WEDU Arts Plus


Episode 913

Tour the grounds and learn the history of the pristine Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida. Susheel Bibbs shares her love for the arts as a storyteller and opera singer. Fine arts photographer Derry Cox captures images that aren't able to be seen with the naked eye. Reno, Nevada, artist Killbuck creates original works of art styled after historical advertising for freak shows and sideshows.

AIRED: July 16, 2020 | 0:26:34

(uplifting music)

- [Narrator] This is a production of WEDU PBS.

Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota.

Major funding for WEDU Arts Plus is provided

through the Greater Cincinnati Foundation

by an arts-loving donor who encourages others

to support your PBS station WEDU.

And by the Pinellas Community Foundation,

giving humanity a hand since 1969.

- [Dalia] In this edition of WEDU Arts Plus,

take in the beauty of the natural Florida landscape

preserved in Lake Wales.

- [Narrator] At the center of Olmstead's Design

is Bok's majestic Singing Tower.

The 205 foot tower houses the 60 bell carillon,

one of the world's finest.

- [Narrator] A storyteller who has worn many hats.

- I would say, when one door closes,

look at yourself and open others.

The next thing I knew I was executive producer of "Zoom."

- [Narrator] A photographer captures the abstract.

- I create fractal images and fractals are the marriage

of mathematics and art. - And circus posters inspire.

- Meaning is relative, art is the most subject thing

in the world in human experience.

- It's all coming up next on WEDU Arts Plus.

(upbeat music)

Hello, I'm Dalia Colon and this is WEDU Arts Plus.

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales is a must-visit destination

for its historic architecture,

sprawling gardens, and peaceful atmosphere.

It also happens to be a Florida landmark.

Let's check it out!

(birds singing)

(birds singing) (gentle piano music)

- [Narrator] No man has the right to leave the world

no better than he found it, he must add something to it.

Either he must make its people better and happier,

or he must make the face of the world fairer to look at.

Edward Bok.

- [Narrator] Welcome to Bok Tower Gardens,

a place like no other.

A National Historic Landmark, nestled among rolling hills

of citrus atop one of peninsular Florida's highest points.

Edward W Bok retired from publishing

and dedicated his life to conservation,

the arts, world peace, and philanthropy.

In the early 1920s, during visits to his winter home

in the nearby Mountain Lake community,

he enjoyed evening walks to the top of Iron Mountain.

At 298 feet above sea level, the natural beauty

of this hilltop was a place of serenity

from which he observed breathtaking sunsets.

Bok's dream was to preserve these grounds

as a sanctuary for future generations.

With an enduring love of nature and music,

he called upon famed landscape architect

Frederick Law Olmstead Junior in 1922

to design a meditative garden

that celebrates Florida's native plants and birds.

(uplifting music)

The result is one of Olmstead's greatest achievements,

a naturalistic masterpiece.

Respected for his defining work

on the National Parks system as well

as the designs of the National Mall,

Jefferson Memorial, and the White House Grounds,

Olmstead sought inspiration from Bok's garden

from the natural areas of Florida.

At the center of Olmstead's design

is Bok's majestic Singing Tower.

Designed by architect Milton B Medary,

crafted of Kokina, Georgia marble and ceramic tile,

the 205 foot tower houses the 60 bell carillon,

one of the world's finest.

Medary's Art Deco design won the American Institute

of Architect's top award, harmonizing a seamless marriage

between architecture and landscape.

Edward Bok's only instructions were

that the tower must be beautiful and reflect nature.

Pelicans, songbirds, rabbits, tortoises, fox, eagles,

herons and many other creatures adorn the tower.

Medary brought with him three skilled artisans

to assist in the tower's creation.

Sculptor Lee Lawrie is best known for his sculpture

of Atlas at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

JH Dulles Allen created the colorful tile grills

that surround the bell chamber.

And the intricate but massive wrought iron work is

that of famed artist Samuel Yellin,

whose work is represented

at the Washington National Cathedral

and other historic landmarks.

Mirrored in the reflection pool is Yellin's crowning jewel,

the incomparable brass door.

Drawn from the Book of Genesis,

30 relief panels tell the story of creation.

The magnificent 60-bell carillon was crafted

by the John Taylor Bell Foundry of Loughborough, England.

The bells are housed in a chamber 40 feet tall

and 35 feet wide.

Garret D'Hollander from Belgium is recognized

as one of the top carillonneur in the world.

And only the fourth resident carillonneur

in the garden's history.

During live concerts, watch D'Hollander perform

on a closed circuit television

in a seating area just northwest of the tower.

Or enjoy the concert from one of many quiet benches

found throughout the gardens.

(uplifting music)

- I've been playing the carillon since I was five years old,

since my dad is also a carillonneur.

So it was a lot of fun climbing all those towers

and seeing all those different instruments.

There are about 600 instruments worldwide.

And I think I'm close to playing 400 of them

and there is no place like this.

Bok Tower Gardens is really, really unique.

The location, the setting, historical instrument,

60 bells, 60 tons which is incredible heavy.

It's just gorgeous.

The bells are made of bronze and on the inside

of each bell you have a clapper.

So the bells don't move, it's only the clapper that moves.

So when I strike a key, you have a wire going

up through a clapper and the clapper is moving

and produces the sound.

This is definitely my favorite instrument

just because of that, the setting,

the tower, the style, the beautiful heavy bells.

60 tons, it's incredible.

(uplifting piano music)

- [Narrator] On February 1st 1929,

Edward Bok's dream of creating a place

that would touch the soul with its beauty

and quiet was realized.

President Calvin Coolidge, joined by a host

of dignitaries and honored guests,

dedicated Bok Tower Gardens.

(uplifting piano music)

Today, you can experience Bok Tower Gardens

in your own special way.

Plan to tour the adjacent Pinewood Estate,

a 20-room mansion built in 1932

by Charles Austin Buck, a Bethlehem Steel Vice President.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places,

the property is one of the finest examples

of Mediterranean-style architecture in Florida.

Once part of the same Mountain Lake community

where Edward Bok wintered,

Pinewood Estate was purchased by the Gardens in 1970

and carefully restored.

Self-guided tours are offered daily

and take about an hour.

Created as a bird sanctuary,

the Gardens is a designated site

on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife trail.

Walk the Pine Ridge Preserve,

through a pristine longleaf pine forest

abounding with wildflowers where you may see one

of our resident gopher tortoises.

Sit at the window by the pond to watch ducks

and wading birds in a Florida wetlands setting,

where nature's show is always changing.

(uplifting music)

Conservation is key to our mission.

As part of a nationwide network

of 39 botanical gardens that participate

in the Center for Plant Conservation,

our Rare Plant Conservation Program works

to conserve rare native plants.

Our region's unique geological history

has created an ecosystem that is home

to one of the greatest concentrations

of endangered plants in the nation.

48 rare species are found on the Lake Wales ridge

and nowhere else in the world!

You can see many of these plants

in our Endangered Plant Garden.

A courtesy shuttle to the tower

and Pinewood Estate is offered,

but the pleasant walk allows visitors

to explore our meandering pathways

and experience the quiet surprises of the gardens.

Hammock Hollow Children's Garden

has a native Florida character and is a place

to learn through play.

Children can climb on, under, and through natural structures

while creating art and learning more about nature.

This garden brings art and nature together

with a vital connection between plants

and animals and people.

This area is a hub for horticultural

and culinary programming, showcasing lifestyle gardening

and the culinary arts.

(uplifting music)

- [Narrator] Make you the world a bit better

or more beautiful because you have lived in it, Edward Bok.

(uplifting music) (birdsong)

- For more information, visit

Susheel Bibbs wears many hats.

She's toured internationally in opera and in theater.

She's also a teacher, filmmaker,

scholar, and public media producer.

But the common thread is that she's a storyteller.

(gentle classical music)

- The arts are so important, and I don't say

that because I've spent my life in the arts.

The arts give you abilities.

The arts give you structure.

When I went to Sumner High School,

which is the oldest African American high school west

of the Mississippi, there was a great choir

called the Sumner A Capella Choir.

And I wanted to sing in that choir.

I realized that singing was a really valuable thing

and that I could do something special.

And I became the youngest Legends singer.

My highest point of my opera career

was with the Opera Company of Boston

and with the Santa Fe Opera.

Singing before large audiences was really thrilling.

I sang with Regine Crespin, a very famous singer.

And I sang in "The Trojans," a very very long opera.

And I got wonderful reviews all over the world.

I went to Europe right after that

and had a chance to be chosen to sing

for television in Germany and Austria

for the Saltsbrook Festival.

And then I started to get really ill.

I didn't realize that I was allergic to wine

so I became ill and I kept getting bronchitis

which is deadly for a singer.

And so finally after three years,

even though I was offered a world premiere

with the Opera Company of Boston, a leading role,

I just called up one day and said,

"I can't do this anymore."

Well, I thought then, if you're not singing,

which is what you've always thought you were going to do,

what are you gonna do?

I knew Chris Sarson at WGBH in Boston

and I had done an opera with him

so I contacted them and he was the creator of "Zoom."

♪ So won't you zoom zoom zoom a-zoom ♪

- He decided that I could come on

and train and choose the children for "Zoom."

I had this little career at first

as a talent coordinator on "Zoom," zoom zoom zoom, you know?

Then that went into being offered by Paula Absol,

who's now what we call the supernova at Nova.

She had a little show called "The Spider's Web."

I took it and I produced this radio show

and it went to NPR.

I would say, when one door closes,

look at yourself and open others.

The next thing I knew,

I was the executive producer of "Zoom."

I think it's important not to let people tell you

what the limits are because there aren't any.

You are as limited as your imagination.

♪ I'm going ♪

My storyteller as a singer, I think,

set my mind to that kind of thing

of appreciation of story.

When I came back to singing after years

as a producer, I was singing classical song again.

People kept telling me about stories.

One night after singing at Herbst Theater in San Francisco,

we were sitting around the table

with Jacqueline Hairston, the great composer.

And she said, "I wanna write a story

about Mary Ellen Pleasant."

I went, "Mary Ellen who?"

My name is Mary Pleasant and I come a long way.

I started going into the archives.

It was like a great mystery that I had to solve.

The way she lived her life, becoming a millionaire

from being a slave, being an entrepreneur,

being inclusive, those stories have to come out.

They have to inspire the next generation.

It matters that we have inspiration.

And not just African American stories,

but these stories inspire all people.

And the venerable Lucretia!

And the Higher Sisters also were an inspiration.

Here are these opera singers, people like me

who spent their whole life wanting

to be great singers and all of a sudden boom, they change.

And they're gonna not go to Europe

and they're gonna do these musicals

about the African American experience.

And boy, I wanted to know why!

(singing in foreign language)

- But I want people to see something

in what I'm doing or what I present

that will inspire them to do something.

The arts can really go beyond what we

as individuals hold as our little structures and biases.

And that's been proved time and time again.

I'm still here. (chuckles)

As long as I'm still here, then I have something to do.

- Learn more about her work at

Self-taught photographer Derry Cox focuses

on the smallest details, from flowers to fractals.

Now in retirement, the world is his canvas.

(mysterious music)

- I've noticed several reactions that people have.

Sometimes they're amazed, they're surprised.

They'll discover things, wow, I didn't know

that a bee had hair on its eye!

Sometimes they'll look at it and say,

"That is just beautiful."

They'll looK at it and say they just love it.

When they look at my pictures,

they're going to either find something

that's interesting or something that's beautiful

or something that they just like.

But it's my vision, it's the things

that I see that I'm able to share.

I'm curious and I just have fun.

I'm Derry Cox, and I'm a fine art photographer.

I do the entire process from the concept

to the photography to the post-production

to cutting my mats to building the frames

and mounting my images.

And so as from concept until the point

where you have it in your hand

and stand by the wall and you hang it on the wall.

I've done the whole thing and I just feel

like that's part of my art.

And that's the way I prefer to do it.

I'm retired and I'm a self-taught photographer.

I think I learn in a different way

than a lot of people do.

Maybe I'm a slow learner, I don't know.

But I don't do rote learning.

So as far as my study of photography, it's the same way.

(whimsical music)

I have a fairly good understanding of digital math.

And a fairly comfortable understanding

of physics and electronics and I'm curious

and I understand cameras.

And when I have an understanding,

now I can work with it and you can be creative.

And learn the tools, learn the rules, and break the rules.

(shutter clicking)

Almost everything I photograph is

within walking distance of my house, almost.

I have been known to go to the Air Force Museum.

I have been known to go to Cox Arboretum.

But 99% of my stuff is right here.

When I give myself my entire house,

my back yard, the field behind my house,

and then you combine that with all the different types

of photography that I do from infrared

to the microscope to the telescope,

macro, extreme macro, there's a never-ending supply

of things for me to photograph here.

There are two things that come to mind

that I particularly like.

One of them is lightning and the other one are snowflakes.

Both of them, unfortunately, has a very narrow window

of opportunity to be able to photograph them.

These images have a real high wow factor.

You'd be amazed at how many different varieties

of snowflakes there are.

I've seen snowflakes change in the middle of a snowstorm.

I like to do water drop photography, that's fun.

But you need an extremely high shutter speed.

I photograph what I choose and it may be something

that I see, it may be an idea or just a concept.

But whatever it is, I'm free to choose.

And then I'll explore it and I will manipulate it.

I'm free to follow my muse wherever she takes me.

(uplifting music)

(mysterious music)

The other thing I like to do are called fractals.

I create fractal images.

And fractals are the marriage of mathematics and art.

And if you look at a fractal image,

basically it is a self-replicating image.

First you'll see an overall shape,

and as you look closer, you find out

that that shape is made up of copies of itself.

And it goes smaller and smaller and smaller.

I use the computer as a tool.

The computer crunches the numbers,

really does the heavy lifting.

If you didn't have the computer,

you couldn't do the math to create a fractal.

You couldn't do it in three lifetimes.

The math is just intense.

Until these computers became available to us,

there was no way that you could look into this world.

It's just not unreasonable to be sitting here looking

at something that no human eye has ever seen before.

Like other people will paint with brushes,

doing these fractals, you're using numbers and math.

And you're using the math like you would brushes

to make a painting.

I use every crayon in the box. I use every brush in the jar.

I use every tool in my toolbox. I'm making art.

(mysterious music)

(gentle piano music)

- See more of his images at

Circus banners are what intrigues

Reno, Nevada artist Killbuck.

His original works are based on historical advertisements

for sideshows and freak shows.

(whimsical music)

- I'm Killbuck and I am a freelance artist.

I'm a painter. I do a lot of costume work.

I make props for theater sets.

Just about anything I can to try to make a buck. (chuckles)

But the thing that I enjoy the most is painting.

And I've painted just about everything.

About a dozen years or so ago,

I started working in a very unusual form

of painting and that's called sideshow paintings.

Sideshow banners have a really interesting history.

When we think of the sideshow,

we tend to think of it in association

with the circus or a carnival.

And that's sometimes true and it's sometimes not.

Sideshows started off as basically traveling shows.

This form of entertainment meant you need

to attract people into the show.

The three things that brought people

into the show were morbid curiosity, sex, and fear.

The same things that drive entertainment today.

So these banners were often very spectacular.

Strange creatures, odd entertainers,

human curiosities, the freak show idea and so forth.

So the more vibrant and colorful they were,

the better chances it was that it was gonna attract you

in to spend your dime to go in and see that show.

(whimsical music)

My banners are based on styles

that were done primarily between the 1930s and the 1960s.

I use the basic form that became standard

during those decades.

The framing, the way the characters were placed.

The bullets in the corner that says alive.

The banner up at the top with the title on it.

It might be things like sword swallowers,

fire eaters or strong men or strong women

or human pincushion or something of that nature.

And often I'll just totally reinvent some new character

like this character I created called Professor Blammo,

who sits on a bound of dynamite explosives

with a match in his hand and it says one performance only.

(whimsical music)

Sometimes I just dream these things up

out of my imagination, but they're all based

on that idea, that style, that mystique,

that lowbrow (chuckles) style that became

so popular during the decades in which

the shows were in their heyday.

And I love to see how people react to these things.

A lot of the older folks that come through,

it instantly brings back memories

of some sideshow they saw back

in the '40s or '50s when they were younger

that they hadn't thought about in all those years.

(whimsical music)

I've long ago given up on the idea

of putting this heavy meaning into art.

Meaning is relative. Art is the most subject thing

in the world in human experience.

100 people will give you 100 different versions

of what they see as meaning in a particular art piece

unless you club it over their heads

with some artist description of the piece.

Art needs to take you somewhere.

It needs to speak by itself and these banners do

that for a lot of people. They take people someplace.

They take people into this fascinating, weird world.

I'm pretty eclectic with what I do,

and painting is an interesting process

because you really become emotionally involved

in what you're doing.

You really step into picture and the character just comes

to life as the painting goes on.

And it's a really interesting experience

because painting for me is the most peaceful thing I can do.

It's almost a meditative thing that happens

and time just disappears.

And it's really a wonderful experience.

(whimsical music)

- To find out more, check out

And that wraps it up for this edition of WEDU Arts Plus.

For more arts and culture, visit

Until next time, I'm Delia Colon. Thanks for watching.

(upbeat percussion music)

- [Narrator] Major funding for WEDU Arts Plus is provided

through the Greater Cincinnati Foundation

by an arts-loving donor who encourages others

to support your PBS station, WEDU.

And by the Pinellas Community Foundation,

giving humanity a hand since 1969.

(triumphant orchestral music)