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Tampa SuperStars release new album, #thankyoumusic

Tampa artist Ronnie Dee and his group of SuperStars are launching their first album, entitled “#ThankYouMusic,” this month at the Cuban Club in Ybor City.  

With more than 200,000 combined views of their pre-released music videos – “Depending on Love” and “Warming Up” - Dee is hopeful that the release concert will be just the beginning of solid sales as they move toward the next phase on their marketing strategy making the music available through digital streaming on iTunes and other media. 

Dee, a Seminole Heights resident, describes himself as a “bright side guy” and the upbeat music on #ThankYouMusic reflects this, despite that much of it was inspired by personal losses he has experienced over the past several years. 

“This record is the culmination of my life’s journey and very autobiographical,” says Dee. He describes the music as “multi-stylistic: It’s soul and funk and rock and pop.” 

In many respects, it is also a family affair.  

Dee grew up in the music business. His dad Joey Dee was a rock star in the 1960s, perhaps best known for the number one hit song “Peppermint Twist,” with his band, the Starliters. Ronnie Dee and his sister, Jamie Lee, played in their dad’s band and toured with him. Dad, sis and Ronnie Dee’s four sons ages 9 to 21 all have some role on the new #ThankYouMusic album, though son AJ (guitar) and sister Jamie Lee (vocals) are regular members of the band, the Superstars, an eclectic group of 14 musicians, with saxophone often prominently featured. 

Dee makes his living as a fulltime musician, touring nationally and internationally doing mostly covers on the “corporate circuit,” writing jingles for large companies and teaching voice, piano and saxophone at Mary Jo’s Performing Arts Academy in Tampa. Though he says he has been recording albums in the area since the 1990s, this is the first one as the Superstars and the first one that has attracted managers to handle the marketing and distribution strategy.

The SuperStars featuring Ronnie Dee #ThankYouMusic release concert takes place Oct. 20, 2016 at the Cuban Club. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets are available through their website.

Tampa startup to market fitness wearable to professional athletes

A wearable fitness technology company in Tampa appears to be moving along the right track for success.

LiftSync, the brainchild of University of Tampa (UT) student and co-Founder Matt Phillips, has not even hit the market yet, however, its potential has shown to be quite mighty. After winning Startup Weekend Tampa Bay in the fall of 2015, the company was voted the global winner of the Disruptors and Big Ideas Track of the Global Startup Battle.

Phillips, created the product along with fellow UT students Patrick Schroeder and Mariner Cheney. Since winning their pre-market accolades the team engaged with UT's Entrepreneurship Center.

“The Entrepreneurship Center helped us get our offices, as well as connect us with key people to get us moving forward,” Phillips says.

He also credits the center for getting him connected with Ark Applications, a private equity and consultation firm, which has invested in the startup.

With so many wearable fitness devices on the market, what sets LiftSync apart is its purpose and consumer. Unlike other wearables that may track steps, miles or overall activity, this product is specifically designed for weight training programs and professional athletes.

“To put it simply, an athlete will put on two bands, one on each wrist, and it will connect to sensors on the weight, and then information and analytics can be tracked through our application,” Phillips says.

He goes on to say that while the device can track everything from volume to velocity to increase performance, it can also reduce the risk of injury. The idea of not overexerting oneself to the point of injury is especially important to Phillips, as the idea for the company came to him after losing a basketball scholarship himself due to injury from weight lifting.

The consumer will not be the mass market, but strictly targeted athletes within major athletic organizations such as the NCAA. While there are other products like LiftSync on the market, according to Justin Smith, Managing Director of Ark Applications, the competition does not measure up.

“Data analytics is very important, and we can bring that into the weight room,” Smith says. “There is no one out there that uses the Bluetooth technology with the weights. The others may be able to let you know about how much an athlete is lifting, and how many reps they are doing, but no one has as many features as what we do. We call it performance enhancement through data.”

National stroke awareness group honors local marketing campaign for innovation, creativity

A campus event at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with national hip hop recording artist Dee-1 is not where you would expect the American Heart Association to promote its message about learning the warning signs of stroke.

But that’s exactly what the American Heart Association Tampa Bay chapter did this spring during National Stroke Month. And for that enterprising event, along with its creative use of social media and strategic partnerships with local businesses, hospitals and media, the chapter recently won a national award.

In September, the chapter received the American Stroke Association’s national award for Best Integrated Campaign for American Stroke Month 2016 among markets with a corporate sponsor. Frontier Communications is the Tampa Bay American Heart Association corporate partner.

According to Lily Conrad, communications director for the local AHA chapter, one of the goals for this year’s campaign was to engage millennials.  

“We wanted to reach them with the message that stroke can affect anyone at any time and how important it is to know stroke’s warning signs,” says Conrad.

To accomplish that, the chapter organized the USFSP event with Rapper Dee-1, who is a spokesperson for the national American Heart Association. His rap song communicates the association’s healthy lifestyle message.

“The USFSP event was our kick-off event for the stroke campaign and having Dee-1 there, along with games and other activities for the students, made it very successful,” says Conrad.

Dee-1’s song, “Salle Mae Back” about paying back his student loans after graduating from Louisiana State University was a record hit with millennials concerned about student debt.

The chapter also reached the community through widespread use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The results exceeded the chapter’s expectation.  

“We’ve been using social media for a while, but for this year’s campaign, we really took it to the max and had our largest engagement numbers ever,” says Conrad. “This was also our first time using Instagram for the campaign.”

To create a personal connection with the dangers of strokes, the chapter worked with Jen Petit-Homme, marketing manager for Frontier Communications, Tampa Bay, and her mother, Yolande Petit, a stroke survivor.  

Their images and story were used extensively to help promote the national stroke month theme:  “Stroke Hero – Stroke Heroes spot a stroke F.A.S.T.” Fast stands for face dropping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, and time to call 911.

“It is so meaningful to be nationally recognized for our efforts to raise stroke awareness,” says Kate Sawa, executive director of the American Heart Association Tampa Bay. 

“Frontier Communications and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association had a vision to equip our community with lifesaving education. We’ve been fortunate to accomplish this through unique community events, engaging corporate employees, and working closely with healthcare systems and incredible stroke survivors,” says Sawa.

The Tampa Bay Metro AHA chapter’s campaign was evaluated on the basis of creativity and innovation, planning, execution and evaluation. Judges noted the chapter’s “impressive” strategic alliance and volunteer engagement, as well as “expansive” market reach through social media posts, media coverage, sponsors and events. 

Courier tech company moves into Tampa market

An innovative courier service is dropping into the Tampa market.

Dropoff, a company that has turned the on-demand same-day delivery service industry on its head, is now offering its services in the Tampa Bay region. The company, which got its start three years ago, has experienced steady growth, with operations located in major cities throughout the U.S.

“Dropoff is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and currently operates in major Texas cities such as Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston,” says Sean Spector, CEO of Dropoff. “The company launched it's East Coast operations in August with service in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and its West Coast operations in Los Angeles in July. Dropoff’s expansion to Florida brings its service to all three of the most populous states in the US, which are California, Texas and Florida.”

The company’s proprietary technology platform, which offers real-time tracking and confirmations, as well as web and mobile ordering capabilities are just a few of the keys to its success. Its dispatch automation system, known as ‘Intelligent Dispatch’ is a game changer in its industry.

“Dropoff is disrupting the courier market by leveraging its proprietary logistics technology and highly rated service to create a nationwide same-day delivery solution for businesses. Intelligent Dispatch automates an otherwise very manual courier process and provides Dropoff near infinite scale to customize and manage huge volumes of delivery requests as it expands across the country.”

Spector came up with the idea for the company in late 2013 after having a lackluster experience with a local courier. After having to call to confirm that his time-sensitive and confidential package was delivered, he found that very few couriers at the time provided delivery confirmations, and no one offered real-time package tracking. He knew there had to be a better way, so he gathered his former colleague and set out to create their new company.

Dropoff works with many well-known brands including Whole Foods, Neiman Marcus and JW Marriott. In the Tampa market, the company expects to be working with companies in several industries including healthcare, retail, food and grocery markets. 

What's your story? Annual storytelling festival gets personal in October

“There is nothing more compelling than a real life story and few things that connect people faster or better,” says Lillian Dunlap, Ph.D., artistic director and founder of Your Real Stories, a St. Petersburg-based nonprofit organization dedicated to storytelling.

In a celebration of the power of storytelling, Your Real Stories will host the third annual Tampa Bay Area Festival of Storytelling. The event takes place October 3-8, with five days of stories told through spoken word, dance, music theatrical performance and food. Over 20 events are planned.  

The role of food in storytelling will take center stage with a pre-festival kick-off dinner and discussion on Sunday, Oct. 2, at Urban Comfort Restaurant and Brewery www.urbancomfortstpete.com/ with Urban Restaurant Group Founder Andy Salyards.

Former Tampa Bay Times Food Editor Janet Krietemeyer Keeler continues the discussion of food with “Hungry for Stories: Connecting Food To Our Narrative” on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 10 am. in Davis Hall at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Aspiring writers interested in developing their memoir will find plenty of storytelling opportunities to improve their skills.  

Author Lisa Kirchner, a member of the Florida Literary Arts Commission and the New York Writers Workshop, presents “The Heart of Your Story” on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 6:30 p.m. at the Morean Arts Center.

On Saturday, Oct. 8, Paula Stahel, past president of the Association of Personal Historians, and an expert in memoir writing, presents “Famous Last Words -- an Obituary Writing Workshop” at the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library in Tampa.

The same day, Barbara Riddle presents Memoir Mayhem -- Should You or Shouldn’t You Write Your Memoir at 1 p.m. at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg. 

Connection between art, music, poetry and storytelling will also be showcased at the festival.

The Museum of Fine Arts and Venture House, a St. Petersburg nonprofit building affordable housing for local entrepreneurs, will present a Tapestry of Music and Poetry in the museum’s Marly Room on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m.

An event dedicated to the survivors of domestic violence will take place on  Oct. 8, with Catherine Weaver of Uniquely Original Arts, presenting Poetic Expressions: Art and Poetry Collage Workshop.

Additional events planned for the festival include a one-day seminar on digital storytelling with Andrew W. Thornhill from Thornhill Digital Storytelling, a Reggae and Poetry Night at The Chattaway Restaurant in St. Petersburg and a photo exhibit of cancer survivors presented by the Affirmations Project of Tampa

Click here to read a previous 83 Degrees Media story about Your Real Stories

TEDxSarasota champions innovation, collaboration at full-day event in Venice

TEDxSarasota, an independently organized, licensed TED event, will bring a full day of "ideas worth spreading" to the Venice Theatre on Oct. 6, 2016. 

The theme for the fifth annual TEDxSarasota, Technicolor Journey, brings 10 innovators and creatives from different industries and backgrounds to explore the "many facets that make a whole life, and the whole world a better place to live."

Leaders at the forefront of their field in neurobiology, visual and performing arts, social work, technology and environmental conservation will offer unique insights into their work and spark creative conversations at this year's TEDxSarasota. Among the  featured speakers are School for Men Founder Michael Hrostoski; Neurobiologist and Braincheck CEO Dr. Yael Katz; art activist and Chalk Festival Founder Denise Kowal and West Coast Black Theatre Group Director Nate Jacobs. 

"TED days are built to have people collide and collaborate. The audience plays a big part in keeping the energy of the exchange going as they actively participate, so these days really are the germ -- or the seed -- of something great on the other side of the event," says TEDxSarasota Founder and Team Lead Judy Winslow. 

TEDxSarasota collaborated this year with the Ringling College of Art + Design to create special pieces for the event, and Winslow says that break times between speakers will be filled with food, drink and social activities to stimulate new ideas and connections in the "TED Head" environment. 

This year marks the first time TEDxSarasota, formerly held at Sarasota's historic Asolo Theatre, will be held at the Venice Theatre in the south-central Sarasota County region.

"We've always been known as a beach community, but have moved into a more cultural phase in recent years. Now, we're really parenting and fostering the idea of Sarasota as an innovation hub. Let's have Sarasota grow in a way that fosters innovation, inspiration, positivity," says Winslow.

"This is a way for us to shine a light on a different part of Sarasota as things begin to develop [in the south county region]," she adds. 

TED is a global, independently planned event that takes place in over a thousand communities across the world. More than a dozen events are scheduled during 2016-2017 in Florida cities including Orlando, Jacksonville and Miami. 

Three upcoming events in the Tampa Bay area are TEDxOldsmar Women on Oct. 27, 2016; TEDxUSF on March 29, 2017; and TEDxPasco County Schools on May 6, 2017. 

"What's cool is that it's a global community. There's this movement of positivity, and of people who still believe that we can change the world one idea at a time. That's the essence of TED: people who believe, who know it in their bones--people who come out to support that mission and live that possibility," says Winslow.

Get tickets for TEDxSarasota online.

Students at low-income schools get unique experiences through MOSI's outreach program

When low-income schools can't make the trip to MOSI Tampa, the museum goes to them.

In an effort to bring enriching experiences to students at low-income schools, MOSI Tampa has created a program that will offer hands-on activities related to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). MOSI will schools throughout the region, starting with 15 elementary schools in Polk County this year.

The idea behind the outreach program is to introduce students to technology in a fun way, but also help them realize their potential. The program will enable children to explore STEAM related disciplines through activities like creating their own robotic creations.

“At MOSI, we’ve found that one of the best ways to get kids to look toward career paths in important fields like science and engineering is to get them doing real science and engineering themselves,” says Grayson Kamm of MOSI. “Once they're exposed to these fields in new ways such as building and programming their own robots, they get far more interested and engaged. Some students start to picture doing this kind of cutting-edge work as part of their own future careers.”

Kamm says this program was made possible through the George W. Jenkins Fund within the GiveWell Community Foundation. This fund specifically applies to Title I schools, which are defined as schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families.

MOSI's outreach program is titled Robot Roundup. In the program, 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-grade students will have the chance to understand the technology and engineering behind robots, as well as assemble their own.

“This is a way for MOSI to help bring a fresh spark to students, which reinforces what they’ve learned in class and makes it real for them creating an inspiration their classroom teachers can build on during the years ahead.”

Some school visits have already begun. The list below includes all of the schools that will be participating in the program.
 
  • Edgar L. Padgett Elementary, Lakeland
  • Elbert Elementary, Winter Haven
  • Walter Caldwell Elementary, Auburndale
  • Sleepy Hill Elementary, Lakeland
  • Wahneta Elementary, Winter Haven
  • Palmetto Elementary, Poinciana
  • Garden Grove Elementary, Winter Haven
  • Phillip O’Brien Elementary, Lakeland
  • Medulla Elementary, Lakeland
  • Lewis Anna Woodbury Elementary, Fort Meade
  • Loughman Elementary, Davenport
  • North Lakeland Elementary, Lakeland
  • Pinewood Elementary, Eagle Lake
  • Purcell Elementary, Mulberry
  • Southwest Elementary, Lakeland
In addition to the Robot Roundup, MOSI offers other hands-on science experiences to schools throughout the state. Other outreach programs include a mobile science lab, and a portable planetarium. For information on MOSI's school outreach programs, visit the museum's website.

Tampa Bay Area tech companies are hiring, check out who is posting jobs

Looking for a career in technology in the Tampa Bay region? 83 Degrees can help. Read on to find which local technology companies are hiring in this months hiring roundup.

Safe Connect, a software company based out of Lakeland is looking to fill a Customer Support Engineer, as well as some sales positions. The Customer Support Engineer requires a Bachelor's degree, as well as four years of technical support work experience. The sales positions include a Business Development Representative, Inside Sales Representative and a Territory Sales Manager. These sales positions require a Bachelor's degree and software sales experience. 

Also out of Lakeland is Epic-Premier, a technology company that offers solutions to help the insurance industry. The company is currently recruiting a Business Analyst to research and analyze client's business requirements. The position requires an Associate's degree and two years of relevant work experience.

LabTech Software based in Tampa has several openings for qualified candidates. Positions include Software Engineer, Quality Assurance and a Business Development Manager. A Bachelor's Degree is preferred for all of the positions, however, relevant work experience is required.

A Sarasota-based software company that offers technology solutions to the insurance industry is seeking a Configuration Management Administrator. Tropics Software Technologies is a fast-growing company. The ideal candidate possess a computer science degree and relevant work experience in software support and configuration management.

EASA Software in St. Petersburg is in search of a Java Developer and a Technical Services Specialist. To qualify for the developer position, you must have a computer science degree and experience developing software. The other position requires an engineering or computer science degree, and experience building customer applications for in-house software. 

The IT giant, Tech Data, which is headquartered in Clearwater, has 20 job openings currently ranging from Product Managers to Project Managers, Sales Reps and Accounting positions. The Fortune 500 company is a one of the world's largest distributors of technology products, services and solutions, and works with companies like HP, Apple, Cisco and Microsoft.

How to design a street banner for Clearwater

As the city of Clearwater continues its redevelopment plans, it has put out a call to artists to design a banner that will run the length of Cleveland Street between North Lincoln Avenue and North Betty Lane, along the fence that borders a “thriving community garden.” The winning artist will be compensated with an honorarium of $500 for the design.  Artist proposals are due by Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. 

“Our mission is to revitalize the downtown area. So this particular project helps us fulfill our mission as it is beautifying a stretch of Cleveland Street that is right now lacking in any sort of visual interest,” says Seth Taylor, Director of the Community Redevelopment Agency. “We saw this as an opportunity to have a big impact on the streetscape.”

Public art is just one facet of the plans “to help lift up the community,” notes Taylor. 

“We are working with our engineering and planning department to improve the entire streetscape along Cleveland Street,” says Taylor. Among other things a “road diet” is planned -- reducing the current five lanes to three, incorporating bicycle lanes, pedestrian walkways, landscaping and horticulture as well as space for retail. Conceptual design is underway and Taylor hopes that after community presentations, construction will begin by late 2017.

“Bright and Beautiful • Bay to Beach” is the city of Clearwater’s new brand and tagline and thus the theme of the artwork. Artists are to submit designs that would be rendered to a scale of approximately 400 linear feet by about six feet tall (click here for specifics), connecting visually to the neighborhood and also to “what bright and beautiful means to them,” Taylor says. Artists are strongly encouraged to visit the site “to get a feel for the landscape of the neighborhood.” He says it is a terrific opportunity for artist’s work to be showcased in the public realm.

St. Pete ups prize to $50K for mural to entwine art, history

The City of St. Petersburg has put out a global call to artists for artwork that will serve as a replacement of a Works Progress Administration-era mural that once hung in City Hall and also as a reminder of the significant and fascinating piece of local history that brought it down. The budget for the approximately 7-by-10 foot piece, initially set at $10,000 has been increased to $50,000; submissions are due Oct. 3, 2016.

The call to artists states that “the art must respect the event(s) that caused the still vacant space where the mural once hung while honoring and celebrating the advances in civil rights and inclusivity in the city today.”

Wayne Altherholt, Director of Cultural Affairs for the City of St. Petersburg, says the selection will be determined by the Project Committee, a diverse group made up of three members of the Public Arts Commission and six community members. Altherholt describes the group as “a driven committee” taking the project on “with the deepest respect and recognition of the past. They will spend hours and hours to figure out the best solution.”

The original mural by George Snow Hill, the artist perhaps best known locally today for his flight murals at Tampa International Airport, was commissioned in 1940, along with another that is still prominently in place along the grand staircase of City Hall.
 
The piece in question ostensibly illustrated a scene where white beachgoers enjoyed black musicians at the local beach Pass-a-Grille. Viewed through a modern lens, though arguably obvious even in the era in which it was painted, it is not at all hard to understand why people found it offensive, particularly during the incendiary times at the start of the civil rights movement in the 1960s when African-Americans were still largely prohibited from even going to some beaches.
 
Joseph Waller, an African-American and then vice-chairman at the time of the state’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), had petitioned to have the mural removed for its derogatory and racist depictions of black people. The request was denied. In what was apparently a spontaneous moment of outrage during a subsequent march on City Hall, Waller tore the canvas down in 1966 and was jailed for more than two years on felony larceny charges. The wall has remained vacant ever since.
 
The call for public art is open to professional and student artists internationally; support on finding a mentor is available for those whose experience is more limited. Once selected, finalists will be asked to prepare a site-specific proposal, and will be paid $1,500 for their submissions at that time.
 
For specific details, please visit the City of St. Petersburg’s Cultural Affairs Department website.

Inc. magazine names Clearwater top spot for fast-growing companies

Business is booming in Clearwater, according to Inc. magazine.

The monthly publication, which focuses on national business and industry growth, ranks Clearwater No. 1 in the country for the number of private businesses to make the magazine’s annual Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies. 

Relative to its population size of more than 110,000 residents, Clearwater was able to beat Irvine, CA, Atlanta, GA, Hollywood, FL, and Alexandra, VA for the top spot.

Four Clearwater-based private companies -- Stratus (66), e-Telequote Insurance (113), KnowBe4 (139) and Digital Media Solutions (434) -- ranked in the Inc. 500 list, which is published in the magazine’s September edition. 

Additionally, the city had five businesses make the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies:
  • Progressive Dental (739), 
  • GovDirect (1,150), 
  • Pure Air Control Systems (1,638), 
  • CWU Inc. (1,939), and 
  • Murphy Business & Financial Corporation LLC (3,061).
While some might be surprised that Clearwater tops such a prestigious list, Denise Sanderson, the city’s Economic Development and Housing director, isn’t shocked by the news. She says it “illustrates the significant concentration of successful, high-growth businesses” in the area.

Millions of visitors flock to Clearwater Beach each year, making tourism the city’s top industry and the backbone of its economy. But Clearwater is also home to a number of diverse business sectors as well, including information technology, software, finance, insurance, marine science, medical technology and manufacturing.

Sanderson says the city will continue to do what it can to entice new companies. In fact, the city’s Economic Development & Housing Department recently teamed up with several public and private partners to launch Clearwater Business SPARK, a network of resources for businesses in the greater Clearwater area, this past spring.
  
“Clearwater welcomes businesses with its favorable business climate, great infrastructure, talented workforce and exceptional quality of life,” she says. “[It] has and will continue to attract entrepreneurs, startups and established businesses poised for growth and expansion.”

Engineering firm in Tampa adding 5 new positions

An engineering firm in Tampa is gearing up to create five new jobs in the next year. 

VHB, an engineering science planning design firm, with an active footprint on Florida's Gulf coast since the early 1960s is opening up an office in downtown Tampa. Based out of Watertown, MA, the company has 23 offices along the Eastern seaboard. This will be the third office to open in Florida, with two others in Orlando and Sarasota. 

The new office in Tampa will focus on creating urban living spaces, increasing mobility and developing more sustainable communities in the region. Due to the area's increased interest in improving communities through urban living, the company saw a fit for its presence in the conversation. 

"A lot of the type of work we are doing, especially in the areas of transportation and environmental work, we feel we can do here to make an important impact on what is going on in the Tampa Bay region," says  Margaret Kubilins, Traffic Engineering Manager and Southeast Region Pedestrian and Bicycle Leader for VHB. 

She cites the upbeat and active climate, as well as the enthusiasm in the community for urban living as reasons why the company is expanding in Tampa. 

"It’s exciting to be in an area that is experiencing so much growth," she says. Kubilins and her team look forward to working on public projects, and have an interest in becoming part of many projects including Tampa's downtown, design of the west bank of the Hillsborough River and downtown St. Petersburg. The firm has worked on creating healthy, sustainable communities throughout Florida, including Parramore in Orlando. 

"The whole public environment component is really important," Kubilins says. "Looking beyond just land uses, but evaluating how communities can be healthier with safe paths for walking and biking, and ensuring quality food is accessible. All of this is part of what we look at when we plan communities."

To help with this effort, the firm will be adding at least five to its Tampa office headcount. Kubilins says the company will be recruiting an Environmental Scientist, a Water Specialist, and engineers.  She hopes to have all five positions filled by summer of next year. 

For more information on the company and its career opportunities, click here

Tampa marketing firm invites local artists to create murals

As part of its 30-year anniversary celebration, HCP Associates, a Tampa-based marketing firm, is launching an Art Mural Program that aims to engage local artists using its recently renovated Port Tampa Bay offices as a mural gallery while promoting the individual artists with an aggressive PR strategy. 

“We wanted something inside our newly designed space that was bigger than life and sparked thought and emotion for our clients, staff and friends,” says Eric Polins, HCP Senior Brand Strategist/Partner.

Polins says that art and artists are important to the firm. In addition to the “numerous” creative designers on staff, HCP has a collection of original art throughout the offices and works with a few dozen artists around the globe to create everything from original illustration to 3D animation for client projects. Polins has been a professional artist for over 25 years. 

“We hope this program helps each artist get a shot they deserve to have their work promoted heavily,” says Polins, noting that he feels the local arts community has “low support” especially for painters. “With all the wonderful things changing and growing, we feel this is our way of promoting artists that might not get a chance to get into a gallery or have their own show. We would love to see an ‘unknown’ artist emerge from the program through our grass roots connections and traditional public relations.”

The first Call to Artists is currently open and accepting samples for consideration through the HCP website. The winner will have their 10’ x 20’ wall mural on display from October 1, 2016 until year’s end. HCP covers supply costs, food and drink and provides a $250 stipend to each artist. The firm also promises to lend their expertise in the form of an aggressive PR strategy (valued at $2,500) for each artist to help them promote the work, including a launch party prior to each mural being unveiled. The finished mural and artist will be photographed and published in an online gallery. The firm hopes to eventually produce enough content to create a coffee table book.

HCP Associates plans to have three murals per year on different subject matter. First up? “Election,” of course.

Theatre festival brings workshops, actors to Tampa

This Labor Day weekend, the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival is hosting a packed schedule of intensive workshops for thespians, and 35 live performances of original plays and monologues for theatre-lovers and newcomers alike.  

Costs are kept intentionally low -- $10 per workshop, $5-$20 for plays -- to encourage broad participation and accessibility.  In fact, the master class by NBC’s hit TV series The Blacklist star Harry Lennix is free of charge. Ticketing for all workshops and shows is required and seating is limited.  

Festival founder Rory Lawrence says the Festival aims to “to create a platform and embrace what we do, for people who love to see theater, who love acting and who love seeing original plays and for networking.”  

He is also committed to supporting diversity in this realm. 

“I just feel people have to come together no matter what walk of life they come from: black, white, gay, straight, atheist, Christian. … Theater can bring you together. Everybody likes to laugh, everybody wants to come together,” he says. “We want to be all-inclusive, celebrate all cultures and see we can all have a great time.”

Lawrence brought in Lennix for the first time last year -- quite a coup for such a new festival: This will be its third year. Lennix’s master class was so spirited that no one was ready to leave the HCC Mainstage at the scheduled conclusion. A play was to take place in the theater, so the whole class picked up and relocated to another venue and continued for another two hours! 

Lennix, also a Broadway actor, was impressed with the event and told Lawrence that it ignited his passion for theatre, and that he was thrilled with the receptiveness of the Tampa participants and what Lawrence was trying to achieve. So much so that he offered to come back on his own dime.  

“Harry is all about the craft,” says Lawrence, who stays in touch with Lennix. 

From improv to musical theatre, there are sessions headed by other top-notch professionals throughout the weekend, including Jayne Trinette, Elaine Pechacek, Patrick McInnis and Erica Sutherlin. Simultaneously there are several original short- and long-form plays competing for best-in-show, with writer/directors coming in from as far away as Alaska. 

Lawrence’s own troupe, RQL Productions, performs opening night, Friday Sept. 2, 2016 at the Jaeb Theare at the Straz with his original comedy, Between Calls, followed by a lively networking party, also at the Straz.   

He notes that beyond the fun and joy of the event, networking works. Last year two attendees were noticed at the festival and subsequently cast in major productions. Alexa McGrory was cast in Soccer Moms and Danielle Harris in a Hollywood movie, not yet released called Revival, written by Lennix. Harris has since moved to Los Angeles. 

AT&T gives grant to offer business workshops in 2 St. Pete high schools

Young entrepreneurs in Pinellas County have a unique opportunity to bring their business and technology ideas to life.

With a $25,000 grant from AT&T, budding entrepreneurs at Gibbs and Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg will be able to take part in a series of workshops aimed at developing their entrepreneurial ideas. The financial contribution from the communication giant was made to the Pinellas Education Foundation's Next Generation Entrepreneurs and Next Generation Tech programs.

“The workshops will be crafted to help provide high school students with tools and skills they would need to take their innovative ideas and turn them into products and services that can be marketed in the real world,” says Karen McAllister of AT&T.

The grant is expected to reach as many as 200 students at the two high schools. The workshops teach high school juniors and seniors real world business skills for success including, everything from product and service development to software design.

McAllister says teaching the next generation these vital skills is a priority for her company.

“Since 2008, AT&T has committed $350 million toward helping at-risk students graduate from high school prepared for college or their career, and the Pinellas Education Foundation shares this passion with us,” she says. “Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce, whether as entrepreneurs or employees.”

During the workshops, students will immerse themselves in enriching activities such as creating business models and developing business plans. Students will also have the opportunity to be mentored by business professionals during the process. At the conclusion of the workshop, business models and plans will be submitted to a panel of judges as students compete for money to develop their products and services.

McAllister explains that the Pinellas Education Foundation chose Gibbs and Lakewood high schools because they have innovative career academies that will provide fertile ground for these workshops.

“As part of the communities where our employees live and work, we want to ensure these students have every chance at success.”
 
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