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How To Create A Custom Song For Your Special Event

When a couple wanting to have a baby got the news that they were expecting, the sister of the mother-to-be commemorated the event in a uniquely modern way: by requesting a custom song for the new family.
 
CustomSong, an entrepreneurial startup based in the Tampa Bay region, brings musicians from around the world together on one website. Customers can request an artist or have one assigned to create a personalized piece of music for a special event, from birthdays to baby showers. Choose between a range of styles like acoustic guitar, soft romantic piano and full band.

Songs can be gifted or earmarked for a specific event, like the parent's dance at a wedding or a custom birthday tune. Customers fill in the details for lyrics, communicating directly with the artist via the Custom Song platform. Once lyrics are finalized and approved, the artist will record the song.

"It's a song that is truly original and personal, created just for you,'' says Custom Song cofounder Heather Andrews of Tampa. "It really helps create a special moment.''

Andrews, a graduate of James Madison University in Virginia, and co-Founder Kristina Anderson of Clearwater, a USF grad, operate CustomSong out of their home offices, local co-working spaces and coffee shops.   

If you are making a video or photo montage of the event, says Andrews, your custom song is a natural soundtrack.

CustomSong began in 2013 and launched in summer 2014, but Andrews had the idea in mind for years. The personalized event product concept was inspired by Custom Ink, where Andrews previously worked.

"Working there and making these custom shirts for special events, I saw that customers were so happy with them,'' says Andrews. "Being a part of a business where you can create something specifically for a customer that gets them excited, I was in search of, 'what can I do to be in that area of business?' ''

Despite a self-professed inability to carry a tune, Andrews and Anderson decided to try the world of music-making. They began to notice that while some individual artists were offering custom songs, they were struggling when it came to things like turnaround and customer service.
 
"They just want to create good quality music,'' Andrews says. "We thought there was a good opportunity there to create the platform, be the business side of it, and manage all of the back-end details for a site where artists could offer their services.''
 
The site standardizes things like pricing, quality, song length and turnaround time (two weeks).

"We give both the customer and the artist a guarantee, something to feel confident and comfortable with,'' says Andrews.
 
Sample songs are available on the CustomSong website.
 
From online research to attending Open Mic nights, scouting new talent is an aspect of Custom Song that Andrews and Anderson are discovering takes time.

A small number of musicians from the United States and the UK are currently active on the site. The cofounders plan to expand into other areas and attract more foreign-language speaking artists.
 
"We're trying to grow more artists, but to do it carefully and slowly. We want to make sure the artists also have a great experience,'' says Andrews. "The platform is very targeted to customers, but it's also a channel for artists to earn additional income. We want to find people who have creativity and talent, and work with them one-on-one to make sure that they fit with our model.''

Interested in creating music with Custom Song? Sign up here.

The most rewarding aspect of the process for Andrews is knowing that custom songs are a part of moments like weddings or expecting a new baby.

"I don't know the couple, but just knowing the background story, it touches me,'' she says. "It's amazing to be part of creating these songs for those big events in life.''

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Heather Andrews, CustomSong

Health Insurance Innovations Announces Acquisition, Expansion

With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the demand for information about health insurance products has increased dramatically. Consumers often turn to websites to help them navigate the insurance space and learn about available options.

A recent acquisition by Tampa-based Health Insurance Innovations (HII) aims to capitalize on this need and provide more reliable, easily understood information for consumers.  

HII is a cloud-based technology platform that links health insurance agents with consumers to provide quotes and sell customized, flexible insurance plans. Silicon Valley-based HealthPocket is a data aggregation technology that provides a repository of health insurance information for consumers to view and purchase, including both private and government-funded options. The website allows consumers to rank available plans by price, doctor or other factors such as prescription drug needs.

The merging of the two companies will provide even more customized services for consumers to help navigate often confusing information about health insurance options.

HII plans to use the acquisition to fuel the company’s growth and competitive advantage, including sales and continuing the track record of success. The company is taking over additional office space in their Tampa location and will eventually expand their local employee base.

"Consumers will be engaged with the tools and data to help them make better and more informed decisions which lead to lower annual healthcare costs," says Kevin Coleman, head of research and data for HealthPocket. "We really hope to empower the consumer to make the best decisions."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Kevin Coleman, HealthPocket; Mike Kosloske, HII

On Tampa Bay's Radar: A New Exercise App To Help You Get Fit

Do you spend a lot of time traveling for work or constricted in a home office? The new iOS app Fittr could be your fitness solution.

Initially developed as a workout service for people at home with limited equipment, Fittr now features unique workouts suitable for home, the gym, a park or a hotel room.

Fitness is a fast-growing niche market for purveyors of mobile applications. From exercise apps designed for your smartphone or tablet to app-based nutritional databases, there is no shortage of opportunity to exercise with the help of a hand-held device.

The Tampa Bay-based startup team behind Fittr plans to distinguish itself from the competition in a few ways.

"The noticeable difference between our workouts and our competition is that ours is a 1-2-3 punch: It's adaptive on the run, it learns from the user over time, AND learns from the data of the entire group,'' says Fittr's Chief Marketing Technologist Kiki Schirr. "Here's an example: Don't want to do squats today? Swap it. Swap squats a few times and we'll stop suggesting it,'' Schirr explains.

Once the app learns the habits and likes or dislikes of your age group or weight range, it will aim to offer tailored suggestions that take the data into account.

In addition to adaptive fitness routines, the Fittr app utilizes a motivational point system that rewards users who increase workout difficulty or length over time. Exercises that earn a certain number of points on day one earn less on day four unless you up the intensity or number of reps. To boost your overall Fittr score (and to get a more well-rounded workout), you'll have to change things up. Points are calculated based on a variety of factors, including your personal fitness level as well as data from the overall set.

Once opened, the application prompts you to answer a few questions about your fitness level and workout habits. Choose between goals like Lose Weight, Get Cut and Get Stronger. Track metrics that matter to you, whether it's weight lost or inches gained. Plug in preferences and custom information like the type of equipment you have available on a given day.
Fittr CEO Tyler Perkins, an athlete and ACE-certified personal trainer, designed the foundation of every Fittr workout.

New users can download the app and enjoy a free one-week trial of built-in exercises. After that, it's $11.99 per month to join the workout service. Multi-month packages will be available soon, Schirr says.

Along with Schirr and Perkins, Fittr's team includes Chief Design Officer and Project Manager Nolan Perkins and CTO Seo Townsend.

The first version of Fittr was released during a launch party on July 16 at Tampa Bay WaVE. A Fundable campaign for Fittr also opened that day.

Post-launch plans include adding nutrition content and building an Android-compatible application.

"After nutrition, we'll be adding social aspects. After social aspects, it's device integration. Then social round two, then adding niche exercises, then more devices, and then... we have so many wonderful things planned for this app!'' Schirr says.

The startup team was recently accepted to Tampa Bay WaVe's FirstWAVE accelorator program.

"Fittr is incredibly grateful for all the opportunities that the Tampa Bay area has provided. From the [Hillsborough County] EDI2 initiative, Tampa Bay Innovates, Ignite Tampa Bay, StartupGrind (http://www.83degreesmedia.com/features/grind042214.aspx), TBTF, or Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay, everyone has welcomed us with open arms,'' says Schirr. "However, we owe an even deeper debt of gratitude to Tampa Bay WaVE, which has provided us access to amazing mentors and other startups who've been there before.''

"Tampa is full of great opportunities for startups,'' Perkins agrees. "We're grateful for all the support of the Tampa Bay community.''
 
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Kiki Schirr, Chief Marketing Technologist, Fittr

Quest Diagnostics Opens National Center In Tampa, Creates 350 Jobs

Quest Diagnostics will provide about 350 jobs at the new diagnostics center that is now open in Tampa near Busch Gardens.

Job positions are in customer service, logistics and human resources. Company officials anticipate hiring will continue through 2015. Some of those jobs will be subsidized with state and local funds.

The 48,000-square-foot facility, at 10441 University Center Drive, will provide customer service and logistics operations for  Quest's nationwide operations. As one of two Quest Diagnostics National Operations Centers, it also will share human resource services for the company's 45,000 employees. The second national center is in Lenexa KS.

"This new center will elevate Quest's customer services to the next level of responsiveness and quality," says James E. Davis, Quest's senior vice president of operations. "It reflects our comittment to delivering a superior customer experience and providing diagnostics insights that will help people lead healthier lives."

The architectural design is by San Francisco-based Gensler which has a Tampa office. Construction is by Rhode Island-based Gilbane which has several locations in the Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa facility will provide state-of-the-art technology to monitor air and ground transportation of patient specimens from about 2,200 patient service centers nationwide. Quest's services include advanced genetic cancer tests as well as routine cholesterol and diabetes screenings.

In Florida, Quest has full-service clinical laboratories in Tampa, Miramar and Orlando.  There also are dermatological pathology laboratories and offices and patient service centers statewide.

The center is expected to create about $9.3 million in capital investment.

Quest is eligible to receive about $675,000 in incentives from the state's Qualified Target Industry Program. About $540,000 is from the state with the remainder from the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County. The funds will subsidize up to 175 jobs that will pay a minimum average annual salary of slightly more than $47,500.

"Florida's life science industry is one of the best in the nation and as companies like Quest Diagnostics expand their presence in Florida, the sector will continue to grow and more businesses will look at the state as a vital location," says Gary Swoope, president of Enterprise Florida, the state's chief economic development organization.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Gary Swoope, Enterprise Florida

Bike-Share Program Gets Ready To Roll In Tampa

Bicycle wheels are almost ready to roll on Tampa streets. Some assembly is required.
 
Beginning in late August, 300 rent-able bicycles scattered across more than 30 locations in downtown, Channelside, Ybor City, Hyde Park and Davis Islands will kick-start Coast Bike Share, the city's long-anticipated "bike share" program.
 
Mayor Bob Buckhorn hopped aboard one of the blue bicycles for a short spin down the sidewalk by City Hall.
 
"I think it is one more amenity that will allow the city to take its place as a great American city," he says. "I couldn't be more excited. We want them to succeed. I want to see blue bikes all over downtown. We're going to paint the town blue with these bikes."
 
Before residents get their pedal time, Coast Bike Share  will assemble more blue bicycles at a warehouse on Franklin Street. But ahead of the August launch, memberships are available for purchase.
 
They include a special $99 annual membership that comes with 90 minutes of ride time per day instead of the standard 60 minute ride, and a free helmet.
 
Daily ride costs will be $5, monthly memberships, $30, and annual memberships, $79. Reservations will be available on the spot via a keypad on the bicycle, online or by phone.
 
The bicycles weigh in at a relatively light 39 pounds, well below the industry standard of 51 pounds. Cruising speed is 11 miles per hour. They have baskets in the front and operate with a shaft drive rather than greasy chains. "They are very easy to ride," says Eric Trull, Coast's program manager.
 
The bike share system, and its tech savvy bicycles, are from New York City-based Social Bicycles which also has programs in Phoenix, Orlando and San Francisco. Tampa's program is managed by Miami-based Cyclehop which has 20 years experience in the cycling industry.
 
Residents can keep their eyes peeled for "coming soon" signs that will be placed at rental hubs including Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and City Hall. As the program expands, Coast officials anticipate adding kiosks in the SoHo district, Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights and Westshore. The University of South Florida plans to launch its own bike-share program, Trull says.
 
Advertising opportunities also are available for small businesses and other organizations that want to sponsor a bicycle kiosk. For information send an email to this address.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

Startup Aims To Increase Connections, Community With Micro Experiences

In today’s digital world, we often lose the ability or desire to connect on a personal level or try new experiences. A new start-up hopes to change this by giving millennials (defined as ages 21 – 33) and others a chance to network and engage in a whole new way.

Tampa-based Outeraction encourages people to step outside of their comfort zone by participating in micro experiences such as rock climbing, kayaking, paddle boarding, cooking classes and brewery tours. In order to facilitate interaction, the experiences are limited to 30 people, cost $30 each and last no longer than three hours.

"Social media drowns everything out. I wanted to change the way people interact." says founder Matt Rutkovitz, University of Tampa graduate.

Rutkovitz formed the company out of a need to help people and make their lives better. He wanted to create a consistent and trustworthy environment that would make people comfortable with trying something different.  

The intention of the events is not business networking or dating. The goal is to create experiences that will get people connected with their community and their peers.

Outeraction also works with local companies to provide an outsourced employee benefit called a "Fun for Businesses" package. These events are not limited by age or quantity and are aimed at increasing employee team building, communication skills and productivity.

Some events also have a philanthropic component, such as an upcoming Habitat for Humanity event.

"Community is the capstone of growth," says Rutkovitz "We have to connect with each other as much as possible."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Matt Rutkovitz, Outeraction

Tampa General Hospital Designs Prediabetes Education Program

A new community outreach program at Tampa General Hospital is designed to prevent diabetes and other health conditions by identifying those at risk before the diseases take effect.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated over 79 million Americans age 20 and older have a condition known as prediabetes. Most do not realize they have the condition because their symptoms are not as severe as those with diabetes. It is a serious health condition that increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Risk factors can include: being a woman who has had a baby over nine pounds in weight at birth, having a parent, sister
or brother with diabetes, being under 65 years of age and getting little to no exercise and being 45 years of age or older.

Recognizing the need in the community, Tampa General Hospital (TGH) is offering free educational sessions to help those at risk to achieve optimal health through lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise. The program involves 16 weekly sessions followed by eight monthly support group meetings.

"We’d like to teach people the skills to prevent developing diabetes," says Tamika Powe, Community Health Educator for TGH, adding that the benefits can trickle down to family members as well. "Hopefully they’re taking the information they learn in this program back home to their families to help everyone make better choices."

The program is funded by TGH and is limited to 12 registrants per class in order to maximize effectiveness. The next session begins in September at locations in Tampa Palms and South Tampa. Participants must meet qualifying criteria.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tamika Powe, Tampa General Hospital

Florida Universities Rank Among Best For Patents, Innovation

Innovation continues to grow among Florida’s top research universities, as indicated by a recent global ranking of universities by the number of patents granted in 2013.

The University of South Florida (USF), University of Florida (UF) and University of Central Florida (UCF) were granted 239 patents all together. This puts the group ahead of other prestigious groups such as the research Triangle in North Carolina (Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) and the Texas universities (the entire University of Texas system, Rice University and Texas A&M University), all of which have a longstanding tradition of high quality research and technology innovation.

Together, the Florida universities head the Florida High Tech Corridor Council,  an economic development initiative whose mission is to grow the state's high tech industry through research, marketing, workforce development and entrepreneurship. The Corridor’s partnership involves over 25 organizations, 14 state and community colleges and 12 workforce boards.

"It’s great to be recognized by the National Academy, which is well more than 100 universities." says Randy Berridge, Florida High Tech Corridor Council President. "The report reflects the strength in our 23-county corridor region."

The report was produced by the Tampa-based National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association and recognizes the role that patents play in university research, innovation, technology and eventually workforce enhancement. The goal is eventually to commercialize the patents, thus creating companies and jobs surrounding the success of the products or services.

Berridge attributes the success to the leadership within each university and the emphasis placed on the importance of high quality research. "It represents not only the university but the professors who are doing the heavy lifting in generating the technologies through their input and that of their top students," says Berridge.

USF was ranked 12 overall, with 95 patents granted – up from 83 in 2012.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Randy Berridge, Florida High Tech Corridor

USAA Expands To Brandon, Adds New Jobs In Hillsborough County

USAA broke ground recently on a new facility near the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Brandon. The facility will be a mirror image of its current operating center in New Tampa, with similar jobs and functions.

The growth is being driven by the company’s members -- military veterans and their families.

The company has been in Tampa for over 40 years, with its first operations beginning in the Westshore area. It has expanded since then to more than 2,500 employees in locations across Tampa.

"USAA as a whole is seeing growth everywhere," says Robert Hoyland, VP and general manager for USAA’s Tampa operations "We started as an insurance company and have expanded in the last 30 to 40 years to run the gamut of financial services."

In addition to insurance products, the company provides banking products, mutual funds, investments and financial planning.

As a result of the expansion, the company is hiring Member Contact Representatives, who will take incoming calls and reach out to members about products.

The new facility is scheduled to open in October, but hiring has already begun.

"Part of the expansion is to tap into the workforce here in Tampa," says Hoyland.  "We came here because we know there’s a great market for hiring financial services folks."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Robert Hoyland, USAA

Crisis Center Asks Youth To 'Drop An F-Bomb' In New Campaign

In a new effort to curb human trafficking in the Tampa Bay region, teens are being asked to drop the f-bomb, the "f" standing for "friend."

The campaign is a grassroots effort led by the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay in partnership with the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking (FCAHT) and Dunn&Co, a Tampa-based advertising agency that took on the project pro bono.

The tagline is designed to immediately grab the attention of teens through social media and events, asking them to stand up for friends touched by human trafficking to get them help. A website and a social media campaign (#fbomb211) list ways a pimp typically targets teens with warning signs such as a young girl dating an older man, buying things she can’t afford, or acting secretive, depressed or afraid. Friends of potential victims are encouraged to talk to their friend and seek help through a confidential call to 2-1-1.

The campaign will also include guerrilla marketing techniques such as hangers placed in dressing rooms of stores where teens frequently shop.

"If we can help to prevent one or more girls from being trafficked, then this campaign will have been a huge success," says Crisis Center CEO David Braughton.

According to the FBI, an estimated 200,000 people in the U.S. are trafficked each year, mostly young girls. The average age a girl enters into prostitution is 12.

Most of the girls entering into trafficking situations had friends at one time who might have noticed they were wearing nicer clothes or jewelry, or spending lots of time with an older man. The campaign is targeted at those friends who can make a difference early on, noting that the victims are often vulnerable and don’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late.

"If we can identify these issues early on and a friend can call, then we can do something about it," says Braughton.

The campaign is already catching on. Braughton’s high school daughter tried it out with stickers on her car, and has received questions about it.

The Crisis Center’s Women in Action group is funding the campaign, along with funds given to FCAHT Founder Anna Rodriguez from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Community Hero award.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: David Braughton, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay

Urban Charrette, CNU Tampa Bay Host:'Urbanism On Tap 3.3: Youthpreneurs'

Tampa's Urban Charrette and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay will host Urbanism on Tap at the Pour House in the Channel District of downtown Tampa on July 8, 2014 starting at 5:30 p.m.

Urbanism on Tap is a recurring open mic event, focused on generating constructive conversations within the community about current ideas and trends that are shaping the city of Tampa.

Moderators and attendees are invited to share their views and stories related to the topic of the day. The intention of the event is to generate a lively exchange of ideas, which will enhance our ability to make Tampa a more livable city.

The upcoming event, the third in a three-part series, is entitled "Youthpreneurs.'' This last event of the series features Tampa's young entrepreneurs involved in startups, creative professions and small businesses. How do public or private interests support young professionals and small businesses? What do such professionals and businesses need to thrive? The event will focus on how these young professionals and small businesses may shape urban development in Tampa and revitalize the city's downtown, an urban trend that is sweeping the rest of the nation.

The events are free and open to the public.

Organizers encourage people to visit Urbanism on Tap's Facebook page and website to continue the conversation online following the event.

Venue: Pour House at Grand Central, Channel District, Tampa (1208 E Kennedy Blvd #112, Tampa, FL 33602);
Date and Time: July 8, 2014 from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Erin Chantry, CNU Tampa Bay; Ashly Anderson, Urban Charrette

USF Encourages STEM Majors With Summer Academy

First-year students at the University of South Florida in Tampa will soon have a way to better integrate into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors early in their studies through a new summer STEM Academy.

The Academy will be offered to incoming freshmen beginning in the summer of 2015. It aims to serve 480 students, who will break into groups of 24 and receive mentoring from seniors and graduate students as well as connect with peers who share their academic interests. They will be able to experience the disciplines first hand through lab exercises that provide a realistic picture of their first year in the courses.

The concept was developed by a team of faculty and administrators at USF who researched student records of incoming students across multiple majors. They learned that four of every 10 of the 1,500 – 1,800 students who enter USF and declares a STEM major each year ultimately graduates with that degree. Their research suggests that a high population of those students are not leaving college all together, but are changing majors. Possible causes for this may be students not feeling connected or engaged with the large cohort of peers in their major, or that the entry level curriculum isn’t what they expected.

 "This particular experience will not only help the students understand what they will experience walking into the university, but more importantly will allow them to truly connect with other students and peers who have been successful to really understand how they can have the greatest student success and also that it’s possible to build relationships with others within the university," says Richard Pollenz, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and the Director of the Office for Undergraduate Research at USF and member of the team that developed the STEM Academy.

Students participating in the Academy will also have the opportunity to be a part of an innovative Living Learning Community, where they will live on the same floor of a campus residence hall and share experiences with their peers throughout their first year. The community is one of 12 similar concepts on USF campus, where students who share common interests live and study together.

The program recently received a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the summer enrichment program, one of 37 research universities to receive the grant aimed at bolstering the nation’s STEM capabilities.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Richard Pollenz, USF

AT&T Wireless Growth Spurs Hiring In Florida, 40 Jobs In Tampa Bay

AT&T is expanding its employee base across the State of Florida, with nearly 640 total openings.

The growth is fueled by an expansion of mobile services and an enhanced focus on customer service being offered through the company’s new Project Velocity IP (VIP). Project VIP is a $14 billion plan to invest in and expand the company’s wireless and wireline IP broadband networks. The investment is a result of increased customer demand for high-speed Internet access, enhanced TV services and mobile cloud services.

"We’re growing our mobile devices, and what we’re doing in stores," says Karen McAllister, spokesperson for AT&T. The recently opened store of the future in Tampa is an example of the new interactive, customer-focused shopping experience. "Our job growth is really fueled by being able to ensure that our customers have a great experience."

Current openings in Tampa Bay include Principal Database Developer and Database Programmer. Retail Sales Consultants and Manager positions are also available. In all, the company is looking to hire 40 retail employees in the Tampa Bay market, with more than half being newly created jobs. Currently there are 860 employees in Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

"We’re looking for people that are looking to grow with the company and are excited about the future of mobile," says McAllister.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Karen McAllister, AT&T Florida
 

Florida Designer Selected To Attend National Summit

Missy Palasol loves to design: "I live it, I breathe it, I eat it."

Her portfolio includes boutique, high-end restaurants and shops to old warehouses converted into tenant spaces. She has worked in a diverse set of industries, from hospitality to medical.

Her diverse experience and passion for the work led her to be selected as one of 12 designers in the nation to participate in Cambria’s third annual Style Maker’s Summit in Minneapolis, MN.

The Summit brought together some of the most influential designers in the nation along with local Cambria representatives for an exclusive, behind the scenes experience with the latest of the company’s products. The designers met with the development team and provided opinions on what’s trending and the company’s direction. The group also learned about company operations. "It was quite something," says Palasol.

Palasol began her career in Philadelphia in 1997, receiving training in architecture and interior design. She now resides in the Orlando area, working as an Interior Design Associate at Baker Barrios, an architecture and interior design firm. She was recently promoted to Associate and hopes to continue to grow with the company, helping to make it even broader and more diverse.

"It’s an exciting time," notes Palasol. "It’s great to see the economy finally turning around. You can tell by how much work is coming in and who is hiring."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Missy Palasol, Baker Barrios

Young Chinese Artists Make U.S. Debut At 2 Tampa Bay Area Art Museums

An unprecedented look inside modern Chinese art of will be on display this summer in Tampa and St. Petersburg through a pioneering exhibit featuring 27 emerging artists from China.

"My Generation: Young Chinese Artists'' features work shown for the first time outside of China. The exhibit opens to the public at both the Tampa Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Pete on Saturday, June 7th. The exhibit also features a series of related lectures and performances, such as an exploration of the history of "Red Rock'' -- the Chinese rock scene and corresponding concert, another first to the Tampa Bay region.

Hand-picked and curated by Author Barbara Pollack, one of America's foremost authorities on Chinese art, the young artists have almost all grown up under their nation's one-child policy and tend toward subtlety where politics are concerned. Yet they express issues of alienation, self-definition, cynicism and rebellion though their work in variety of media. The environment, reaction to massive urban areas, the paradoxical market economy, the personal side of growing up as only children and the pressure for marriage and family despite sexual orientation are backdrop themes to much of the work.

The exhibit will ''introduce us to parts of Chinese culture that we know nothing about and I think people will be really surprised,'' says David Connelly, an MFA spokesperson.

"This exhibition represents a milestone in the life of this institution, and our partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg is an important step forward for the nature of regional partnerships,'' says Todd Smith, Executive Director of the Tampa Museum of Art, who originated the project and recently resigned to pursue another museum opportunity in California.

The collaboration between the two museums is an innovative approach that allows more art to be shown. For example, one of the more acclaimed artists in the show, Sun Xun, is creating a large installation specifically for the MFA, utilizing animation and drawings, which will take up an entire gallery.
 
At the same time, the concurrent approach cross-pollinates the region's art lovers. The museums are offering a $20 discounted combination ticket so that visitors can enjoy the full experience.

"We are hoping that with the outstanding innovative work in the show,'' museum patrons and art lovers will cross Tampa Bay to see both exhibits, says Connelly.
 
"My Generation: Young Chinese Artists,'' will be on view June 7 through Sept. 21, 2014. The exhibit will then travel to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art for display later this year.

Writer: Kendra Langlie
Sources: David Connelly, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg
 
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