

He gained international acclaim for his get your feet of my coffee table!, designed as a topless coffee table. Its innovative yet practical design won him the A’Design Award in 2011 and a one-year exhibition in the MOOD Museum of Design in Como, Italy, plus inclusion in many publications.

Cornetet's topless "get your feet off my coffee table" still fulfills a table's function while captivating the imagination.

Cornetet’s topless “get your feet off my coffee table” still fulfills a table’s function while captivating the imagination. There’s even a bookshelf hewn into the right side.

 

His work on Tampa’s $13 million Channelside Parking Garage extension earned the garage the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Tampa Award of Merit in 2009, and International Parking Institute’s 2011 Award of Merit as one of the best parking garages in the world.

Cornetet's extension design for Tampa's Channelside Parking Garage, fully built and lit at night

Cornetet’s award-winning Channelside Parking Garage extension design fully realized.

 

In its short lifetime, Process Architecture has already made history as the only Florida firm to win both an AIA Florida and an AIA Orlando Award of Merit in 2012 for the firm’s simplistic yet groundbreaking LYNX Lite Stop prototype design for the Old 50 District. The cost-effective L-shaped bus shelter design not only offers interactive LED lighting that responds to traffic and bus movement, but also uses graffiti-averse material and helps the blind. “There’s no way for the blind to know they’re approaching a bus stop other than sheer memorization,” Cornetet revealed. Thanks to the prototype’s cruciform beams, the blind can know for certain they’ve reached a bus stop.

Process Architecture, LLC's prototype design for a LYNX Lite Stop

A full night rendering of the Lite Stop protoype

A full night rendering of the Lite Stop protoype demonstrating the LED lights.

 

And there’s more where that came from on the firm’s website.

 

Architecture in Words

As an artist, Cornetet crisscrosses skill sets accordingly. For example, his architectural acumen influences his niche writing, mainly comprised of op-ed pieces against modern architecture’s avarice and its effects on society, including his first book Facadomy: A Critique on Capitalism and Its Assault on Mid-Century Modern Architecture, which earned him an honorable spot on the long list for the Sir Banister Fletcher Art Book Prize. He is also an architecture critic for the German publication Bauwelt, and AIA Florida’s florida/Caribbean Architect.

“I believe it’s become an elitist profession,” Cornetet said of architecture. “Ninety-nine percent of [American] buildings are built to generate profit.” He explained that his architecture and furniture designs follow the Ikea model – giving people more for less, and optimizing the design to prevent wasted material or space. For him, it’s not just about designing eye candy, but something that addresses a problem, and more importantly, something that serves as a decisive comment on current designs.

 

Breaking into Portraits

Cornetet’s sound understanding of framing, composition, and lighting from architecture helps his photography skills as well. He began with architectural photography, not really considering photography an art form until he attended Jai and SNAP art galleries a few years ago, which exposed him to fine art photography. He ventured into portrait photography after his daughter’s birth last year and “got hooked.”

He wields his Nikon D7000 and stalwart, decade-old Nikon D50 to take portraits, which, like his designs, make biting comments on Western society. His two recent projects, “Unconventional” and “Parramore Project” scream iconic.

Cornetet, who has carved out a niche for himself by shooting and publishing photos with no retouching, captures his subjects conceptually – every photo, or in some cases each collection of photos, tells a story. Even to the untrained eye, the photos’ rawness leaves an indelible impression; because Cornetet’s other separating factor is that he relies heavily on naturally lit spaces, manipulating the light on his subject in a way that moves the viewer.

 

Cornetet shoots his subjects raw to highlight their true look, including his "Unconventional Artist" model, post-mask.

Cornetet shoots his subjects raw to highlight their true look, including his “Unconventional Artist” model, post-mask.

 

His “Unconventional” series features four photo shoots: Unconventional Artist, Unconventional Urbanista, Unconventional Warrior, and Unconventional Beauty. He describes the project:

“The ‘Unconventional’ photography series examines unconventional feminine beauty, according to Western societal norms. Instead of fetishizing them and portraying them as an object of sexual desire, the women featured are empowered women…They do not rely on the male gaze (or on the burden of ‘having to be beautiful’) in order to exist.”

The most glaring shoot in the series is “Unconventional Beauty,” which features a body modification model with piercings in what some would consider “unconventional” places: one above the nose bridge (between her eyes), one on her right cheek just below the eye, and one in her upper lip.

Cornetet's "Unconventional Beauty" body modification model

Cornetet’s “Unconventional Beauty” body modification model

 

He stated his greatest inspiration for the “Unconventional” project was his sisters and wife, who work in male-dominated careers, and his newborn daughter.

The “Parramore Project,” a more sobering series, chronicles the lives of Parramore denizens in downtown Orlando. Most of the candid photos capture the hope, love, heartbreak, and irony of the community’s existence while still giving capitalism and American society a proper haymaker. Though Parramore is a historic community with vibrant, loving people loyal to their neighborhood who want the same joy out of life as anyone anywhere else, it’s one of Orlando’s most pitied, with its crumbling rusty buildings and infamy pregnant with high crime and school dropout rates, and the downtown poor.

Which is precisely why Cornetet founded the Urban Art Museum.

 

The UAM

Cornetet’s Urban Art Museum is right there in Parramore, tying right in with his cause. According to him, most public art is designated by the city or state concerned. “It’s public art without public input.” UAM engenders crowdsourced art proposals created by people in the community, and approved by the community. “[This] gives people the choice to fund a project or not, and connects the artist with the community once the project’s approved. It creates a sense of ownership within the community.” As a condition, the artist has to incorporate the donors’ names into the work in a unique way. The museum also includes poetry written by Parramore students, and has recently teamed up with New Image Youth Center.

 

Urban Art Museum's first completed project: Marco Cruz's 9" design, created to beautify a space between two adjacent buildings at at 934 N. Mills Avenue previous used as a dumping ground for drug paraphernalia and trash.

Urban Art Museum’s first completed project: Marco Cruz’s completed 9″ design, created to beautify a space between two adjacent buildings at 934 N. Mills Avenue previously used as a dumping ground for drug paraphernalia and trash.

 

The Mission Continues

A common resounding manifesto flourishes between Cornetet’s Process Architecture firm, the Urban Art Museum, and his fine art photography: find a need or problem, find a way to address it, and find the right people to materialize the thing that not only addresses it, but does so in an informative, charismatic way.

 

Image sources:
Group photo by Jacob Langston for the Orlando Sentinel.
All “Unconventional” photos by James Cornetet. Used with permission.
Architectural photos courtesy of Process Architecture, LLC.
9” architectural art photo courtesy of Urban Art Museum.

 

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Mellissa Thomas headshotAbout the Author:
Orlando Fashion Magazine Chief Editor Mellissa Thomas is a Jamaica-born writer. She’s a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with Entertainment Business Masters and Film Bachelors degrees from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL. She’s currently available for hire, writing content for websites, blogs, and marketing material. She also writes poetry, screenplays, and ghostwrites books. She has published four books, all available on Amazon.com. Her most recent release, “Faded Diamonds”, is now available in paperback on all major online book retailers and digitally available on the Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.

 

 

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Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness Coming March 2023

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WINTER PARK, Fla. (Florida National News) – Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness, inspired by the children’s TV host and icon, comes to Orlando in March 2023. This week-long series of events was announced today at the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation in Winter Park.

“Fred McFeely Rogers devoted his entire life to reminding us of some of the most important ideas of what it means to be human among humans: love, respect and kindness,” explained Buena Vista Events & Management President & CEO Rich Bradley. “Many of us find that nearly 20 years after Fred’s passing, it is important to focus on his teachings once again, perhaps now more than ever. This is a week to re-engage with his massive body of work with some folks, and to introduce his teachings to others.”

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness begins March 20, 2023, the date which would have been Fred’s 95th birthday, and concludes on Saturday, March 26 with the Red Sweater Soiree, a community dinner to recognize ten ordinary members of the community who inspire and exemplify the affinity that Fred Rogers had for showing kindness to our “Neighbors”.

Mister Rogers Week of Kindness coming March 20-26, 2023. Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Activities planned for the week will include early childhood education activities and faculty training, as well as events open to the public.

“The events will be offered free or at low cost,” continued Bradley. “This week-long celebration is not a series of fundraisers, but rather about once again remembering and sharing some of the great work that Fred Rogers created, not only in early childhood education, but in reminding us that we are all part of one big ‘neighborhood’. Fred taught us the importance of accepting our Neighbors just the way they are and engaging in kindness with our interactions. I can’t think of another period in my lifetime where we needed to reflect on those messages again more than today.”

“There are three ways to ultimate success,” Fred Rogers was once quoted as saying. “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. Imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”

Many of the activities of Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness will be attended by members of the cast and crew of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 – 1975, and again from 1979 – 2001. David Newell, known as “Mr. McFeely,” the “Speedy Delivery” man, appeared at today’s media conference via video, and looks forward to visiting Central Florida next March.

David Newell, “Mr. McFeely.” Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness is supported by the McFeely-Rogers Foundation, the Fred Rogers Institute, and Fred Rogers Productions. Details regarding the specific activities and venues will be released over the next few weeks.

For more information on the events, visit https://www.BuenaVistaEvents.com or https://www.MisterRogersWeekofKindness.com.

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A Quick Primer on the Team Solving Orange County’s Affordable Housing Crisis

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Orange County’s Housing for All Task Force held its introductory meeting on April 12, 2019 at the Board of County Commissioner Chambers. Photo: Orange County Government.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Orange County faces a growing affordable housing crisis, and Mayor Jerry Demings has taken notice–and action. Shortly after his inauguration, he formed Housing For All, an affordable housing task force to face the challenge head-on.

The Housing For All task force doesn’t meet monthly like the County Commission–in fact, their next meeting won’t be until October 4, 2019–but they do work when they’re not meeting. The task force is made up of three subcommittees, Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee, Accessibility and Opportunity Subcommittee and Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee. These three subcommittees meet twice a month to come up with ideas and plans to fix the affordable housing problem.

Each subcommittee has a specific focus on ways to help solve the problem of affordable housing. The Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee is focused on the design of new affordable housing projects, the renovation of current affordable housing that might need fixing and land development for affordable housing units. The Accessibility and Opportunity Subcommittee is focused on making sure affordable housing is accessible to the major economic zones of the city, develop partnerships with groups and focus on outreach in the county. The Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee is focused on finding ways to increase the supply of affordable housing and how to preserve affordable housing.

At their next meeting in October these subcommittees will update the county on what they have accomplished and what they plan to do in the future. For information from previous Housing for All Task Force meetings or the meeting schedule, visit the Orange County Government website.

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Leyton Blackwell is a photojournalist and Florida National News contributor. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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Opening Biopic ‘Te Ata’ Sets High Bar for 2016 Orlando Film Festival

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ORLANDO: Chickasaw Nation Biopic 'Te Ata' Sets Stage for Orlando Film Festival.

ORLANDO (FNN NEWS) – Orlando Film Festival kicked off at Cobb Theaters in Downtown Orlando Wednesday night. The red carpet came alive with excited filmmakers and actors ready to showcase their projects to the Orlando community and, in some cases, to the world at large, including Nathan Frankowski, director of this year’s opening feature Te Ata.

About Te Ata

Frankowski’s biopic feature chronicles the true story of Chickasaw actress and storyteller Mary Frances Thompson, whose love of stories and the Chickasaw Nation fueled her to share the Chickasaw culture with new audiences in the early 1900s, a time when the United States was still growing as a nation and clashed with Native American peoples in the process.

Viewers are immediately swept into the saga from the film’s opening scene with a voice-over folk tale told by Mary Thompson’s father, T.B. Thompson (played by Gil Birmingham). Ironically, though his storytelling places the seed of inspiration in her, it slowly becomes a source of friction between them as she ages.

What makes the film engrossing is the sprawling backdrop upon which Thompson’s journey takes place. While young Te Ata (which means “The Morning”) flourishes with each solo performance and eventually sets her sights on Broadway, the Chickasaw Nation is fighting to secure the funding due them from the U.S. government in the face of ethnocentrism and religious bigotry–to the point that the government passed a law forbidding the sale of traditional Native American textiles and creations, which caused further financial struggle for the Chickasaw Nation. Viewers even experience the Thompsons’ fish-out-of-water feeling as the Chickasaw people’s territory, Tishomingo, shrinks significantly to become part of the newborn state of Oklahoma.

The political tensions are counterbalanced with Te Ata’s experience. Te Ata does her first performances among family, but chooses to leave home for the first time in her life to attend the Oklahoma College for Women (known today as University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma), despite her father’s wishes for her to find a job at home. Viewers immediately empathize with Te Ata’s awkward experience upon her arrival at the predominantly Caucasian-attended College, but cheer her on when that one connection is made, because all it ever takes is one.

Te Ata’s jumping off point occurs when she meets drama teacher Frances Dinsmore Davis, who encourages her to join her class and to share the Chickasaw stories for her senior presentation instead of the usual Shakespeare recitation. From there, Te Ata’s career blossoms from one serendipitous connection to another, taking her performances across the country. She eventually makes it to New York City, hustling to find her place on Broadway, and finds love in the process while performing privately for Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband was then Governor of New York. The heroine’s journey continues with well-placed highs and lows, keeping the viewer visually and emotionally engaged.

Te Ata is touchingly channeled through lead actress Q’orianka Kilcher who, like Te Ata, has stage experience, and brought it to bear in the role. Kilcher’s magnetic singing, with the help of the film’s sweeping score and indigenous songs, imprints the true Te Ata’s passion for her people onto the viewer’s heart.

Frankowski, who worked closely with the Chickasaw Nation in creating the film, honors Te Ata’s memory and legacy in a cohesive, sweeping tale that will edify audiences everywhere.

 

 

Florida National News Editor Mellissa Thomas is an author and journalist, as well as a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with degrees in Entertainment Business and Film. She also helps business owners, CEOs, executives, and speakers double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book.

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