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FIVE by FIVE celebrates every dimension of the arts

'Tis the season for arts-lovers and collectors to find reasonably priced original artwork! The Arts Council of Hillsborough County is hosting its third annual FIVE by FIVE event, Friday, Oct. 17th, at 8 p.m., where the flash exhibit of nearly 700 original pieces of pieces of 5-inch by 5-inch art will be available for sale for $25 each.

“If you love art or are an arts supporter, this is an environment where you are immersed in it,” says Terri Simons, the Arts Council’s Director of Program Services and organizer of the event.  “Artists of all disciplines - visual, performing, literary artists; friends and supporters can come together and be part of one community.” 

The exhibit encourages guests to experience art intuitively, not based on the fame or reputation of a given artist or the criteria of a curator. While there are many award-winning professional artists who have contributed pieces to the exhibit, they are mixed democratically with emerging and new artists and all are exhibited without attribution. The artists’ signatures are on the back.  

“Because the art is displayed anonymously, people learn to appreciate the beauty of a particular piece,” notes Simons. 

The artwork, submitted by artists from the Tampa Bay area and around the nation and world, is highly varied with a spectrum of media from painting, etching and sculpture to glass, metal, fabric and even jewelry. 

The FIVE by FIVE theme is thread throughout the event, which will take over the first floor of the Tampa Museum of Art, and includes about 40 five- to 10-minute live performances of music, dance, theatre and spoken word in a pop-up club in the lecture hall. The constant flow also mixes in some more recognized performance artists such as Kuumba Dancers and Drummers, Soho Indigo,The Lint Rollers and Stageworks Theatre.

The event, which grew to 900 guests last year, benefits the Arts Council’s individual artist grants program.  The $13,000 raised by last year’s FIVE by FIVE contributed to eleven individual artists grants, which are also in part funded by the Hillsborough County Commission and Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. 

Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance through the Tampa Museum of Art’s website for $10.  Admission to the event includes the museum’s current exhibition, Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color exhibition. Museum members are admitted free.

USF's Graphicstudio invites you to purchase artwork

Don’t be timid, art-lovers! USF’s Graphicstudio is opening its inventory and inviting the Tampa Bay community to start or add to their personal art collections for its annual one-day sale Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 from 10 a.m. till 9 p.m. 
  
“This is the one time of year where you can see everything out of the vault,” says Kristin Soderqvist, the studio’s director of sales and marketing. She is expecting up to 500 guests throughout the day and notes this is not an auction, “the earlier you come, the more opportunities you will have.”

Hundreds of pieces of original fine art prints and sculpture multiples from “bluechip” names, such as Mapplethorpe, Rauschenberg and Katz, to emerging artists, are deeply discounted for this event, which aims to engage the community and raise funds for Graphicstudio’s mission.
 
“People think they can’t afford [such quality] work, but there are plenty of pieces people can afford,” comments Soderqvist. “There is no pressure, it’s very relaxed.”

Soderqvist says not only is it an excellent opportunity to buy original artwork, but also to understand how Graphicstudio works and its relevance in the world of art on a national and international scale. The studio provides the technical expertise and hardware for a spectrum of printing - lithography, etching, photogravure, aquatints, silkscreens, cyanotype, to name a few.  

“You can ask questions, up close. You can see the printers. Ask, how does this process work?,” says Soderqvist.
  
Graphicstudio, founded in 1968, is the largest university-based press in the United States and invites artists to work in the studio throughout the year. 
 
Sales will benefit Graphicstudio’s continuing artists-in-residence programs, educational programming and commitment to research and the application of traditional and new techniques for the production of limited edition prints and sculpture multiples.

Local ad agency sees growth, adds jobs in Tampa

Schifino Lee recently added five new hires and plans to look for more creative talent in the near future.

The Tampa-based media and communications agency was founded in 1993 by Ben Lee and Paola Schifino. The firm specializes in integrated communications, including digital, experiential and traditional media. Services include market strategy and planning, creative work and media buying.

The company has experienced recent growth, leading to the addition of five new hires -- four in the creative realm and one account executive, bringing them to 22 employees in all. They are currently hiring a Copywriter and hope to bring in additional account managers in the near future.

The growth is attributed to the economic climate and client demand.

"The economic climate is good in the Tampa Bay area," says co-founder and principal Ben Lee, noting that clients don’t need to go to Chicago or Los Angeles for good quality advertising work. The Tampa Bay advertising market is on the same level playing field as anywhere in the country.

A native of Tampa, Lee returned to the area to start Schifino Lee after living in New York and the Netherlands and receiving an MBA at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Tampa has gained national recognition for being a good place to be, a good place to do business." says Lee. "Clients are coming here expecting great work out of the area."

Schifino Lee’s local clients include Alessi, Wellcare Health Plans, Gerdau and Lowry Park Zoo as well as pro-bono clients the Tampa Bay Partnership, Tampa Museum of Art and the Shelton Quarles Foundation.

Cowork Ybor provides space for local creatives, plans open house Oct. 9

CoWork Ybor plans an open house on Oct. 9th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to share the vision for the coworking space with Tampa residents. That vision? A creative community.

CoWork Ybor Founder Roberto Torres hopes to see the space at 1903 E. 7th Ave become ''an informal incubator/accelerator for the other industries in Tampa -- besides tech -- that don't always get the mention or the attention that they should.''

Torres envisions CoWork Ybor as a ''community storefront for creatives only. We want to be a space that fosters and grows industries like food and beverage, retail and hospitality.''

The emphasis at CoWork Ybor is placed on creative jobs, he says, because startup entrepreneurs in these industries might not know much about the tech world – or about being an entrepreneur.

"We really want this space to be about the people who are going to be in it,'' Torres says. "Their work is going to be better, because they are going to be in a community that fosters and brings creativity and knowledge to them.''

To that end, the space may play host to exhibits from local artists in the future. Torres also plans to develop "curated experiences'' each month, by bringing in lunchtime speakers through a partnership with the Visit Tampa Bay program Unlock Tampa Bay.

Torres cites Brooklyn-based Hyper Akt as an inspiration for the concept he would like to bring to Tampa. "There's really nothing like that in Tampa. We're like a band of outsiders trying to bring creatives together,'' he says.

Along with freelancers and entrepreneurial creatives, Torres also hopes to attract young members from Entreprenuership programs at nearby schools like the University of Tampa and St. Petersburg College.

Torres is in talks with Verizon to donate the Internet for CoWork Ybor, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. The space will have seating for about 40: two conference rooms, a handful of communal tables, and a more relaxed lounge space with couches in the area facing 7th Ave.

CoWork Ybor will host a membership drive from Oct. 27-31st before formally opening Nov 1st, 2014. Membership, which will be capped at 75, is $100/month. Click this link to email for more information.

Next door, the Blind Tiger Cafe is the result of a partnership between Torres' men's apparel company Black & Denim and local businesses Buddy Brew Coffee, TeBella Tea Company and Piquant, along with Tricycle Studios.

The Blind Tiger Cafe will feature fresh tea and coffee drinks along with pastries like German chocolate cake and guava and cheese croissants, but it will not have wifi; instead, customers can pay $5 for a pass to gain access to the coworking space for the whole day. The mixed-use storefront at 1901 W. 7th Ave in Tampa's historic Ybor City is set to open on Nov. 5th, 2014.

UT speaker series focuses on crowdfunding for start-ups

A panel discussion September 24 at the University of Tampa aims to help students and the community better understand microfunding for entrepreneurial ventures.  

The sixth installment of the MainStreet Speaker Series at the University of Tampa (UT)'s Entrepreneurship Center will allow students to network and connect with business leaders in Tampa Bay, as well as hear from a panel about crowdfunding for their business.

The Speaker Series originally began in 2012 as a way to provide information and inspiration to UT entrepreneurship students from local business leaders. Past speakers have included Jeff Stevenson, founder and CEO of VinoPro and Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan, co-founders of Barefoot Cellars.

This fall, the focus will be on crowdfunding. The topic was selected strategically, to help give students a deeper look into non-traditional ways to fund their business. Often, students’ entrepreneurial plans come to a halt when they realize the amount of capital needed to make them a reality. The event’s goal is to help these students understand funding mechanisms as well as encourage the community to support Tampa Bay-based start-ups.

"We’re trying to pinpoint those burning topics for entrepreueurs and connect our students with this amazing entrepreneurship community that we have in Tampa," says James Zebrowski, program assistant for the UT Entrepreneurship Center and recent UT graduate.

The panel is moderated by Reid Haney of Hill Ward Henderson, P.A. and will include Roland Chase, Hill Ward Henderson, Roberto Torres, Black and Denim and David Chitester, Florida Funders.

For one day, Cyclovia reserves downtown Tampa street for bicyclists, pedestrians

No cars or trucks allowed! On Sunday, Oct. 19, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa will be closed from Nebraska to Tampa Street from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., allowing the residents and visitors to run, bike, walk and play together.

The idea for the event, coordinated by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)’s Tampa office, came from Florida State Secretary of Transportation Ananth Prasad. Prasad traveled to Bogato, Columbia recently and witnessed a weekly event known as Cyclovia (spelled Ciclovia in Columbia), where major city streets are closed temporarily and turned into family-friendly street parties. The name comes from the Spanish word for “cycle path.” The practice has become a worldwide event and takes place in Costa Rica, Brazil, New Zealand, Peru and India, among other countries.

The goal of Cyclovia Tampa Bay is not only to promote community, but also to educate the public about bicycle, pedestrian and driving safety. Florida has ranked in the top three in the nation for bike and pedestrian fatalities since 2001, and the FDOT plans to change that with events and programs such as this aimed at creating a cultural shift.

:We can use this as a way to not only get people out experiencing walking and biking, but also increase awareness and visibility," says Stephen Benson, bicycle and pedestrian safety program specialist for the FDOT. Benson is a Tampa native and USF graduate.

Each block will have an interactive activity, including, “slow” bike races, interactive street games, food trucks and bike safety information.

The event is the first of its kind for Tampa, and FDOT plans to make it an recurring event, as well as replicate it in other parts of Tampa Bay.

Community partners include the City of Tampa, Tampa Downtown Partnership, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, HART, the Urban Conga, Tampa Bay Cycle and Walk Wise.

Tampa start-up offers combination personal and professional social network

With the myriad of social networks available for personal and professional use, it can sometimes become confusing and cumbersome to manage everything. A new start-up in Tampa hopes to ease this burden by creating a combination personal and professional network, with an added job search component.

Founded in November of 2013, Flipsetter provides an online tool that meets several goals. At the basic level, it operates as a social network similar to LinkedIn or Facebook, allowing users to share news, photos, links and videos. Addressing a common concern with other networks, Flipsetter provides users with ultimate control of privacy settings, allowing them to choose which of their networks can see which information.   

A user can create one or more of three profile types: business, organization or individual. Each type has their own tools, and all can be used within the same login or profile.

An added benefit is a feature similar to a virtual resume or portfolio where users can list their academic history, work history and other accomplishments. Businesses and other organizations can also use the service to set up a page for promotional and organizational purposes, and to post jobs.

"We call it one stop shopping," says founder Sabaresh Krishnan, USF graduate and current MBA student.

Krishnan thought of the name when hearing about the frustrations involved with having multiple networks and resources to manage profiles, time and organizations. Wanting to find a way to resolve this, he thought "let me flip that around and come up with a way to make it happen."

The service currently has approximately 300 users in beta phase, including several student groups at USF, and plans to go live by October.

Bar Camp Tampa Bay: all tech, all kinds of tech

Bar Camp Tampa Bay once again brings together the local tech scene October 18.

Often described as an "unconference," the event is a learning opportunity, networking venue and convergence of all things technology – everything from big data to digital media to the Internet of things. But, you won’t find any keynote speakers or traditional lectures. In fact, you won’t even know who the speakers are or what the topics will be until you arrive at the event.

People who are passionate about a technology-related topic, project or idea show up the day of the event and add their name to an open slot on the master schedule. The unplanned, flexible nature lends itself to networking in its rawest, most natural form, attracting freelancers and lifelong learners who thrive in the open sharing environment.

"Fantastic presentations come out of nowhere," says Ken Evans of Startup Monkey, lead organizer for Bar Camp Tampa Bay. "You just don’t know what’s going to be there, but you don’t want to miss it." Evans has been volunteering with Bar Camp since its inception.

Hosted by the University of South Florida Colllege of Business, the event is coordinated by a team of volunteers operating under the name TechNova. The group also hosts Ignite Tampa Bay, as well as smaller events throughout the year. In addition to the core organizing group, 30 – 40 volunteers are expected the day of the event.  

Now in its seventh year, the agenda and audience continues to grow, from 150 the first year to an anticipated over 900 this year.

"Barcamp, to me, represents a cultural shift in Tampa Bay in the way new companies and new tech happen," says Evans. Bar Camp is one of many events that have fueled a stronger focus on early or seed stage companies that need help getting ideas off the ground. Organizers estimate over 30 companies have been formed out of relationships made at previous Bar Camps.

Event sponsors include Forex Factory, Hillsborough County EDI2 and the University of South Florida.

Civil engineering firm adds new projects, jobs in Tampa

Genesis, a Tampa-based civil engineering company, is experiencing growth in both public and private development opportunities.

The full service firm provides civil engineering, landscape architecture, urban planning and transportation design services. The company was founded in 1987 when a group of separate companies decided to come together to create a full services firm. After taking a small hit in business during the recession, the company has been growing since 2011 and is currently up to 90 employees statewide.

"Our growth has been driven by the improving economy and our ability to maintain the space in between huge firms and smaller ones,:says Craig Anderson, COO for Genesis.

The company recently received national recognition for the completion of Capital Cascades Park in Tallahassee. The 25-acre urban park at the center of downtown solves a major issue the city was having with stormwater management. The park repurposes an abandoned industrial site with a “floodable” park including winding trails, green infrastructure and ponds that capture rain water and provide flood relief.  Complete the Florida-friendly landscaping, the park serves not only to provide much-needed stormwater management for the city, but a place for the community to commune.

Current projects in Tampa include a new high school site for Independent Day School, Kuhn Honda’s expanded site on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa and a Veterans Memorial Park on U.S. Highway 301.

Genesis is currently hiring for a Senior Transportation Engineer, Registered Landscape Architect and Engineering Intern.  

Tampa Start-up Uses Crowdsourcing For Innovative Package Delivery

A new company based out of Tampa plans to revolutionize the way packages are delivered by turning regular commuters into couriers.

Titled HITCH, the company is the brainchild of Chuck Pasquotto, an entrepreneur who runs several transportation-related companies. Seeing the success of companies like Uber and Air BnB, Pasquotto wanted to use the power of crowd sourcing to help streamline the package delivery process. The idea is to find someone who is traveling daily to a destination and ask them to deliver someone else’s package. The network is connected through a mobile app.

"Think of us as a marketplace," says Eric Torres, USF graduate and VP of Marketing for HITCH. "We’re giving the crowd an opportunity to earn extra money via the shared economy."

Those who want to deliver packages (called travelers) sign up on the site and provide their origin and destination information. They can then see a list of deliveries on their intended route. Travelers receive a payment upon successful package delivery.

A shipper enters information about the item needing to be delivered, along with a picture and description. They can then see the fee and accept or decline the delivery. The pick-up location is determined by the shipper and can be a home, office or other public place. Once the transaction is complete, the shipper can request a signature. The traveler is also required to take a picture of where the item was delivered, and it can also be tracked with a gps.

The benefits are lower costs than a typical courier service, environmental benefits and an opportunity for the travelers to earn extra money.

The community is monitored, and users get ratings based on their reliability and effectiveness. For example, users can request to work with only five star rated travelers or shippers. Users also have to become verified by providing a bank account or credit card information.

HITCH recently partnered with Tampa-based creative agency PP+K to help launch the app. The app is currently in beta mode and aims for a soft launch in October in the I-4 corridor area. The company plans to expand nationwide after the launch.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Eric Torres, HITCH

USF Opens Futurist, Patient-Focused Pharmacy

Imagine a pharmacy where patients are fully involved with their health, utilizing the latest in technological advances to make the most of every interaction. Imagine pharmacists not only prescribing medications, but also mobile apps to help patients continue their health care at home. Envision prescriptions being filled by a robot and pharmacists using Google glass to interact with patients instead of staying behind the counter.

Sound futuristic? This is not only the pharmacy of the future, it’s the present too. The University of South Florida (USF) College of Pharmacy plans to open this pharmacy this month (September), featuring all of this and more.

“We’re entering an age in healthcare where we need to not only just exist in health, but also try to optimize health," says Kevin Sneed, PhD., dean of the College of Pharmacy at USF.

Located on USF’s campus, the 1,500-square-foot facility will serve patients at the Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare. It will also allow pharmacy students to learn using the most advanced in technology and personal patient care.

At the facility, automatic will be achieved in a very uncommon way. Prescriptions will be sent to the center electronically, reviewed by a pharmacist and then sent to a robot. The robot will place the pills in a bottle, label and cap the bottle. A picture will be taken of the pills that is cross referenced against a known reference for that drug. The entire process will then be barcoded and reviewed in order to ensure the utmost accuracy.

In the ultimate in personalization, USF will use pharmaco genomics, a technology that uses the DNA of a patient to track their health and eventually predict how they will respond to a medication.

In a true community-based approach, a section of the pharmacy will display pharmaceutical-related items that were manufactured and marketed by Tampa Bay entrepreneurs.

The idea first came to Sneed just over a year ago, when the pharmacy USF maintained at the time was being shut down. He created the plan and proposal within 48 hours and was able to make it a reality in less than a year. The main goal is to give students a chance to experience what the pharmacy they may be working on in the future will look like, providing the critical hands-on component to what is discussed in classrooms.  

"We want to have them exit the program with the full intention of changing the healthcare landscape," says Sneed. "We want to build leaders in healthcare"

Sneed attributes the success of the facility and USF healthcare overall to the interprofessional collaborations among USF Health colleges, noting that a team-based approach is critical to any kind of success in healthcare.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kevin Sneed, USF College of Pharmacy

Carrollwood Day School Hosts Startup Weekend For Youth Entrepreneurs

Pitch an idea, form a team and become part of the world’s largest entrepreneurial community in 54 hours. That’s the strategy behind every Startup Weekend around the globe – and it’s the mission for the first ever Startup Weekend Tampa Youth on September 12-14, 2014.
 
The intensive, team-based concept at the backbone of the global Startup Weekend movement has gained steam in Tampa Bay over several years of biannual events.

Growing, innovative local startups such as Wazinit, and breakout success stories like Eventjoy (formerly EXMO), are the result of previous Tampa Bay Startup Weekends.
 
Ryan Sullivan, a “Global Facilitator” and local organizer for Startup Weekend Tampa Bay and Startup Weekend Tampa Youth, says that the goal for the events in over 200 cities worldwide “is to educate and inspire people in the community to take action in entrepreneurship.”

Startup Weekend Youth is specifically geared toward 5th–8th graders - “the next generation’s entrepreneurs.” Sullivan notes that the event will look and feel a little different this time around. Participants will still pitch ideas and work in teams, but with a focus on teaching and inspiring young thinkers. Attendees will also have the opportunity to interact with coaches who are experts in their field and successful entrepreneurs.

“This is something special,” Sullivan says. “We will create an atmosphere of exercises and experiences that will inspire creative ideas in young minds and help kids to learn how to move those ideas forward towards action, and in the process, collaborate with their peers.”
 
Students are encouraged to register under one of three categories (Creative/Design, Coding/Programming, Business/Finance) based on their interests. Hands-on activities will be geared toward helping students identify a challenge to solve, learn to understand potential customers or users, work effectively with others, “and in the end, build something they are proud of as a team,” says Sullivan.

“Today’s youth are full of creative ideas for how to make lives and the world a better place. This will be a place for them to take those ideas and move them towards reality,” he explains. “This event will also help build confidence in creating and sharing ideas for those that tend to keep them inward.” 

Along with Sullivan, Nicholas Catania, Deborah Neff and Todd Broyles are co-organizers of the event. They expect more than 50 students to attend and participate in Startup Weekend Tampa Youth.
 
“We like to say that it is the least expensive babysitter at $25 for the weekend,” Sullivan says.

Startup Weekend Tampa Youth starts Friday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. and concludes on Sunday, Sept. 14, at 4 p.m. The event will take place at Carrollwood Day School, 1515 W. Bearss Ave. in Tampa. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here for $25.00. 

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ryan Sullivan, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay

Greco Middle School's Outdoor Classroom Promotes STEM, Environment

Students and teachers at Greco Middle School in Tampa will soon have a new classroom alternative, providing hands-on access to environmental learning and other real world skills.

The outdoor classroom project is being led by the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The collaboration is also supported by the School District of Hillsborough County as well as parents, teachers and administrators at Greco Middle School.

The classroom will include Florida-friendly landscaping improvements and other educational tools that will be integrated into the curriculum. Teachers will be able to reserve the space for a given period during the day to teach outside. Lesson plans might focus on storm water management or structural support for bridges.

"The whole idea is to incorporate aspects that are environmentally friendly and can serve as teaching points," says Travis Barnes, board member for Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of USGBC. "We’re also getting the school more engaged with the community at large."

The classroom is a nice pairing with Greco’s strong focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields and on-site community garden, a collaboration with the City of Temple Terrace.

The implementation is part of USGBC’s Green Apple Day of Service on September 27. The goal is to promote sustainability at K-12 as well as college campuses on a global scale. This is the third year the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter has participated in the event. Last year’s project was a school garden at Muller Elementary School in Tampa that has since been formally incorporated into the school’s curriculum.

40 – 50 volunteers are expected to help with the buildout, including parents, students, teachers, staff and the business community.

The project’s title sponsor is Julius the Architect. Other sponsors include the Phoenix Agency and Tampa Bay Trane.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Travis Barnes, USGBC

Hillsborough's EDI2 Program Celebrates Successes

Hugs, handshakes and a bit of humor keep the energy level high at Tampa Bay WaVE as a growing number of technology entrepreneurs leading the local startup community and public officials celebrate the 1st anniversary of Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2) program. 

Hillsborough County commissioners led by Mark Sharpe, who will join the Tampa Bay Innovation Alliance after he leaves office in November due to term limits, set aside $2 million to provide financial support for growing the startup community. The Alliance includes USF, University Community Hospital, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Busch Gardens.  

Setting aside funding for EDI2 is a recognition by Hillsborough that future economic and job growth, particularly in the Tampa Bay region, is much more likely to result from the cumulative effect of nurturing innovative startups than by investing the bulk of additional resources into attracting giant corporate headquarters.

So far, since its launch in June 2013, 55 applicants have received $598,583 to support networking and educational events, industry promotions and service providers. Additional program and application information is available online.

Some of the programs funded include:
  • East Tampa Business and Civic Association for the 2014 MLK Technology Business Expo
  • Hillsborough Community College Foundation for the Veterans Entrepreneurial Symposium
  • Learning is for Everyone, Inc. for the Robocon Tampa Bay 2013
  • Moffitt Cancer Center for the Business of Biotech 2014
  • Startup Bus for the Startup Bus Tampa Bay
  • Startup Grind, Inc. for eight monthly meetings
  • Tampa Bay Technology Forum for the Tech Trek 2014, Engine Peer Network Event, and Entrepreneur Network
  • Technova Florida, Inc. for the Tampa Code Camp and Ignite Tampa Bay
  • TiE Tampa Bay for the TiE Breaker III and TiE Angel Forum
  • University of Tampa for the Southeast Entrepreneurship Conference 2014
For more information about EDI2, contact Economic Development Manager Jennifer Whelihan with Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Department at 813.272.6217.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: Jennifer Whelihan, Hillsborough County’s EDI2

Urban Conga Transforms Downtown Parking Spaces On National Park(ing) Day

On September 19, a handful of metered parking spaces in downtown Tampa will take on a different purpose.  Instead of cars, you’ll find car parts, art and musicians.

As part of National Park(ing) Day, Urban Conga, a group of local creatives who promote community awareness through the use of play, will be taking over random parking spaces and turning them into parks. The goal is to encourage less driving and more walkability in the downtown area.

National Park(ing) Day is a worldwide event that began in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio. The idea is for artists and activists to create debate about how urban space is allocated by transforming parking spaces into temporary public spaces. The event is now a global movement, with 162 cities in 35 countries expected to participate this year.

Urban Conga collaborated with University of South Florida art student Maeghann Coleman to design the spaces in downtown Tampa. The music-themed area will feature old tires and other car parts that can be used to make music, as well as a musical bench with piano keys. Jazz musicians from USF will also participate.

"It’s the idea of tactical urbanism," says Ryan Swanson, co-founder of Urban Conga. "We want to bring people there, not only to hang out but also to play."  

The Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Florida) recently ran a statewide parklet competition, in which Urban Conga received second place for their design. The $1200 prize will be used to fund the project. The City of Tampa is also supporting the project through the allocation of the parking spaces for the day.

Urban Conga is also promoting collaboration by asking people to send in pictures of what they’re doing in their areas.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ryan Swanson, Urban Conga
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