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Art, Healthy Eats Meet Up At Sunspot Fresh Bar In St. Pete

The 600 block of Central Avenue is a cool place for artsy boutiques and galleries, and alleyways that give way to the unexpected delights of the broad, eye-popping brush strokes of murals painted on the blank canvas of outdoor walls.

"It's certainly a place that draws a lot of art," says Ann Shuh. "We have a lot of unique boutiques. We have murals on every block."

Shuh is the owner of Sunspot Fresh Bar, a new health food eatery that fits snugly into the 600 block's hip niche in downtown St. Petersburg. The restaurant, at 601 Central Ave., is home to a rotating gallery of work by local artists, notably Derek Donnelly, the founder of the artist-cooperative Saint Paint Arts and Sunspot's art curator.

Sunspot is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Shuh plans soon to offer beer and wine and add evening hours.

The continental-style breakfast menu includes an assortment of pastries, yogurt, granola and oatmeal. For lunch, customers can grab a wrap or salad to go, or stay awhile to enjoy art and conversation. The salad bar, wraps and sandwiches offer organic, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.

"Our concept is very simple," Shuh says. "We buy at a number of local markets. Our produce is always fresh."

The "fresh bar" of salad ingredients is open until 2 p.m.

The artwork is a special treat for customers. In addition to paintings by Donnelly, including three of his murals,  artwork by Sean Young is currently on display. Work will change regularly.

"They'll see many different styles," Shuh says. "We hope (Sunspot Fresh Bar) will be a place that tourists (and others) will come to and take home art with them."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Ann Shuh, Sunspot Fresh Bar

St. Pete Art & Fashion Week Struts Stuff For Warehouse Arts District

Showcasing St. Petersburg's creative talent is a passion of Dona Crowley, a marketing entrepreneur and aficionado of the city's evolving sophistication as a center for art and fashion.

Four years ago she launched the St. Pete Art & Fashion Week to put the spotlight on the artists and designers who live and work in St. Petersburg. This year's events kick-off with an Opening Night Party at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at Muscato's Bella Cucina, 475 Central Ave., in the Kress building.

A series of art shows at different venues will continue through the week, concluding on Sept. 20 with a fashion runway show at One Progress Plaza. Among featured fashions are Chateau De Curb Gear, Helen Gerro, Boutique La Rochelle, Cerulean Blu and Purabell House of Fashion.

The nonprofit Warehouse Arts District will receive a portion of the week's proceeds to aid in purchasing the former Ace Recyling Compound at 22nd Street South and Fifth Avenue South. Six warehouses and offices will be converted to working space for artists of all mediums.

Approximately $350,000 is needed by Nov. 1. A closing date on the pending contract could be as soon as mid-December.

"This would be the perfect thing to get involved in and get things started off," says Crowley, owner of Luxe Fashion Group and VM Magazine. She also organizes other fashion charity events including Tampa Bay Swim Week and Cars & Couture.

Crowley is enthused by St. Petersburg's new spirit of growth. 

More residents are moving into apartments and condominiums. Boutiques, galleries, restaurants, bars and start-up businesses are opening in the downtown core.

And St. Petersburg's reputation as center for art and innovation is growing, Crowley says.

"We really want to promote that and let people know (artists) are there and drive traffic to St. Petersburg,"  she says. "The art was always there. Now with the growth of the city artists are becoming more well known and getting more exposure and hopefully their businesses are doing better."

Warehouse Arts District President Mark Aeling says plans for the arts district's proposed campus include offices, classrooms, a large gallery space, a foundry, recording studio and rehearsal space, and a possible micro-brew pub. About 20,000 square feet would be renovated as air-conditioned, affordable studio space for artists including photographers, painters and graphic artists. Larger spaces would be available for metal workers, sculptors and mixed media artists.

"The development of the ‘Warehouse Arts Enclave’ will ensure that there is affordable studio space for artists in St. Petersburg as the city continues to develop," Aeling says.

General admission for St. Pete Art & Fashion Week varies from no charge to $35. Tickets are currently available online for discounted prices prior to the event week. A limited number of VIP Wristbands are available for $80 and include entry to all events including the wrist-band only Opening Night Party. Guests with wristbands also will have front row seating for the fashion runway show as well as discounts at participating restaurants, bars and boutiques in downtown St. Petersburg.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Mark Aeling, Warehouse Arts District; Dona Crawley, St. Pete Art & Fashion Week

St. Petersburg Emergency Shelter Seeks Art Donations

The staff at CASA wants their future emergency shelter to bring sunshine and hope to the hundreds of families and individuals who need to escape domestic violence.

They also want to create a safe haven that is warm and comforting. And to do that, CASA is asking local artists to fill the shelter's rooms and walls with their donated artwork. Paintings, sculptures, multi-media are all welcome.

"We'd like the art to give the shelter a homey, friendly atmosphere," says Susan Nichols, CASA's grants and compliance coordinator.. "We hope it will be a peaceful environment, bright and cheerful. We have a lot of blank wall space."

Construction on the 40,000-square-foot building is under way, just north of downtown St. Petersburg. The expected opening of the shelter will be in late July 2015. A public showing of the donated art also is planned.

CASA is being aided with its "call to artists" by the nonprofit St. Petersburg Arts Alliance.

Funding for the approximately $10 million project is from multiple sources including state and federal grants and tax credits. 

CASA, which was founded nearly four decades ago, currently operates a shelter with 30 beds and aids about 300 families and individuals a year. But Nichols says they have 1,400 requests for help annually that must be referred to other shelters in Pinellas or Hillsborough counties. "Unfortunately many times they are full there also," Nichols says.

The new shelter will nearly triple capacity with 100 beds in 50 bedrooms. There also will be a children's area, teen room, meeting room, a large conference room, offices, playground, outdoor areas and gardens.

Nichols expects about 800 individuals will be given shelter each year. The additional space and the building's design mean more families and men can be accommodated, she says.

Art donations are being accepted through April 10, 2015, at CASA's administrative office, at 1011 First Ave., N.  They are tax deductible as in-kind contributions.

Paintings and photographs should be framed. Murals preferably should be mobile art whether on canvas, wood or other hard surfaces. Textile pieces likely will be displayed in office areas rather than in bedrooms.

Arrangements can be made for the art to be picked up by sending an email to CASA, or calling 727-895-4912, Ext. 100.

CASA reserves the right to reject art that displays violence.

Each art work at the new shelter will be labeled with the artist's name and the work's title. The donations also will be recognized on CASA's website and its Facebook page.

None of the art will be resold but it will be exhibited at a public showing in late April 2015, Nichols says.

"We think it will be a great gift to show the community," she says..

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Susan Nichols, CASA

What's Your Fave Renovation? Think St. Petersburg Preservation Awards

The building boom that will bring modern residential towers to downtown St. Petersburg is getting a lot of attention. But for many, the city's charm is in its architectural history and diversity.

Saint Petersburg Preservation, Inc., is ready to celebrate the best of St. Petersburg. The nonprofit is accepting nominations for the 2014 Preservation Awards. The awards recognize people, associations and businesses for their efforts to preserve, restore and complement the city's architectural history and sense of place.

Some past winners are preservationists of the Mirror Lake Lyceum, the Historical Kenwood Neighborhood Association and the owner of a 1920s bungalow and carriage house on Bay Street.

"They give a unique character to St. Petersburg that makes people want to come here," says Monica Kile, executive director of the preservation agency.

Nominations are accepted until Sept. 15. The award ceremony will be Oct. 24 at the Studio@620. There also will be an exhibit and sale of watercolor paintings of area landmarks by local artist Robert Holmes.

There are four categories: residential and commercial restoration and rehabilitiation; compatible infill; adaptive reuse; and residential and commercial stewardship. Also an award will be given to Preservationist of the Year. Descriptions of each category are available at the SPP website

“The Preservation Awards are a great way to highlight our community’s landmarks and for neighborhoods to take pride in the buildings and features that make their area unique and special,” says Logan Devicente, SPP’s awards program chair.  

While historic restorations are important, reuse of buildings and compatible infill also play a role in preservation, Kile says.

"We encourage good design that fits with the city," says Kile. "That can be a very modern design."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Monica Kite and Logan Devicente, Saint Petersburg Preservation

Old Warehouses To Be Renovated For Artists' Studios

The Warehouse Arts District Association is ready to launch an innovative plan to expand and preserve a growing artists' colony within an industrial warehouse district in St. Petersburg.

The nonprofit association has signed a contract to buy the former Ace Recyling Compound, a collection of six warehouses and offices at the corner of 22nd Street South and 5th Avenue South. The approximately 50,000 square feet would be developed as the Warehouse Arts Enclave, offering working space for artists working in all medium from painting to metal work and sculpture.

Other uses include offices, classrooms, a large gallery space, a foundry, recording studio and rehearsal space, and a possible micro-brew pub.

"It's going to be completely transformative for the arts community," says association President Mark Aeling. He owns MGA Sculpture Studios in the Warehouse Arts District. "It's going to expand the arts district as a destination for people interested in finding out about art, how it is made. It's going to put St. Petersburg on the map."

By November 1 association members hope to raise $350,000. If so, a closing date on the deal could happen by mid-December. Potential funding could come from the city through a federally supported Community Development Block Grant. Fundraisers and donations from art patrons also will be sought.

"The development of the ‘Warehouse Arts Enclave’ will ensure that there is affordable studio space for artists in St. Petersburg as the city continues to develop," Aeling says.

About 20,000 square feet would be renovated as air-conditioned, affordable studio space for artists including photographers, painters and graphic artists. Larger spaces would be available for metal workers, sculptors and mixed media artists.

"What we're trying to do is create a studio compound that is accessible to a wide variety of medium styles," Aeling says. "And, that is unique."

Other plans are being discussed. Because the Pinellas Trail loops through the district, an "Arts Gateway to St. Pete" with murals and artwork could tie in with the trail and bring visitors into the enclave. Among close neighbors to the trail are the Morean Arts Center for Clay and Duncan McClellan Glass.

Aeling foresees the Warehouse Arts Enclave as a "second-day destination" for visitors to St. Petersburg. On the first day there are the waterfront, The Dali Museum, the Chihuly Collection, and in the future, the Museum of American Arts and Crafts. But he says, "Where art is made becomes a second-day destination. That puts heads in beds and fills restaurants. It's a huge economic driver."

To help with fund-raising or make a donation, email Where Art Is Made.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Mark Aeling, Warehouse Arts District Association

The Trio At ENCORE! Tampa Welcomes First Residents

Even as construction continues on The Reed and The Tempo waits in the wings for its start date, the ENCORE! Tampa community is celebrating its first multifamily apartment complex -- The Trio.

The Tampa Housing Authority will hold a grand opening today (July 15) at 2:30 p.m. at 1101 Ray Charles Blvd., with live jazz and tours of The Trio.

The 141-unit apartment building joins The Ella, 161 senior apartments that opened in 2012 and are fully occupied. 

The musically themed ENCORE! is a $425 million, master-planned community that is replacing the former public housing complex of Central Park Village, which was torn down in 2007. The goal is to create a mixed-use, mixed income neighborhood within street grids dotted with apartments, shops, restaurants, a grocery store, hotel and a black history museum.

It is being developed jointly by THA and the Banc of America Community Development Corporation. The next multi-family complex, 203-unit The Tempo, should have a construction start shortly, with leasing set to begin by summer 2015.

Since April, nearly 40 families have moved into The Trio. However, about 70 percent of the  apartments are leased. Those additional residents are expected to arrive within the next one to two months.

"That's a little bit better pace for us than expected by this time," says LeRoy Moore, THA's COO. "Obviously the biggest news out of this is affordable housing for families. It's good to be welcoming our first families to the site."

At the grand opening, guests can get up-close looks at the public art commissioned for The Trio, including three ceramic tile murals depicting the rich history of the once-thriving black business and entertainment district in and around Central Avenue. 

The murals, located along a perimeter wall that faces Perry Harvey Sr. Park, are by Vermont-based artist Natalie Blake.

Funds for the murals -- titled The Gift of Gathered Remembrances -- are from the city of Tampa and the Friends of Tampa Public Art Foundations, which received its share of the money through THA.

In addition, The Trio's contractor, Sarasota-based CORE Construction Services of Florida, commissioned Taryn Sabia, co-founder of the Urban Charrette, for three jazz-themed paintings installed on the Trio's exterior walls.

The Trio is a collection of three buildings designed by Baker Barrios Architects. One building is six stories; the others are four stories. There are 1-,2-,3- and 4-bedroom floor plans. Amenities include a swimming pool, movie theater, fitness center, library, game rooms and Internet cafe.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: LeRoy Moore, Tampa Housing Authority

AMC West Shore To Sell Beer, Wine, Liquor

Adult ticket buyers at AMC West Shore will soon be able to settle into a darkened theater fortified with more than popcorn, candy,  nachos or pizza. If they choose, their favorite alcoholic beverage can slip into the cup holder beside them instead of a soda.

Tampa City Council gave its approval for AMC theater exhibitors to add a MacGuffin -- a bar that sells beer, wine and liquor. MacGuffin is a term coined by director Alfred Hitchcock in 1939 to describe any plot device or gimmick that moves the story along.

Selling alcohol gives movie exhibitors, such as AMC, a competitive edge in marketing to an adult audience. And in the Westshore Business District, new apartments, shops and restaurants are creating marketing opportunities for WestShore Plaza and its tenants, including AMC West Shore.

"One of the most exciting things taking place right now in the Westshore district is seeing the component of residential finally being developed," says Jay Botsch, WestShore Plaza's general manager. "The economy has not been friendly to offices, hotels and residential but it is really taking off."

People are looking for restaurants, shopping and a theater that are right at their front door step, Botsch says. "The millennial generation is who is shopping and going to the AMC theater and it is a very important component as we evolve the shopping center."

AMC West Shore, with 20 screens, is the only second floor tenant at WestShore Plaza. The wet zone will cover the theater's approximately 77,000 square feet of interior space.

In a savvy technology driven society, AMC and other exhibitors are changing to keep up with an expanding entertainment menu that includes BlueRay, tablets, laptops, smartphones, HDTV and home projection systems large enough to mimic the real theater deal. 

Most recently, AMC spent about $85,000 for digital 3D capabilities at AMC West Shore.

"The industry has continued to change and evolve over the last 20 years. For us to remain relevant we have to continue to re-invest in our business," says George Patterson, AMC's senior VP for its food and beverage division.

AMC is the second largest movie exhibitor in the country with about 345 theaters and nearly 5,000 screens.

Research shows that a high percentage of ticket buyers, age 21 and over, want the option of buying alcohol. "It's not a huge part of our business," says Patterson. "But it is an important part of the re-birth of our business."

The MacGuffins are staffed only by bartenders age 21 and older and everyone regardless of age is carded. AMC officials say the bars are attractive additions not simply for the movie crowd but also for opera showings, corporate meetings and other events.

Locally AMC theaters that already serve alcohol include Veterans 24 in Town 'N Country, Woodlands Square in Oldsmar, and The Regency 20 in Brandon. Other competitors that sell alcohol include Tampa Theatre, CineBistros and the IMAX at MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry).

More amenities are on the way as AMC retro-fits its theaters nationwide with self-serve Coca-Cola vending machines and offers reserved seating. Some AMC theaters offer dine-in service, similar to the concept at Cine Bistro in Hyde Park. In 2014 the theater chain expects to spend more than $200 million on upgrades.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Jay Botsch, WestShore Plaza; George Patterson, AMC

New Contemporary Art Studio Moves Into South Tampa

The boutiques, art galleries and restaurants along MacDill Avenue, just north of Bay to Bay Boulevard, are bringing a new vibe to to one of South Tampa's main thoroughfares.

On May 31 a new contemporary art gallery -- CASS (Contemporary Art Space and Studio) -- will be the latest arrival on the neighborhood scene, starting off with exhibits by Los Angeles artist Michael Turchin and Tampa artist Chris Valle.

Husband and wife duo, Cassie and Jake Greatens, believe Tampa is on the verge of a "big city" re-invention of itself. And South MacDill is part of that transformation. It's why they chose this location, at 2722 S. MacDill, to open their first art gallery.

They see the potential for MacDill to become to South Tampa what Central Avenue is to downtown St. Petersburg, a place where the funky and creative get together in a walkable community with art crawls and food tours. 

"We're headed in the right direction," says Cassie Greatens. "There is a population here that wants that. When you have that kind of energy, anything can happen."

Long-time MacDill anchors are Beef O' Brady's and the Salvation Army discount store. But upscale interior designers, a yoga studio, restaurants and boutiques are changing the landscape.

Their front door opens into a spacious, all white gallery with a smaller, intimate space in the rear of the building. It was formerly work space for Michael Murphy Gallery, located across the avenue.

"We want to be able to feature installation art. Keep it clean and keep it simple," says owner Jake Greatens.

Turchin and Valle's works will be on display from May 31 through July 3. Turchin is known for eye-popping color and patterns in his graffiti inspired art. His art has been commissioned by celebrities such as Barbra Streisand, Lance Bass and Lisa Vanderpump.

Valle is a painting instructor at University of Tampa who has exhibited nationally and internationally in museums and galleries. His art explores the influences of entertainment on sexual roles, norms and stereotypes.

Exhibits will change every two to three months. The Greatens are looking for artists for the next exhibit.

The art at CASS is about what it means to an individual not whether it matches the home decor. 

"It's what's amazing and speaks to you," says Cassie Greatens. "We want the gallery to have movement, not just sit here and have art on the wall."

The couple are from Lakeland, Fl., and graduated from the University of Tampa. Jake Greatens creates mixed, media paintings and anticipates an exhibit of his work in about eight months.

In the future, the couple hope to offer an internship. They plan to invite emerging and established artists to offer workshops and lectures.

"We're trying to be more interactive," says Jake Greatens.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Jake Greatens, CASS

Artspace Eyes Sarasota's 'North Trail' For Creative Redevelopment

Visitors arriving at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, located along the Tamiami Trail at the northern edge of Sarasota County known as the North Trail, see a less than flattering portrait of the city as they drive south into the city of Sarasota.
 
“For many years, the North Trail conversation has dragged on, but the bottom line is that the space that lies between the airport, the Ringling [art museum and college] complex, and downtown Sarasota is simply not a very inviting front door to the city,” says Jim Shirley, executive director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota, sponsor of the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership (NTRP).
 
The NTRP is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the sustainable redevelopment of Sarasota’s “front door” through urban renewal and the creation of affordable live-work artist spaces. 
 
In the first week of April, the North Trail took its first steps in its journey toward the artistic rebirth envisioned by the NTRP with a visit by consultants Wendy Holmes and Stacey Mickelson of Artspace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization.
 
“Artspace is the largest, and really, the only organization that does what they do in this country -- which is to focus on the development of live-work environments for artists that can be used to rekindle areas of communities that need to be re-vitalized,’’ Shirley says. “They are involved in 35 projects throughout the country and have a more than 30-year track record.”
 
Led by Artist and Historical Preservationist Veronica Morgan, the NTRP raised the $15,000 required for an Artspace consultation, which included tours of Sarasota’s arts community and two days of workshops that connected artists, civic leaders and the financial community with Artspace consultants.
 
“The goal was to allow the Artspace team to get a more in-depth look at Sarasota, specifically focusing on the North Trail, and to allow us, the community, to learn more about Artspace and see if it would make sense for us,’’ Shirley says. “I believe that we had overall a very successful evening, and the indication from Artspace is that they felt the same.” 
 
In early June, Artspace will provide the NTRP with an executive summary of their findings and recommendations. Shirley says that if the organizations choose to move forward with a project in Sarasota, the next phase would include a $42,000 survey of the entire county, and that the revitilization project would commence in approximately 3-5 years. 
 
“Virtually everyone in the community knows how important the arts are here, and we’ve seen what the arts can do in communities that make a commitment to them,” Shirley says. “If we could possibly use the arts to help generate the re-vitilization of the North Trail, it would be ‘the Sarasota thing to do.’ ”
 
Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Jim Shirley, Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota
 

Seminole Heights Tour Showcases Historical Homes

Bungalows, mid-century Modern and more will be showcased at the 16th Annual Seminole Heights Home Tour.
 
The event is from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 6. The starting point is the Seminole Heights Garden Center at 5800 Central Ave. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the self-guided tour.
 
A portion of the proceeds will benefit Urban Art Attack and Habitat for Humanity. The tour is sponsored by the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association and the Old Seminole Heights Preservation Consortium.
 
Nine homes are on the tour representing every neighborhood within the Greater Seminole Heights' area including Old Seminole Heights, Hampton Terrace, Southeast Seminole Heights and South Seminole Heights.
 
The varied architectural styles reflect the historical character of one of Tampa's oldest suburbs, initially founded in the 1900s. There are 1920s bungalows lovingly restored but also homes from the 1940s and 50s. One home shows how a mid-century Modern kitchen renovation can be true to its historical period and also up-to-date with modern conveniences.
 
Seminole Heights in recent years has emerged as a destination neighborhood with restaurants, shops, coffee houses, bars and micro-breweries.
 
"I like the culture and diversity (of Seminole Heights)," says Bill Truett, a home tour committee member. "The area is still showcasing what it's like to live here."
 
People can pick up tickets and maps at the garden center on the day of the tour. They will be able to drive on their own or hop on one of the Jolley Trolleys. In addition, the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club will have a mapped route for people who choose to ride bicycles. The bike route will be clearly marked on the roadways and members of the Tampa Police Department's Bike Patrol will assist with navigating busy streets and intersections.
 
For more information and advance ticket locations, visit the association's website.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Bill Truett, Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association

Chihuly Collection Opens New Store In St. Pete

Visitors to the Chihuly Collection art gallery in downtown St. Petersburg can expect a new Chihuly experience when they step into the gallery's expanded retail store.
 
A grand opening is planned from 4-6 p.m. April 4 at the gallery at 400 Beach Drive. The following day visitors can tour Seattle Artist Dale Chihuly's permanent collection of glass-blown creations for the discounted price of $1.
 
The Chihuly Collection, owned by the Morean Arts Center, opened nearly four years ago. It is the first installation of Chihuly's internationally acclaimed glass sculptures in a building specifically designed for that purpose by award-winning architect Albert Alfonso of Tampa.
 
The approximately 2,500-square-foot retail store increases the space for merchandise from the Chihuly Workshop, including 2014 studio edition glasswork, limited edition prints, books, DVDs, notecards and assorted Chihuly-brand gifts. The shop will have a separate entrance off Beach Drive.
 
Among the studio editions for sale are Marigold Persian, Sahara Basket Set, Maya Blue Persian and Zinnia Macchia.
 
There also is a new emphasis on showcasing Florida artists of all mediums in the reconfigured and redesigned retail shop. The inventory will include more jewelry, artisanal soaps and pottery. And, about 1,000 square feet of former retail space now is a rotating art gallery that will feature glass artwork from artists around the country.
 
"We're trying to have more products of Florida artists along with the elements of Chihuly," says Andy Schlauch, the Chihuly Collection's executive director.
 
Cypress, black steel and concrete floors are among the architectural features of the interior design by Rob Bowen Design. The special touches are meant to mimic Chihuly's famous boathouse in Seattle, says Schlauch.
 
Biltmore Construction completed the work over several weeks. Concrete floors are by Scofield.
 
"It's a new open floor plan," says Schlauch. "I especially love the dark charchoal concrete floors. The feel will be something very different from what people experience on Beach Drive."
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Andy Schlauch, Chihuly Collection

Le Meridien Hotel Plans June 1 Opening In Downtown Tampa

Get ready for Tampa's newest luxury hotel. The renovated and historical Classic Federal Courthouse on Florida Avenue is almost ready for its debut as Le  Meridien.
 
Opening date for the upscale, 130-room hotel is June 1, with a grand opening planned for later that month. It is one of 11 Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts planned in the next 12 months by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
 
Le Meridien Tampa brings an artsy vibe to what the city plans as an "art promenade" on Zack Street between Florida and Ashley Drive. Guests at Le Meridien will receive a free pass to the Tampa Museum of Arts. A wall on the main floor, near Bizou Brasserie and Longitude Bar, will be a gallery of the best from local artists.
 
"Le Meridiens around the world emphasize art," says Gary Prosterman, CEO of Development Services Group in Memphis. "It has a tremendous amount of architectural features that are really appealing. It's obviously a different experience from just your typical business class hotel or certainly different from a select service hotel."
 
The "cultural heritage traveler" and the creative segment of travelers, regardless of profession, will appreciate the environment and amenities at Le Meridien, Prosterman says.
 
The 109-year-old neo-classical building is on the National Register of Historic Places but for years sat vacant. In 2012 the city, with Tampa City Council approval, agreed to a long-term lease. DSG was selected as developers for the project. Kobi Karp of Miami did the conceptual design: The Beck Group is design builder, serving as architect and construction manager; and Ferrell Redevelopment of Tampa consulted on the building's historic preservation.
 
Two courtrooms have been transformed. One is now the Bizou at the top of a grand staircase leading to the main floor. A fourth floor courtroom is the hotel's ballroom.
 
Marble and terrazzo features, floor-to-ceiling windows and extra wide corridors recall the grandeur of the historical courthouse.  Guests can enjoy modern conveniences of business and fitness centers, an outdoor lawn area for dining, the restaurant, bakery, coffee house and bar, and a garden.
 
Room rates will vary with peak season prices ranging from about $180 to $280; in off-peak season rooms will be about $150 to $220.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Gary Prosterman

Restoration Of Old Hyde Park Art Center Under Way

From the outside, the Old Hyde Park Art Center on Swann Avenue looks as if it were a typical older South Tampa home. But the approximately 115-year-old wood structure is possibly the oldest building still in use in Tampa.
 
With an $18,000 makeover, the art gallery building soon will more closely resemble the historical structure it is. Restoration work by Timeline Contracting will reconfigure the front stoop and add columns and a canopy to the entry way. The exterior will be painted in three colors similar to the light, mid-tone and dark colors of the original structure, giving the building more eye-catching appeal.
 
"It's pretty unique," says Kathy Durdin, president of Tampa Realistic Artists, Inc., which owns and operates the art center. "Before the turn of the century, there were these generic (wood frame) buildings all over the place, but they were lost because there was no purpose for them."
 
The saving grace for this building is that the city and school district kept finding public uses for it, and even different locations.
 
In 1899 the two-room wood building served as a temporary school until a red-brick replacement for the Hyde Park Grammar School was built at 502 South Boulevard. The original grammar school was at Platt Street and Magnolia Avenue.
 
Tampa was still a pioneer town emerging alongside the Hillsborough River, dotted with orange groves and dairy cattle. In 1914 the temporary school became the grammar school's lunch room, where parents served the first hot lunches to Tampa students. A year later the school was renamed the John B. Gorrie Elementary School.
 
Nearly eight years later the school lunch room had a new purpose as the Hyde Park Branch Library, again a first for a public school. In 1936 the building was moved to its current location, 705 Swann Ave. For the next three decades it was the Tampa Public Library, Hyde Park Branch.
 
When the library closed in 1969, the Tampa Realistic Artists, Inc., began leasing the property as an art gallery eventually buying it 10 years later. The nonprofit group promotes art awareness through exhibits, workshops and seminars.
 
The funds to renovate the art center come from the Hillsborough County Historic Preservation Grant Program which promotes historic preservation, heritage tourism and job creation.
 
Work on the entry way will be completed in March. Additional restoration is planned for the front doors, which still have city seals embedded in the lockplates.
 
"We've got to believe at the turn of the century these lockplates were all over Tampa," says Durdin. "The doors are pretty special."

The art center is open to the public and is free of charge. The next exhibit, "Landscapes and Seascapes,'' will run from today until March 21. For more information, call Durdin at 813-220-5800 or email her at this link.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Kathy Durdin, Old Hyde Park Art Center

Tradition Meets Technology In New Seminole Heights' Library

Bungalow tradition meets modern technology at the new Seminole Heights Branch Library, which is in the midst of a "soft" opening after a nearly one-year construction schedule.
 
The red brick building evokes the history of a neighborhood rich in Craftsman-style bungalows and street grids canopied with grand oak trees. The technology is state-of-the-art and ready for mobile devices with Wi-Fi and plugs for laptops, tablets, IPads and more installed in the base of lamps and on the frames of chairs and tables and ottomans.
 
There are computer stations in clusters and single computers tucked away in quiet corners.
 
"It's been a big accomplishment that we have so much space, so much technology," says Carrie Hurst, the library's branch supervisor.
 
The library, at 4711 Central Ave., replaces a cramped 8,000-square-foot library that dated to the mid-1960s. Residents formed the Seminole Heights Friends of the Library and lobbied for the new 2-story, approximately 22,000-square-foot building.
 
The "arts and craft" design with tall windows, arches, a veranda and second story balcony is the work of FleischmanGarcia Architects. Stain glass art is designed by WRW Studio of Charlotteville, N.Y. A child's portrait hanging on the second floor is by University of Tampa graduate Princess Smith who was named 2013 Emerging Artist of  the Year at the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.
 
The total cost of the project, including equipment, design and construction, is just under $7 million.
 
On the ground floor the Friends' group has a bookstore. Patrons can get a drink or snack from vending machines in a cafe area. And community meetings can be held in a 100-seat room that can be divided into two rooms, if needed.
 
Hurst says groups already are booking the space.
 
The main library on the second floor has reference and circulation desks; an "innovation studio" with movable furniture on wheels; offices for staffers; small study and meeting rooms; and a room filled with preservation research materials. The latter will be dedicated to the memory of  the late Steve Gluckman, a local historian and library fund-raiser. 
 
The library serves a unique role in the life of a neighborhood, says Pat Benjamin, president of the Friend's group. "There is home where you work and there is the place where you work," she says. "And the library is the third place. It's just a jewel in the neighborhood. It is for everybody."
 
The grand opening of the library will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on March 17.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Carrie Hurst, Seminole Heights Branch Library; Pat Benjamin, Friends of the Library

Artist Chosen For Public Art Project At Perry Harvey Sr. Park

Pittsburgh artist James Simon will bring his signature larger-than-life sculptures to a proposed redesign of Perry Harvey Sr. Park, a multiyear project  that will honor Tampa's black community and its musical heritage.
 
His work includes Liberty Avenue Musicians,  three 15-foot musicians installed in historical downtown Pittsburgh. There is also a Chattanooga fiddler in Tennessee, and a 16-foot tall Buckeye Trumpet Man in Cleveland, Ohio, in a former parking lot that is now a plaza and the home of the Buckeye Jazz Festival.
 
Tampa City Council last week approved a $15,000 contract for Simon to design artwork for Perry Harvey Sr. Park's southern gateway. He competed against 160 applicants who submitted proposals to the city's Arts Program Division.
 
In a competitive review where artists' names were kept secret, Simon's art stood out.
 
"He seemed like he got the right feel," says Robin Nigh, the city's arts manager. "We wanted something fun, celebratory, something that driving by had a 'wow' factor and really captured the specialness of the park because it's a landmark opportunity."
 
Simon's submitted design is preliminary. Nigh says the final design likely will be available in March or April.
 
Public art is planned for the park and also for Encore, a $425 million mixed-income housing and retail complex being built by Tampa Housing Authority adjacent to Perry Harvey park.  Encore will replace the former Central Park Village public housing complex which was torn down several years ago.
 
The park and Encore are part of a major effort to revitalize the once-vibrant neighborhood north of downtown once known as the Scrub. The area was founded after the Civil War by freed slaves. It also was the scene of a thriving black business and entertainment district which was decimated in the 1960s and '70s by highway widening projects and urban renewal.
 
Musical legends Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Hank Ballard and James Brown were among those who performed at clubs on Central Avenue.
 
Other artists have been identified for additional public art projects at Perry Harvey. Massachusetts-based artist and filmmaker Rufus Butler Seder submitted a proposal for the park's history walk which will feature notable events and people in the neighborhood's history.  Local muralist Mike Parker is slated for artwork to honor community and national leaders.
 
An artist also is being sought to create a statue of the late Perry Harvey Sr., a civil rights leader and founder of Tampa's first black union, the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1402.

The city currently is seeking photographs or home movies from individuals or institutions regarding Tampa's black neighborhoods including the Central Avenue business district, the Scrub and Dobyville. Images will be used for a public art installation and should be submitted by Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. For information, visit the City of Tampa's website or call 813-274-8531.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Robin Nigh, City of Tampa
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