We’re back with the latest entry in Pulptown’s “Locals to Know” series. It’s when we cede the spotlight to a local person or organization who’s made their mark on the larger Central Florida community. Keep an eye out over the weeks to come for more of these interviews, and if you know of someone or some org that we ought to feature, don’t hesitate to send them our way.
Today we’re talking to Justin Muchoney, the Vice President of Creative and Production at Central Florida Community Arts, a local org on a mission to make the arts affordable and accessible, one Central Floridian at a time.
Real talk: You’re in for a real treat today. Sitting down with Justin felt as familiar as sipping on a Mojo Jojo on the corner couch at Drunken Monkey, with the faint familiarity of Death Cab for Cutie playing in the background. He makes you feel almost as if you’ve been friends your whole life. What a gift, right? And his passion for CFCArts is electric — as if you’re hearing about it all for the first time. For many of us, that might be the case. But after today, you’ll have no excuses.
Without further ado, here’s more about Justin and what he’s doing over at CFCArts…
Name: Justin Muchoney
Social Media: @cfcarts
Website: Central Florida Community Arts
Justin is a native to Pittsburgh, PA, but like many Orlandoans, moved here years ago for a career at Disney. He’s been a part of the CFCArts family since the very beginning, conducting and leading the Symphony Orchestra for 10 years now. He met CFCArts’ founder while working at the theme park, and he welcomed the thought of connecting with musicians and artists, building something from the ground up, and collaborating with passionate people who were also looking for a place to connect.
Here’s what else he had to say… 👇
Get to know Justin: What led you to your current line of work?
Even prior to moving to Orlando, my background is in music, education, directing, conducting, producing, non-profit work, leadership consulting and a variety of other eclectic ways to create, collaborate, and be inspired by the people around me. The combination of all those curious interests, along with the remarkable network of kind and creative people in our community, has led to some great opportunities. I just keep saying yes and walking through the next open door to see where it leads.
What’s one thing you want the community to understand/know about CFCArts?
That yes, we are a performing arts organization, but first and foremost we are a community. Everyone is welcome, everyone can perform and contribute and belong. We want to provide a place to feel welcome and included, to make friends and build deeper connections in our community, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and to feel a sense of pride in who we are and where we live. We build community and serve our members, the arts just happen to be the tool we use.
What’s coming up at CFCA this year?
So much good stuff. We are rapidly growing our impact in the arts and health space by expanding programs for seniors, for adults with early stages of Alzheimer’s, for young adults with Down syndrome, in music therapy, and so many other places. And we are producing concerts and performances throughout this season — a stellar Big Band concert, our choir singing some of the greatest music from Broadway, our 170-member symphony orchestra performing music from some of your favorite movies, our youth theatre company tackling Charlotte’s Web, Willy Wonka, and Aida, and so much more. But the best part of it all is our people — so the most important thing coming up is that our season is just getting started and it’s a GREAT time to get involved!
How can Orlandoans best support CFCArts? Volunteer opps? Attend events?
First, they can join us! No matter your background or experience, if you want to sing or act or play an instrument or stage-manage or learn to build sets or just about anything else, we can probably find a way to help you get connected. And of course, we’d love to see the city come out to our events and concerts — not just because they are great, but because they are performed by great people. Our fellow Oraldoans. What we do really is all about our members, the people from all walks of life from right here in Central Florida who join us on stage to do something bigger and cooler than any of us could do alone. So come support them — they are your friends and neighbors and we’d love to have you as a part of our artistic community!
Members of the Community Choir and Big Band perform at events in the Central Florida community 📸: Central Florida Community Arts
What non-CFCArts-affiliated shows are you most looking forward to this year?
I’ll definitely try to get to a few Orlando Philharmonic concerts this year. I’m a big fan of Eric Jacobsen and his leadership, I love the quality of the musicians, and I want us all to celebrate just how amazing they are for a “mid-size” city. I also can’t wait to see what the Orlando Fringe Festival has up its sleeve this year and I never miss Creative City Project’s IMMERSE in the fall!
Shoutout to another org (or three) doing great work in the community.
There are so many! In my previous roles at Disney, I had a chance to volunteer a few times at the Boys and Girls Clubs and was blown away by the quality of the after-school programming and how they are bridging so many gaps for those students. But one that I’d love to draw a little more attention to is New Horizons Service Dogs — we have a few of our members who have service dogs (and now are also trainers for new dogs) and we’ve even brought a large group of dogs into some of our dress rehearsals as a part of their training for handling large groups and loud noises. It’s an amazing group providing such an important service.
“A Hero’s Journey” indeed. 📸: Central Florida Community Arts
What community org would be a dream partnership for you/CFCArts?
I feel like I could go 100 different directions with this — we love partnering with unexpected collaborators so that we can create experiences for our members and our audiences that are fresh and unique and meet a need. But as a sports fan, I guess I’ll go with the Magic, Pride, and OCSC — it would be so much fun to find ways to more deeply connect the performing arts to our sporting events that are already attracting thousands of fans looking to be entertained.
What’s your favorite spot to take lunch?
Our offices are near College Park, so right now my favorite quick stop for lunch is The Doghouse on Edgewater. Great hot dogs and tots with the added bonus of sharing a building with Foundation (a used record store I love browsing) and The Soda Fountain (who has some delicious ice cream). I also can always go for a donut from The Salty Donut on Corinne!
What is one Orlando news story that you think people need to be paying more attention to?
How funding for all of our arts and culture, especially as a part of the economic recovery from the pandemic, is being handled. There are dozens and dozens of smaller local organizations that provide immense artistic and community value. They create a sense of place, they drive business and tourism, they contribute to our local economy, and they keep our city vibrant. We should all be keeping an eye out to make sure that we’re investing in all of the arts and artists, not just the bigger names that garner most of the attention.
Your calendar opens up and you get one happy hour with an Orlandoan of your choice. Who’s it going to be? Why? And where are you meeting them?
Can I cheat and pick two? First I’d vote for Shawn Welcome, poet laureate for the city. I’ve crossed paths with him in one meeting and we are both working on different elements for a show right now but haven’t actually talked. We’d meet at the Robinson Room — a great, bright atmosphere, comfortable place for conversation, and room to walk a few blocks of the heart of the city before and after.
Also on my list would be John Rivers (of 4Rivers, etc). We’d probably meet outside somewhere, hopefully near the area where he is dreaming up his 4Roots Farm / co-op, so that we can talk about service and food and community identity and how it ties us all together.
Interested in being featured and want to share your own cool project in the City Beautiful? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “PT Locals to Know 2022” and you might just see yourself in a future newsletter.