Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

by James Glaser
October 5, 2007

I've noticed here in the South that people are into style. They want to look good, even if it means that they are uncomfortable. You can spot somebody that is styling when you see a big man or a big woman in a small sports car. If you watch them get in or out of that little car, you just know they are not comfortable. Somehow they feel that they look good, and if it is a convertible, they think they look even better. It might be hot as hell, and that sun will cook you, but there they are driving around with the top down.

On Sunday, when you go to church down here and it is already ninety five and the humidity is close to 100%, you can see men in suits and ties, and women in high collar dresses, wearing hose. You have to know that they are hot, but they are styling. They will tell you that they are looking good for the Lord, but I never found that passage about styling in the Bible.

Every group has their own style. There is a Black style, with flashy clothes and big four door cars. Older Blacks people like Cadillac's and Lincolns. The younger people seem to favor Volvos and BMWs, or what ever they can afford. Lots of chrome is nice and younger people love huge chrome wheels that can cost more than the car did. Metal flake paint is "cool" too. White people down here are ether Southern gentry or country/cowboy in their dress. Some Black people try and dress White and some White people dress Black. Young White people are all over the place when it comes to style, but Hispanic men, when they really dress up tend to go for the dark cowboy look with a large very clean cowboy hat, maybe snake skin boots, dark jeans, and a cowboy shirt, and a sport coat.

I have been noticing this style thing, because I am working on the outside of my new gallery at Railroad Square. (You can google that and see a slide show of the Art Park) Years ago, Railroad Square decided to go "funky" with their style. The colors for the buildings are just about all dark trim colors. Some buildings are dark purple with dark blue trim. Some have a whole wall that is half medium green and the other half a lighter green.

Well, a while back there was talk of giving the "Park' more of a rail road feel. So, I'm painting my building white with Hunter Green trim. Rail road buildings usually were white, and depending on the railroad, the trim was a solid dark color. With all of these dark colored buildings around Railroad Square, a freshly painted white one really stands out . . . which is what I wanted. It looks clean and neat.

I have found a split in what people think of my paint job. Many people tell me it looks great, but others tell me I am changing the "funky" flavor of the park. Now for me, probably because most of the paint jobs around the park are so old, I see "funky" as dirty. Maybe when everything was newly painted it looked sharp, but dark trim colors tend to fade in the Florida sun.

But the thing that interests me is that so many of the people in the park equate what they call "funky" with some thing to do with "art." I think about that, and all I get out of that "funky" look is 1970s hippie. Maybe I can see Peter Max and Pop Art, but his work was pretty crisp, with vivid colors.

Besides that, I think what the building your studio is in looks like, makes that "first impression" that people coming to see your work get. If your studio looks like a dump, or unclean, maybe the contrast with your work can make what you do stand out a bit more, but I wouldn't want to depend on that. When I think of all the private and public galleries and studios I have seen in the last 30 years, the vast majority were nice looking and many were architectural marvels. They made the statement that something "special" is inside here.

Railroad Square has so much potential. It is a group of art studios and galleries sitting in a park like setting. Many of the artists are really first class, and the whole place sits between two universities, right near the heart of down town in a city that is known for being the State Capital. Tallahassee is filled with huge live oaks that have lots of Spanish moss hanging down, giving many streets a canopy of foliage.

The Art Park is easy to find, it has ample parking, a great restaurant, some nice galleries, things to do and things to see. I don't even think it has to change its style, but it could use a new coat of paint.

It is kind of funny to think of, but in Northern Minnesota, people have their own style, but that style is tempered with need to stay warm in the winter. The number one thing any car needs in Northern Minnesota is not the flashy color, nor the chrome wheels, not even a good sound system, the number one thing is a great heater, followed by some way to plug it in at night so it will start on cold mornings. That goes for clothing too. Warm is the style in the winter, and in the summer you have to wear enough to protect you from bug bites.

So, I guess after I live here a while, I'll have to start styling, too. That could be scary.

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