When Dance Imitates Art

Art comes to life in Ballet Pensacola’s latest production, “Trajectory.”

As a follow-up of sorts to last year’s “Possible Symmetry,” which took place inside Pensacola Museum of Art, the ballet company is collaborating again with the visual arts.

“It has the same feel,” said Richard Steinert, artistic director for Ballet Pensacola. “The messages are very different, but we used the same trampoline to jump off. We’re just going in different directions.”

This year, the performance will be at Artel Gallery. Collecting the artwork to juxtapose each of the small ballets is different this year, too. Pieces to be used with the show come from the walls of the company’s staff and donors.

“This evening really is a more diverse offering,” Steinert said.

The artwork not only visually enhances the performance, but inspires some of the choreography.

“It’s another layer,” said Christine Duhon, ballet mistress. “When we do a traditional ballet, we already have the music and story dictated to us. With this performance, I have to think if I have music that makes sense with the artwork and the story. I like the challenge.”

Duhon likened the process of looking for artwork like looking for a dress.

“There’s just that one that you see and you know that’s it,” she said. “I looked for pieces I could relate to. There is one artwork that I picked out that I think people will be surprised by. The dancers have really enjoyed it.”

Steinert approached his choreography a little differently, he said. It’s often surprising to people who Steinert and Duhon, who are married, work so differently. But that’s what makes the productions so special.

“There’s no way we’re going to have the same ballet,” he said.

A couple of Steinert’s ballets within “Trajectory” dig in to human issues. One is “Sapphire Linings.”

“It’s really a piece about social position and hierarchy and birth places,” he said. “It’s about the cards we are dealt with, whether it’s a positive or negative thing.”

The idea for the ballet came out of a regular movie night.

“Someone told me to watch ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ because they thought I would find the dance sequence at the end very funny,” he said. “But what I actually took away from the movie was the music. I got my phone out and downloaded the CD. That’s when the whole hierarchy thing began, and I got the idea for ‘Sapphire Linings.’”

Another ballet was actually inspired by a dream, which prompted Steinert to explore how men say goodbye.

“It’s not about sexuality, but how men react to being with loved ones and how they say goodbye,” Steinert said. “It came to me when I had a dream my best friend died, but I was unable to go to the funeral and the only way to say goodbye was to wave at the hearse as it drove by the studio. It turned into an interesting ballet.”

For those looking for a pre-Valentine’s Day date night, don’t worry, there’s some lightheartedness in the show, too. However “Trajectory” comes at a time when the performers and choreographers are looking to step outside of the traditional box. The ballet’s last performance was their annual “Nutcracker” show.

“It’s something we can sink our teeth into,” Steinert said.

“We started working on this production right before Christmas,” Duhon added. “There was a lot of overlap with this and ‘The Nutcracker.’ When we came back to work, we just hit the ground running.”

While “The Nutcracker” brings in a few thousand viewers, “Trajectory” is a more personal performance housed within the limited parameters of an art gallery. But Duhon said the company’s production designer Lance Brannon has a plan of attack for all occasions.

The smaller, unique venue is actually the perfect spot to unleash “Trajectory”— a production full of emotions surrounded by works of art from people’s personal collections.

“It’s one of my favorite productions to do,” Duhon said. “Quite a few of the pieces tell a story and that’s what I like to do.”

“It’s quite personal and has a deep connection to it,” Steinert added. “It has a deeper emotional quotient.”

As seen in Independent News 

Getting to Work


In a way, Richard Humphreys can thank an injury for his career choice.

“I was in high school art class with a broken arm,” he said. “I couldn’t participate, so I was surfing the web and started looking at gig posters. I became obsessed.”

Eventually that obsession turned to Humphreys making flyers for local bands and printing bulk copies at Kinkos. In college, he learned to screen print his designs. Late last year, he started his own business, The Workweek Design and Print Studio, where he works as a one-man design team, screen printing most of his creations by hand.

Humphreys’ first foray into the screen printing business was with friend Brent Roche, under the name Dog on Fire, which was mostly designing gig posters. The Workweek goes a few steps beyond that.

“When I first discovered the poster scene for myself while in high school, I knew that’s what I wanted to try to do with my life,” Richard said.  “Over time I learned to love more traditional forms of design like branding and advertising as well, but I the idea of having my own business and approaching it from a more boutique or niche angle has remained very interesting to me.”

This week Humphreys’ designs will be received in a different venue at Mainline Art House, where he’ll have his first solo show, “Kaleidoscopic Inks.”

Designing a 
Of course, most of Humphreys’ favorite projects come from his roots — gig posters. Designing for acts like Dr. Dog, Of Montreal or Gotye and Givers (the latter is one he recalls as a “really cool” project) he comes up with his creations by listening to lyrics and finding a middle ground between what he hears and what we eventually see.

“I look at them as more of a merchandise item,” he said. “It’s a keepsake of that experience. One reason I really love working with musicians is you get to be a little crazy. One of the most appealing things about the gig poster is taking the same approach and rules of advertising, but having the freedom to really push things into left field.”

Some of that “left field” work was even featured in the coffee table book, “The Wall: Modern Day Music Posters.”

Humphreys’ self motivated work ethic harkens back to his time in school. While studying at University of West Florida, he took on independent course work in screen printing under the direction of Joseph Herring, who had a background in the process.

“This was a great first glance into the world of self-employment, seeing as I had to be responsible and learn to manage my time in order to complete the amount of work needed to pass,” he said. “I was responsible for not only learning the method, but also building a press to print on, which I used for many years and lots of gig posters in the future.”

Even after graduation, Humphreys’ continued to learn trying more complicated techniques. Humphreys describes his design approach as “all over the place,” inspired by mid-century modern design and geometric shapes.

Beyond the bands, The Workweek also contributes to projects throughout the entire design spectrum.

Running a business by himself, Humphreys has to use both the left and right side of his brain throughout any given project. Being a one man show can be rewarding and stressful, he said.

“It is nice to know where you stand as a business owner and being able to build an identity and reputation for yourself that you have complete control of,” he said.  At the same time, the everyday tasks can easily become overwhelming. Design school doesn’t put a lot of focus on things like managing budgets and projecting realistic timelines, so I am constantly learning and evolving as a business owner.”

But that hard work and evolution pays off when a project comes together and the client is happy.

“You know a job is finished when the person who hired you is very excited with the end result and proud to show it as a representation of their brand, business, etc,” said Humphreys. “Sometimes that happens on the very first concept of a design and sometimes it takes 10 drafts and re-edits, but it is always worth it in the end to stick it out.”

Printing the product
What sets Humphreys apart from other designers is his ability to bring his work to life by screen printing. And what makes his screen printing process different from the mass market shops is his approach. It’s hands on.

“When I sell prints at a show or as a vendor, people get really into it once they understand the process and effort put into creating each poster,” he said.

Inside his small studio, Humphreys is preparing his prints show at Mainline. He meticulously places the paper—he exclusively uses the American company, French Paper Co.—on the vacuum table and then stirs the hand-mixed ink. That process is often a lengthy and tedious one.

Humphreys admits that he’s not much of a patient person, but screen printing teaches him to be.

“There’s so much room for error,” he said. “But when things are going perfect it’s the most enjoyable thing in the world.”

Entering the art world
In November, Humphreys was surprised to be awarded Best in Show at Mainline’s Ghostbusters-themed art exhibit. Like his show posters, Humphreys captured the classic movie without using obvious imagery.

“There is a huge trend right now where galleries in larger cities are hosting pop culture themed shows that cater largely to the graphic designer/screen printer,” he explained. “I have always wanted to participate in one of these and bring my approach largely influenced by the music world to pop culture and film to see if I could find a way to make the two exist in harmony.”

While the project was somewhat of a challenge, it led Humphreys work to the gallery, which is how the solo show came about.

“I never really considered myself a ‘fine artist’ by any means,” he said. “Graphic design does exist within the realm of creativity and art, but it is primarily a commercial field.”

More than the traditional forms of art, Humphreys said he enjoys design that has a purpose.

“Seeing the way a designer takes an assignment and finds a way to creatively build something that is aesthetically pleasing, delivers a specific message, and in some cases creates an emotional response has always been much more interesting to me personally than more traditional forms of art,” he said.

Last month, Mainline hosted the works of commercial photographer Larry Marchant, who shot images for advertising campaigns such as Coca Cola and editorials for magazines such as Vogue. With “Kaleidoscopic Inks,” the gallery is yet again showcasing creative work that may not be regarded by some as “high brow.” And Humphreys is ok if screen printing is never regarded as such.

“It’s affordable, it’s approachable,” he said. “If someone is into design art they can start collecting without breaking the bank. I’m curious to see how people will react to it.”

As seen in Independent News 

“Finally We Can”


The first newsletter of the year for the Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida was sent out over the weekend.

On the first page, in bold, black font read the headline “Finally we can.”

Since Jan. 6, same-sex couples in the state of Florida can now be legally married. That’s now 36 states in the U.S. that recognize same-sex marriage.

The ruling
Florida’s ruling wasn’t exactly cut and dry. In early December, news that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Florida’s stay to rule on same-sex marriage was released. Previously, a federal judge had already ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. When the stay expired on Jan. 5, the inequality spell would be broken and couples could obtain marriage licenses the next day.

“The judges were on the right side of the issue,” said Doug Landreth, president of Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida. “Although there are some leaders that are still behind the times.”

There was some confusion over whether the ruling had any power over the state. Lawyers for the Florida Association of Court Clerks Comptrollers had stated that only Washington County was named in the lawsuit. But on New Year’s Day, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that all Florida couples could receive a marriage license starting Jan. 6.

Florida is now the 36th state to recognize gay marriage. Since the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the fall of 2011, it seems the entire country has continued to increase its support of the LGBT community—one of the fastest growing civil rights campaigns ever.

“What really brings it home is when you hear the stories of people, like Arlene Goldberg,” said Sara Latshaw, regional director of the ACLU of Florida.

Goldberg, who lives in Fort Myers, was featured in a Freedom to Marry video holding a photo of her late wife, Carol Goldwasser. Together for 47 years, Goldberg and Goldwasser married in New York in 2011. When her wife died in 2014, Goldberg was unable to collect her social security payments because their marriage wasn’t recognized by the state.

For same-sex couples who sought federal rights by getting married out of their home state, they too will be able to obtain state marriage licenses.

“No matter if you’re gay or straight, marriage equality is important,” Latshaw said. “It could be your neighbor, a friend or one of your loved ones.”

As the Director of Operations of Planting Peace, Davis Hammet has been living in the Equality House—a viral project of the nonprofit’s—since its inception in the spring of 2013.

From inside the rainbow-colored house in Topeka, Kansas, which sits directly across the street from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, Hammet has watched the rapid shift in gay rights support closely.

Hammet, who was born and raised in Destin, remembers feeling ashamed of his sexuality—he identifies himself as on the bisexual spectrum—growing up in the Bible Belt.

Seeing Florida become the latest state to recognize same-sex marriage is inevitable, he said, but still projects a positive message.

“It gives hope to people who really need hope,” he said.

At 24, Hammet isn’t looking to settle down yet, but says the right should always be there.

“I deserve to have access to any right that everyone in this country has access to,” he said.

Going to the chapel…or courthouse

Around this time last year, Pensacola couple Timothy Stark and Joey McCoy got engaged before a concert in Birmingham, Alabama. They planned on saving for a destination wedding in Washington state.

“He’s the first person I’ve ever felt this strongly about,” McCoy said. “He’s my partner, my best friend. You want that validation with a legal wedding.”

Now they don’t have to fly across the country just to have a legally-binding marriage. In fact, they opted for a short and sweet ceremony at the clerk of courts office and plan to “do it right” later on.

With family in Fort Walton Beach, they had thought of venturing two counties over to get their marriage license, but Clerk of Courts in Okaloosa County (as well as Santa Rosa, Duval, Baker and Clay) have put an end to their courthouse wedding ceremonies after Florida’s same-sex marriage ruling.

The couple took the four-hour pre-marital online course, which discounts the marriage license. When McCoy called ahead to make sure that Escambia County courts would perform the wedding, he was told to get there early.

“They were expecting to be busy that day,” he said.

Almost foreshadowing recent events, Holy Cross Metropolitan Community Church sent out a press release to announce the church would perform free weddings for LGBT couples once Florida ruled them legal.

In the Oct. 20 release it stated, “Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt believes these are the final days of discrimination against Florida same-sex partners and their families.”

Just a few months later, his prediction came true. Before the holiday season, he already had several couples lined up for wedding ceremonies on Jan. 6.

“I firmly believe same-sex couples deserve the same package of federal rights as every other couple,” he said.

Merritt has lived in Florida his entire life and became the senior pastor at Holy Cross MCC four months ago.

Growing up in a southern Baptist household as a young gay man had its share of contradictions, he was even sent to conversion therapy.

But Merritt refers to himself as one of the “lucky ones,” because he never felt that God didn’t love him. For the LGBT community that goes to Holy Cross MCC, he hopes to spread that message.

Before the holidays and weeks before the final ruling, Merritt said that he and his partner of 20 years will be joining in with those couples celebrating. But he’s taking care of everyone else first.

“I hope to be so busy Jan. 6 that my partner and I will have to wait a few days to be married,” he said. “We have tons of friends who are clergy who can help with our wedding.”

Ed and Sue Spencer of First Day Entertainment are also offering similar services. Their company will be providing free officiant services to same-sex couples on a first-come, first-served basis for six weeks (through Feb. 17).

Looking ahead
Generations who can recall seeing gay-rights opponent Anita Bryant on TV (Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi is often referred to as the modern-day Bryant), will tell you that marriage wasn’t always on the gay rights to-do list.

“Years ago, you wouldn’t even dream of marriage,” Landreth said. “The first priority was avoiding being beaten or shot to death. Now there’s a whole new generation of youth who can have the landscape to dream.”

After Jan. 6 rolls around, after all of the wedding cakes and portraits, there’s still work to be done.

“We’re at a political crossroads now,” Landreth said. “What will we do once the marriage debate is final once and for all? High-five each other and head home?”

Beyond legal marriage, there are a lot of other issues that face the LGBT community including homelessness among youth, discrimination in the workplace and adoptive rights, Landreth said.

“We need to make sure we don’t get too intoxicated with victory,” he added. “There’s more work that needs to be done.”

As seen in Independent News

RadioLive Returns


Not all radio shows are exciting live onstage. But WUWF’s long-running music program, RadioLive is not like all radio shows.

Bringing singer-songwriters from all over to Pensacola’s Historic Village, RadioLive is bringing in the New Year with some new tunes.

The first show of the year will feature four New Orleans-based performing songwriters. Separately, each of the musicians have longstanding careers working with some of the most well-known performers in the country.

Together they call themselves the Write Brothers with their 2014 album “First Flight.”

“The Write Brothers are a great bunch of guys,” said Jim McCormick, one of the musicians that make up the Write Brothers. “They’re pals whose work I love, and I wanted to hang out with them more, so we put this thing together.”

McCormick’s own musical resume includes recordings by country performers such as Keith Urban, Luke Bryan and Trisha Yearwood. On top of performing and writing, he is an adjunct professor in music business for both Belmont University in Nashville and Loyola University in New Orleans. But when you ask him what profession he steers toward most, it is writing.

“I consider myself both [a performer and songwriter] of course, but the lion’s share of my focus is on writing for others these days,” he said.

Like others, McCormick began writing songs at an early age. Poetry was his form of writing before he started putting music to his words.

“I guess the first songs I wrote were really just me making things up as a child, not writing them down, but imagining them as my own creations,” he said. “I got into it in high school when I joined a band as the singer and we started wanting to play our own originals, alongside all the Cream and Steve Miller we were doing. They’d be about almost anything—crushes on girls, a creek in Mississippi where we used to go camp and lots of nonsense stuff.

“But honestly, I just love a great song, and more often than not the greatest songs are the simplest.”

Another Write Brother, Spencer Bohren, has 50 years of songwriting under his belt. He wrote his first song at the age of 15.

“I was raised in one of those gospel families,” he said. “It was like living in a musical, except the only subject was God.”

As Bohren grew up, he looked for different music and came across some folk music on the radio. He began listening to artists such as Buell Kazee, Muddy Waters and Blind Willie McTell.

“There was an endless list of musicians,” Bohren said of discovering the folk scene. “When you start studying, you find they all meet somewhere.”

Although it wasn’t a stretch from his upbringing, Bohren started his musical career and doesn’t see an end in sight.

“I don’t think it is something you choose,” he said. “The trouble starts when you try something else. There’s never been any question—I’m still fascinated with it.”

That fascination is what led Bohren, McCormick and two other songwriters—Paul Sanchez and Alex McMurray—together.

“We gathered when we could around my kitchen table and would write a new song in an hour,” Bohren said. “It was like making a pot of stew or a special musical gumbo. When we had enough, we went to the studio and made a record.”

Each of the four songwriters brought their unique perspective to “First Flight,” which yielded some interesting results.

“There’s a wide variety of subject matter—there’s enough to include just about everybody’s likes and influences,” Bohren said.

“It’s really pretty amazing what happens when you try something you’ve never done before—all kinds of little joys and brilliant moments start cropping up in your writing and in your life,” McCormick said.

At this month’s RadioLive, you can see some of those songs come to life as the Write Brothers perform while each brother sprinkles in each of original songs through the set list.

But there is no telling exactly what you will get to listen to.

“I never really think about it,” Bohren said. “I walk on stage without a set list. I have thousands of songs in my head. I usually just take it easy and this kind of magic happens.”

Although songwriters usually exist behind the scenes of hit records, they do enjoy the limelight every once in a while, which is why Bohren and McCormick regularly tour.

“I love the fact that there’s this conduit that opens up between the audience and me,” he said. “I open my heart and they do the same thing. I love the audience—they give me what it takes, they make it happen.”

As seen in Independent News 

Larry Marchant: From Mississippi to Vogue


You’re probably familiar with Larry Marchant’s photographs and don’t even know it. From advertising and editorials to journalism, Marchant’s 20-year career as a photographer has been spent exploring all angles.

Now you can see a collection of his work at Mainline Art House, where Marchant’s exhibit, “Mississippi to Vogue” is housed until Jan. 9.

A Mississippi native, Marchant grew up with a love for drawing and art, which developed into an interest in photography while studying at the University of Southern Mississippi. When he moved to Atlanta, where Marchant still resides, he got a job in journalism.

Inspired by photographers such as Peter Lik and Richard Avedon, Marchant eventually transitioned from journalism to advertising and editorials. His first commercial assignment was for the Coca-Cola Company and won a Phoenix advertising award.

Today he works primarily in fine art.

“I’ve always aspired to be an artist first, to weave a sense of artistry into the main objective of an ad, supporting the main message without overpowering it,” Marchant said. “I hope that my work in some way will be ‘felt’ as art.”

Even as his career shifted, Marchant still credits his early career for shaping the artist he is today.

“Each facet of my career and what I’ve learned now culminates in the work I produce today,” Marchant said in an email interview. “With photojournalism, I learned to tell the essence of the full story in one click—1/250 of a second.”

When it comes to capturing a good photo—whether it be for a story or an advertising campaign—it takes different ingredients to create success.

“With photojournalism, the two most important ingredients are timing and perspective,” Marchant said. “Advertising, you tell the story another way, you create the story and build it with visual elements. In a studio, you place each element one at a time. On location, as in a fashion shoot, you add depth, natural light, and the elements of texture and nature. Each has its own wonderful dimensions to play and create with.”

The photographer’s portfolio is full of well-known brands and campaigns, but one brand sticks out among the rest, and that is “Vogue.” Marchant was never witness to any magazine drama, but the novelty of seeing his photos in the publication was not lost.

“Having your work published in majors like ‘Vogue’ and ‘W’ has a wonderful sense of accomplishment associated with it,” he said. “Behind the scenes on a fashion shoot is often both less than and more than you might expect. I enjoy the energy and excitement of large shoots. It can be like walking a tightrope. It has to be a well-oiled machine. Small shoots I love too. They’re more intimate and have their own creative energy.”

Marchant did not only transition from commercial to fine art photography, but was also witness to the digital takeover. While some photographers are film fanatics, Marchant warmly embraced the new format.

“When digital came in, about half of the pro photographers I knew dropped out or faded away,” he admitted. “I jumped in with both feet. For me, digital opens an entire new universe of visual possibilities. The workflow is more in-depth and faster. I still have about $1,000 worth of film in my refrigerator that I’ll never shoot.”

Despite being a world traveler, Marchant is still loyal to his southern roots.

“Growing up in the South had influenced me tremendously. It’s who I am,” he said. “I’m a southern boy who loves traveling the world and meeting exciting people. Being from the South defines one of the most important elements to be found in photography — perspective.”

When it comes to young photographers today looking to make a career and name for themselves, Marchant insists it’s not impossible if those artists aspire.

“Put ‘dreaming big’ on your bottom self and ‘dreaming huge’ on your top self,” he said. “Focus with your mind and heart on the top self. Dream huge and act quickly with purpose to manifest it into reality.”

After more than 20 years of shooting and countless photographs as a result, it may be hard to choose a favorite picture. Marchant has it narrowed down to two, at least for the moment.

“That continues to evolve,” he said. “At the moment my signature image would be ‘Gaia,’ a photograph of the girl standing near the ocean under the large urn. Every so often I capture a new image that speaks to me, and in it I see my personal style emerging well-defined. It feels like it has my name embedded into it even before I sign the print.”

Another photo that sticks out is of Paul McCartney performing at one of his concerts.

“At the end of singing ‘Let It Be’ Paul flipped his guitar pick out to me and I caught it,” Marchant recalls. “That photo that I took of him singing became my first fine art print to sell to an art collection and it sold for $10,000.”

Today, Marchant continues to chase his next favorite photo. His upcoming assignments include exhibits, three book projects (one is a collector’s edition for Fred Levin Estates) and a trip to Italy, where Marchant will teach a workshop on fine art photography in the fall of 2015.

Marchant has three requirements before heading out to work on a project: to create something beautiful, to travel and discover new places, and to make new and exciting friends along the way.
“What made me want to start these projects is to experience the life of a new creative process and to expand into where that process will make me grow, so that I can stretch high enough to see that next milestone.”

As seen in InWeekly

Re-evaluating the Affordable Care Act


If you’re in need of healthcare for the 2015 year, you have less than two months to sign up through the insurance marketplace.

If you’re feeling a little nervous, don’t be. So far 2.5 million new individuals have signed up since enrollment opened again in November.

Since the rollout of the Affordable Care Act—or Obamacare as it commonly called—last year, the number of Americans without health insurance declined by 10.3 million, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Some of those millions have been without health insurance for some time because of various circumstances. Some never had a health plan in their life.

“I was without insurance for 10 years,” said Carly Stone, who enrolled just a few weeks ago. “It was never a huge priority in the past for me to have it. However, as I’ve gotten older and have settled down more, all I can think about is how one uninsured ER visit could put me in debt for years.”

A lot of men and women in their 20s and 30s have had the same cavalier attitude toward healthcare, which is why President Obama has tried to reach out to young adults via “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and the Zach Galifianakis web series, “Between Two Ferns” to remind them of the importance of healthcare.

In the past, most college-aged adults age out of their parents’ insurance plan, which means they’re uninsured until they find a job that offers medical benefits. Now through the ACA, children can remain on their parent’s plan until the age of 26, even if they’re married.

Lacey Berry, 26, was an early adopter to the marketplace after she was no longer eligible on her parents’ plan. She pays just $17 a month for insurance, which she said is “pretty incredible.”

Berry was not immune to the reported issues of the first enrollment period.

“The first year I applied, I had so much trouble with the website that I ended up calling the marketplace,” she said.

More than a year later, Stone reported having similar issues.

“The website is exhaustively dysfunctional,” she said. “The first snags were with actually trying to navigate through the site. Then it informed me that I wasn’t eligible for any subsidies, which made no sense.”

In the end, she found a plan for $43. It’s the first time she’s been able to afford health insurance since she was on her parents’ plan.

“I make too much money to be approved for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health insurance. It has been a struggle indeed,” she said of the decade without a healthcare plan.

Berry suggests signing up over the phone, which can take about 30 minutes.

“I was very happy with the ease of the transaction that I did it again this year,” she said. “The customer service reps are friendly and make the process pretty painless.”

Navigating the system
Both Stone and Berry agree that a little help goes a long way. From the marketplace helpline, to healthcare representatives that visit your work, there’s someone available to answer your questions.

You could also go the route of a navigator.

Cory Brown, program manager of stability services and benefits at 90Works, helps families and individuals enroll for high-quality plans as a licensed navigator.

“Customers we have assisted range from households with no income and households that have income. We also assist small businesses with their employees’ health insurance needs,” Brown said.

Assistance can be done at the 90Works office or offsite. And better yet, the service is free.

90Works is a non-profit that works with families to overcome homelessness, poverty and family violence and have always assisted its clients with enrolling for Florida KidCare and Medicaid before assisting people with enrolling through the ACA last year.

“Making a choice for an insurance plan can be very overwhelming to someone who is unfamiliar with health insurance,” Brown said. “Navigators are able to answer many of their questions and concerns and explain their options.”

The navigators can also help with the application process, explaining eligibility results and offer advice in choosing a plan that best fits their client’s healthcare needs. The whole process takes about an hour—just one lunch break.

The kind of clients who come in to the 90Works office are from all walks of life, and most end up leaving the office pleased with their results, Brown said.

The caution sign
Of the clients seen at 90Works, several have lost health insurance after reduced work hours. Some fall below the federal poverty level, but still do not meet the qualifications for Medicaid.

“These individuals fall into the ‘Medicaid gap’ because of Florida not expanding Medicaid,” Brown explained.

In the United States, about 4 million uninsured adults remain so without the expansion. In Florida, about 800,000 individuals are in that gray area.

Under the ACA, Florida could offer Medicaid to Florida residents with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level—$27,310 for a family of three. Instead the annual income eligibility is set for a maximum of $6,930 for a family of three.

Despite the numbers, Florida leaders have voted not to expand Medicaid for the past two years. These uninsured people are left to visit free clinics, pay high out-of-pocket costs or leave their medical bills delinquent. In the last 90 days, the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County, which offers clinical services to women and children as well as dental services, had more than 1,300 visits.

Oftentimes people just ignore their health needs.

The marketplace plans do provide peace of mind for the relatively healthy, but for individuals like Sarah Humlie, it didn’t quite meet all needs.

Humlie does not have medical benefits through her job at a local non-profit, which doesn’t have the funds to support healthcare. If same-sex marriage were legal in the state of Florida, she could join her wife’s insurance plan.

Humlie took to the healthcare marketplace in search for a plan when enrollment first opened up.

“I had to have some kind of coverage,” she said.

As a healthy 32-year-old woman, Humlie was not prepared for the issues she started facing this year. Earlier this month, she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Even with her insurance, she has spent thousands of dollars in doctor visits and surgeries.

When she signs up for 2015 coverage, she said she’ll be looking at plans that cover more, but they may come with a higher price tag.

When it comes to enrolling yourself or your family, healthcare veterans Berry and Stone advise to do your research and don’t procrastinate.

“Take a look at plans you’ve had in the past and figure out what your preferences are in terms of deductible, out-of-pocket expenses and copay,” Berry said.

And don’t forget of the lifeline available at 90Works.

“90Works has a long history of helping the medically uninsured get insured and have access to quality health care,” said Cate Jordan, the organization’s executive director in a recent press release. “We are looking forward to functioning as the expert for advocacy and education for the community’s health insurance needs in Northwest Florida.”

Contact 90Works at 855-909-6757 ext. 5 to get connected with a health insurance navigator. Think you can go it alone? Sign up today at healthcare.gov. The deadline is Feb. 15.

As seen in Independent News 

10 Things You Might Not Know About “The Nutcracker”


Admit it, when the holiday season rolls around, you go to sleep with sugar plum fairies dancing in your head.

Luckily, you don’t have to go on imagining “The Nutcracker” since Ballet Pensacola’s performance of the Christmas classic is right around the corner. Friends and family attend the ballet as part of their annual holiday traditions, making it one of the company’s most well-attended performances.

After 122 years since “The Nutcracker” first debuted—and countless performances around the world—there’s still some interesting facts even a die-hard fan might miss. Before you head to the Saenger this weekend to see Clara dance with the Nutcracker Prince, see how much you know about the holiday tale.

● When “The Nutcracker” first debuted on Dec. 18, 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia, the ballet was met with mixed reviews. Even the ballet’s composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, didn’t like his score. (He was also behind the music of “Swan Lake” and “The Sleeping Beauty.”) Tchaikovsky died in 1893 and never got to see the ballet become the beloved classic it is today.

● The first performance of “The Nutcracker” in the United States wasn’t until 1940 when the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo performed a shortened version of “The Nutcracker” in New York City. A full performance came in 1944 by the San Francisco Ballet.

● More than 100 performers dance in Ballet Pensacola’s “The Nutcracker.” The talent is hailed from the professional company, as well as the academy. Some of the youngest dancers are just 6 years old.

● Ballet Pensacola Artistic Director Richard Steinert’s rendition of “The Nutcracker” has been in the national repertoire for more than 25 years.

● In the first performance of “The Nutcracker” in 1892, the parts of Clara and The Nutcracker Prince were played by children, which was not well-received. In later years, the parts were given to adults.

● While Tchaikovsky didn’t appreciate his “Nutcracker” score, he did enjoy using the celesta, a piano hybrid the composer found in Paris. That twinkling you hear during “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”? That’s the celesta. The ballet popularized the instrument.

● Ballet Pensacola begins preparing and holding auditions for “The Nutcracker” in September. Closer to the performance, most dancers will put in as much as 40 hours a week practicing.

● It wasn’t until 1954 that “The Nutcracker” became the holiday tradition it’s known as today. Choreographer George Balanchine staged his own version of the ballet in New York, which used the best parts of the original production along with a few twists including new characters. His production was broadcasted twice on network television.

● In the 1993 film production of “The Nutcracker,” a young Macaulay Culkin played The Nutcracker Prince, proving the role has been filled by a wide range of talent.

● Ever wonder what the deal with nutcrackers is? According to German folklore, nutcrackers are given as symbols to bring luck to your family and home. The wooden figure wards off evil and is a messenger of good luck and goodwill.

As seen in Independent News