| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Tourism : Innovation + Job News

89 Tourism Articles | Page: | Show All

Test your sleuthing skills in The Great Escape Room

It's elementary, dear Watson: Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick would fit right in at a new entertainment space in downtown Tampa.

Inside The Great Escape Room, mysteries abound as teams of up to 12 “detectives” participate in a timed adventure to escape a locked space, solving riddles along the way.

Part scavenger hunt, part puzzle, the real-life room escape game is based on similar computer and mobile application-based games. Some puzzles involve strength in mathematics, some strategy, and others organizational skills. All are equally important for solving the room's challenges -- and escaping -- in under 60 minutes.

In February 2015, reporter and social media personality Meredyth Censullo joined a small group of Tampa Bay area bloggers and social media users for an early preview of The Great Escape Room, which she says is “unlike any other entertainment experience I've ever had -- and I'm all about trying new things!”

Tampa's version of the Great Escape Room is located in the heart of downtown, just upstairs from Taco Bus and Crumb and Cork on a busy block in easy walking distance from the Tampa Riverwalk, Tampa Theatre, and other downtown attractions restaurants, cafes, and The Vault event space.

The first Great Escape Room location opened in Orlando in May 2014, quickly followed by branches in Miami, Royal Oak (MI), and a soon-to-come Washington D.C. destination.

During their visit to The Great Escape Room, Censullo's teammates initially worked together to find clues, and then “generally gravitated toward working on the individual challenges and puzzles that suited their skills best,” she explains.  

Many “detectives” don’t solve the room’s riddles in time, but Censullo’s team of eight outwitted their competitors by a few minutes, escaping the room in 44 minutes and 29 seconds.

And if the challenge proves impossible –- or you simply get stuck? There is a little help available in the form of a representative who remains in the room during the detective game and can trade hints for clues hidden within the space.

“I love that Tampa is bringing new, fresh ideas to the city,” Censullo says. “Overall, the experience was a lot of fun -- there was a ton of laughing, which always makes for a great time.”

The blogger outing to The Great Escape Room was organized by Never Have I Ever Tampa, a trio who run a website dedicated to exploring local events, activities, and Tampa Bay area destinations, from dining to detective work (read more about NHIE Tampa in an 83 Degrees feature).

While there is no minimum number of attendees required to participate, heading to The Great Escape Room with familiar faces can make it even more enjoyable, Censullo says. The space’s website recommends visiting for parties or team-building sessions.

“I would definitely recommend that others try it,” Censullo says. “This would be a group date night out.”
You don’t have to leave junior detectives at home, either; the Great Escape Room is suitable for anyone over 12 years of age.

“I think kids would love searching for clues, and older kids likely could solve the puzzles,” Censullo says.

The Great Escape Room in Tampa opened Thursday, Feb. 26, at 300 E Madison St, Ste. 301. The cost is $28 per person.

Who's hiring: The Infiltrator, Tampa Theatre, Hillsborough County and more

Did you know? 83 Degrees Media searches for growing companies to bring you exciting job opportunities in the Tampa Bay area. Employers, if you have a career opportunity you would like to promote, please email innovationnews@83degreesmedia.com with "Hiring" in the subject line. Reach out over on Twitter @83degreesmedia if our job listings put you on the path to success.

This week, the Bryan Cranston-led movie, ’'The Infiltrator,'’ is first up on our list of hiring opportunities. There are no permanent roles, but for those who would like to appear on screen when the movie films scenes in Tampa in mid April, there’s a chance that you could! Selected extras will be paid for their work. Inquiries, resumes, and hiring questions should be submitted at the casting website. Click here for more information, or visit @FilmTampaBay on Twitter.

Dabble Lab, a new collaborative software development studio in Tampa, is about to launch and already growing. Dabble Lab, based out of Tampa Bay WaVE, aims to help successful companies retain a startup edge through “growth hacking.” Sound intriguing? The company is hiring for two positions, a Sales Coordinator role as well as a Growth Hacker, whose responsibilities will include sales, coding, and communication. Dabble Lab Tampa is set to launch in early Feb 2015.

Want to get involved with local business? Now’s your chance! The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce is hiring an Events Manager. This position will assist the Director of Events in event planning, committee management, and providing service to Chamber members, among other duties. A Bachelor’s Degree and a minimum of 2 years of experience in event planning are required. To view the complete job description, click here.

Hillsborough County is hiring for over 30 positions, ranging from a Wellness Asst. in Aging Services to a Public Works Senior Engineering specialist. A Treatment Counselor Behavior Analyst position is available with Hillsborough County Children and Youth Services. The job requires a bachelor’s degree in a mental health field; Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA) eligible to work in Florida; and other qualifications, which can be found on the county’s job board.

Lorrica, Inc is hiring for a Marketing and Communication Manager. The Tampa-based IT security company Lorrica, Inc provides security consulting to small and large enterprises. For consideration, applicants should have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in marketing, and must have 3-7 years of marketing experience.

The historic Tampa Theatre in downtown Tampa is hiring for two part-time, hourly roles: Patron Services Representative and Box Office & Operations Asst. Tampa Theatre has been a mainstay in the downtown since 1926, astonishing first-time visitors with the decadent interior and ceiling that is painted to look like a night sky. Today, the theatre is a Tampa City Landmark managed by a non-profit group, while the historic building is owned by the City of Tampa. To learn more about job opportunities, visit the Tampa Theatre website.

2 local museums celebrate anniversaries, invite families to party for free

Major museums on both sides of Tampa Bay are celebrating important birthdays in February. The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg celebrates its 50th anniversary on Saturday, Feb. 7th, while the Tampa Museum of Art honors five years at its current location on Sunday, Feb. 8th. 

On their special days, the MFA and the TMA are offering several art opportunities designed for children, plus celebratory balloons, live entertainment and docent tours.  Families are encouraged to take advantage of the full schedule of events, free of charge for all guests.

Saturday at the MFA in St. Pete, children can get in some yoga time, face painting and other hands-on activities. Sunday at the Tampa Museum of Art will include a parade at 2:30 p.m., sing-along music and birthday cake for all.

“We have been expanding on family days at the Museum as part of our strategic plan to really build a sense of community so that people of all ages feel welcome,” says Museum Education Joie Johnson of the Tampa Museum of Art. “It’s a chance for the public to see what we have without any barrier of cost.”  

The Museum of Fine Arts is launching its major golden anniversary exhibits for the year on the same date as it opened half a century ago. So, in addition to the festivities on Saturday, visitors will be permitted a first view of Monet to Matisse — On the French Coast and Life’s a Beach, Photographs by Martin Parr, as well as the already launched African-American Life and Family and MFA’s impressive permanent collection. MFA spokesperson David Connelly says Saturday’s events are in keeping with the Museum’s mission of making “world-class art accessible to the community.’’ 

The Tampa Museum of Art currently has six exhibitions on display, including selections from their permanent collection, which will be available for viewing and sketching on Sunday.  

Innovation Alliance invites businesses to help transform University area of north Tampa

The Tampa Innovation Alliance aims to transform almost 15,000 acres of commerce, housing and retail surrounding the University of South Florida and affiliate hospitals into a revitalized “Innovation District” that will attract local visitors and tourists.

After a 10-year stint as a Hillsborough County commissioner, Mark Sharpe has stepped into the role of executive director for the Tampa Innovation Alliance. The group formed in 2011 with intentions to redevelop the university area as a premiere destination, but focused too much on a “master plan,” Sharpe says. “I want to make sure that we focus on our key mission: to create this ‘Innovation District’ core.”

The area, which stretches from I-75 on the east to I-275 on the west; north to the Bearss/Bruce B Downs intersection; and south to Busch Blvd, is comprised of thousands of acres in which run-down retail and residential blocks co-mingle with specialized hospitals like Moffitt and the VA center, the University of South Florida’s campus, and popular entertainment destinations like Busch Gardens and MOSI Tampa, the Museum of Science and Industry.

“I think there is a way to capture some of the market that is driving past or through, not stopping, at the local businesses that abut these major anchors,” Sharpe explains. “We’re going to focus on outreach and bring in members, large and small, who will all partner together.”
A kick-off luncheon on Friday, Jan. 9, serves as the group’s first outreach to the broader community, Sharpe says. Local businesses both inside and outside the future Innovation District are invited to join Sharpe and other Tampa Innovation Alliance members, such as USF President Judy Genshaft, at the USF Connect Building to discuss the group’s next steps and ideas for area branding.

Businesses are invited to provide feedback at Friday’s meeting, along with a series of monthly meetings Sharpe plans to host, similar to those he conducted at Buddy Brew during his run as a county commissioner. The first of these meetings, open to the public, is scheduled for Jan 23.

The first focus is getting organized, Sharpe says. “I’m doing it all right now – I’m approving colors of the logo, and spellchecking things, and calling people to encourage them to come.”

The group’s current members and partners include Fifth Third Bank, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brighthouse, Tampa International Airport, EWI Construction, and more. Tampa Innovation Alliance’s Kickoff Luncheon will be held 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, at USF Connect, 3802 Spectrum Boulevard in Tampa.

Plant City native brings Christmas cheer in new movie

A new Christmas-theme movie set to debut December 18 at Tampa Theatre and on digital video devices features a Tampa Bay connection.

The film, “An Evergreen Christmas,’’ starring Plant City native Charleene Closshey, brings her home for the holidays.

“It means a lot to bring the film back to my home, where I grew up,” Closshey says. 

An Evergreen Christmas is loosely based on the family of Closshey’s fiancé, Jeremy Culver, who directed and co-wrote the story with his sister, Morgen Culver.

The Culvers’ grandfather owned a Christmas tree farm in Michigan before he died last year.

The heartwarming film celebrates the values and community support often found in small towns.

In “An Evergreen Christmas,’’ Closshey portrays Evie Lee, a young woman forced to put her glamorous Hollywood career on hold to return to her small Tennessee hometown when she learns about her father’s sudden death.

As the eldest sibling, Evie discovers she has been named the executor of the family’s once thriving Christmas tree farm, an estate now strapped with a massive inheritance tax, much to her younger brother’s dismay.

Evie faces a life-altering decision whether to save the family’s legacy or pursue her music career. Her decision would ultimately determine her place in the world.

“Life is about reaching goals and dreams, and community support is important to that happening,” Jeremy Culver says.

Closshey agrees: “My character is more like a rock until she realized she needed that community support,” says Closshey, who attended Harrison Performing Arts Center, a performing arts high school in Lakeland.
The movie’s colorful cast includes veteran actor Robert Loggia and country singer and actress Naomi Judd, who portray Evie’s paternal grandparents; and Tyler Ritter, son of the late actor John Ritter, plays Evie’s ex-boyfriend who has grown up but still holds romantic feelings for her.

A special screening of the dramedy will be at 7:45 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Tampa Theatre in downtown Tampa. Closshey, Jeremy Culver and Morgen Culver are scheduled to attend, make introductions and participate in an audience Q&A after the film.

Closshey, an accomplished violinist who also plays several other instruments, says a three-minute video of a song in the movie called “My Tennessee Home” will be shown at the screening. The music video, filmed at the Southern Barn in Lithia, features about 100 Plant City and Tampa area residents.
Supporting and promoting the film industry in Florida is important to Closshey. 

“It’s where I grew up, so I have a great love for the state and its people,” she says.
“An Evergreen Christmas’’ also is available at Walmart and on iTunes, Amazon, and it hits Netflix on Dec. 21.

Aqua Marketing positions Bradenton as top travel destination for sports enthusiasts, pet owners

St. Petersburg-based Aqua Marketing & Communications recently received international recognition for promoting unique aspects of the Bradenton area for tourists.

Founded in 2011, the company is a full service firm specializing in the tourism and economic development industries within the State of Florida. Current and past clients include Collier County, the City of Dunedin, Manatee County and the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The company’s recent projects for the Bradenton area helped them win international recognition from the Hospitality Sales & Marketing International (HSMAI), the lead international association for the hospitality industry.  

The company put together a sports marketing campaign to position the area as a destination for athletes, coaches and tournament directors to come for training and competitions. The campaign included a virtual “Sports Playbook,” which provided highlights of the region as a destination, facilities available for tournaments and other events, and resources such as medical rehab and therapy, dining and entertainment.

The second piece targeted men’s travel, an often untapped market for the tourism and travel industry, where marketing if often focused on women. They offered a 3-night, 4-day “guys’ getaway,” which included boating, fishing and cigar bars. The promotion is believed to be the first of its kind in the travel and hospitality industry.

A third piece for the Bradenton area was a sweepstakes targeting pet travel. Bradenton is already well-positioned in this area, with several beaches, cafes and restaurants that allow dogs, as well as a high percentage of pet-friendly accommodations. Aqua Marketing created a Pet Owners’ guide to the Bradenton area, which included a list of all of pet-friendly hotels and resorts, activities that can be done with dogs and dog boutiques and bakeries.  

The judges were impressed with the innovation displayed in the campaigns, as well as the results achieved.

The company has nine full-time employees, in addition to part-time employees and freelancers and recently hired several new employees to meet demand. They intend to remain in St Petersburg for the long term.

"Downtown St. Petersburg is a very robust, great place to have a business," says Dave Di Maggio, the company’s Founder and President, noting the central location, robust restaurants and events and the accessibility and attractiveness for clients.

8-Count Studios adds new twist to urban dance battles

Downtown Tampa’s newest renovated theater space turned dance studio hopes to revolutionize the way dance battles are run.

Traditionally, a ballroom or swing dance studio will host a recital to allow its students to show off their work, sometimes with a competition element. In the urban and hip hop scene, their version of a recital is referred to as a battle or jam. Jamming originated as an informal show-off of dance moves in a social circle, where dancers would clear a circle and then take turns displaying their best moves. In a battle, the circle becomes more formal and individuals or pairs of dancers pair off against each other in a competition-style event.

Most battles lack an element of formality, with different dance styles competing against each other. In a desire to formalize these events, 8-Count Studios on North Franklin Street in Tampa is hosting a Layer Cake Battle on January 3.

"We want to revolutionize how battles are run," says Hope Donnelly, co-owner of 8-Count Studios.

The event is named Layer Cake Battle because of the layered judging that will be done in rounds. Using Donnelly’s sports dance background, the studio will introduce a bracket system that will list names of dancers on a board. Dance brackets include: popping and locking, wacking and voguing, breaking, and krumping. Each winner will progress to the next level with prizes awarded in each bracket until an ultimate Best of Show winner is announced.

"Dancing is a sport, so we’re treating it like a sport," says Donnelly. "Dancers are athletes; they are competitors."

Well-known choreographers and judges will be flown in from across the country. The event will also include workshops, vendors and a concert. Cash and other prizes will be given to the winners, as well as a private brunch session with the judges.

The event is open to the public. The price of admission is $20 per person.

Ringling Museum unveils rare circus banners by Belgian artist

A newly restored blast from circus pasts will be on display at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota starting Friday, Nov. 7, through March 2015 as a series of four, rare, early 20th-century, large-scale circus banners by Belgian artist Frans de Vos will be literally unrolled before the public. 

The 9 x 9.5-foot century-old banners were stumbled upon by Circus Historian Howard Tibbals, while paging through a London auction house catalog in 1989.  Listed almost as footnote, with a tiny photograph, were “de Vos banners, good condition.” Tibbals, a collector and model-maker, was intrigued and purchased them, but when they finally arrived, “good condition” was inaccurate: the banners were torn, re-stitched together, crumbling, fragile. The damage was severe, the life of the circus and the century had taken its toll.

Though information about the artist Frans de Vos (1919-1938) is scant, Ringling Museum researchers know he came from a circus family and was a scene designer. There are hints that these banners served as advertisements and backdrops for his family’s own circus. 

“They must have been treasured objects – they kept all four, they kept them together,” says Ringling Circus Curator Debbie Walk. “Truly remarkable, you don’t often find one, and here we have four!” Walk says the banners are also noteworthy in that they show performers performing, not sideshow banners which typically portrayed the unusual or weird.  

Tibbals, primary donor and creator of the Ringling Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center, selected Barbara Ramsay of ARTEX Conservation Laboratory in Washington D.C. to restore the banners, a seven-year process now complete and ready for viewing.  Ramsay is now part of the Ringling team as Chief Conservator. 

“The whole story of conservation and restoration is a wonderful and remarkable story of survival,” says Walk. She admires Tibbals tenacity in all things circus and says he ”spends a great deal of time searching out the circus world, and goes the next step. He wants people to see it not just today, but a generation from now, two generations from now.”

The de Vos banners will be exhibited in the Ringling Museum of Art through the end of March, 2015. The exhibit includes a looped visual presentation highlighting the comprehensive seven-year collaborative restoration experience.

Tampa Water Taxi adds Riverwalk ferry service

Tampa Water Taxi Company, LLC plans to add a continuous loop through the Tampa Riverwalk to its transportation lineup.  

Now going into its seventh year of operation, the company was founded by Capt. Laurence (Larry) Salkin, who was shocked when he moved to Tampa and found a city with a large amount of area surrounded by water that had very little water-based activities. Salkin wanted to show off the city from a different vantage point, to residents and visitors alike.

"Our water is a diamond. It’s a gem," says Salkin. "The views of Tampa from the water are like no views you can get from anywhere on land."

The biggest compliment during his tenure with the company was from a 96-year-old seventh generation Tampa resident, stating that he never knew the city looked this beautiful.

The company offers regular public tours of the water surrounding Tampa’s downtown, including a city overview called "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Tampa," history tours, and year-round dolphin tours.There are also sunset and nightlife tours, featuring the lighted bridges.

They also provide private charters for parties and weddings, and transportation to and from Davis and Harbour Islands to Amelia Arena for Tampa Bay Lightning games and concerts. The four boats seating 30 people each have transported as many as 400 people during a single event, lightning the traffic congestion.

The company is planning a new ferry service for the Tampa Riverwalk, which is scheduled for completion by the end of November. The ferry will run a continuous loop along the Riverwalk Friday afternoon through the weekend, with the ability to get on and off at stops along the way. The goal is to charge a minimal cost for riders and obtain sponsorship to cover expenses.

Air taxi service takes off from Sarasota-Bradenton airport

Statewide travel from the Sarasota area just got a little easier with the emergence of Lift Air, a new air charter and taxi service that elevates intra-state travel above the cloud of rush hour traffic congestion on Florida’s notoriously busy highways.

Based out of the Rectrix Aerodome at the Sarasota International Airport (KSRQ), Lift Air is an outgrowth of SRQ Aviation, a Cirrus Aircraft Training Center that expanded from a pilot’s training facility into a fully-operational air charter service this year. Lift Air currently flies in and out of every airport in the state, offering affordable air travel from Tallahassee to Key West.

“Simply put, air charter is the business of renting the entire aircraft to our customers and their itinerary, as opposed to purchasing individual seats through a traditional airline. Air taxi is air charter operating on an on­-demand basis,” explains Lift Air Consultant Bill Russini.  

Russini says that the air charter and taxi service was created to fill a need that emerged in the wake of the recession, when Census reports documented a nearly 2 percent growth in the populations of Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. 

“The demographic potential of offering Florida's Gulf Coast an alternative means of personal air travel gave birth to Lift Air. … The economic impact is immediate in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and extends further to our main maintainence facility located at the Tampa Executive Airport in Hillsborough County,”  Russini says. 

Lift Air currently consists of seven full and part-time employees who maintain operations at the Rectrix Aerodome at KSRQ, as well as in Lift Air’s Hillsborough-based maintenance facility.

The fleet consists of new 2014 Cirrus SR20 and SR22 aircrafts. These lightweight, single engine piston aircrafts provide a convenient, cost-efficient alternative to jet travel, and are equipped with state-of-the-art emergency technology. Each Lift Air aircraft is equipped with Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) technology, a system that launches a 55-foot diameter parachute that lowers the plane to the ground when activated in the instance of in-flight emergency. 

Although Lift Air currently operates solely within the state lines of Florida, Russin says that the company its working to expand its operations in the near future. 

“As to our future, Lift Air plans further inter­state and international (Bahama) certification next year,” Russini says. “One only needs to contemplate the domino effect we have in advertising and destination service support to Florida's economy.”

New MFA exhibit invites artists to be inspired, create

While Fashion Weeks dot the country this fall, the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg has its own take on the art of fashion.  

With its current exhibit of Jamie Wyeth’s paintings of dance icon Rudolf Nureyev and his costumes as a backdrop, the museum presents "Fine Arts, Fashion and Photography: Three Magical Worlds Collide'' on Thursday, Oct. 23, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We collaborate [with producer Alyen Suarez of NuSoBel] on finding upcoming designers and artists, fashion photographers. We bring them into the museum and have them be inspired by the art of our permanent collection and have them go back to the drawing board and create what they are inspired by,” says Audrie Ranon, MFA’s Director of Guest Relations, Retail Operations and Museum Events. The artists created the works in the six weeks since their initial tours and were permitted to submit up to three pieces each.

Though the eclectic event kicks off with a somewhat unrelated and unusual fashion show of “recycled or really creative artsy things,” live entertainment, bar and food in the Conservatory, the real show happens in the gallery and later in the Marly Room. 

Of the select group of 15 artists, roughly half are designers, including a shoe designer. The others, a mix of painters and photographers. The designers’ and photographers’ models are positioned near the corresponding pieces of inspiration throughout the museum as is the artwork and photography. The evening culminates in a procession of the models and works to the Marley room where each artist presents their pieces, discusses their story, why they were inspired and how they got started.

“The event combines fashion, that excitement of seeing and meeting the new artists and designers, being in the galleries and hearing their stories,” says Ranon. “It’s very moving to hear them speak.”

Entrance to Three Magical Worlds Collide is open to all with just the discounted Thursday evening's museum admission fee ($5 after 5).

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.

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.

Florida Bookstore Day Celebrates Local Bookstores, Authors

Tiffany Razzano was driving down Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg when she spotted a poster in the storefront window at Daddy Cool Records promoting Record Store Day. She then drove past Wilson’s Book World and thought, "Why is there no bookstore day?"

She did some research only to learn that California is the only state that has fully developed the concept of a bookstore day.

So why not Florida? Why not now? she thought. The result?

The inaugural Florida Bookstore Day will take place at independent and used bookstores in cities throughout the state on November 15, concentrating on the Tampa Bay area, where Razzano runs Wordier Than Thou, a group that supports creative writers through open mic events, a literary magazine and a radio show.

"I wanted to do something big," says Razzano. "It’s a celebration of independent bookstores and the writing community. People won’t even know they’re at a literary event."

Her goal is to showcase local bookstores and the writing community. Soon after she started talking up the concept in social media and elsewhere, Razzano connected with book lovers in Orlando who wanted to be part of the celebration. Bookstores from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys have now signed on to participate. Expect a day of book releases and author signings, open mics and workshops on literary topics

Local participants include: Inkwood Books, Mojo Books and Music, Old Tampa Book Company and Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Standup Librarians, Wilson’s Book World and Wings Bookstore in St. Petersburg, Book Bank in Largo and Back in the Day Books in Dunedin.

An after party will take place at the Venture Compound in St. Petersburg, featuring local authors and literary organizations, the Bluebird Books Bus, raffles and food trucks.

The event is sponsored by Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and also received a grant from Awesome Tampa Bay.
Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tiffany Razzano, Florida Bookstore Day

Sarasota Welcomes Heated Exchange Art Exhibit, French Connection

Art Center Sarasota hopes to engage locals and tourists alike with its 2014-15 exhibition series.

The series kicks off October 23 with a traveling exhibit titled Heated Exchange, which features encaustic art, or arts made of molten wax using heated tools. This little known art process can be used for painting, sculptures and other mediums.

The biggest exhibition of the season will be unveiled in May. Titled "Confluence France," the display is part of an 8-year series showcasing artwork and artists from regions and countries where Sarasota has a sister city. Sister Cities International pairs cities with those in other countries with whom they share interests, whether it be due to historical connections, a trade relationship, strong expatriate communities or personal experiences. Sarasota has nine sister cities in all, with this exhibit focusing on Perpignon France. The confluence series began in 2013 with a focus on Tel Mond, Israel.

"We’re finding ways to mutually benefit and grow each other’s municipalities," says Emma Thurgood, exhibitions curator for Arts Center Sarasota.

The series is the first international exhibition for the Center.

The Center is also running a community project allowing people to create pieces of paper installation that will be featured in galleries as part of a Collective Paper Aesthetics exhibit in May and June 2015.

The over 20 exhibitions taking place in the next year were funded in part by a Tourist Development Center (TDC) grant awarded by the Sarasota County Commission, designated for tourist development.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Emma Thurgood, Art Center Sarasota

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

Dali Museum, MOSI Tampa Celebrate Merging Of Art, Science

A new partnership between two Tampa Bay area museums will provide visitors with an interactive experience that engages the mind and senses.

The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg and Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa are partnering this summer as a way to encourage patrons to cross the bridges separating the Bay to experience what both museums have to offer. Dali had a fascination with illusion and was interested in math and science as well, making the partnership a natural one.

The Dali Museum will showcase a lot of the permanent collection that involves different types of perception and dimension, while MOSI’s focus will be on 3D.

The highpoint of the Dali Museum’s exhibit, Marvels of Illusion, is an interactive piece allowing visitors to download a mobile app that will allow them to become a part of a painting. The painting used for the exhibit is Dali’s 1976 painting: "Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko)." Close up, you see a female figure intended to be Dali’s wife, Gala. As you step back, it becomes a portrait of Abraham Lincoln.

"It’s the kind of thing that really fascinates kids, and people of all ages," says Kathy Greif, Marketing Director for the Dali Museum.

The partnership will feature art displays at MOSI and science displays at the Dali Museum. The museums will also have reciprocal lectures, and visitors to one museum will receive half off admission to the other.

"In both cases, it’s a great place to visit no matter if you’re 2 or 100," says Greif.

Marvels of Illusion runs June 14 – October 12 at the Dali Museum.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kathy Greif, The Dali Museum

Lakeland Art Installation Honors Veterans, Public Servants

A new public art installation in Lakeland pays tribute to veterans, police, firefighters and emergency responders.

The piece is a collaboration among Platform Art, Polk County Veterans Council and Lakeland youth.

Platform Art worked with Polk County Public Schools to provide workshops for high school teachers to help them incorporate 3D curriculum into their classrooms. They then held a design challenge, asking students to create a sculpture that represents public agencies using a one foot square footprint. Over 60 students responded to the challenge.

The winner was Lake Region High School senior Maria Vazquez, whose sculpture was then fabricated on a larger scale in glass and steel by regional artist Tom Monaco. The final piece consists of two vertical slabs of steel with images of first a couple looking at each other and then a baby behind them. A glass plate in front is engraved with the poem "Honor" by William McGehee, which wraps around a silhouette image of a soldier.

"You’re not only looking at a public servant, but at the reasons they do their job – their family, children," says Cynthia Haffey, executive director for Platform Art and graduate of the University of South Florida.

Vasquez first got the inspiration for the sculpture when she came across McGehee’s poem. After further research, Platform Art realized the poem was written while McGehee was in high school, and that he is currently on his second deployment in Afghanistan. He recorded himself reading the poem, which is incorporated into the display.

Once Vasquez’s design was selected, she met with Monaco and talked about how the public could interact with the piece and how people could approach it physically and visually.

"It was a great learning process for her," says Haffey. "She was stunned at the amount of thoughtful consideration you have to put into a work of art when doing something for the general public."

Vasquez is the daughter of immigrants living in Polk County. After graduating, she will attend Polk State College and then plans to further her education at a design school.

Platform Art is a nonprofit organization in Polk County that focuses on visual arts, leaning toward public art. The project is the first in a series of three with a similar theme and purpose. It will be displayed in City Hall for the summer, and will then be installed in Veterans Park. Eventually, the hope is for this and other sculptures in the series to tour the Tampa Bay region and potentially the State.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Cynthia Haffey, Platform Art

Tampa Startup Helps U.S. Travelers Find Parking Across Nation

Transportation reservation services like Discount Park and Ride intend to streamline your travel experience, whether you’re heading out of town for a business trip or a vacation cruise.

The Tampa startup launched in March 2014 to offer travelers a tailored parking solution -- and is quickly picking up speed in the national transportation sector.

Discount Park and Ride already has 35 partners across major U.S. markets, including San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Boston, Miami, and, of course, Tampa.  

How does it work? DPR partners with local parking lots to help travelers search for a safe place to park their cars. Partner facilities offer shuttles services and guaranteed reservations in off-site locations.

Concerned about just where these “off-site” locations may be? Discount Park and Ride has thought of that. Browse each location in advance and compare with other parking options through an interactive map on the DPR website. Local parking partners in Tampa, for example, include Memorial Airport Parking and Embassy Suites Tampa Airport/Westshore.

Consumers can search the Discount Park and Ride website by filters like price, location, service offerings, and distance from the airport/seaport; reviews and detailed information like shuttle frequency and payment methods are also available.

“Our goal is to provide value for the consumer and a prime customer experience,” says Discount Park and Ride President and co-Founder Alex Miningham.

Miningham attended Florida State University and holds an MBA in Business. A serial entrepreneur, he co-founded software technology startup inDegree as well as Capital Parking, a former parking company in Tampa. The company quickly expanded from a valet parking business servicing local high-end restaurants into a surface lot management company with a focus on airport and seaport parking in Tampa.

In 2013, HEPdata Inc. acquired inDegree. Shortly after, Miningham left his role at Capital Parking to found Discount Park and Ride.

 DPR plans to spread out into other sectors of parking, from special events at sports and concert venues to off-street and garage parking in large metropolitan areas of the country.

Miningham cites problems in the parking industry between “brick-and-mortar facilities and third-party reservation companies” as part of the inspiration for founding Discount Park and Ride. DPR aims to eliminate some of the industry’s problems by offering parking partners a host of tools to manage and modify data, from listings to pricing to sales reports.

So far, feedback from industry partners has been positive. In fact, Discount Park and Ride is expanding much more rapidly than originally anticipated, says Miningham, with partners in major markets nationwide after only one month of operation. 

Discount Park and Ride isn’t the first company to offer parking and shuttle service to and from facilities like airports; Park N’ Fly  also operates in the Tampa Bay area. The difference, according to Miningham, is scale. 

“Park N’ Fly is a nationally branded parking company with brick-and-mortar locations nationwide who have struck partnerships on a very small scale with strategic partners in certain markets. DPR, on the other hand, doesn’t operate any brick and mortar facilities; rather, we strike partnerships with facilities across the nation on a much larger scale,” Miningham explains. 

Discount Park and Ride currently employs 15 people in the Tampa Bay region. The company, which raised over $1 million in a seed round of financing through a private equity firm, is currently closing in on its second round of funding.

“We’re excited to continue our expansion with a focus on innovation along the way,” Miningham says. “Our ultimate goal is to be the go-to reservation company for consumers when they’re looking to reserve parking across any sector.”

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Alex Miningham, Discount Park and Ride

Un-Tourist Guides Feature Hidden Gems In Tampa, St. Pete

Tampa and St. Petersburg are the latest cities featured in the Un-Tourist Guide series, which helps those new to the area make their home in the Tampa Bay region.  

The concept was originally launched in 2013 by Florida-based publisher Voyager Media, Inc. with the first title: “Moving to Naples: The Un-Tourist Guide.” The Sarasota title was added the same year, as well as Charlotte, NC. Cities were selected strategically based on a high potential for growth, jobs and housing activity.

In the Tampa guide you’ll learn about the legacy of the old Tampa Bay hotel that now houses the University of Tampa. The guide also features the world class educational system from pre-K through post graduate study and the diversity that can be experienced through festivals, parades and ethnic restaurants. Tampa's rich history and modern culture are used to show why it’s a great place to live and work for people in all stages of life.

"For me, the great thing about Tampa is the fact that it is so diverse. I really wanted the book to share that," says the Mary Lou Janson, the guide’s author and publicist.

Janson says the easiest chapter to write was how to assimilate into the community by volunteering, noting the ample opportunities Tampa nonprofits have to offer for all ages and interests.

The St. Petersburg guide focuses on the area’s low cost of living, excellent healthcare, vibrant arts and enterainment, and frequent dolphin sightings. Other hidden gems can be discovered through the guide, including dog-friendly beaches, year-round fruits and flowers and citywide pride in the "burg."

Both Janson and the St. Petersburg Guide’s author, Cindy Dobyns of AboveWater Public Relations and Marketing, grew up in the Tampa Bay area. Each of them lived in one or more other states as an adult, but eventually found their way back, vowing never to leave again.

"Once you move here and find out how much this area has to offer, you’ll probably wonder why you didn’t move here sooner," says Janson.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Mary Lou Janson, The Un-Tourist Guide

Iconic Ringling Cube Gets Facelift From Students

For decades, motorists and visitors to Ringling College of Art + Design have been greeted by the same image on the college’s front lawn: A minimalist, tilted cube that stands more than 15 feet high at the corner of Tamiami Trail and Martin Luther King Boulevard. 
Over the years, time and the elements weathered the Cube into a drab, gray block, and it faded into the scenery for most passersby. Three Ringling College students, however, recognized the sculpture as a six-sided blank canvas, and seized the opportunity to give the Cube a fresh makeover. 
Graphic Design Seniors Mariana Silva, Anna Jones and Kim Daley developed the concept for the “Faces of Ringling” project, a school-wide collaboration aimed to give the Cube a literal “facelift” by combining the self portraits of two dozen students.
“A lot of alumni like the Cube a lot, so we didn’t want to remove it. Instead, we were looking for a cost effective way of bringing life back to the Cube, and in a way that would represent the college today and its diverse student body,’’ Silva says. “We found that bus wrap is cost effective and can be done quickly.” 
The team worked within the RCAD Design Center, an internship class that gives students the opportunity to work on “real world” projects, to draft the concept for “Faces of Ringling,” and presented to the college board early in the Spring 2014 semester. They also put out a call to student artists for self portraits, and received more than 100 submissions.
The team selected the work of 24 students from approximately half of the college’s 14 majors to be displayed in four-portrait collages on each of the Cube’s six sides. Sarasota-based sign company, Signs in One Day, installed the Cube portrait wrap on April 11, providing the Cube with a fresh face -- 24 of them, in fact.
“The idea is to create something different every year, or at least regularly, with lots of student involvement. It’s a better representation of the school,” Silva says. 
Writer: Jessi Smith
Sources: Mariana Silva, Kim Daley, Anna Jones: RCAD Graphic Design ‘14

Global Business Forum Discusses Indo-U.S. Partnership, Economic Growth

As actors, actresses and film fans converge in Tampa for the International Indian Film Acacemy’s (IIFA) Bollywood awards, the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum focuses on the business side of the relationship between the U.S. and India.

A joint initiative of the IIFA and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Forum takes place at the Tampa Convention Center April 24 – 25.

The theme: "Indo-U.S. Partnership: A Catalyst for Economic Growth'' focuses on the trade relationship between India and America, bringing in change makers, thought leaders and business owners to discuss new and existing business opportunities.

Speakers will represent government, education and industry, and will include Consul General of India Ajit Kumar, Dr. RK Pachauri, who leads the Nobel prize winning UN Intergovernmental panel on Climate change, Raj Biyani, managing director of Microsoft IT-India and N.R. Narayana Murthy, executive chairman of Infosys Limited.

Prominent women leaders will speak about issues particularly relevant to women. Speakers include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi; Nisha Desai Biswal, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs; Judy Genshaft, president of the University of South Florida; and Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston and former USF Provost. Actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopera and actress Tara Abrahams will present the Girl Rising Project, a global campaign for girls’ education.

The Indian economy is currently the 10th largest in the world, with trade between India and the U.S. reaching the $60 billion level in 2012.  

The event is the 10th of its kind, and the first time in the United States, indicating a strong interest in developing relationships and strengthening ties between the two countries. With close to 30,000 people of Indian descent, the Tampa Bay region was a natural fit for the forum’s U.S. debut.

The event will increase the visibility of local brands on an international scale. "It’s a recognition of Tampa Bay to the world," says Kunal Jain of TiE Tampa Bay, an event partner.

The event is led by the University of South Florida College of Business and Tampa Bay Trade and Protocol Council, among others. Partners include Enterprise Florida, Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Visit Tampa Bay and TiE Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kunal Jain, TiE Tampa Bay

Gasparilla Fringe Festival Features Uncommon Arts To Make You Gasp!

As the 2014 Gasparilla festivities wind down, there’s one more opportunity to experience the arts Gasparilla style, but not in the traditional realm.

Gasp! The Gasparilla Fringe Festival presented by Creative Loafing and Tampa Museum of Art promises to enlighten and indulge attendees with multidisciplinary arts experiences not to be found elsewhere.

On March 28 from 6 to 10 p.m., the Museum will be transformed into a performing arts mecca with performances from over 30 local visual and performing artists, including both emerging and established.

"The event speaks to the vibrancy of the culture here, that so many different kinds of performing arts are thriving," says David Warner, editor-in-chief for Creative Loafing. "This is a way to support them and also get a taste of all of them.”

Actors and actresses will perform short plays inside Mini Coopers, affectionately referred to as "Mini Plays."

Post Dinner Conversation will perform improv, while letting the audience call the shots.

Musician Acho Brother will collaborate with a live action artist painting an oil canvas in reaction to the music.  

Graphicstudio will bring a printing press, and Creative Loafing’s Peter Meinke and Erica Dawson will create "chat books" called cordelistas. The studio’s exhibition, Graphicstudio: Uncommon Practices at USF, will also be open exclusively for attendees.

Lynn Waddell, author of Fringe Florida, will present in collaboration with Ward Hall, legendary carnival talker.

The event is designed to be a true reflection of the vitality and diversity of the arts community in Tampa Bay.

"They’re very talented people, making this work here," says Warner. "It reflects the community in ways the community doesn’t always get reflected."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: David Warner, Creative Loafing

BLUE Ocean Film Festival Casts Wide Net For Talent, Technology

The international BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit, which arrives in the Tampa Bay region for the first time in November 2014, has announced an open call for film submissions. Entries will be accepted through April 28. The early bird deadline is Feb. 28.
The week-long festival and summit will be a magnet for filmmakers from around the globe, including emerging talent and amateurs. 
Based on previous responses, BLUE Ocean organizers expect to receive 350-370 original submissions. Debbie Kinder, the festival's co-founder and CEO, anticipates an ecosystem of independent entries based on the innovative technologies now widely available.
"Cameras like the GoPro are a technology disrupter; they are really changing the way filmmaking's done,'' says Kinder. "I think what we're seeing is a trend of more up-and-coming filmmakers and students that have the ability to get up and tell good stories as technology becomes more affordable.''

These emerging technologies tend to attract young filmmakers. In the past, "we had student films from filmmakers as young as 5th grade,'' says Kinder. The festival will host a separate category for Tampa Bay K-12 students. All students will receive special recognition for participating.
The platform of the festival, and the available technologies, make it possible to promote conservation through storytelling. The forward-thinking event will use films, such as Blackfish, to bring up complicated questions, but the dialogue will be focused on finding solutions and encouraging progress.

"We discuss issues, but we also want to highlight success stories. There are great success stories and those need to be heard more,'' says Kinder.
In addition to the submissions and summit discussions, the festival has become a hotbed for high-tech unveilings. At the last festival, Google launched its Oceans Street View and the 360-degree underwater camera that would start their work capturing images of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Google has confirmed another product launch for the upcoming festival.

"A lot of people come together at BLUE. There's still a lot of great technology that comes out to the festival in general; whether it's about filmmaking or just communications as a whole,'' says Kinder.
The BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit will take place Nov. 3rd through 9th. BLUE will be headquartered in St. Petersburg at the downtown Hilton, with events taking place at venues in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Sarasota. For more information on submitting your film, visit the festival's 2014 film competiion page.

Writer: Ash Withers
Source: Debbie Kinder, BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit

Tampa Clothier Scores In Gasparilla Distance Classic

It's been one big year for Black & Denim Apparel Company.

In 11 short months, the boutique clothier has grown from Kickstarter-funded roots into the official sponsor of all branded merchandise and apparel for the 2014 Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic.

For the past three years, footwear and apparel giant Nike has been the official race sponsor, "so we have big shoes to fill,'' says Black & Denim founder Roberto Torres. "This gives us an audience of over 30,000 people. This project is huge!''

After a local runner and Black & Denim fan suggested the company approach the Gasparilla Distance Classic Association with designs, Torres explains, "It just took off from there.''

Black & Denim is set to provide long- and short-sleeve T-shirts for competitors in the annual race, held Feb. 22-23 in downtown Tampa. The company hopes to expand apparel and merchandise to include hats, thermals, "hoods'' (hooded sweatshirts), and more in 2015.

Fans will be able to pre-purchase branded merchandise on the Black & Denim website the week prior to the race as well as on race weekend. In the company's first year as a race sponsor, they will offer "six kick-ass designs that are edgy and fun -- family-friendly, as well,'' says Torres.

Since opening a boutique storefront in October 2013, the company has rapidly outgrown the space, moving to 1907 East 7th Ave. in Ybor City. Torres also has short-term plans to open a store in Channelside and a long-term goal to bring a store to Tampa International Airport by 2018. The company employs five people in Tampa and will hire two more for the Channelside location.

Every semester, notes Torres, "we have four interns from either the University of Tampa, University of South Florida, or the International Academy of Design and Technology.''

Black & Denim will showcase wares in a booth at the 8 On Your Side Health and Fitness Expo at the Tampa Convention Center during race weekend. The 2014 Expo will feature 99,000 square feet of vendors, says Torres.

"We are very excited about the opportunity, to say the least,'' says Torres. "This race attracts runners from all over the country.''

By: Justine Benstead
Source: Roberto Torres, Black & Denim

Burger 21 Expands, Adds 50+ Jobs in Tampa

Award-winning fast-casual dining chain Burger 21 is expanding to include on-going franchise development, which will create up to 50 new jobs per restaurant. The company is also adding operations as well as research and development positions to support the company’s continued growth.

There's no doubt that Americans love burgers -- especially a better, livelier experience that serves a fresh burger with style. With fast-casual dining and the better burger concept rolling in $75 billion per year within the overall burger industry, fast-casual dining represents less than 3 percent of that number.

Burger 21 serves a variety of high-quality, fresh made-to-order gourmet burgers, fries, salads and shakes to people of all ages in a modern environment.

"It's a very small sliver of the burger business, but it’s growing at a rate of double digits. Clearly, there's enormous potential there. We are capitalizing on the need and desire for consumers to have higher quality burger options. At Burger 21, we focus on variety," says Dan Stone, VP of franchise development.

Founded by the owners of The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc., Burger 21 opened its first location in Westchase in November 2010 and sold its first franchise in early 2012. The company has since sold more than 20 franchises across nine states and plans to sell 20 new franchises this year.

The Burger 21 brand experienced significant growth in 2013, opening five new franchise restaurants and generating $12.4 million in systemwide revenue. The company’s strategic growth goal also includes the addition of 10 new franchise units this year, which is expected to generate more than $24.5 million in total systemwide revenue.

"The more we sell, it has a trickling effect of us being able to provide increased support to our restaurants. The more we open, the more support we will need at our home office. Much of what will happen this year is a result of activity and sales that happened last year," says Stone.

Since 2010, Burger 21 has added more than 150 new jobs to the Tampa Bay region. The company is targeting expansion in Pinellas County by 2015.

"We definitely have a strong interest in bringing the brand to Pinellas. We are franchising all other areas," says Stone.

The company is hosting a February 13 webinar on franchise development. To register for the live webinar, visit the company’s franchise website. For career development opportunities, visit the company online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Dan Stone, Burger 21

Gulfport's 2Cool Art Show Features Florida Artists

Artists from the Tampa Bay region and across the state have a chance to show and sell their work at the 2Cool Art Show, February 8 and 9 at the historic Gulfport Casino in Gulfport.

The juried event is hosted by the Professional Association of Visual Artists (PAVA), a statewide organization located in Pinellas County. PAVA began 28 years ago to provide a means for artists to exhibit and work together. Programs include educational materials, guest speakers, networking opportunities and other resources to help new and veteran artists further their careers.

The group’s signature event is the Cool Art Show, which takes place each summer in St. Petersburg. Now celebrating 25 years, the event’s success led the City of Gulfport to invite PAVA to Gulfport Casino for the third annual 2Cool Art Show, co-hosted by the City of Gulfport and the Downtown Merchant Association.

Some 37 artists are expected to attend with a variety of mediums – from paintings to ceramics, jewelry and sculpture. James Parziale, a furniture maker from New Port Richey, will be attending for the first time as well as Joyce Curvin, a paper mache artist from Palm Harbor.

"Most of the people there are local artists, so you get to know who in the community is making what kind of art," says Susan Gehring, the event’s co-chair.

While attending the show, patrons can visit the surrounding community and get a taste for what Gulfport has to offer – including unique boutique shops and restaurants. "Make a day of it, come to visit us and the rest of Gulfport," says Gehring.

Admission and parking are free.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Susan Gehring, PAVA

Streamsong Resort Opens, 300 New Jobs In Polk County

Streamsong Resort, a nature-based destination golf resort, will open its main lodge and amenities for business this Saturday, creating more than 300 administrative, sales, marketing, maintenance, technical and culinary jobs in the process.

Streamsong, a creation of Mosaic and touted as "a feast for the senses, a haven for the soul," sits on 16,000 acres of land and features 228 guest rounds, four restaurants, a spa, a lakeside pool, 18,000 square feet of conference space, guided bass fishing, and a host of personal enrichment opportunities.

The golf course and clubhouse opened in January 2013.

The resort was built on reclaimed phosphate mines, previously used in the 1960s. The design re-creates a golfing experience reminiscent of golf venues such as the Links courses in Scotland and the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

Mosaic additionally wants to show what can be done on previously mined land -- something that is both environmentally and economically sustainable.

"It was intended to be an alternative to the typical Florida resort experience. It’s an immersion into natural Florida. No pollution, no traffic, no lines," says Dave Townsend, spokesman. for Mosaic.

Mosaic, the seventh-largest land owner in Florida with 250,000 acres, conceptualized development of the property as much more than a new local resort and conference destination.

"We saw a need for something like this in the area, but we also saw a unique opportunity associated with the setting," says Townsend.

The new development allowed Mosaic to work closely and collaboratively with nearby communities to create new jobs in Polk County and create new business opportunities for local businesses that provide goods and services to the resort.

The project also is expected to increase tourism and generate additional tax dollars by bringing more business and luxury travelers into the Tampa Bay region and central Florida.

"This is cohesively supplementary to what Tampa offers," says Richard Mogensen, Streamson's general manager.

For more information on Streamsong Resort and job opportunities, visit them online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Dave Townsend, Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC; Richard Mogensen, Streamsong

Salsarita's Plans 500 New Jobs In Tampa Bay

Mexican-inspired Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina is rapidly expanding throughout Florida, and plans to bring up to 500 new jobs to the Tampa Bay region over the next three to five years.

With two locations already existing in Florida, Salsarita’s has more than 80 locations across the United States. The brand has targeted the Tampa and St. Petersburg area as a prime location to plant 20 new locations.

"Growth of the brand is happening in two ways: we are going to continue to build company restaurants in the Carolinas. Outside of the Carolina’s we’re going to be growing through franchising," says Chris Bailey, head of franchise development.

After settling the sale of McAlister’s Deli two years ago, the former owners began to seek out brands having significant growth opportunities. The team identified and purchased Salsarita’s, immediately beginning plans for long-term growth development.

The company’s expansion in Florida is a part of a tailored approach to franchise development that will begin operational investments in Tampa Bay in early 2014. The brand is committed to protecting the market territory of franchisees, adding one or more new locations per franchisee per year.

Each new Salsarita’s location would add between 15 and 22 new positions, including full-time restaurant managers, shift managers and servers.

Franchising has become a source of professional re-birth and a second career investment opportunity for many seasoned professionals seeking solid entrepreneurial opportunities.

"There is a growing appreciation and eagerness to work with franchises. Of all of the areas in industry and business that have been impacted adversely by the last several years of economic challenges, franchising has been the least impacted and the most consistent. It is, by nature, designed to give that go-getter entrepreneurial spirit the engine in which they can execute a good business," says Bailey.

For information on franchising and career opportunities, visit Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Chris Bailey, Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina

Need A Ride? RideCommand App Promises To Get You Where You Need To Go

A new partnership makes it easier to find a taxi service when you need it within the Tampa Bay region.

Tampa-based Cab Plus, an upscale taxi service in the Tampa Bay region recently partnered with mobile app RideCommand  to provide a way to book transportation on demand or up to three months in the future through the web or a mobile phone.

The "ride now" feature lets you request an immediate pick-up from the location of your choice, including airports or places of business. The network identifies the closest car who will get to you in the shortest amount of time. A countdown clock displays within the app, and after 90 seconds if no car is available a message displays to please try again.

The "ride later" feature allows car services to compete for business by placing bids that you can choose from. You can pick the type of car and desired fare from those presented. The information provided also includes the company’s customer rating.

"We call it 'RideCommand' because we’re putting the passenger in command of their fate," says Alan Stapleton, founder and CEO of RideCommand.

The idea came about when Stapleton had a bad car service experience while trying to attend a wedding a few hours away from the airport. Having no idea where to start or what competitive prices should be, he went through a frustrating experience only to end up stranded at the airport. Although the company is based in Maryland, the app launched recently in Tampa based on connections made at a recent limo show in Atlantic City.

"We’re in Tampa because it’s innovation-friendly," says Stapleton.

The app is free and available on Android and iPhone.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Alan Stapleton, RideCommand

Sun Boxes Emit Music, Light For Art Center Sarasota

From the concrete rooftop of the downtown Palm Avenue parking garage to the sandy shores of Siesta and Lido Key beaches, Sarasota is humming with “good vibrations’’ this week, as the melodious, portable “Sun Box’’ sound installations created by artist and musician, Craig Colorusso, travel around the city, launching Art Center Sarasota’s 2013-2014 season.

Presented in collaboration by Art Center Sarasota and the City of Sarasota, Arkansas-based Colorusso’s Sun Boxes make their first tour of the city this week, from November 4-7, and will return on January 1-3, 2014 to appear at city parks and beaches.

The portable outdoor installation is comprised of 20 solar-powered wooden speaker boxes that emit different sounds, each composed on guitar and recorded with looping pedals by Colorusso. When exposed to sunlight, the Sun Boxes produce a melodious hum. Some people simply lay down and linger in the boxes’ meditative drone, while others prefer to interact with the symphony by moving around and in front of the solar panels to adjust the hum.

“Sometimes When I do a gig somewhere and I have a really long drive, I can still hear the sounds for a few days rumbling underneath my thoughts,”  Colorusso says.

“I’ve been hearing the sounds of the Sun Boxes all my life, and for a long time, I didn’t know what to to with them. I think they sound familiar, and yet I never grow tired of hearing them,“ he adds.

Colorusso says he created the first Sun Boxes in 2009, in response to a call for art that incorporates sustainability at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Nevada.

The Sun Boxes are an outgrowth of Colorusso’s “CUBEMUSIC,” an electric-powered installation of six aluminum cubes that emanate light and musical tones. “CUBEMUSIC” will be on display through January 3 at Art Center Sarasota.

“As a musician, I was always so envious of my friends who were painters and sculptors because they would make these amazing objects. Music doesn’t really exist as an ‘object.’ Our ears are interpreting vibrations in the air. I make environments,” Colorusso says.

The Sun Box tour schedule for November 4-7, 2013 and January 1-3, 2014 is available here.

Writer: Jessi Smith
Sources: Craig Colorusso; Emma Thurgood, Art Center Sarasota

Valet Boss App Among Hottest Tech Startups In Nation

After lunch one summer afternoon, Susie Steiner stood in the hot sun for "what felt like forever.'' Steiner was waiting for her valet-parked car to be retrieved by an attendant at International Plaza in Tampa.

"It felt like 95 degrees,'' she recalls, "and I was frustrated that there was not a faster way to retrieve my vehicle.''
Steiner, who is CEO of ExecuTrans Services in Tampa and organizer and facilitator of Startup Weekend Tampa Bay, is no stranger to the startup community. So when she identified a need for a more streamlined valet retrieval service, she created one herself. The mobile app Valet Boss was born.

At last week's Tech Cocktail Social at Fox Jazz Cafe, Valet Boss competed with four local startups for the title of Hottest Showcasing Startup in the area, and for the opportunity to continue on to a national conference and showcase in Las Vegas.
The October 8th demo "went so well that we couldn't demonstrate the product fast enough!'' Steiner says. "Fortunately, we were allotted two minutes to pitch on stage and ended up winning the community vote -- as well as corporate Tech Cocktail's vote.''

Now, the startup will join 24 other companies from around the country to compete for the title of Hottest Showcasing Startup in the Nation at Tech Cocktail Celebrate, held Oct. 24-25 in Las Vegas.

Valet Boss will launch in Tampa in Dec. 2013, in anticipation of the holiday season. With no outside funding to date, the Tampa startup is completely bootstrapped. The app, which is free to the consumer, can be implemented at restaurants, bars, hospitals, casinos, hotels, airports and private events.

Valet Boss provides as a great a benefit to locations that implement the service as it does to consumers, says Steiner.

"Our peers have spoken, and 100 percent of valet users said they would use the app,'' she explains. "Additionally, many stated they would valet park more frequently because of the cashless system Valet Boss offers.''

The startup's public launch will include Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, LA and Minneapolis, Steiner says. To join the queue, visit ValetBoss.com.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Susie Steiner, Valet Boss

Service Design + Tourism Conference Explores Creative Thinking, Sarasota

Design, service, tourism and creative thinking come together in Sarasota November 7 – 9 at the Service Design + Tourism Conference.

Hosted by Ringling College of Art and Design, the 2nd annual event focuses on improving services at every point of contact with customers. A global event, the first conference took place in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012.

Attendees include business leaders, designers, service and tourism providers, faculty and students from across the globe. They will walk away with new ideas and the latest best practices to help create meaningful, engaging customer service experiences.

The three-day experience includes speakers from across the world talking about service innovation in every setting from airports to cruises, theme parks and general service businesses. Luc Mayrand, creative director and senior show producer from Walt Disney Imagineering, will talk about developing an authentically Disney experience in a changing international marketplace. Simon Bradley, vice president of marketing, North America for Virgin Atlantic will discuss how the airlines focuses on the passenger experience to engage customers year round and turn them into brand ambassadors. Jonathan Frolich, vice president-global innovation for Hyatt Hotels Corporation, will talk about how Hyatt is using design thinking to transform the hotel guest experience.

Several local speakers will appear as well, including Paul Wilborn, executive director of the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg who will discuss how thinking local helped transform the theater into a major arts destination.

Thursday a pre-show will feature the first Tourism Service Jam in the United States, led by initiators of the Global Service Jams. Similar to a musical jam, the all-day event brings participants together in a cooperative spirit for a design challenge. Teams will be asked to develop a prototype for a completely new service with a shared theme.

On Saturday afternoon, Lorraine Buck of Marvel Brand of Feld Entertainment will give a preview of Marvel Universe Live.

"Tampa Bay has so many opportunities to distinguish itself as an important business ally to people from around the world." says Michelle Bauer, president and chief strategist for Common Language and member of the conference production team. "By bringing the heads of firms and universities from across the globe here to see this region for the first time, we have an opportunity to create impressions on them that could ripple in huge ways for our tourism, service, and education industries,"

Event partners and supporters include: RIDG, St. Petersburg Chamber, Visit Florida, WeVue, AIGA Tampa Bay, Spark Growth, BIG, Luxury Hoteliers, atLarge, Inc., Visit Sarasota, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, SRQ Airport, and The Ringling Museum of Art.

83 Degrees readers can get 20 percent off the full conference ticket price by using the code DESIGN when registering by Oct. 30.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michelle Bauer, Common Language

FIVE By FIVE Art Show Returns To Tampa Oct. 18

The Hillsborough County Arts Council is hosting its second annual FIVE by FIVE fundraiser on Friday, October 18, at the Tampa Museum of Art. 

The $10 entrance fee is an excellent deal for catching up on culture and to possibly walk away with a valuable piece of art.

"The Tampa area has great artists both visual and performing,'' says Terri Simons, Director of Programming for the Arts Council. "This is a night you can come to one location and see a variety of visual arts, but you can also see scenes from theater, performances by professional musicians, actors, poets and dancers throughout the evening.''

Benefiting the Arts Council's individual artist grants, the FIVE by FIVE international call-to-artists has brought in more than 700 pieces of original artwork fit concisely to the required five-inch-square surface (artists are also permitted to extend five inches in depth). The individual artist grants program has provided $640,335 to 390 individual artists since 1989. Last year's FIVE by FIVE event raised $9,625. "It's truly small art for a BIG cause,'' says Simons.

This uniquely mosaic exhibit will be displayed in the Tampa Museum of Art's Stephen Dickey Lecture Hall and each piece will be available for sale from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. for a flat price of $25 each. The pieces are displayed anonymously, only after purchase is the artist's name revealed.

The skill levels of participating artists range from beginning student to longtime professional. The organizers hope to encourage patrons to choose their art "democratically'' according to how it appeals to them visually, not by artist name.

Artwork submissions were largely from the greater Tampa Bay region, but a significant contribution came from artists around the nation and the world -- including pieces from as far away as Canada, the Ukraine Europe and Asia. 

Building on its inaugural success last year, which drew in a crowd of nearly 900, the surprisingly multidimensional event includes a powerful array of 38 professional performance artists donating their time, with five-minute performances non-stop throughout the night. Attendees can also avail themselves of the Tampa Museum of Art's current exhibitions during the event, which include the Modern Masters: Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, and Joan Miro as well as Fragile Waters: Photographs from Ansel Adams, Ernest H. Brooks II and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly.

New this year, and highly encouraged, is the availability to purchase tickets in advance to avoid cumbersome lines the night of the event.  Also, the exhibit will be maintained in its entirety until 9 p.m. so that guests will have the opportunity to view it as a whole before those purchasing the artwork will be permitted to leave with it.

Writer: Kendra Langlie
Source: Terri Simon, Hillsborough Arts Council

Tampa Bay Arts Summit Promotes Regional Collaboration

A first-of-its-kind regional arts summit will take place Oct. 25, 2013 at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, bringing together arts organizations, arts advocates, legislators and administrators from the five counties surrounding Tampa Bay. 

The Regional Arts Summit: Return on Investment aims to promote collaboration between arts organizations of all disciplines to better leverage advertising and marketing dollars, avoid scheduling conflicts and to build and share audiences.  Through interactive presentations and breakout sessions, participants will discuss topics such as cooperative programming, advocacy, regional funding, cultural tourism, and arts in healthcare. 

“To be successful, the arts have to be regionalized,” says attorney Peter Zinober, Chairman of the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and shareholder at the law firm Greenberg Traurig, who came up with the idea of the summit. He envisions the event as a powerful brainstorming and networking session, “Putting people in the same room to develop strategies and ideas, develop more revenue while spending less.”

Presented by the Hillsborough County Arts Council, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and Creative Pinellas, the full-day event will feature keynote speaker Randy Cohen, VP of Research and Policy for Americans for the Arts from Washington DC. Cohen who will speak on the future of the arts in America -- “Where will we be in 10 Years?” He is a noted expert in the field of arts funding, research, policy, and using the arts to address community development issues.

Registration is available online through the Hillsborough Arts, Inc. website

Writer: Kendra Langlie
Source: Peter Zinober, Arts Council of Hillsborough County

Webjet Grows, Adds 15 Jobs In NoHo In Tampa

Tampa-based online travel agency Webjet is adding 15 jobs over the next year. The company is seeking experienced travel agents and customer service staff members to accommodate their bustling growth and growing customer service needs.

In 2009, after building a successful career in sales, travel and global business operations and additionally helping to transform Australia’s Virgin Blue Airlines from low-cost carrier to world carrier, Germany native Mathias Friess partnered with Webjet Australia -- the largest online travel agency in Australia and the Pacific -- to form a joint venture that would bring a division to North America.

For Friess, whose wife Carren Rieger-Friess was a Tampa native, the decision was easy. Webjet opened its North American headquarters in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Tampa in April 2010 and soon became among the top 10 online travel agencies for airfare purchases in the United States.

Coupled with a proprietary technology algorithm and a strategic mix of search engine optimization methods, Webjet's goal is to bring low-cost international travel fares to the Americas while providing pristine customer service and support. And the company’s philosophy is straightforward:

Simple online booking with no surprises.

"We put the price first. Our technology finds airfare that others may not find. We find you a way which is convenient, but most importantly gives you a price advantage," says CEO Friess.

Webjet has also established an innovative customer education platform via Google+ Hangouts, collaborating with students, bloggers and customers to share expert advice to those travelling abroad.

"Everyone is on social media. We may as well have certain topics and customer groups -- talk to them and give them our expertise. We have it, and we’d like to share it. Travel is emotional -- you want to be helped with qualified people," says Friess.

The company recently expanded into Canada and Mexico, both new sites which are managed from the Tampa office, and additionally signed an agreement with Kayak, giving the company more growth.

Within three years of its stateside launch, the Webjet team has grown from 9 to 20, recently relocating its offices to North Howard Avenue.

"We knew there was going to be growth moving forward, and we do expect to see substantial growth in the next year," says Friess.

For information on hiring opportunities and business partnerships, visit Webjet’s website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Mathias Friess, Webjet

Tampa Begins Mobile Payment Option For Parking

Those who work, live or play in downtown Tampa can now pay for on-street parking through a mobile phone app. Can't find your car? The app will help with that as well.

The City of Tampa recently launched a pay-by-phone option through Parkmobile. Customers register with Parkmobile for free and download the app, available for iPhone, Android, Windows and Blackberry. Drivers can then scan a QR code near their parking space and pay for the amount of time desired. There is also an option to pay with a flip phone using a toll free number.

You can receive text message alerts and reminders when your parking session is near expiration. The app has the added benefit of walking you back to your car if you can’t find it.

Three years ago, the city replaced the traditional coin-only parking meters with networked meters that provide the option to pay with cash or credit card at one of many stations. Use of on-street parking has increased since.

"People are taking advantage of the flexibility they have to a greater degree," says Irvin Lee, public works director for the City of Tampa.

The system came at no cost to the City of Tampa because the infrastructure was already in place. Parkmobile charges users a $.35 convenience fee per transaction, which is waived now through September 30, 2013.

"We think this is a great match with the tech-savvy community that exists in Tampa," says Lee. "We believe folks will like this and it will take off."

Eventually, the City plans to expand the program to all parking garages. Parkmobile is also currently available in St. Petersburg.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Irvin Lee, City of Tampa

Travelogues In Tampa Feature Rocky Mountain, Everglades National Parks

Tampa Bay residents will have a chance to hear travel experiences depicted through photography and stories at Travelogues on Friday, June 7, from 7 to 9 pm at Cafe Hey in Tampa.

Travelogues, a mix of travel and monologue, have been represented in film and television for decades. The event series hosted by Vessel Collective started in Tampa Bay in January. Over 200 people have attended the events so far, which have included fun and insightful stories about travel experiences in India, Costa Rica, Macadonia and many areas of the United States.

"Cafe Hey is a great fit for the events, with its welcoming and community-oriented atmosphere," says Gina Moccio, founder of Vessel Collective.

Participants often share their stories and experiences as well, making it a truly collaborative experience.

The June 7 event will feature photographers Julie and James Branaman, who will share photographs taken during artist-in-residency programs at Rocky Mountain National Park and Everglades National Park. (Julie is managing photographer for 83 Degrees Media).

The Branamans decided to concentrate their efforts at Rocky Mountain on night photography, to feature the area in a different way than most people typically see it. The inspiration for this angle came from a quote by Enos Mills in the park ranger’s office: "By moonlight, the mountainous National Parks are enchanted lands. There is a serenity and a softness that is never known in its daylight."

Kristin Stigaard will also share stories from her travels to The Philippines, where she explored rice fields, ate and bartered at street markets, rode on horses and met her family for the first time. Stigaard will also provide a humble account of her first hand experience with third world poverty.

"“Everybody has travel stories," says Moccio. "It’s been really great to pull in these speakers that can come in and share."

The events take place the first Friday of every month, with different speakers each month.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Gino Moccio, Vessel Collective

Downtown Tampa Honors 9 For Urban Excellence

What do a hotel, a university, a medical simulation facility and a green river have in common? They are winners in the Tampa Downtown Partnership's 6th Annual Urban Excellence Awards.

The Partnership presented Urban Excellence Awards to nine organizations for their contributions toward making downtown Tampa more bright, creative and inviting:

Floridan Palace, for turning a deteriorating hotel into a restored, vibrant place;

Lights on Tampa: Aqua Luces
, for illuminating five downtown bridges, creating engaging new media works of art;

Oxford Exchange, for creating a community hub that offers coffee, tea, shopping and dining in a posh atmosphere;

Sail Pavilion, for establishing a cocktail lounge on the Riverwalk offering 360 degree views of the city;

Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation
, for being a community leader providing recognition and funding to Tampa Bay nonprofits;

The University of Tampa, for providing a residentially based, intimate higher education experience that contributes to the downtown community;

USF Health CAMLS (Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation), for attracting people to the downtown core from across the country and around the world for specialized medical training.

Special Awards of Excellence were also presented to two organizations:

Mayor’s River O’Green for turning the Hillsborough River green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee for promoting the positive aspects of Tampa Bay to millions of viewers during the Republican National Convention
"It’s always greatly appreciated to be recognized for making a difference," says Robin Nigh, Manager of Art Programs for the City of Tampa.

The City’s Lights on Tampa initiative worked with property owners to place permanent lights on five downtown landmark bridges in less than eight months. The project has been recognized on both the local and national level, and is now proud to be among the Urban Excellence Award winners.

"We knew the lights would be a game changer for downtown,” says Nigh. "They complement our assets. It’s important to a community to have things like this that celebrate where we live."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Donna Chen, Tampa Downtown Partnership; Robin Nigh, City of Tampa

Sunscreen Film Festival Features Spanish Language Filmmakers, St. Pete

Hecho en Mexico is a documentary about the heart, soul, life, dreams and hopes of the artists and performers in contemporary Mexico. It captures the spirituality, identity, culture and tradition of what it truly means to be made in Mexico.

The film will be featured on opening night of the Sunscreen Film Festival, April 18 – 21 at the Muvico 20 Theaters and IMAX at Baywalk in St. Petersburg. It’s one of 30 Spanish language films that will be screened over the course of the four-day event, in addition to numerous other documentary, feature, short and independent films that span all genres.

The event is hosted by the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Film Society. Now in its 8th year, it has received national recognition and grown to more than 11,000 attendees.

The Spanish Language Filmmaker Showcase is funded by a grant received from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and will feature films from Spain, Cuba, South America, Latin America and other places around the world, all made by Hispanic filmmakers.

Other Spanish Language feature films include: La Gran Facacia (The Great Falllacy), a documentary about the current political, social and economic situation in Puerto Rico, and Girl in Progress, a fiction film about single mom juggling work, bills an affair and her daughter’s attempted shortcut into adulthood.

It's the first Spanish Language film showcase in the Tampa Bay region, reflecting the strong influence of the Hispanic population and heritage in the region.

"Arts play a big role in the community," says Tony Armer, executive director of the Sunscreen Film Festival. "From an economic development standpoint, they bring more to the community than sports do."

The festival offers a way to support the arts, as well as to "enjoy some good films, workshops and parties," says Armer.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tony Armer, Sunscreen Film Festival

New Efforts Aim To Attract Residents To Downtown Tampa

Now there’s even more reason to spend time in and around downtown Tampa.

Touring Tampa launched this week and features over 50 tours available of downtown Tampa and the urban core, which includes the Channel District, Ybor City, Davis Islands and Harbour Island. The campaign increases awareness of the tours that were already in existence.

"It’s another way of getting people downtown and discovering their city," says Karen Kress, director of transportation and planning for the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

Tours on the list include free walking tours, ghost tours, cigar factories, sailing charters, paddle boarding, public art tours and many at indoor facilities such as the Tampa Museum of Art and the Florida Aquarium.

Another benefit of the campaign is letting residents know about options to explore when they have out of town guests.

The campaign was organized by the Tampa Downtown Partnership, with support from Tampa Bay & Company and the Ybor City Development Corporation. Funding was received from the Hillsborough County Tourism Heritage Program.

The Downtown Tampa Arts and Entertainment Card also launched this week and features free or discounted items at 11 different venues in downtown Tampa.

For $30, the card includes admission to entertainment venues such as the Tampa Theatre and Tampa Bay History Center. It also includes free food and drinks at restaurants such as Mise en Place and Kahwa Expresso Café.

"We’re promoting all of the great things available in the urban core," says Kress.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Karen Kress, Tampa Downtown Partnership

March Madness In Tampa Is All About The Arts

Mayor Bob Buckhorn officially proclaims the entire month of March as Gasparilla Arts Month in Tampa.

It all kicks off the first weekend of the month with the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts March 2 – 3 featuring  traditional fine arts, such as ceramics, glass, pottery, jewelry, sculpture and photography, and two brand new, non-traditional mediums showcasing a different side of the arts.

Exploring Pirates

"PIRACY REDUX: Re-examining the Myth of the Buccanneer," looks at the contemporary vs. traditional idea of the pirate. A diverse group of artists will interpret and re-contextualize the idea of piracy in our local culture, whether it be in the traditional sense or the more modern piracy of copyrighted information.

The pod installation will feature art, video, dance and music in Kiley Gardens through the Sunday. The installation is presented by The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts and curated by TEMPUS PROJECTS and Hampton Arts Management.

"It’s a new venue for art in Tampa, a cultural middle ground," says Tracy Midulla Reller, creative director for TEMPUS PROJECTS.

Kiting Tampa Bay

Kites will also be flying high, along with miniature kite displays featuring aerial photography produced by rigs attached to kites that take photographs while in mid-air. If the weather is right, a 252-square-foot kite will make an appearance.
The project is organized by Kiting Tampa Bay, a club with more than 50 members across the region who will also be on hand with information about kiting.

"Our goal is to share our passion for kiting with others," says Kelly Nunes, co-founder of Kiting Tampa Bay.

Kiting Tampa Bay was founded in October of 2011 with the motto "Just Friends Flying Kites." They chose the arts festival for a kite display because of the two organizations’ mutual goal of supporting children’s cancer charities.

Other Arts Events

Additional arts events in Tampa during the month of March include:

The Gasparilla Music Festival the weekend of March 9. This year's bands include Best Coast, Dr. Dog, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Dawes, Lord Huron, Ozomatli, The Meter Men with special guest Page McConnell, The Iguanas, Applebutter Express, Ozokidz, The Hip Abduction, Nervous Turkey and more.

The Gasparilla International Film Festival the week of March 19-24. Film showings take place in downtown, South Tampa and Ybor City.

Details about all the events can be found on the websites for the Arts Council of Hilsborough County and Visit Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Kelly Nunes, Kiting Tampa Bay, Tracy Midulla Reller, TEMPUS PROJECTS

Week-long Event Showcases Tampa Bay's Craft Beer Scene

More than 70 breweries, restaurants, retail establishments, bars and festivals across the Tampa Bay region are coming together for 2013 Tampa Bay Beer Week, March 2 to March 10.

Now in its second year, the collaborative event began with the goal of showcasing Tampa Bay as a vibrant craft and specialty beer destination. 

"We actually have a thriving craft beer community in this area," says Gary Kost, executive director for Tampa Bay Beer Week. "There are some local breweries making world-renowned beer. It’s becoming a bigger culture."

The event is managed completely by volunteers. Participants include breweries, distributors, restaurants and even home brewers. Last year there were 150 events during the week. 188 have been scheduled so far this year, with over 200 expected.

On March 2, Florida Brewers Guild hosts their Annual Beer Festival at Centennial Park in Ybor City, where the Best Florida Beer Championship winners will be announced. The awards ceremony will be held March 3 at the 14th Annual Brewers Ball at the Cuban Club.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will also kick off the week by tapping a ceremonial keg at Tampa Bay Brewing Company on March 2nd.

At the conclusion of the week, Cigar City Brewing in Tampa will host Hunahpu’s Day on March 9, featuring the annual exclusive release of the brewery’s Hunahpu Imperial Stout beer.

Other events include tastings at liquor stores, restaurant events featuring full four and five-course meals and food truck rallies -- all with lots of opportunities to sample local brews from Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Gary Kost, Tampa Bay Beer Week

Travelogues Events: Listen, Share Stories, Tampa Bay

Friday evenings in January, the Tampa Bay community will have a chance to hear stories from local residents about their travel experiences to places like India, Macedonia, Ireland and cities and places in the United States.

Travelogues, a blend of travel and monologue, is the second event coordinated by Vessel Collective, a Tampa-based nonprofit that provides interviews and events to document the place where stories, experiences and creative processes meet.

The inspiration for the event series came from Vessel founder Gina Moccio's experience as a high school student. Moccio ran a concession stand at her school's auditorium during events where senior citizens gathered to share travel stories. Wanting to replicate that experience in Tampa, she reached out to people she knew who had interesting experiences to share.

"I really just want to gather people in a room to listen and share stories. … To have a fun experience,'' says Moccio, adding that the lectures will be inclusive and participatory, allowing the audience to share their own stories as well.

Each event will feature two or three speakers with visual and audio presentations. Handmade giveaways will be provided to the first 20 attendees, such as note cards that feature the event poster. 

"The more creativity and the more people get out there and talk to each other and work on things together, the better the community is going feel -- more comfortable, more welcoming -- and who doesn't want to live in a welcoming, place,'' says Moccio.

At the January 11 event, photographer Nicole Kibert will share her experience working in the Peace Corps in Macedonia. Ryan Cragun, assistant professor of sociology at The University of Tampa, will also talk about serving as a missionary in Costa Rica.

The events are free and open to the public. The January 11 event will take place at Cafe Hey in downtown Tampa, from 7 to 9 pm. Future events are at various locations.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Gina Moccio, Vessel Collective

Eyecrawler: App Connects Social Network To Preview Your Destination, Tampa Bay

Have you ever tried to find something to do on a Friday or Saturday night, only to drive around from venue to venue and not find what you're looking for? Do you want to listen to live music, but not know where to find it? Or, maybe you want to know what's happening at the beach before you arrive.
St. Petersburg-based Eyecrawler is here to help. Download the free app on your Smartphone for access to a network of people currently at each venue. Content is created in the form of a "blink'' with the option for a photo and/or comment. Users see and interact with a live blink stream from locations in close proximity to their device, filtered by categories such as live music, sports or karaoke.

"We're creating a perspective so you can find out what's going on everywhere before you arrive,'' says Shaun Rubrecht, founder of Eyecrawler.  "It gives you a better idea of where to go and what to do.''

Unlike other social networks, you don't have to be directly connected to someone or "follow'' them in order to see what they have posted. The content is open to everyone, and users can interact with each other instantly. 

Companies can build and manage advertising campaigns directly through the app. There's also a widget that websites such as Hobnob St. Petersburg are using to post a content stream directly on their site.

The network eventually plans to add content to more categories such as family friendly (people are already adding blinks at the Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg) and then expand to all U.S. cities, eventually going global.

Eyecrawler's official launch will take place Thursday, December 13, at Naughty Noel, hosted by Nova 535 in St. Petersburg.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Shaun Rubrecht, Eyecrawler

FEAST Benefits St. Petersburg Arts, Artists

A small contribution can make a big difference to St. Petersburg artists at FEAST Tampa Bay on November 15 at 6:30 pm at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Each $20 ticket includes a taste of St. Petersburg's best restaurants and a glimpse into current and future projects from local artists. Participants use their ticket to "vote'' on their favorite projects, with 100 percent of the proceeds going directly to the artists.

"We're engaging supporters of the arts with the artists that are doing work in the community in a very personal way. You get to meet the people and hear directly from their mouth what they're working on, making a direct line of support,'' says T. Hampton Dohrman, director of Creative Pinellas and co-organizer of FEAST Tampa Bay.

The event is the third of its kind in Pinellas, and the first collaboration between Creative Pinellas, Keep St. Petersburg Local  and the Museum of Fine Arts. The synergy between the three groups with their common support of the Pinellas arts and business community allows this innovative event to localize arts funding with a community voice. 

The partnership allows the event to capitalize on the pride of St. Petersburg restaurants that are donating the food so that ticket sales directly benefit the artists. As a new twist for this event, every artist will walk away with something. Each "vote'' from participants will directly transfer to cash for the artist, with the project with the largest amount of votes receiving additional funding from Creative Pinellas.

 The event "injects cash into the arts community for ambitious artists who are looking to do something cool and can make a lot of impact with the small amount,'' says Dohrman.

Artists can apply online through October 31. Tickets are available online or onsite.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: T. Hampton Dohrman, Creative Pinellas

Snapshot: Images Portray Tampa Bay's People, Places

Tampa Bay's communities offer eclectic blends of culture, creativity and ways of life. A new website uses photographs to profile the people and places that contribute to this vibrancy.

Snapshot Tampa Bay looks at what makes Tampa Bay the cultural mecca that it is -- its people. The project is a labor of love by two local residents and creative advocates, Bryan Hunt and Julia Gorzka Freeman.

"It's our way of spotlighting people, events and places that are going on here in a novel way, to provide a glimpse into how we live,'' says Bryan Hunt.

The inspiration for the website came from their realization that there is lots going on in Tampa Bay that people don't know about. The site offers a different way of looking at people, by taking images inside their homes and businesses to show how they live.

They plan to highlight different neighborhoods to help people discover new restaurants, organizations and people, like Larry and Charlie Schiller of Schiller Salvage in Odessa. The Schillers travel the country to find the neatest and most quirky salvage items to sell in their store.

Other features will include the realm of Tampa Bay's creative economy, from someone living in a condo on the beach to a farmer in the rural areas of Brandon. Future plans include an "explore'' page that will help people navigate the Tampa Bay region and find cool places to go and things to do.

"We're creating a place for people to look at Tampa Bay in a new light,'' says Hunt.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Snapshot Tampa Bay, Bryan Hunt

Selby Gardens Hosts Florida Wildlife Corridor Photos By Carlton Ward Jr.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens' Museum of Botany and the Arts in Sarasota is featuring the photography of environmental photojournalist and Clearwater native Carlton Ward Jr. now through November 27.

A gallery walk and talk will be hosted October 17 from 5 to 6 pm. RSVP here for the special tour or call 941-366-5731, ext. 237.

The exhibit will feature 20 original photographs taken during the recent Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, of which Ward participated along with three other Floridians. The 1,000-mile expedition took place over a 100-day period beginning in January of this year with the goal of raising public awareness and generating support for the Florida Wildlife Corridor Project.

The project connects natural lands, waters, farms, forests and ranches from the Everglades to Georgia to protect the health and welfare of the people, wildlife and watersheds. This ultimately ensures the sustainability of Florida's water supply, as well as agricultural heritage and economies.

"Selby Gardens shares a common mission of environmental conservation with the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. We are invested in the success of the Corridor from the perspective of native plant conservation,'' says Jeannie Perales, director of education at Selby Gardens.

The exhibit promises to provide a unique opportunity to see the beauty of Florida in its many facets, most of which have never been seen by the general public. The vivid images of water, plants and animals will allow viewers to feel as if they are standing in the actual Florida Wildlife Corridor.

The exhibit will also include select images from Ward's Gulf Coast Collection, including shots of the sun setting and moon rising over Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jeannie Perales, Selby Gardens

Friday Flight? TIA Offers Live Music While You Wait

Tampa International Airport (TIA) is no longer just a place to pass through on your way in or out of Florida. A new monthly event titled "Friday Flight'' aims to make the airport an entertainment destination for locals and travelers alike.

"It's a public space,'' says Kari Goetz, public affairs manager for TIA. "We want people to see it for that, as well as a place they can just come and enjoy.''

The idea was spurred, in part, by the positive response to the live music at TIA that greeted travelers during the Republican National Convention. The goal is to provide a warm welcome to newcomers, as well as bring in locals who want to enjoy the space.  TIA plans to host the events once per month, though not on the same Friday each time, allowing flexibility to work around major holidays or events.
The inaugural event takes place October 5, with a 1950s feel and performances by local band The Vodkanauts. A special vodka menu will be available. You'll find the entertainment on the third floor of the main terminal, between gates A and C. Short term parking at the airport is free for the first hour, and $4 for up to 80 minutes.

"It's another opportunity for people to be wowed by Tampa,'' says Goetz.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kari Goetz, Tampa International Airport

Tampa Celebrates Hispanic Heritage With Entertainers, Role Models

The City of Tampa Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Committee celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with its 24th annual celebration, taking place Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 11 am. at the Tampa Theatre.
"Our goal is to promote awareness of Tampa's Hispanic roots and diverse population, as well as raise funds for the USF Latino scholarship fund,'' says Israel Segarra, contract management officer for the City of Tampa and chairman of the Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Committee. "It's a great event, and we'll have a lot of fun.''

Entertainment at Tampa Theatre will include performances from the Showstar dance team from Tampa Gym and Dance and Marina Orosco from the local singing duo Latin Fun Singers.

Keynote speaker Lissette Campos, director of Community Affairs and Emmy Award-winning journalist at ABC Action News, will offer her personal story of trials and accomplishments and an inspiring message for local youth. Some 150 to 200 elementary school students are expected to attend, along with senior citizens groups and other members of the community.

Tedd Webb from 970 WFLA radio will serve as emcee.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn will present a proclamation recognizing Tampa’s Hispanic roots and diverse population.

Formed in 1988, the Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Committee is a grass-roots, volunteer committee comprised of city employees and retirees.

The group preserves and celebrates Tampa's Hispanic culture and promotes the importance of education to local Hispanic youth through mentoring and scholarships. Other events include Latin Fest and an annual gala event.

The event is free and open to the public. The first 200 guests will enjoy a light lunch.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Israel Segarra, City of Tampa Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Committee

Front Row Tampa Bay: Live Webcasts Offer Media Alternative

The Tampa Bay Partnership and The Victory Group have teamed up to create live webcasts of interviews with community, business and political leaders from across the state in hopes that you and the rest of the world will tune in rather than watch traditional media coverage surrounding the Republican National Convention.

The idea behind Front Row Tampa Bay is to showcase the stories of innovators, investors and thought leaders in their own words unfiltered by outsiders or insiders who may be more focused on different perspectives or unfavorable comparisons.

"The program provides opportunities for organizations of all types to showcase leading industries, groundbreaking research, up-and-coming entrepreneurs and our unparalleled quality of life,'' writes Stuart Rogel, president and CEO of the Partnership. "Using cutting-edge technology, our four-day Web TV broadcast will spotlight some of the key drivers that position the area so well in the new economy.''

Stories and interviews with people like Florida Gov. Rick Scott, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn specifically showcase investment opportunities and job growth in industries targeted by the Partnership, namely applied medicine and human performance, high-tech electronics and instruments, business, financial and data services, and marine and environmental activities.

Front Row will also offer stories on local attractions and RNC-related parties as a way to show the experiences and faces of Tampa Bay residents and visitors.

The overall investment -- more than $500,000 -- is among the largest the Partnership and its investors or any other organization is spending to market Tampa Bay.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: Stuart Rogel, Tampa Bay Partnership

New Tijuana Flats, 40 Jobs In St. Pete

Bringing its Tex-Mex cuisine and unique ambiance to Roosevelt Boulevard North in St. Petersburg, Tijuana Flats is slated to open its third location in the Tampa Bay region on August 27th.

Featuring a made-to-order menu and 15-pump hot sauce bar, the new 2,000-square-foot Tijuana Flats at 10300 Roosevelt Blvd. N. in St. Pete is expected to accommodate 148 guests with indoor and outdoor patio seating.

“Tijuana Flats, as a brand, has been expanding very rapidly over the past several years with a significant emphasis on new development in West Florida, as well as South Florida,” says Ashley Montgomery, Tijuana Flats director of PR and marketing. “We are constantly getting requests from guests for more saturation in the West Florida market so the Roosevelt location seems like a perfect fit.”

And, obviously, the fast casual restaurant's brightly colored wall mural will be in tow; the artwork at the new location, called “The Zombeez,” will feature zombies playing in a band with a lead singer uncannily resembling a post-apocalyptic Elvis Presley.

An iPad kiosk will also be made available at the Roosevelt Boulevard North location, where guests can sign up onsite for the Flatheads eClub, offering deals, coupons and event information.

In addition, Tijuana Flats plans to become more environmentally conscious, incorporating energy efficient equipment including LED lamps, solar-powered kitchen timers, low-flow toilets and a tankless water heather.

“The front of the house tile is made from 40 percent pre-consumer recycled materials,” Montgomery says.

Prior to opening, the new restaurant is expected to bring about 40 new jobs to the area with a goal of moving several of its employees from part-time to fulltime positions.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Ashley Montgomery, Tijuana Flats

MOSI Tampa Seeks Exhibitors For November Idea Faire

MOSI in Tampa is hosting its two-day inaugural Idea Faire in November. The Idea Faire is a celebration of human creativity and innovation. Exhibitors with ideas and creations related to technology, creativity and innovation are encouraged to participate in the event.

“We are looking for innovators in gaming, robotics, design, technology, music and art,” says Shannon Herbon, communication manager for MOSI. “This event provides exhibitors the opportunity to share their ideas and creations with the Tampa Bay community.”

The Idea Faire will be part of MOSI’s Idea Zone, which is a “do-it-yourself” lab that is currently open at the museum. Exhibitors who want to participate by sharing their ideas and creations can do so free of charge, however, participants must send in an application by Aug. 31st. Vendors who wish to participate in the Idea Marketplace can do so for a nominal fee.

The organizers of the event hope to have a diverse group of innovators and creative thinkers; therefore, there is currently no limit to the amount of exhibitors or vendors that can participate. Businesses, groups, educational institutions, innovators and clubs are invited to take part in the event.

“MOSI is the largest science center in the Southeast [U.S.], so we will find room for everyone,” says Herbon. “Rarely do you see an event that provides opportunities for vendors focused on robotics, video gaming, science and engineering.”

The 2012 Idea Faire at MOSI will take place Nov. 17th and 18th. To learn more about becoming an exhibitor or vendor at the event, contact MOSI at 813-987-6000.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Shannon Herbon, MOSI

Night Market Opens In Bradenton Beach, Manatee

Just as many farmer’s markets in the Tampa Bay region close for the summer season, one local market is starting a unique twist on a traditional concept. The Bridge Street Merchants on Historic Bridge Street opened a night market in early June, and it will be open on select Saturday nights between now and the end of July.

“I was inspired to start a night market by my travels to other countries that have them,” says Melissa Enders, organizer of the night market. “I figured that with our hot summers in Florida, perhaps it would be fun to see how a night market would be.”

The market is hosted by the Bridge Street Merchants Association, which is a nonprofit group that was formed in 2006 by  merchants who were dedicated to promoting historic Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach.  The area also features a pier, boutiques and resorts. Enders says she hopes the night market will draw visitors of all ages, including children.

“I tried to make it very family and kid-oriented since school will be out soon,” Enders says. “We have yummy food and desserts along with some handmade crafts, miniature golf tournaments, puppet shows and craft tents for kids.”

For vendors interested in participating in the market, Enders says they are still accepting applications and should email her or call 215-906-0668.
The Bridge Street Merchants Night Market will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on June 16 and 30 and on July 14 and 28.
Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Melissa Enders, Bridge Street Merchants Association

Clearwater Beach Hotel Offers Eco-Friendly Accommodations

The Wyndham Garden Clearwater Beach Hotel has completed a multimillion-dollar renovation to make its rooms hypoallergenic and eco-friendly.

The hotel, which is located at the southern point of Clearwater Beach at 691 South Gulfview Boulevard, is comprised of 110 guest rooms, all of which were made hypoallergenic.

“In the guest rooms, we removed all original carpet and all wallpaper, and drywall was replaced with a hypoallergenic product and the floor covering is now vinyl wood plank,” says Nigel Duffett, general manager of the Wyndham Garden Clearwater Beach Hotel. “The flooring is 100 percent recycled and green-certified and all other products we use are green-friendly as well.”

According to Duffett, the complete renovation cost more than $2.5 million, however he says it was important to give guests something they have been looking for.

“Our guests are looking for ultra-clean guest rooms and this is where the project started,” he says. “As we planned changes toward this aim, including the flooring, it also became clear that an increasing number of guests are requesting a hypoallergenic environment in which to sleep. An added benefit is that not only are these products better for our guests' health, but also to that of our planet.”

Duffett says special attention was given to bedding. All guest rooms feature mattresses that are made from organic cotton and wool as well as latex, which will repel bacteria, mold and mildew.

Duffett says overall the investment was well worth the money.

“We took a much-loved friend on Clearwater Beach, and transformed her into a beautiful swan in paradise.”

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Nigel Duffett, Wyndham Garden Clearwater Beach Hotel

Finnish Marina Builder Sails Into St. Pete, Creates 12+ Jobs

Marinetek North American, Inc. is anchoring itself in downtown St. Pete with plans to hire more than a dozen employees, and make an even bigger economic wave on the Tampa Bay region as the company buys materials locally. The company, which is a subsidiary of Marinetek Group based in Finland, builds luxury marinas, pontoons and related floating solutions and equipment.
While the company is global and sells to businesses around the world, business is booming in the U.S.
“The American market for marinas is what is driving the growth for our company,” says Kent Johansson, CEO of Marinetek North American, Inc. “Right now we already have seven people working in our St. Pete office, but we will be hiring more down the line.”
The growing company plans to build a staging and casting yard as part of its expansion and will need extra staff to make it all happen.
“The first phase of production will take place once we reach an agreement with the city of St. Petersburg, at that point we will hire five people,” Johansson says. “The second phase will be when we start production, which will result in an additional 10 to 12 people being hired, depending on how production is going.”
Johansson says the positions he will be looking to fill include management, engineering draftsmen and general labor, however, he says more jobs will be created indirectly because his company will be purchasing a large amount of supplies and equipment in the local economy.
Source: Kent Johansson, Marinetek North American, Inc.

Roaming Hunger: Street Food App Launches In Tampa Bay

As the food truck phenomenon continues to gain momentum in the Tampa Bay region, friends and followers are presented with a unique problem: How do you keep track of them all? Enter Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Ross Resnick, 27, and his app Roaming Hunger.

Resnick, a University of Southern California grad with a degree in international business management, started the concept as a street food blog in August 2009 when the movement was just starting to pick up steam in major cities.

What began with a database of nearly 300 trucks in San Francisco, L.A., Washington D.C., New York, Portland, Seattle and Pittsburgh has blossomed into a mobile app featuring 2,228 trucks in more than 25 cities including its newest addition, Tampa Bay, which launched on April 6 and currently features 33 registered mobile eateries.

"We're here to help push this industry to make a new medium accessible to the general public," Resnick says.

Looking for the closest truck in your neighborhood? Roaming Hunger provides a map, updated hourly, of businesses in your area featuring info, photos, menus and Twitter feeds. Users even have the option to separate trucks by savory, sweet and vegetarian.

The site's main goal is to promote and build a community around street food culture, according to Resnick. Any truck with an identity can sign up for free and users can create a free login or connect via a Facebook account.

Roaming Hunger's had its eye on Tampa Bay's "exploding" street food scene for a while, Resnick says, but the timing was finally right to go live.

"Tampa's one of the best new cities for food trucks," he says. "It's been really accepting. We wanted to come out and help push the movement even further."

Writer: Matt Spencer
Source: Ross Resnick, Roaming Hunger

Ringling Circus Returns To Tampa Bay, 235 Jobs

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus used to come to the Sarasota area every year to enjoy the Florida sunshine. And now it looks as if it's here to stay. So if you've ever wanted to join the circus, you may just get your chance.

Feld Entertainment, producer of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey as well as Disney On Ice, Disney Live!, Monster Jam and other Feld Motor Sports brands, is relocating its headquarters from Vienna, VA, to Ellenton, FL, over the next five years and bringing 235 new jobs to the Tampa Bay area. 

"The circus has a history in Southwest Florida," says Stephen Payne, Feld spokesperson. "This is where we used to do rehearsals. But the rehearsal facility we currently have in Palmetto won’t permit us to grow. In 2008 we acquired a motor sports division, which dramatically increased the size of the company and spurred new brands. But I think it also goes back to a hunger in the U.S. and the world for families to enjoy entertainment together. Our shows offer that."

The new facility, located at 2001 N. U.S. 301, occupies 47 acres and will allow Feld to consolidate and house operations and production activities that support Feld's global tours. The site includes 100,000 square feet of office space with an additional 450,000 square feet of manufacturing space in two buildings. The expansion will allow Feld to retain 148 employees and hire an additional 235 to handle a variety of high skill, high wage jobs such as scenic design, costumes, sound and lighting, as well as maintenance of the circus train.

The move is made possible through a variety of grants and incentives totaling $3,779,734. Incentives include $1,174,765 from the state of Florida's Qualified Targeted Industry Fund, $650,000 from its Quick Action Closing Fund, and $1,500,334 from the Manatee County Government.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Stephen Payne, Feld Entertainment

Tampa Bay Strategy: Grow International Trade, Jobs

Top officials from Tampa Bay business and economic entities joined U.S. Commerce Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez at the Port of Tampa on Monday, Feb. 6, to sign a Memo Of Intent (MOI) that serves to create collaborations and connections among trade exporters and government officials to build a business strategy that will attract more jobs to Tampa Bay.

"Individually none of us has the potential to fulfill and carry out on a sustained level an international trade," says Stuart Rogel, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership. "But collectively we can sustain and focus on areas where we can bear fruit." 

The entities represented at the MOI signing include the International Trade Administration, Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, the City of Tampa, and their partners, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida, the Tampa Bay Partnership, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and the Tampa Port Authority

"Not only is this a sign of the Tampa Bay community coming together to advance international activities," says Rogel. "But the under secretary's [presence] represents an administration that wishes to double export activity over the next five years. Sanchez talked about how they're on track to meet that goal, which is in line with Florida Gov. Scott's goal to expand the state's export activity. So we're seeing this [MOI signing] as consistent with efforts on a state and federal level."

The signing is in part an answer to President Obama's National Export Initiative (NEI) to double U.S. commercial exports by the end of 2014.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Stuart Rogel, Tampa Bay Partnership

Tampa Dog Owner Creates Innovative Product To Keep Pets Cool Outdoors

Realizing that living and playing outdoors in sunny Florida can be an inferno for our four-legged friends, Brian McClish of Tampa set out to find a way to keep his pets cool in the shade.

"I’ve lived in Florida for 13 years and have always owned dogs,” says McClish owner and creator of the K-9 Koolee. “I spend a lot of time outdoors with them while playing beach volleyball or surfing, I like to take them with me whenever I can. Before the Koolee, I would have to either return home early or bring them out of the heat. I started tooling around with different mechanisms to cool them down, and with a medical device sales background I came up with a medical grade polymer that maintains temperature over a long period of time.”

The K-9 Koolee is portable and, according to McClish, has been field tested on the beaches of Florida and scientifically proven to maintain a cool surface for up to eight hours.

"The principle behind the design is an easy-to-carry, duffle bag-style dog bed that’s designed with a cooling element inside the bed,” McClish says. "When the bed is opened up, which is like a clam shell, the internal cooling elements, keep the dog cool outside.”

The product comes in two sizes: small/medium for dogs up to 55 lbs. and large for dogs 55-125 lbs.

"In addition to our website, people can purchase it at One Lucky Dog in St. Pete, in Tampa at Wag on Davis Island or at Dog Gone Holistic in FishHawk,'' McClish says.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Brian McClish, K-9 Koolee

Tampa Mayor Cooks Up Food Truck Fiesta

Ensuring that local food trucks are a staple in Tampa, Mayor Bob Buckhorn recently kicked off the inaugural Mayor's Food Truck Fiesta.

After attending the Tampa Bay region's first Food Truck Rally in Hyde Park in September, the idea for the Food Truck Fiesta came about as Buckhorn considers ways to enhance a hip downtown atmosphere that hosts events to generate urban buzz.

“I was impressed by both the variety of trucks and the large crowd they attracted and I wanted to recreate that same excitement in our urban core,” says Buckhorn of the Hyde Park rally. “While other municipalities have struggled with out-dated ordinances, we've been flexible in an effort to accommodate this growing trend. We really want to define Tampa as a hip city.”

Located on Franklin Street between Madison Street and Kennedy Boulevard, the event began on Wednesday, Nov. 2, featuring food trucks such as Taco Bus, Fire Monkey, Jerk Hut and Gone Bananas; Mayor Buckhorn kicked off the event serving food at the Wicked Wiches truck.

“The urban core is the center of our economic development efforts and this event serves the larger goal of creating more excitement in our downtown area,” says Buckhorn. “Downtown is now a place where people live, work and play and we need to showcase that fact by bringing more people down here -- increased foot traffic will benefit all of the businesses downtown.”

Happy to support the unique community of food truck entrepreneurs, The Mayor's Food Truck Fiesta will continue the first Wednesday of every month at lunchtime from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in downtown Tampa, featuring a variety of food trucks each month. The next event is on December 7.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

Tampa's artLOUD On Nov. 11th, 20 New Sculptures

CREW Tampa Bay will hold its annual artLOUD sculpture event on Friday, Nov. 11, in Tampa. The event allows local artists the opportunity to share their talent with the community, while helping enhance the downtown area. The sculptures will be placed throughout downtown over the next few weeks and will remain there for the next year.

“We’re installing a total of 20 sculptures this year,” says Abbey Dohring, VP of brokerage for the Dohring Group as well as the founder and co-chair of the artLOUD committee. “We will also be keeping a few sculptures from last year.”

According to Dohring, 95 percent of the sculptures have been created by local artists.

The Nov. 11 artLOUD activities include a gala and silent auction. Also, there will be gourmet tastings, cocktails, live music and an unveiling of the grand prize sculpture.

“Brendan McLaughlin of ABC Action News will be our emcee, the chief of staff for the mayor, as well as other city officials will be in attendance,” says Dohring. “All of the funds that we raise this year will go to Curtis Hixon waterfront park, specifically earmarking this year’s funds for Rock the Park.”

Dohring hopes that the sculptures will bring more people downtown.

“We are a very walkable city that welcomes more than just business,” Dohring says. “Arts and culture create the atmosphere.”

artLOUD will take place on Nov. 11 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Glazer Children’s Museum, 110 W. Gasparilla Plaza in Tampa. Tickets are $65 each and pre-registration is required. Register online at the artLOUD website.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Abbey Dohring, CREW Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay History Center Links To Smithsonian, Free Entry Sept. 24th

If you think Tampa does not have a rich history, think again. The Tampa Bay History Center is full of interesting facts and exhibits that showcase the region’s long historical journey to the metropolitan place it is today. In recognition of its success educating visitors on the history of Tampa and West Central Florida, the History Center became a Smithsonian Affiliate in 2011. Only 12 other museums in Florida have the Smithsonian affiliation.

To celebrate, the Tampa Bay History Center will be participating in Smithsonian Day on Sept. 24th. As part of the celebration, the museum will offer free admission to guests.

“We will be offering free admission to the museum on Smithsonian Day,” says Manny Leto, director of marketing for the Tampa Bay History Center. “Guests do need to go to Smithsonian's website to print out a voucher for their ticket prior to arriving at the center on the 24th. ”

Leto suggests guests who visit the museum set aside at least two hours to explore the center.

“We have three floors of exhibition space and three interactive theaters,” Leto says. “Our tagline is 'exactly what you didn’t expect' because people are always pleasantly surprised by how much history is in the area.”

In addition to a variety of exhibits, the museum features a kid-friendly interactive area, the Columbia Restaurant Cafe and a research center. The Tampa Bay History Center at 801 Old Water Street is next to the St. Pete Times Forum in downtown Tampa. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Manny Leto, Tampa Bay History Center

Busch Gardens Offers Visitors New Mobile App

Busch Gardens, the Tampa amusement park that draws visitors worldwide, now offers guests an innovative and high-tech way to see the park. The amusement park has develop an interactive iPhone application that uses GPS technology to guide visitors through the park.

"The technology for real-time navigation and ride wait times/show times is GPS-enabled and activates once guests are inside the park," says Jody Anderson, manager of digital communications at Busch Gardens. "Browsing the app outside the park will provide guests with information for all of the park's other attractions and amenities."

In addition to notifying guests of ride wait times and show times, the GPS in the application can virtually guide visitors through the park.

"An interactive map will show guests where they are in the park and allow them to highlight the quickest real-time route to their next destination by clicking the 'take me there' button on any destination page," Anderson says. "Whether the destination is a restaurant, show, ride, animal habitat or nearest restroom, the app can give details on its description, location and restrictions."

The application can be used once you leave the park as well. "One extra element we are excited about is the car finder," says Anderson.

"This tool can be used anywhere, anytime to pinpoint where you parked your car."

Anderson says the reception of the new application by fans and guests has been great. While the application is currently only available for the iPhone, the team at Busch Gardens is working on an Android version that will be available this fall.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Jody Anderson, Busch Gardens

Selmon’s Opens In Palm Harbor, Brandon; 100+ Jobs

Fans of Lee Roy Selmon's restaurant will be happy to hear that the home of soul-satisfying food will be opening two new locations, one in Palm Harbor and the other in Brandon.

The original Lee Roy Selmon's at 4302 W. Boy Scout Blvd. in Tampa opened in November 2000; since then the restaurant has opened locations in St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Sarasota and Ft. Myers. The newest additions to the Selmon's family in Palm Harbor and Brandon have not yet opened, but will soon.

"We will be opening the Palm Harbor location at the end of May," says Lee Roy Selmon's President Greg Lynn. "We have not finalized the opening of our Brandon location yet, but are working on it."

In preparation for the opening of the restaurants, Lynn says the Selmon's organization is hiring up to 100 jobs at the Palm Harbor location alone.

"We will be hiring front of the house positions such as hosts, servers, bussers and bartenders, as well as back of the house positions such as prep cooks and management," says Lynn. "We are always looking for great management at all of our locations to help grow our concept."

Lynn says that interviewing is taking place now at the Palm Harbor storefront in the Park Avenue Shoppes center.

In a time when many restaurants have gone under due to the economic recession, Lee Roy Selmon's has thrived. Lynn attributes its success to several strategic decisions.

"We have managed to combine high-quality food and service with value-priced menu items," he says. "By having managing partners in each restaurant we have encouraged out of the box thinking, and have adjusted to the times and will continue to do so."

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Greg Lynn, Lee Roy Selmon's Restaurant

Tampa Bay Sailing: NoShooz Catamaran Rides

Want to see Tampa's downtown skyline from the waterfront? Curious to see the waterside fronts of multimillion-dollar homes on Harbour Island and Davis Islands? Love the gentle splash of seaspray while keeping on eye on seabirds soaring overhead? How about doing it all at sunset?

Tampa Bay Sailing Tours offers what other water vessels around downtown Tampa can't, a more private sailing experience for a maximum of six guests aboard NoShooz, a 36-foot Catamaran.

Guests can enjoy sunsets, dolphin encounters, food and drinks. "There are certainly other vessels out of the downtown area that take 30-50 people out to look at the dolphins, but we are running a small, more intimate practice," says Josh Dohring, owner of Tampa Bay Sailing Tours. "Each sail includes a captain and a mate who serves great food and drinks."

Dohring says that the sailing experience is great for tourists; however, locals and particularly executives or business owners looking for a different way to entertain clients would enjoy the sail as well. "For local business owners, the sailing experience is another option for entertaining clients, an alternative to a golf outing."

Dohring, who also runs a commercial real estate brokerage, says he hopes the sailing tours will help draw people to downtown Tampa. "I want to see downtown thrive, and people taking advantage of the waterfront, making it a place that people want to come and stay," Dohring says.

As part of that desire to keep downtown neighborhoods and businesses thriving, Dohring says he uses local independent restaurants to cater the food on board. "When you go out on a sunset sail, you are getting food from a place like Sono Café or one of the other great restaurants downtown."

Tampa Bay Sailing Tours launched in early February, and Dohring says the response from the business community has been very positive thus far.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Josh Dohring, Tampa Bay Sailing

LEGOLAND Florida Prepares To Hire 1,000 In Winter Haven

LEGOLAND Florida plans to start interviewing potential employees in June in preparation for an October 2011 opening. The new theme park plans to fill 1,000 positions needed to support operations.

"We have an entire park to fill," says Jackie Wallace a representative of LEGOLAND Florida. "From maintenance staff, to ticket takers at the front gate, to food and beverage workers, and retail staff for the shops we are really prepared to start filling out these positions."

Wallace says that the company will start with hiring managers and supervisors first, and then will do a mass hiring in June.

"All applications must be submitted through our website; once we pre-qualify candidates we will invite groups of applicants to our on-site assessment center," says Wallace. "We will bring in groups of applicants from 20-50 people at a time and watch people interact with each other, do some interviews, interactive games and assess how candidates interact. From there we go into a more formal interview process."

For service positions, Wallace says the company is looking for a certain type of employee. "Our park is dedicated to families with children ages 2-12, so it is imperative that the folks we bring on board be very kid-centric," says Wallace. "Candidates don't need to have a theme park background, however it does help.

While the core demographic audience of LEGOLAND is children, Wallace says the park caters to parents as well.

"Our secondary target audience are adult fans who grew up with an affinity to the Lego brand, and are interested in introducing their children to Lego."

Wallace says interested applicants can visit LEGOLAND Florida's Facebook page for updates and opportunities to interact with LEGOLAND representatives. The theme park is near Winter Haven in Polk County east of Tampa.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Jackie Wallace, LEGOLAND Florida

Flower Power To Promote Downtown Bradenton

Downtown Bradenton is groovy. And it's going psychedelic to prove it.

From March 5 to April 16, downtown Bradenton will celebrate the '60s through art, fashion, literature and music during its SHOUT the 60s event.

"The 14 events offer something for everyone," says Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, the organization sponsoring the event. "Fashion, films, food, music, politics, performances, baseball, and demonstrations."

Isham says the idea for the '60s event was spurred by a performance taking place at the Manatee Players.

"About six months ago, we decided to expand upon the production that Manatee Players was doing called Shout!, about a girls' group in the '60s. The idea came out of the monthly meetings of our Cultural Partners Work Group."

Isham further explains that, like the spirit of the '60s, the event is all about collaboration.

"One of our key core values is collaboration, explains Isham. "The 60s promo grows out of and depends on our collaborative action. Whereas other groups say they are interested in collaboration, we 'walk the talk.' "

Partners for the event include ArtCenter Manatee, DeSoto Historical Society, Manatee County Cultural Alliance, the Manatee County Historical Commission, the Manatee Players, the Pittsburgh Pirates, South Florida Museum and the Village of the Arts.

Isham points out that while the event is fun, there is a serious component, too. On March 19 the Rowlett Magnet School's drama department will present a performance of Healing the Hurt that chronicles veterans' experiences of and healing from the Vietnam War. Flash Back, Flash Forward on April 4 will explore the role of government and conservative and liberal values at the Institute for Public Policy on the the USF campus.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Johnette Isham, Realize Bradenton

FRAMCO: Last Big Gig At Old Dali Pours Beaujolais

French wine, some art, meeting new friends and reuniting with old friends? Oui, s'il vous plaît!

The annual Fete du Beaujolais Nouveau will be held at the Dali Museum on Saturday, Nov. 20, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Organized by the French American Business Council of West Florida (FRAMCO), along with the Tampa Le-Havre Sister Cities International, Fete du Beaujolais Nouveau is in its 12th year in Tampa Bay.

In France, the third week of November is when the Beaujolais wine is released and is a popular "vin de primeur," a young wine.

"Most wines you just let them age and they get better as they age," says Jean-Charles Faust, president of FRAMCO. "As soon as the Beaujolais wine is released, it can be consumed. It is not a wine you should keep and let age. This is a wine you have to drink when its young."

FRAMCO was founded by Rose Marie Magriby in 1998, and is part of a network of 19 French American chambers in the United States. Tampa has an official relationship with sister city, Le Havre, France, which is the second largest European port.

Fete du Beaujolais Nouveau is used to gather together the local community and French American community members. This year's event will benefit the new Dali Museum, which is scheduled to open January 11, 2011, and Fete du Beaujolais Nouveau will be the last event prior to the Dali's move to their new home. Guided tours of the Dali artwork will be provided during the event and special guests include the Honorable Gael de Maisonneuve, Consul General of France; Hank Hine, museum director and Yann Weymouth, French American HOK architect.

Tickets are $45 in advance for museum and FRAMCO members, $55 for non-members and $60 after November 16. To RSVP, email: president.FRAMCO@gmail.com or call Beth Curts at 813-391-4407.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Jean-Charles Faust, FRAMCO

Arts Fuel Significant Portion Of Tampa Bay Region's Economy

The growing arts community in St. Petersburg provides 519 jobs and attracts 1.3 million visitors per year for an annual economic impact of more than $23 million, according to a newly released study conducted by the USF St. Petersburg College of Business.

The study, commissioned by the city of St. Petersburg's Arts Advisory Committee and underwritten by Bank of America, surveyed 32 arts and culture organizations, including galleries, museums, theater and dance companies and private companies that belong to the Downtown Arts Association.

A news release says the USF College of Business study also found:

    --    Every $1 million spent at St. Petersburg arts-related venues creates more than 22 jobs;  
    --    Every $1 spent at an arts-related business generates $1.78 in economic activity throughout the region;
    --   Every $1 spent at an arts business generates six cents in household earnings throughout the greater St. Petersburg area;
    --    Every two new jobs in the arts and cultural industry supports 1 in the area;
    --    Arts and culture as an industry ranks fifth among all industries in the area;
    --   Of the 1.3 million visitors attracted to the arts in St. Petersburg, 25 percent are from outside the city -- potentially visiting restaurants and other tourism-related businesses in the city; and
    --   More than 7,000 volunteers donate more than a quarter million hours at local arts institutions.
"We are thrilled the survey emphasizes what we've known all along -- that visual and performing arts and continued development of arts education play a significant role in job creation and the overall economic growth of our community," said Elizabeth Brincklow, St. Petersburg's arts and international relations manager.  "Our residents and businesses appreciate the arts, understand how essential they are to a city's growth, and are willing to support them long-term."

The complete survey and participating organizations may be viewed online.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: Robert Danielson, City of St. Petersburg

Harmony Gallery: Sarasota Orchestra Mixes Music With Art

Blending the artistic power of the visual and performing arts, The Harmony Gallery in the atrium of the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center in Sarasota plans a public reception Tuesday, Oct. 5, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

The brainchild of Artistic Director Leif Bjaland, the Gallery's mission is to introduce larger audiences to the greater communicative aspects of art presented collaboratively in all its forms.

Attendees will be treated to "Shorelines,'' an exhibit by painter Maro Lorimer of Bradenton's Village of the Arts.

The Sarasota Orchestra selected Lorimer's work to be shown during its 2010-2011 season.

Lorimer's large acrylic paintings reflect the beauty of the Gulf coast from a variety of perspectives.

"Often I place the horizon line near the top of the canvas to give a sense of great distance," she says. "We might be looking at a wide beach or a distant shore. In other paintings I move the line to the bottom, as if to zoom in on a shoreline for a closer look at a tropical forest that fills the rest of the canvas."

Visiting the Gallery is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and evenings and weekends during symphony concerts and other events at the Symphony Center. The Center is situated between Art Center Sarasota and Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall at 709 N. Tamiami Trail.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: Maro Lorimer, painter

Riverside Venue At Tarpon Springs To Fill 50 Jobs, Accepts Applications

Here is chance to work right on the water for a company that is hiring positions for catering.

Riverside Venue at Tarpon Springs plans to open in about a month and is already accepting applications.

The catering company is filling positions related to restaurant operations such as for staffing the kitchen.

Jobs available include chef, kitchen manager, sous chef, waiters, cooks, dishwashers ,
bartender, back bar and food runners.

Some of these jobs will be part-time and some will be full-time.

According to Stan Tipton, chief creative officer, Riverside Venue will eventually hire more the 50 employees.

All applicants should have experience in their desired position.

The company is also looking for an executive chef who should have five plus years experience in high-volume restaurants.

Riverside Venue offers catering to many events including weddings, birthdays and graduation parties.
Their events include catering for 50 to 1,000 people with a large menu to choose from and five different
rooms available for festivities.

To apply for one of these positions, go to the Riverside Venue at 10 Dodecanese Blvd. in Tarpon Springs
on the Sponge Docks.

Writer: Mandy Erfourth
Source: Stan Tipton, Riverside Venue at Tarpon Springs

Ad Federation Launches Campaign To Attract Friends To Oil-Free Florida

Sunshine, sandy beaches and beautiful palm trees along the Gulf coast waters are some of the perks that come with Florida living and visiting. It's a place where a diverse mix of people work and play while enjoying family friendly activities like art museums, festivals and theme parks.

Tampa Bay region cities boast award-winning cafes and restaurants, terrific sports teams, historic landmarks, sailing, golfing, fishing and fun!

You know what we don't have? Oil from the BP fiasco.

The 4th District of the American Advertising Federation (covering the state of Florida and the Caribbean) is about to remind everyone what Florida living has to offer. This year's public service chair, Mike Weber, is leading the Friend Florida campaign for the nonprofit organization.

Weber is the president and owner of CMR Studios, an integrated media production company, based in St. Petersburg. After attending the AAF national conference in Orlando, Weber realized how many people are misinformed about the oil spill and its lack of impact on Florida's beaches outside the Panhandle.

"We found that people literally thought that I had oil behind my house and that they told their friends not to come and vacation here because of the oil," says Weber.

Weber decided it was important to get the word out to attempt to lessen the economic impact as far as tourism is concerned. So the 24 chapters based in Florida (there are a total of 25, one chapter is based in the Caribbean) are now committed to the FriendFlorida.org campaign.

The project is a pro bono effort. "There's nothing coming from BP or one of the tourism councils or anything like that," says Weber. "We're activating the Ad Fed network in order to utilize what we do best, which is advertising and publicity."

The last major pro bono pushes from Florida Ad Fed came in 2008 with the No On Amendment 5 and in 1987 with the Ax the Tax campaign. Weber says he remembers how beneficial those campaigns were (the tax got axed and the amendment was removed from the ballot) so he figures they can help correct misperceptions about the oil spill situation.

In addition to creating local buzz, each chapter in Florida plans to produce TV spots in cooperation with local stations. Each of the 24 markets will gather video to show that most Florida waters are oil free and worthy of visits from friends across the country.

For more information, visit: FriendFlorida.org or visit the Friend Florida Facebook page.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Mike Weber, American Advertising Federation

Australia's Largest Online Travel Agency Webjet Expands To Tampa

Australia's largest online travel agency is expanding to the U.S. and has picked Tampa as its location.

was established as a company in the U.S. on Jan. 1 and its website went live on April 1.

Company executives say they chose Tampa because of the labor pool Tampa offers.

A few of Tampa's other travel agencies have downsized, which opened up a place for Webjet with well-trained potential employees.

Webjet is currently looking for customer service employees to answer phones and emails, and plans to hire about 20 employees in the next year.

The company plans to make sure it can handle anticipated growth for the next yea, says Kelly Rieger, VP for finance and business development of Webjet.

Webjet has been in business more than 10 years and previously operated only within Australia.

Based on increased demand in the Australian market, Webjet decided to expand to the U.S. to give Australians the opportunity to travel outside of the country with Webjet. They now have international travel.

Webjet also offers travelers the opportunity to reserve hotels and cars. The hotel services started April 1 and the automobile rental service started two weeks ago.

For more information, contact travel@webjet.com

Writer: Mandy Erfourth
Source: Kelly Rieger, Webjet

International Ships Sail Into Tampa Bay In July, Tours Available

Celebrating the maritime history of Tampa Bay, international sailing ships will dock in downtown Tampa July 10-14 for Sail Tampa Bay 2010.

The 5-day festival will include the U.S.C.G. Eagle from the United States, Captain Miranda from Uruguay and the Gloria from Colombia. The event will feature live music and dockside tours of the ships located at the Tampa Convention Center and Channelside Channel. Sail Tampa Bay 2010 is made possible under the guidance of Tampa Bay and Company, which leads efforts to gain "Economic Development Through Tourism."

The event begins with the "Parade of Sail" at the Tampa Convention Center on July 10 from 11am-1pm. The ships will be open for tours from 2 to 9 pm. Attendees will have an opportunity to see these vessels up close by boarding the ships, and attendees will have a chance to interact with the crew and experience daily life on a sailing ship.

From July 11-13, tours will be scheduled between 11am-7pm, and the event will end with closing ceremonies on July 14.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $3 for children ages 3-12 (combo tickets that include admission and food are available for $15 for adults, and $8 for children ages 3-12). Tours of the U.S.C.G. Eagle will be available at no charge.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Paul, Catoe, Tampa Bay and Company

Miles Media Brings More Jobs, Strives To Attract Tourism To Tampa Bay

Miles Media, a producer of visitor guides to cities in Florida, is adding jobs in the Tampa Bay region.

Available positions include for a Drupal front end/ theme developer with PHP experience and for an Objective-C / iPhone applications developer. Both are new jobs that have been created in the company.

The positions call for people with extensive experience in web developing.

Miles Media has been in business for 52 years publishing guides for states, counties and cities such as St. Petersburg and Naples. The company currently has contracts with 17 states and employs 160 people, according to Gary Henry, director of human resources.

"In the last five years, we've had extensive growth," Henry says.

Miles Media started producing the guides in print only, but now offers electronic publishing online, including applications for iPhone users.

"We try to get away from the term publishing (and instead) we call ourselves content providers," Henry says. "We're providing content that will assist visitors in making their decisions as to where they will go on vacation.

To apply for one of these positions, visit the Miles Media website.

Writer: Mandy Erfourth
Source: Gary Henry, Miles Media

What Do You Think? June 2nd St. Pete Summit Seeks Ideas For Jobs Related To Arts, Culture, Tourism

Working in a thriving center for the arts, St. Petersburg city officials are looking to grow the industry by helping to create more jobs related to arts and culture.

First up? An Arts & Culture Job Creation Summit on Wednesday, June 2, starting at 8:30 am at the
Progress Energy Center for the Arts Mahaffey Theater ballroom.

Representatives of public and private organizations, associations and businesses related to the arts, culture and tourism will convene to talk about how to grow the city's culture community, how to increase tourism and how to create more jobs.

St. Petersburg is home to several world-class galleries, theaters and museums, including the Dali, the Museum of Fine Arts, American Stage and the Palladium, and in recent years has gained the respect of residents and visitors well enough to be considered a hub for the arts in the Southeast.

St. Petersburg was ranked the No. 1 arts destination for cities of its size in the summer issue of American Style Magazine, and the city
also has numerous innovative, entrepreneurial businesses.

Some 700 art-related establishments employ 7,000 people, helping to stimulate the economy, bring in government revenue and also attract tourists.

The jobs summit is open to the public, and Individuals from the arts, culture and tourism community are especially encouraged to participate armed with suggestions for how best to create more jobs.

To RSVP for this event, contact Gary Jones at gary.jones@stpete.org or 727-893-7877.

Writer: Mandy Erfourth
Source: Sophia Sorolis, City of St. Petersburg Economic Development

Multicultural Visitor Guide Showcases Diversity In Tampa Bay Region

The updated "Tampa Bay Your Way!" Multicultural Visitor Guide has received a certificate of nomination from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and was a finalist in the 2010 Diversity and Inclusion Awards hosted by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

First published in 2007, the Visitor Guide is designed to show visitors and residents the diversity of people, places and cultures that thrive in Tampa, Temple Terrace, Plant City and the greater Tampa Bay region. Featuring an enhanced history section, the guide highlights the county's diverse American Indian, African-, Asian- and Hispanic-American heritage, as well as landmarks to visit in the area. Information regarding ethnic restaurants, arts and entertainment and various local services are also available in the guide.

The 29-page guide was funded by the Hillsborough County Tourist Development Council (TDC), the Tampa Bay History Center and the Hillsborough County Arts Council. The guide will be used as a tool to attract diversity conventions, conferences and meetings, and it will provide a range of local events, activities and venues that will encourage visitors to stay for extended periods of time.

Tampa Bay & Company coordinated the design and printing for the guide, which is available at the county's Visitor Information Centers and online.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Marilyn Hett, Hillsborough County

2010 Super Regional Leadership Conference Unites Tampa Bay, Orlando

The 2010 Super Regional Leadership Conference, a collaboration between the Tampa Bay Partnership and the Central Florida Partnership, will be held on May 26-27 near Orlando.

The event will be at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee and sessions will include: Connecting for Global Competitiveness presented by Professor Jonathan Barnett and members of his Urban Design Studio class, and Global Space Activity: A Florida High Tech Opportunity. Keynote speaker Secretary Ray Lahood with the U.S. Department of Transportation will discuss the high-speed rail planned to connect Tampa and Orlando, and how good transportation leads to sustainable communities.

Ever since President Obama came to Tampa for a town hall meeting at the University of Tampa on Jan. 28 to announce Florida's award of $1.25 billion for a high speed rail, the Super Region is said to be the envy of the nation as we obtain opportunities for job creation and global competitiveness. The conference will serve as an opportunity for businesses to discover how to take advantage of the merging of two regions.

This year's conference will have a Pecha Kucha challenge, making use of the rapid fire presentation style of 20 images for 20 seconds, which makes for a 6 minute and 40 second presentation. Applications for presenters will be accepted until Friday, May 14, from anyone who has "an initiative that leaders in the 14-county super region should be aware of as far as economic and/business excellence, coordination of assets, innovation or job creation."

Brief proposals may be emailed to Chris Steinocher, COO-SVP marketing & business development, at the Tampa Bay Partnership. His email address: csteinocher@tampabay.org

Conference participants who register before Saturday, May 15, will save $20. For more information on the 2010 Super Regional Leadership Conference, click here.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Chris Steinocher, Tampa Bay Partnership

U.S. Foodservice Seeks Salespeople, Drivers In Tampa Bay Region, Hiring

Dining outside the home in the Tampa Bay region offers a lot of choices as far as cuisine and location. Whether it's Thai food in a strip mall family restaurant, meat-and-potatoes at a stand-alone chain eatery or institutional fare at a hospital or school, someone has to transport the food from market to table and that's what the professionals who work for U.S. Foodservice, Inc. do for their customers.

Three of the national food supply company's 60 distribution centers are in Tampa, Lakeland and Clearwater.

Marilisa Henderson, a recruiter at the Tampa office, says fulfilling the appetites of Tampa Bay region gourmands requires hiring people who can select the best food products, fulfill and manage sales orders and deliver the goods.

"We have an ongoing need for salespeople and drivers," she told an audience of job seekers during a networking event at Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance. Henderson says she also sometimes has openings for IT professionals and people who can provide financial analysis reports.

If there's a corporate creed that employees of U.S. Foodservice work by, it would probably be "go beyond the plate." Company spokesperson Christina Koliopoulos cites that as a commitment to communities as well as customers.

"We do much more than deliver the groceries and each of our employees plays a critical role in protecting the safety of the food supply," she says.

"We are also pasionate about giving back to our community. For example, the Tampa division was recently awarded recognition by Feeding America of Tampa Bay for its dedicated support in the fight to end hunger in West Central Florida."

Writer: Brad Stager
Source: Christina Koliopoulos, U.S. Foodservice, Inc.

Lakeland Celebrates Earth Day With Free, Carbon-Neutral Outdoor Concert

Florida's first outdoor, carbon-neutral concert will be on Friday, Apr. 16, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Lake Mirror Promenade & Amphitheatre in Lakeland.

Green Celebration Concert & Showcase: Turn Up the Volume, a free community concert in honor of Earth Day's 40th anniversary, will feature the band, Think Big, and be powered by solar panels.

"We're going to actually set out solar panels supplied by Solar Source Interactive that morning, and the solar panels will power the band," says Stacie Jones, director of marketing/communications at Furr & Wegman Architects, PA. "We also have Lakeland Electric involved and they're going to be providing us with renewable energy credits for any excess electricity that's used."

Planning for the event, the brainchild of Michael B. Furr, co-principal at Furr & Wegman Architects, began in September 2009. The event is sponsored by Magnify Credit Union, and companies with a commitment to being green, including: Publix Super Markets, City of Lakeland, American Compliance Technologies and Keiser University.

Vendors will be set-up around the lake to showcase alternate energy sources, transportation initiatives, green-related business and technology efforts, all-natural products, organic foods and recycling efforts. Attendees will have an opportunity to learn how to green their homes and promote awareness and appreciation of our environment. There also will be giveaways, product samples, food and drink available.

In addition, 25 Polk County schools will participate in a recycle bin decorating contest, and attendees will vote for their favorite bin. A $300 prize will be awarded to the elementary, middle and high schools receiving the most votes.

For more information, contact Stacie Jones at 863-688-1211.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Stacie Jones, Furr & Wegman Architects

AAA Auto Club South Rides The Recession, Posts Several Jobs

AAA Auto Club South, headquartered in Tampa with nearly 3,000 employees companywide, has a wide variety of professional level vacancies in the Tampa Bay region. Openings being filled in Tampa include positions in management, sales, marketing and publication production.
"AAA Auto Club South weathered the recession well and continues to grow,'' says Nanci Odom, human resources VP.

"We have many exciting career opportunities available at www.AAA.com that cover a wide range of fields, from travel & insurance agents, call takers and service technicians to IT, accounting and marketing professionals to just name a few,'' Odom says. "AAA has been around for over 100 years and we'll be here for another 100 and more. AAA is relentless in our commitment to provide the highest level of service to our members and the best work environment for our employees."
Founded in 1902 as the American Automobile Association, this association of independent clubs is a not-for-profit, fully tax-paying organization with more than 50 million members. Known originally for providing emergency road service, maps and travel publications, AAA has a wide range of travel services and member-benefit programs. 
Writer: Lisa Clementi
Source: Nancy Odom, AAA Auto Club South

Encore In Downtown Tampa Hosts Job Fair, Seeks Construction Workers

ENCORE's development team is inviting qualified individuals in all aspects of construction, including skilled labor, project managers, foremen, site supervisors and general labor, to attend a Job Fair on Thursday, March 25th, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the ENCORE construction site in Downtown Tampa.

Entry to the site will be off of East Cass Street. between North Orange Avenue and North Nebraska Avenue.
The plans for Encore include 40 acres of transit-oriented design, which will combine space for retail, commercial, office and residential in a planned urban community. Plans call for a formal town square with public artwork, pathways and a history museum, mingled with shops, restaurants, hotels, apartments and offices. The plans also include a grocery store on Nebraska Avenue that would be situated in a new 36,000-square-foot structure.

For more information on the plans, visit the ENCORE website.
Writer: Lisa Clementi
Source: Encore! Tampa

Children's Fantasy Legoland In Winter Haven To Create 1,000 Jobs

Legoland, the children's fantasy park replacing Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, is starting to hire professional staff and is expected to bring more than 1,000 jobs to the region by the end of 2011.

Spokesperson Julie Estrada says jobs currently being filled include: public relations representative, director of sales and marketing, and systems administrator.

The interactive theme park, geared toward families with children between the ages of 2 and 12, will operate year-round and will offer a full day of activity for those who visit more than 50 rides, shows and attractions.

Merlin Entertainments also operates Legoland California (launched in 1999), and was recently voted the nation's best children's theme park for the sixth year in a row by Amusement Today.

Merlin is also Europe's number one visitor attraction operator and the second largest in the world with Legoland Billund in Denmark and Legoland Windsor near London. A Legoland under development in Malaysia is slated to open in 2012.

The Cypress Gardens location was selected because renovating the pre-existing theme park space will allow the park to be developed and ready to go in less than two years.

Polk County will provide Merlin with $5 million in incentives over a 10-year period, which includes funding for job creation and marketing support.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Julie Estrada, Legoland

NASA Grant Allows Lunar Living Exhibit At MOSI In Tampa

It could be decades before people colonize the moon, if it happens at all. But a $1.16 million grant awarded in January by NASA will give visitors at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) the chance to find out what it could be like one day to live on the Earth's junior astronomical partner.

The grant, one of nine awarded nationwide through NASA's Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums, will enable MOSI to create an interactive exhibit called Mission LEAP (Lunar Expedition for Astronaut Pioneers).

Christopher Stapleton of Orlando-based Simiosys Real World Laboratory will partner with MOSI and industry experts from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, says MOSI's Cathy Crowder.

"They're going to be working with us to create a whole atmosphere, showing what life would be like and what you would need to live on the moon," Crowder says.

As the project develops in the coming months, MOSI will receive ongoing feedback from several sources, including Girls Scouts from West Central Florida, students from Stewart Middle School, MOSI's Kids in Charge! advisory board and museum visitors.

Crowder says the exhibit will become a permanent fixture at MOSI. The project is scheduled for completion in 2012.

Writer: Carter Gaddis
Source: Cathy Crowder, MOSI

Dale Chihuly Collection Heads For St. Petersburg

Fans of Dale Chihuly will be pleased to know that plans to bring the permanent collection of Chihuly to St. Petersburg were solidified in February. The Chihuly Collection, presented by the Morean Arts Center, will be housed at 400 Beach Drive and the exhibit will open over the 4th of July weekend.

"We are very excited and proud to bring the art of Dale Chihuly to the Tampa Bay region," says Katee Tully, executive director of the Morean Arts Center.

It is expected that the Chihuly Collection's presence in St. Petersburg will have a positive impact on our region, from enriching the arts community to promoting economic development. With the Chihuly Collection, art enthusiasts from across the country are likely to visit the gallery the same way people from around the country stop in to see the Dali Museum.

The Chihuly exhibit will be in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg's tourist area, which includes the Museum of Fine Arts, the new Dali Museum, several restaurants and the Renaissance Vinoy.

The building adjacent to the Morean Arts Center's main facility on Central Avenue will be used for a Glass Studio and Hot Shop that will be established by late spring. The building was formerly used for Morean's clay program, which has since moved to the Historic Train Station to allow for additional expansion.

Paul Carder, director of marketing/communications and advancement, says that the Glass Studio and Hot Shop will provide hands-on workshops and educational programs.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Katee Tully, Paul Carder, Morean Arts Center

Glazer Children's Museum In Tampa Begins Filling New Jobs, To Add More

Want to work at a place that's guaranteed to make people smile, laugh and climb things? The hiring process is slowly beginning for opportunities at Glazer Children's Museum, Tampa Bay's much-awaited new museum.

With a mission to create learning environments where children play, discover and connect to the world around them while developing lifelong learners and readers, the Glazer Children's Museum will be completed this year and it is expected that more job opportunities will become available in coming months.

"With the opening of the Glazer Children's Museum later this year, we anticipate recruiting for many full-time and part-time positions in the coming six months.," says Kristen Nieves, director of administration for the Glazer Children's Museum. "I encourage anyone interested in seeking employment with the Museum to check the employment tab on our website regularly for available job openings."

The Glazer Children's Museum is currently seeking an experienced Facility and Operations Manager and a Director of Education.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Kristen Nieves, Glazer Children's Museum

New Leaders Guide Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival

The Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival, Jan. 14-23, will celebrate its 10-year anniversary this year, along with new leaders on the board of directors and a new website.

Ruby Jackson, festival chairperson and events coordinator, and William Sanders, festival chairperson and entertainment coordinator, are leading the Heritage Festival's new board of directors.

The festival's new website features direct connections with the Heritage Festival's board, all-access media updates, and it provides awareness of the Heritage Festival's community activities.

The Heritage Festival is a family-friendly event that brings together an estimated 5,000 people to promote diversity and cultural sensitivity. Selected as one of the Top 20 events by the Southeast Tourism Society for 2010, the Festival's 10-day event features local and national speakers, musicians, artists, poets and more.

The photograph shown above of a Tampa streetcar emerging from Greco Plaza (near the Marriott Waterside and the Tampa Convention Center) was shot by Janasia Harris and won first place in the Annual Heritage Photography Contest.

For a complete list of Heritage Festival events and additional Heritage Festival information, visit www.TampaBlackHeritage.org.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival
89 Tourism Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts