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What's next for downtown Clearwater? Craft breweries, winery, beer fest

As the City of Clearwater anticipates a waterfront revival thanks to the recent City Council approval of the Imagine Clearwater redevelopment project, Jay Polglaze, executive director of the Clearwater Downtown Partnership and former city councilor, says the downtown area could get an additional boost from an unexpected source: local craft brewers.

Over the past 15 years, the Tampa Bay Area has enjoyed the economic benefits of “the microbrewery craze,” he says. This movement has largely bypassed Clearwater, however, because of laws on the books that prohibited the manufacture and distribution of craft beer downtown. These laws were finally modified last year, when Polglaze was still on council, to pave the way for breweries to operate downtown.

Though he lost his re-election bid in March 2016, he immediately began working for the Clearwater Downtown Partnership, where he focuses on the economic vibrancy of the city’s downtown area. One of the major missing components that would help create a thriving downtown is craft beer, he says.

“My best advisors are my 27-year-old son and my 24-year-old daughter,” Polglaze says. “When I ask them what’s missing, they’re pretty specific: 'craft beer'.”

He recently attended an “inspiring” presentation on “craft urbanism” that featured Tampa Bay-area brewers, including Joey Redner, founder of Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing, and Mike Harding, founder of 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg.

“You can get this urban core reignited by creating this community of microbreweries,” Polglaze says.

He adds, “It works. Look at Dunedin, St. Petersburg, Tampa, all across the country. It’s a huge movement right now.”

This is why the Clearwater Downtown Partnership has partnered with the city of Clearwater’s Community Redevelopment Agency to launch the first annual Downtown Clearwater Craft Beer and Music Fest Saturday, May 20, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., on Cleveland Street between Fort Harrison and East Avenues.

The free event will feature more than 50 brewers from throughout the state, including 3 Daughters, Cigar City, Cycle Brewing, Big Storm Brewing Co., Hidden Springs Aleworks, MIA Brewing Company, and House of Beer Brewing, which is one of the co-producers of the event.

Eight musical acts will perform on two stages throughout the day. There will also be a variety of arts and crafts vendors, food trucks, and an activity area for children.

Polglaze says he expects the event to draw between 8,000 and 10,000 people. He also hopes that it will show visiting brewers the potential of downtown Clearwater. The city is actively “courting” local brewers, including the Dunedin-based House of Beer.
 
“We’re really close to being able to announce our first couple of breweries,” he says. He anticipates having contracts signed with local brewers and also a local winery by the end of June.

Looking north, Dunedin already has nine breweries within city limits, he says. “So the next logical expansion is Clearwater.”
He hopes to have an anchor brewery open on Cleveland Street with other brewers setting up shop on side streets.

The impending downtown renaissance, especially if it features local brewers, will build on what is already a popular tourist destination, he adds.

Polglaze says, “We want to create a great companion downtown to America’s number one beach. There’s a lot of great things going on in Clearwater. We’re getting a lot of movement right now. I really believe the beverage and food industry will be the spark plug that gets this thing going.”

New studio space coming to St. Pete Warehouse Arts District

New studio space is coming to St. Petersburg’s Warehouse Arts District and the community is invited to come take a peek at the progress on Thursday, April 27th.

At a “Hard Hat Celebration” and fundraiser, the St. Pete Warehouse Art District Association will showcase the ArtsxChange, a project that converts 50,000 square feet of space into affordable art studios as part of the association’s commitment to the local art community.

“It’s a chance to get people up to date on the project, which has been in the works for several years, let our sponsors and donors see where their money has gone and to really invite artists into the area to bear witness to our commitment to provide affordable space for them to create,” WADA Executive Director Mary Jane Park says.

The event begins at 4:30 p.m. and includes art by incoming ArtsXchange artists, live music, food and drinks, remarks from St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and more. The new studios, located at 515 22nd St. S, are currently under construction and attendees will have the opportunity to view progress. A $20 donation to WADA is suggested but the event is free to attend.

WADA has branded the ArtsxChange as a resource for the city, local artists and the community by creating “sustainable and affordable art studios and educational space.” The first phase of development began in March and is expected to conclude in mid-summer. It includes a 1,500-square-foot community space for art exhibitions and educational programing as well as 28 studios.

Smith and Associates CEO Bob Glaser says his business is sponsoring the ArtsxChange because it improves the community and adds opportunity for residents.

“It’s going to bring a lot of positive change to the market place,” he says.

For more information on the event, to register and to view a list of ArtsXchange sponsors visit WADA online.

Tampa Bay History Center grows up and out, stays on track with $11M expansion

The Tampa Bay History Center is experiencing smooth sailing so far on an expansion project that will bring the area’s pirate lore to life.

“Knocking on wood, everything is going well,” says C.J. Roberts, History Center President and CEO.

Roberts says construction crews are slightly ahead of schedule on the building expansion that will house the new “Treasure Seekers: Conquistadors, Pirates & Shipwrecks” gallery -- an addition that includes a 60-foot replica of a sailing vessel as its centerpiece and will focus on the stories of Florida’s early explorers.

As construction continues, the Pinellas Park-based Creative Arts is working to design the exhibits and a theatre company out of Boston is writing an “immersive pirate theatre experience” to complement the new gallery, which should be complete before the end of the year.

The expansion is just one part of an $11 million capital campaign, which Roberts says he is hopeful will be completed successfully in another year or so.

The goal of the capital campaign is to raise $5 million for the new gallery and maintenance on the existing structure, $5 million for the center’s endowment -- which funds about 25 percent of operating costs annually -- and $1 million for the new Florida Center for Cartography, a joint effort with the University of South Florida.

“We’ve raised $7.5 million dollars to date,” says Roberts.“We’ve got good wind in our sails, and I am optimistic that we’re going to be successful in completing this campaign.”

The full-size ship included in the gallery aims to provide an immersive experience that will help dispel some myths or misconceptions about pirates while providing a unique chance to learn about navigation, engineering and mathematics.

“These stories of early navigation and maritime exploration really lend themselves very well to pulling out those kinds of educational opportunities,” Roberts says.

Roberts hopes this expansion will broaden the center’s reach by telling stories that go beyond our backyard in the Bay Area.

“This is not a Tampa or Hillsborough story, as many of our other exhibits are,” he says. “This really is a Florida story.”

The Tampa Bay History Center’s expansion project is just one part of a period of exciting growth for the downtown area and Roberts is eager for the next chapter in Tampa’s story.

“We’re excited about the contribution this will make to an already growing downtown,” he says. “I think that we’re in a good place, and the future for both downtown Tampa and the history center looks pretty bright.”

Time to get outdoors to play: Springtime spawns local art festivals

As part of its efforts to revive Station Square Park, the city of Clearwater is holding the first in a series of paint parties/art bazaars at the Cleveland Street Park. Painting in the Park - Art Bazaar at Station Square Park kicks off from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 1, and continues on the first and third Saturdays through June.

“It’s going to be a real active event with lots of art and live music, an open-air painting class,” says Jennie Pearl, the event coordinator, an artist who will teach the $35 painting class. “It’s going to grow. So far we’ve had such a wonderful response.”

The free event sponsored by the city of Clearwater’s Community Redevelopment Agency and Parks and Recreation Department, also features live music by Sal Belloise (known as Guitar Sal), art by Kelly Strong, beer and wine tasting, body/face painting and unique vendors offering items like Hawaiian Island soaps and wearable-art clothing.

A muralist, Pearl still is recruiting for the upcoming events. “I’m looking for comedians, jugglers, hoola hoopers, massage therapists,” says Pearl, who won the 2016 Clearwater’s Downtown Gateway Art Project. “It’s all the arts."

Plans developed after visitors were polled at a grand reopening of the park in February. “They wanted art, they wanted music and entertainment,” says Laura Canary, Community Redevelopment Coordinator. “They also wanted … some type of adult component, some kind of nightlife in the park as well.”

Meanwhile in Tampa, the 6th Annual International Cuban Sandwich Art and Food Festival is underway from noon until 6 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City. Saturday’s agenda? Trying to make the largest Cuban sandwich. The event continues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, with competitors worldwide competing for awards.

The Safety Harbor Songfest is taking place April 1 and 2 at Safety Harbor Music and Art Center and Waterfront Park, featuring the Wood Brothers, Rising Appalachia, and more. It supports the nonprofit art center’s events; music begins at 11 a.m. both days.

The Tampa Bay Blues Festival is coming to Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg April 7, 8, and 9.  The event kicks off with Dennis Gruenling at 12:30 p.m. Friday, and includes The Rides with Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Barry Goldberg Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

Organizers of the free, two-day Mainsail Art Festival April 22 and 23, who are expecting to draw some 100,000, also are gearing up for the juried art competition at Vinoy Park. Some $60,000 will be awarded to prize winners at the festival, which began in 1976 when the city’s Bicentennial Committee, the St, Petersburg Recreation Department and St. Petersburg Arts Commission collaborated on a sidewalk arts and colonial crafts festival.

“It wasn’t a juried show. Now it’s one of the top in the country,” says Lisa Wells, who chairs the all-volunteer planning committee. “The prize money’s grown, everything’s grown. ... The quality has gotten better.”

The event, sponsored by the city, Junior League of St. Petersburg, and Tampa Bay Times, was among the top 20 best shows by Wisconsin-based Sunshine Artist magazine in 2016.

The festival, which draws more than 250 exhibiting artists, runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 22 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 23. The lineup includes Jah Movement Reggae Band at noon April 22,  Souliz at 4:30 p.m. April 22, and singer-songwriter-instrumenalist Damon Fowler at 3:45 p.m. April 23.

The city is seeking volunteers, who can signup online.

Here are some other art-related events planned in the Tampa Bay area during April.

Broad Comedy, a benefit for Planned Parenthood, is slated from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. April 6 at Ybor’s CL Space, 1911 N. 13th St. It features standup comics Robin Savage and Becca Childs, along with writers Lori Shannon and Cathy Salustri.

• Coffee lovers can check out the Tampa Bay Coffee and Art Festival from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. April 8 at The Noise Box, 1310 John Moore Road, Brandon. The festival features craft coffee roasters from Florida and local artists, food trucks and desserts.

• The Latin Music Festival is slated April 8 at 5730 Shore Blvd. S., Gulfport. The concert, on Boca Ciega Bay from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., will include recording artists Orchestra Fuego, The Latin Jazz Knights, Freddy Montez, Victor J. Moreno with Esther Suarez, and Eddie Garrido. It is the first of a series of annual Latin Music Festivals. Admission is $15; children under 10 are free.

• Gulfport’s annual Springfest Garden Art and Faerie Festival is slated from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 14 and 15 at Clymer Park at 5501 27th Ave. S. Renaissance-era characters will roam at the event featuring a Good Friday Fish Fry, May Pole dances, a costume contest, and live music. Admission is free; complimentary parking is offered. More information is available at Springfest's Facebook page or 727-322-5217.

The SunLit Festival kicks off with a party from 7 to 9 p.m. April 6 at the Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg. The third annual event runs April 10 through 25, bringing together literary organizations and others.

• The Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, in its 36th year, is slated April 21 to April 23 at St. Petersburg Coliseum. The fair is a mecca for book lovers, offering books on just about any topic.


New Sulphur Springs Museum honors local history

Tampa history buffs will have a new place to explore when the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center opens on February 4. The new landmark, located at Mann-Wagnon Park in Sulphur Springs, will serve as a community hub for the re-emerging Central Tampa neighborhood. 

According to Norma Robinson, a co-founder of the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center, the grand opening of the new facility is slated for noon on the first Saturday of February. “We hope to have the ribbon cutting at 12,” she says. “We’ll have different activities throughout the day, including guided tours.” 

When the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center opens its doors, guests will find an array of things to see and do there. One of the headlining attractions is “Sulphur Springs: An Enduring Legacy.” The permanent exhibit profiles the history of the Sulphur Springs neighborhood, which traces its roots back to the 1880s. The area flourished as a tourist destination in the early 20th century when developer Josiah Richardson oversaw the creation of a resort around the area’s springs, which were believed by many to have healing properties. The Sulphur Springs Arcade, the neighborhood’s iconic 214-foot-tall water tower, and Sulphur Springs Pool are just some of the historic landmarks honored at the museum. 

“Many students from the University of South Florida [http://www.usf.edu/ ](USF) did research,” Robinson says of the museum’s historical elements. Several images and other artifacts derive from the USF Tampa Library Special and Digital Collections and the Florida State Archive collection. 

The Sulphur Springs Museum also opens with “Water | Ways,” a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit that will be open from February 4 through March 18, 2017. “We’re one of six cities in Florida chosen for the exhibit, which shows the different ways water affects our lives,” explains Robinson. “Water | Ways” explores the impact of water environmentally, culturally, and historically. 

The museum will also host Our Florida, Our History lecture series, which includes an array of slated speakers for February such as USF history professor Gary Mormino, Hillsborough Community College Dean of Associate of Arts Jim Wysong, and African American diaspora expert Anthony E. Dixon. The series continues into March with appearances by climate science author Dr. Mark R. Hafen and Florida culture author Craig Pittman. 

The Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center is the culmination of many years of tireless effort by Norma Robinson and her husband, Joseph. When the couple moved from New York to Tampa in 1997, they chose Sulphur Springs as their new home. They have worked tirelessly for two decades to improve the community, which for years was known as one of Tampa’s most poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The Robinsons were honored by the Tampa Bay Lightning as Community Heroes in 2015, when they received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation. Much of those funds were invested into building the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center, which was a dream first envisioned more than a decade ago. 

Admission to the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center is free, Robinson says, “but donations are strongly encouraged and welcomed!”

When and where 

What: Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center Grand Opening
When: February 4, 2017, noon to 4 p.m.
Things To Do: Sulphur Springs: An Enduring Legacy history exhibit, Water | Ways Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit, guided tours, food, drinks
Address: 1101 E. River Cove Street, Tampa, Florida 33604

A peak inside: Safety Harbor Art & Music Center opens in northern Pinellas County

The Safety Harbor home of artists Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda is hard to miss.

Some know the brightly painted and tiled cottage surrounded by yard sculptures as Whimzeyland. Others affectionately refer to it as “the bowling ball house” because of the rows of decorated bowling balls that adorn the home’s yard. For many, it’s a local landmark, and listed on numerous “roadside attraction” websites.

The couple also used their home to bring the arts to their community in other ways, hosting house concerts and local artists. As this grew, Kiaralinda realized they’d eventually need a bigger venue. “When you have 170 people in your gazebo and in your front yard listening to music, it’s kind of time to move it somewhere else,” she says.

Now, after five years of planning, raising funds and construction, their new venue, the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center (SHAM), has opened in the city’s downtown, at 706 Second St. N. The artistic hub for northern Pinellas County opened its doors over Thanksgiving weekend with a three-day celebration, SHAMsgiving. They followed this up with a 12 Days of Christmas holiday event. 

“It’s pretty much a dream come true,” Kiaralinda says. The new venue is a larger-scale version of their home. “There’s art everywhere.”

SHAMc, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, became a possibility for the couple when they won a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant in 2011. Since the initial Pepsi grant, the project has been funded by a mix of donations, fundraisers and grants from the city. The plan was to create a center dedicated to all facets of the arts -- visual arts, music, literature, performing arts -- which is exactly what the venue is, Kiaralinda says. “We’re filling the calendar faster than we ever imagined we would, ever since we opened the doors,” she adds. 

Laura Kepner, founder of the Safety Harbor Writers & Poets, which now hosts its monthly open mics at SHAMc, says the local arts scene wouldn’t be what it is without Kiaralinda and Ramquist. 

“They support me with the open mic,” she says. “The really cool thing about [them] is if you want to do something with your art, whatever your art is, they’re probably going to cheer you on and say, how can we work together?”

The SHAM project transformed the Rigsby House, “a woodsy building” on the property when they purchased it, Kiaralinda says. “The old house was saved and resurrected. We did what we could to keep that alive.”

The original home is now called the ARTery, a space for workshops and to showcase local artwork. They also built a new two-story building called the ODDitorium, where the larger performances and events will take place.

Now, the folks behind SHAMc are planning their annual Safety Harbor SongFest, which is set for April 1 at Waterfront Park. The two-day music festival, which will feature artists including Magic Giant, Rising Appalachia, Charlie Mars and Joe Craven this year, will serve as a fundraiser for the new arts center.

Kiaralinda says SHAMc has a deep volunteer base of about 300 or so. “It’s been a really, really good ride, and we’ve had a lot of support,” she says, despite delays in funding and construction.

Though she and Ramquist have long been a staple of the Safety Harbor arts scene, she’s amazed by the response she’s received since SHAMc opened. “It’s crazy how many people walk through here and want to do things,” she says.

Officials break ground for new stage at Land O' Lakes Community Park

Plans for a new stage in Land O' Lakes took a step forward this month.
 
The Pasco Board of County Commissioners, the District School Board of Pasco County and community supporters broke ground for the performing arts venue on Tuesday, Aug. 16, at Land O' Lakes Community Park, north of Tampa.
 
Not only will the 1,020-square-foot stage serve the community, it will also be available to nearby Sanders Memorial Elementary School.
 
"This stage is going to actually be a cornerstone of future cultural events here in Land O' Lakes, something that we currently don't have -- and we have a lack of countywide, actually," said Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore during the groundbreaking ceremony. "So you can think about things that are going to be happening on that stage could be school band concerts, plays, pageants, and various other presentations. It's just going to be a wonderful amenity."
 
The $250,000 stage is the second part of $2.3 million worth of improvements to the park where the Land O' Lakes Community Center is located. The first phase was celebrated about a year ago with a ribbon-cutting for a new practice field, football field, softball field, walking trail, concession building with restrooms and meeting rooms, maintenance building, event field, two shelters, parking lots, playground and remodeled patio area.
 
Money for the stage comes from donations from architects, contractors and a grant from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.
 
The park was built in the 1960s, and an organization called the Heritage Park Foundation was created in 1997 to help protect it.
 
"Our desire was to keep our little historical park alive, to keep it as a community gathering spot it was created to be, and the co-facilitated shared use of space with Sanders Elementary," Sandy Graves, honorary mayor of Land O' Lakes and Heritage Park Foundation president, said during the Aug. 16 event. "That was the plan from the inception."

The group has long advocated for a stage at the park.
 
"Heritage Park Foundation has a motto," Graves said, "building a better community by building a better community center."
 
Construction on the stage is expected to begin in the fall and wrap up in January 2017.

Gobioff Foundation to launch creative placemaking program in September

A creative placemaking initiative is aiming to improve Tampa through the arts.
 
The Gobioff Foundation, a private family group that works to support human rights organizations in the Tampa arts community, is launching Treasure Tampa (T²) 8:30-10 a.m. on Monday, Sept 19, at The Vault, 611 N. Franklin St., Tampa. The initiative will include up to $30,000 in seed money for a creative placemaking project in the City of Tampa or the neighborhood area served by the University Area Community Development Corporation.
 
According to the National Endowment of the Arts, creative placemaking is the act of partners from public, private, non-profit and community sectors coming together to shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood around arts and cultural activities. The goal is to revive the space, improve local businesses and bring the community together.
 
The free Treasure Tampa (T²) launch event will include breakfast and an inspirational presentation about creative placemaking by Jamie Bennett, executive director of ArtPlace America, a 10-year project to position arts and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and development.
 
"At the launch in September, we will be announcing more details, including the application, review panel and timeline," explains Neil Gobioff, president of the Gobioff Foundation.
 
Gobioff has been involved with the Tampa arts community as a patron since he moved to Tampa in 1995, and he became active in the community through Jobsite Theater during its first season in the late 1990s. He now serves on the Jobsite board.
 
Gobioff's wife, Gianna Rendina-Gobioff, is a Tampa native who has been a cheerleader in the arts community since her brothers were in art school at the University of South Florida. She was a founding board member with Tempus Projects.

"We both believe in the artistic talent that resides here in Tampa," Neil Gobioff says. "It is exciting to us to build great communities through artistic collaborations across multiple sectors."
 
The Treasure Tampa (T²) launch event is open to anyone interested in learning about and participating in creative placemaking. Space is limited, and registration is required. Doors will open at 8 a.m.
 
For more information, contact the Gobioff Foundation.

Crescent Westshore installs giant sculpture near leasing office in Tampa

A new piece of artwork will greet residents and guests at Crescent Westshore, a multifamily development under construction near International Plaza.

A 10,000-pound sculpture at the front of the property near the leasing office stands 18 feet tall. It was designed and constructed by Mark Aeling of MGA Sculpture Studio in St. Petersburg.

"The sculpture is called the 'Budding Vortex' and is representative of the reproductive organs of plants and represents an investigation into the math inherent in all living things," says Aeling, who also created the dolphins at the Sundial, the sculptures in the entry way at The Florida Aquarium, and a sculpture at the Opal Sands Resort on Clearwater Beach.

"Budding Vortex" is made out of aluminum plates and represents 15 months of work. It was installed Wednesday, July 27.

Crescent Communities, the developer of the complex, values curiosity and innovation, which guides its buildings and its vision of community, according to spokesman Ben Watt. He says art plays a major role in supporting the vision, and Aeling's sculpture brings Crescent's values to life.

"It is a great addition to the local community and exemplifies the unique features and amenities that can be found at Crescent Westshore," Watt says.

The idea for the art display was conceived from the start of the $45-million project and incorporated into the overall cost.

Crescent Westshore, located at 2202 N. Lois Ave., will have 374 units, averaging a little more than 800 square feet. Rent is expected to range from $1,100 to $2,000 a month.

Apartments will have quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, up-market lighting and premium cabinets. Other amenities will include open areas for people who work from home, a lounge area with a flat screen TV, a shared kitchen in the amenity center to entertain guests, and a resort-style pool deck in the middle of the community.

Developers say the proximity to retail and business makes the complex attractive. They expect young professionals and business travelers to make the community home.

Crescent Westshore has already begun leasing and has several move-ins already on the books. The first residents are expected to move in Sept. 1. 

Downtown St. Pete gets new ramen restaurant, townhomes

There is no slow down in sight when it comes to development in downtown St. Petersburg. 

Buya Ramen

The ramen craze has been looming in the air for some time in big cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Now the trend is hitting the growing Edge District of St. Petersburg, as Buya Ramen gets ready to open its doors. 

The restaurant seats just over 100 people, and will feature a Japanese whiskey bar. The interior is adorned with 12-foot-long community tables, a concrete bar top and a mural done by local artist Michael Vahl

The menu is comprised of the popular Japanese noodles as the name of the restaurant implies, but also features dumplings, duck and other popular dishes from the island nation. 

For more information, click here

Delmar City Homes

In the growing mix of housing in downtown St. Petersburg, Delmar City Homes features four-story townhomes offering luxury amenities.

“Each unit at Del Mar has a roof-top deck, as well as an outdoor living room,” says Jeff Craft, developer at Tampa Bay City Living (TBCL), which developed Del Mar Homes.

The three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath units also feature a two-car garage, modern finishes and nearly 3,000-square-feet of space. Located at 433 Third St. S., the homes are within walking distance to restaurants, shops and office space.

Construction recently completed on Del Mar Homes, however, three units are still available. 

TBCL has plans for even more projects, with several in the works around the Tampa Bay area, including in the Westshore area, the Crescent Lake neighborhood of St. Petersburg and its own new headquarters.

For more information on both of these properties, visit TBCL's website.

Western, wildlife art focus of new museum in downtown St. Petersburg

The co-founder of Raymond James is opening a new museum in St. Petersburg.

The Tom & Mary James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, otherwise known as the James Museum, is an 80,000-square-foot gallery of space, is set to open fall 2017. The site will feature 30,000-square-feet of gallery space, a 2,500-square-feet indoor sculpture court throughout a two-story stone "arroyo'' with a backdrop of an indoor waterfall, a 120-seat theater and 6,000-square-feet of event space. A store and cafe will also be on-site. 

"The art that will displayed is western and wildlife, chosen from Tom and Mary James' extensive collection of over 3,000 works," says Anthea Penrose of James Museum. 

The new museum will be located at 100 Central Ave. The family recently gave over $50 million in personal funds to start the renovation project making way for the museum, which is expected to make a great economic impact on the city. 

"It is expected that some 30 new jobs will be created at the museum," Penrose says. 

Office and retail space around the museum is also being renovated. St. Pete Design Group (SPDG) has been selected to be the design architect on the project. They are tasked with the goal of transforming the lower two floors of a 30-year-old existing parking structure into a 21st century art museum. 

“I am incredibly excited about this new partnership between St. Petersburg and what will surely be
a landmark in this city, The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, mayor Rick Kriseman states in a news release. 

For more details on this project, click here

Hopes for New Tampa Cultural Center live on

New Tampa residents have been hoping for nearly 15 years that an arts and cultural center would rise on 17 acres of vacant land along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Now, with a private developer ready to build the center as part of a larger residential-commercial development, supporters of the project are awaiting word of a ground-breaking. But county officials say residents will have to wait a while longer.

The project is still in what Hillsborough County officials call in “inspection period,” during which the developer and the county work out details of the site plan, says Josh Bellotti, county real estate and facilities services director. That period ends July 30.

After that, Bellotti says the development enters an “approval period” ending Jan. 9 so the developer can get necessary rezoning and final site approval from the city of Tampa. The property, across from the upscale Hunter’s Green housing development, is owned by the county but lies in the Tampa city limits. 

Last July, county commissioners approved a real estate purchase agreement with developer Hunters Lake Tampa LLC for just over $2 million. In addition to the sale of the land, the agreement calls for Hunters Lake to construct public amenities and infrastructure valued at $2.17 million.

The county and developer will close on the property in February, Bellotti says.
 
Doug Wall, founder and director of the New Tampa Players performing troupe, says he and other residents met six weeks ago with county Commissioner Victor Crist and a representative of the county Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department. Crist has been a prime proponent of the project.

“They are working on the site plans,” Wall says. “We were supposed to get together again and give input on floor plans, but I have not heard anything since that meeting.”

Crist could not be reached for comment. 

Wall says the cultural center will cover about 20,000 square feet and include a theater with just under 300 seats. It has not been decided whether the seating will be permanent or removable so the space can host other pursuits when not in use as a theater. The building could be expanded later to 30,000 square feet by adding a second floor, according to county plans.

In addition to drama, the center will also house classrooms for music, dance and visual arts.

The New Tampa Players have been lobbying the county and city of Tampa governments for a cultural center since 2000, Wall says. Though the city paid for studies showing a need for such a center, neither local government would come up with the $7 million to $10 million needed for construction.

In 2009, Commissioner Ken Hagan convinced commissioners to appropriate land for the center, however, there were “strings,” Wall says.

“We had to raise the money up front,” he says. “We had to have a business plan approved by the county.

“Basically, for a small nonprofit, it made it impossible for us to do anything,” Wall says. “It died out until Victor Crist took over the project and wanted to make something happen.”
The residential-commercial development will be on 17 buildable acres out of an 80-acre county-owned tract. The rest of the area is either wetlands or will be used as a water retention area for drainage off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. 

Funding for the center is likely to be discussed during county budget hearings next month. In past meetings, Crist says the project would need $7.5 million in county funding.

Outdoor public art adds to Tampa Riverwalk experience

There is a walkable outdoor museum of sorts in downtown Tampa, and it’s growing.   

When the latest segment of the Tampa Riverwalk is completed in June, two enormous public artworks will also be formally unveiled for all to enjoy. Water, not surprisingly, plays a role in both pieces, though they couldn’t be more distinct in aesthetic and material. Both artworks will be located under bridges serving functional, protective roles as safety barriers.  

“Tampa is a place where artwork is expected and presumed,” says Robin Nigh, Manager of Art Programs for the City of Tampa. “It is integrated; you can really tell the difference when [public art] is part of the design versus an afterthought. It’s just part of who we are.” 

The new artworks can be viewed by foot, bike or boat along the Riverwalk from Tampa’s Water Works Park to the Straz Center. 

Under the Laurel Street Bridge, one will find Woven Waves a vibrant ceramic steel creation with large-scale folded corrugations. The effect of the textile-like design changes with the viewer’s movement. Houston-based Re:Site that created the piece says on its website that they drew inspiration from Tampa’s cultural diversity, “bringing to mind the metaphor of a quilt.” 

The second structure, entitled Andante by artist Heidi Lippman -- an enormous, stunning work of glass -- will be located under the 1-275 underpass and can also be seen from the road. Nigh notes that because of materials used, digitally printed tempered glass, and the artwork’s east-west orientation, there is a constant change in how the site is experienced as the light of day changes. She characterizes the space as “soothing” and notes that the musically inspired piece brings “color and quiet to an otherwise typically massive FDOT structure.”  

This follows several other major refurbishments and new public artworks  downtown Tampa. Among them, numerous sculptures, mosaics and installations at the recently inaugurated Perry Harvey Park; Stay Curious at the Poe Garage by artists Bask and Tes One, and the refurbishment and relocation of the Yaacov Agam sculpture Visual Welcome to Bayshore Boulevard and America, America sculpture by Barbara Neijna to the south side of the Laurel Street Bridge.

On the City of Tampa website one can do a public artworks “web tour.” There are 68 sites to view. 

A better plan might be to download the Tampa’s Public Art After Dark map and take a tour the old fashioned way, discovering in person this open-air and open-to-all museum. The most recent additions, Andante and Woven Waves, have yet to be updated on this map, but now you know where the treasures are hidden. 

City of Sarasota issues call to artists for public art at downtown roundabout

The city of Sarasota has issued a call to artists for the creation of an original landmark sculpture at a future downtown roundabout at Orange Avenue and Ringling Boulevard. The new roundabout is planned for construction in the summer of 2017.

The Ringling-Orange roundabout is part of a 10-year initiative in Sarasota to ease traffic patterns and promote more pedestrian-friendly roadways in the city’s highest density business, residential and arts districts. Sixteen roundabouts are planned for construction in the downtown region and along Tamiami Trail by 2025.

The City of Sarasota’s Public Art Committee plans to acquire and install landmark sculptures at the center island of each new roundabout in a placemaking effort spearheaded by the City Commission to highlight Sarasota’s identity as a hub for the arts on Florida’s Gulf Coast. These public art installations are budgeted in the city’s Public Art Fund, which collects financial contributions as well as donated artwork from multifamily and non-residential developers in the downtown area, according to David L. Smith, General Manager of the City Neighborhood and Development Services Department.

In early April, the city installed its first roundabout art installation at the Main Street and Orange Avenue roundabout, which opened last October. The artwork, a 20-foot tall stainless steel sculpture featuring multi-colored panels and LED lights was created by Tuscon, AZ artist, H. Blessing Hancock, as a response to a Call to Artists issued by the developers of One Palm Sarasota Luxury Living and Aloft Sarasota Hotel. Blessing Hancock’s work is also on display in cities such as Denver, CO; Shreveport, LA; Dallas, TX and Portland, OR. 

The current Call to Artists for the Ringling-Orange roundabout was submitted by the City of Sarasota with approval from the Public Art Committee and City Commission. This city-initiated Call to Artists is also a national call for sculpture proposals through the web-based Call for Entry (CaFÉ) organization, though Smith says the city is currently focusing its advertising efforts solely on local and regional artists. 

“It would be great if a local artist is selected, but that’s not actually one of our qualifications. I think that ultimately the Public Art Committee is looking for the best art we can acquire for Sarasota. ” Smith says. 

The proposal must be submitted by June 5, 2016 and its budget must not exceed $150,000. Smith says there is no stated stylistic preference or theme, but sculptures must not exceed 20 feet in height and the design must not include signs, traffic control features, auditory devices, reflective surfaces, flashing lights, moving parts, moving illumination, advertising, text, or alphanumeric characters. To compete in the competition, artists must have successfully completed other public art commissions and be familiar with creating artwork suited to Florida’s climate and environment. The Public Art Committee will choose three finalists to make in-person presentations at a special public art meeting that will be open for public comment, and artist honorariums of $1,000 each will be paid to the three finalists. 

The winning work must be completed for installation in Nov, 2017, following the construction of the Ringling-Orange roundabout. 

Smith says there are currently more than 40 art pieces in the city’s growing art collection, which includes the work of local artists as well as artists from around Florida and the United States. The city’s full collection can be found online in a public art catalogue that is maintained by the City of Sarasota.

The Space theater in West Tampa grows a loyal following

A new arts space in a historic part of Tampa is thriving.

Simply called The Space, a restaurant turned performing arts venue in West Tampa, is now in its fifth month of business, which is booming. The Space is an innovative concept where round tables and couches replace typical theater seating, and performers sit in the audience and perform on raised platforms around the establishment as opposed to a traditional stage.

What is also unique about The Space is its location. While other owners may have looked for locations in downtown, Westshore or Hyde Park, Jared O'Roark and co-owner Erica Sutherlan chose West Tampa and the community has embraced them.

“So far the community has been so great to us,” says O'Roark. “There are several local gentlemen in the area who help with parking, and reassure people who are not familiar with the area that this is a safe area. When you make that turn on Main Street, some people may perceive the neighborhood as dangerous, but believe me, I live around here and it is not dangerous.”

Currently at The Space, "Elegies for Angels, Punks & Raging Queens,'' is playing through April 24th. The musical is an innovative production in which each actor plays five to six characters -- each sharing his or her experience with death from AIDS.

So what is it like for performers in this unique theatrical environment?

'It's much more intimate and more challenging in a good way,” says Actor A.R. Williams who plays multiple roles. “It has made me a stronger artist because on a traditional stage with all the lights you can't even see the audience. Here, you can see and even feel what the audience is going through as they watch the performance. To feel the emotion and that energy just makes me a better performer.”

Tron Montgomery, who plays everyone from a homeless man to a flamboyant gay man to a horrific character who seeks to infect as many as he can with the virus to a war vet, states that bringing The Space to West Tampa is important for the community.

“Where I grew up is basically what you see outside,” Montgomery says. “I love the idea of bringing the arts back to change the community. To bring the arts to this neighborhood gives people a new aspect of life. It changes you, it certainly changed me. I could have easily ended up a completely different person, but theater saved me.”

"Elegies for Angels, Punks & Raging Queens'' will be playing its last show this weekend, April 22-24. For ticket information, visit the theater's website
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