HARVST Project Pops Up Fine Art In Downtown Tampa

Creative Pinellas Director T. Hampton Dohrman, Bluebird Book Bus founder Mitzi Gordon and artist Vincent Kral, chief preparator at the University of South Florida's Contemporary Art Museum, are hard at work this week creating a multisensory art experience that brings together a melting pot of Tampa Bay talent in downtown Tampa for one night only.

The team has spent the last five months organizing, mapping and measuring the ground floor industrial space of advertising agency Pyper Paul + Kenney at 1102 N. Florida Ave.

They have the next five days to fill it with art and attend to last-minute details. Pressure washing the space. Installing temporary walls to create areas that allow conversations to percolate. Painting surfaces, fine-tuning lighting, hanging text and thoughtfully placing the art itself in time for the HARVST Project's Pop-Up Art Event on Oct. 13 from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Gordon handled the responsibility of curating more than 20 local artists for the event, selected from a pool of Think Small to Think Big microgrant winners. Proceeds raised from the $5 admission charge will go toward funding additional grants for the program.

Since its establishment in July 2011 the Think Small to Think Big grant review panel -- consisting of Dohrman, University of Tampa Professor John Capouya, Experimental Skeleton Artistic Director Joe Griffith, Jobsite Theatre Artistic Director David Jenkins, Choreographer Cynthia Hennessy, Tempus Projects Artistic Director Tracy Midulla Reller and New Granada Records owner Keith Ulrey -- has awarded a total of $14,200 in funding to ambitious local art projects.

The HARVST Project is an opportunity for some of those artists to showcase the benefits these grants have provided.

Stimulating Your Senses

There'll be music from St. Pete-based indie rockers Alexander and the Grapes. The quartet used their microgrant to press their first full-length New Granada Records debut, "Hemispheres," in vinyl; photography from James Branaman (husband of 83 Degrees Managing Photographer Julie Busch Branaman); paintings from Megan Hildebrandt; sculptural work from Sarah Krupp and dance from SPEC Performance.

"It's such a diverse group show that we gave the artists a lot of freedom to select what they want to show and how they want to represent themselves," Gordon says. "It's been nice to expend that freedom, as opposed to requesting something specific from them."

Krupp, a Tiffin, OH native who relocated to Tampa in 2010 to earn her MFA from the University of South Florida, will use Saturday's show as an opportunity to do a full-scale installation of her latest work, "Heimlich."

Smaller scale versions were previously shown in Jamaica and The Hamptons through her affiliation with Miami-based art incubator Diaspora Vibe.

The 140-square-feet field of sand-colored carpet is dotted with 40 16-by-6-by-8-inch abstract armadillio-esque creatures constructed from newspaper, duct tape and the same carpet they graze upon, according to Krupp.

"These animals are sort of a way of me reflecting my own desires onto them," she says.

SPEC Performance, a Tampa-based company consisting of dancers Erin Tracy and Tina Tidwell, will debut a new piece they've worked on for the last two months called "Werner," which involves dancing around, up, down and on top of an 8-foot steel ladder.

After a presentation at Pecha Kucha last year, Tracy, a 2006 New York University Experimental Theatre Wing graduate, had the idea to apply the event's formula to performance art. Tracy and Tidwell select artists, dancers, actors and musicians to perform works in progress in exchange for feedback from fellow artists and audience members.

Paying Artists For Their Work

In addition to winning a Think Small to Think Big microgrant, SPEC was also named a finalist in Creative Loafing and Creative Tampa Bay's 10/100/1000 Challenge. The outpouring of local support provided enough momentum to launch their first show, SPEC Performance Series: Identity on June 2 at The Roosevelt 2.0 in Ybor City.

Tracy hopes continuing the series will help cultivate a culture of the arts for performers, particularly dancers, who choose to stay in Tampa and join emerging companies.

Tidwell, a 2007 University of South Florida dance graduate, says the grant helped their young company become more sustainable.

"There was less time between our first and second series and it helped support our vision of being able to pay artists for their work," she says.

Saturday's event also serves as a welcome reminder that Tampa's creative community has reached a tipping point, Gordon says. Yes, local talent often leaves for New York, but more innovative thinkers, artists and gallery owners are choosing to stay in Tampa Bay every day.

"They remain committed to raising the bar for arts in this area," she says.

Matt Spencer, a University of South Florida grad, is a native Floridian who enjoys sharing his love for Patty Griffin, browsing produce stands, spending hours in record shops and gawking at the ice cream selection in grocery stores. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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