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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

Read more articles by Kathy Steele.

Kathy Steele is a feature writer and editor at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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