Anyone living in Orlando can feel the exponential rate of growth that is occurring around us. Skyrise apartments, new arenas, lakefront dining popping up across the city provide seemingly endless opportunities for spending leisure time and money. The rapid urban growth in Orlando has had a tremendous effect on the arts, providing funding opportunities for individual artists rarely seen across the state of Florida. With Florida’s most recent headlines demonstrating the slashing of its Division of Cultural Affairs budget, it’s encouraging to learn about artists who continue to feel the support of their city. Orlando is unique in that creative minds are nurtured and supported here in a way that is different from most of the state. Artists in the City Beautiful have traditionally had an abundance of lucrative opportunities, fueled by the tourist industry, sustained by the city, and nurtured by our art community.
Last month, I had the pleasure of talking with Maureen Hudas, who is an emerging artist in the community and is beginning the journey down her own creative path. Hudas worked as a scenic artist for Disney intermittently for the past fifteen years, and on April 14, 2017 decided to take the leap to focus solely on her artwork. “I want to find who I am as an artist,” said Hudas, “I have experience doing commissioned work, but not a lot of personal artwork.” Orlando is bursting with creative minds, including Hudas, who has energy, talent, and unique vision.
Hudas was born and raised in Philadelphia, and moved to Central Florida in 1995. Although she began studying fine art at the Moore College of Art and Design, she acquired her degree in interior design at the University of Dayton. Hudas told me the career change occurred when she asked herself, “Who’s going to hire a painter?” although her heart was always connected to drawing and painting. When she came to Florida, she fell into the world of scenic art, creating environments for theme parks. The career in scenic art allowed her engage multiple facets of her background—interior design and fine art seemed to flow naturally in this field—and at first sustained her financially and creatively. “Scenic art did help with my painting. I learned a lot of painting tricks,” she said.
After many years in this realm of scenic design, Hudas felt it was time for a change more aligned with her fine art background. “When I told people that I do scenic work, they usually said ‘Oh wow that’s so great! You’re getting paid for what you love!’” she explained, “And I kind of…just go blank.” The need for personal creative fulfillment sparked the flame that got her moving toward becoming an artist in her own right, creating original artworks. “I didn’t want to work all day on these mundane things only to come home and not want to pick up a paintbrush.”
While scenic work may not have nourished Hudas’ creative spirit, the art community here certainly motivated her. “I think I’m definitely inspired by Orlando. There are so many great artists here, and when I see their work I think, ‘Oh, I have to go home and paint!’” She added that she feels like the art community is growing, expanding, and beginning to acquire a real name for itself in the world. “Johannah O’Donnell is one of my favorites, and Scott Scheidly,” she told me.
“I’m excited to do anything that strikes what I want to do to grow as an artist,” revealed Hudas, showing me a selection of her work. “Right now I’m doing a lot of graphite portraits of people, getting to work on detail.” She also showed me nearly a dozen acrylic paintings and prints that showcase her vision. Her work demonstrates a wide range of skill, moving from colorful realism to a darker, illustrative style. “I guess I do have a style, but I am still kind of all over the place. Right now, I am drawn to the realism of the work I’m in.”
If you’ve ever ventured to downtown Orlando’s Sideshow, you’ve definitely gotten a taste of her artistic expression. All the large, slightly sinister, grayscale paintings that hang in the bar are original artworks by Hudas, who has a strong working relationship with the bar’s owner, who also owns many of the Wall Street Plaza bars. Hudas has been instrumental in these bars for providing the artistic eye that characterizes the tone of these bars. She has painted multiple murals for the Cantina, and used her interior design acumen to design the bar environments for the Henhouse, Cantina, and Sideshow.
Orlando is lucky to have so many artists who do murals exceptionally well—and Hudas is no exception. Her mural work is all hand-painted without the use of spray paint or compressors, effectively drawing upon techniques acquired during her time in scenic art. Aside from her work with the Wall Street bars, her murals can be seen across downtown, with her most recent mural located at the intersection of Central and Terry.
“I do really enjoy when I get to just sit at home and work on a smaller scale painting,” declared Hudas, “but I found I had a hard time getting the detail in really small painting because I’m used to working so big. I like when I get to work bigger because I get more detail in the piece.” She also has mural work that can be found in the arena at the University of Central Florida and has a creative influence in the development of Yard Bar in downtown Orlando. It seems Hudas has flawlessly—and quickly—moved from the realm of commissioned work to public art. “I’ve got a lot of pokers in the fire,” she asserted. I, for one, am excited to watch Hudas’ career unfold.
Orlando’s art scene is on the rise and is full of amazing artists who believe in the cultural value of their work to support thriving communities. Every artist is on their own path and establishing their own identity as a creator. Hudas may be new to the art scene in Orlando, but she is quickly rising in the ranks as one of the most well-connected and visionary, creative minds in the community. “I finally feel I’m at a point where I’m ready to take the risk and be on my own.”
To learn more about Maureen Hudas, see her Instagram at @MaureenHudas