By Sahara Lyon
Civil Rights Activist, Minister, and community leader, Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” The history of a place, a people, or an event, weaves its way into the very fabric of a community, shaping that community for generations to come. It is this sentiment, how history has made our community what it is, and how our actions will continue to shape us moving into the future, that is reflected in the City of Tallahassee’s Bicentennial celebration. The year 2024 marks 200 years of Tallahassee as Florida’s Capital City as well as the official founding of Leon County. Arts and culture are a vital part of the celebration, so read on for a snapshot of artsy events and information on what the Bicentennial is all about.
It’s about history. Tallahassee was declared the capital of Florida in 1824, yet Florida did not become a state until 1845. During the time before Florida was a state, it was governed by Territorial Governors. William Pope Duval was the Territorial Governor who selected Tallahassee as Florida’s capital, and Duval Street is named after him. While Tallahassee is celebrating 200 years as Florida’s capital, Indigenous communities called this area home for over a thousand years, specifically the Miccosukee, Muscogee-Creek, Seminole, and Apalachee First Nations. The Bicentennial aims to observe and honor Tallahassee’s diverse past, while paving the way for the future.
It’s about celebration. The City and County are hosting events throughout the year, with the Bicentennial New Year’s Eve Countdown kicking off the celebration in Cascades Park on December 31st, 2023. Tallahassee-Leon County Bicentennial Day follows on January 11th, 2024, from 11 am to 2 pm. This event, organized by Visit Tallahassee, will occur at the Florida Capitol Complex and is open to the public. In addition, COCA is collaborating with Leon County Schools and Visit Tallahassee to create a virtual time capsule curriculum, enabling students to leave their historical mark while thinking ahead to the future.
It’s about education. The Bicentennial slogan is “Ambitious From The Beginning.” Our arts community in Tallahassee has repeatedly proven that they’re artfully ambitious, and arts education is no exception. Music education starts strong with Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra’s new project, T is for Tallahassee: The ABCs of our Musical City. TSO’s new book launched in November, and they describe it as a “love letter to our artistic community.” Launched specially for the Bicentennial year, each alphabet letter coincides with an aspect of Tallahassee’s unique history. You can find the book at Hearth & Soul, Midtown Reader, the TSO office, and online! In addition, Goodwood Museum and Gardens is partnering with several local arts and culture organizations to pay tribute to Tallahassee’s history. Goodwood, Leon County Schools, and the Riley House Museum are presenting “Blended Lives,” which will be returning in Spring 2024. This educational outing will teach fourth-grade students about the lives of those who lived and worked on Leon County plantations, such as Goodwood. Information about previous years’ “Blended Lives” can be found here. The Tallahassee Historical Society will offer more elementary-aged students with their educational program about the history of territorial Tallahassee. The Tallahassee Historical Society’s educational program will offer elementary-aged students new opportunities to learn about the history of territorial Tallahassee. They are also producing an online children’s booklet about how people lived in Florida between 1820 and 1850, emphasizing the designation of Tallahassee as Florida’s Capital. You can keep up with Tallahassee Historical Society’s Bicentennial events online! Making Light Productions will also empower Leon County’s students to delve into Tallahassee’s rich history through their educational programming. Students are encouraged to create and submit two-minute scenes reflecting an area of historical progress in Tallahassee’s history. Selected scenes will be reenacted using Making Light Productions actors and released on their YouTube channel. Keep an eye on their website as the project develops.
It’s about creativity. COCA will be hosting several artfully ambitious Bicentennial events for our community. First up is Chalk Walk 2024, presented in conjunction with Arts Advocacy Day at the Capitol Complex. Arts Advocacy Day is hosted by the Florida Cultural Alliance, which promotes and advocates for Florida artists and arts and culture organizations. Chalk Walk is a way to involve our younger advocates, demonstrating the impact and importance of arts education in our community. Students will be recreating works about Tallahassee’s rich history and vibrant future. In addition, COCA’s annual Creative Tallahassee juried art show at City Hall will have a Bicentennial spin. Artists will be asked to submit artwork representing their interpretation of the Bicentennial and the Tallahassee art community’s past, present, and future. The application to submit artwork to this year’s Creative Tallahassee group show opens on January 8th, 2024, with more info on the COCA website.
It’s about gathering together. COCA is working to create fun and worthwhile Bicentennial programs, workshops, and events for our community, and you can learn more about these events through our Bicentennial Newsletter. We also want to help promote what our community is doing! If you’re planning a Bicentennial event, please let COCA know by filling out this form on our website.
The Bicentennial is a year to celebrate the achievements of the past, our present community, and what we’ve yet to accomplish in the future. We can’t wait to celebrate and spend another artful year with you!