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Businesses and the arts align for Tampa streetcar

Twenty to thirty 4-foot streetcar sculptures will be painted by local artists paired with Tampa Bay business sponsors in a collaborative public works initiative slated for installation this Fall.  

Spearheading the project is Commercial Real Estate Women Tampa Bay (CREW), a business networking organization comprised of 130 local members, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in Tampa in 2016. Under a program it calls artLOUD!, the streetcar initiative will be CREW’s fourth public works project, which have included public sculpture and facade mural initiatives in downtown Tampa. 

CREW Tampa Bay is committed to bringing art to Tampa to create a sense of place, encourage tourism, beautify and make our city streets more vibrant for the community,” says Kristin Mora, a real estate attorney with the Pettit Worrell law firm. Mora is a member of CREW and co-chairs its artLOUD! Program. 

Artists from the Greater Tampa Bay region who submit their credentials will be considered for selection by the area businesses sponsoring the streetcar sculptures and will work together in creating individual concepts. 

Public works of this nature have been a trend around the country, but Mora says that she hopes that using streetcars as the subject matter will have a compounded impact for Tampa. Not only is the streetcar part of Tampa’s history and heritage, but she envisions the possibility of people using the downtown streetcars as a mode to tour and view the artworks themselves. 

“This is a step further for promoting the streetcar,” says Mora, adding that she hopes the project will “gain attention and ridership for the streetcar.” 

To date, more than 20 sponsors have been confirmed including The Dohring Group; Construction Services of Tampa; Cushman & Wakefield; Tampa Downtown Partnership; Coppertail Brewing/Pepin Distributing; Channelside District Community Redevelopment Area; Tampa Housing Authority, and CREW Tampa Bay. 

Yacht Starship, the dining cruise line that docks in Channelside and in Clearwater, proposed the concept to CREW and will host the preview party in October 2015 when the sculptures will be revealed. The sculptures will be installed in downtown Tampa, the Channel District and Ybor City. They will be subject to city approval and, according to Mora, the exact locations may also be influenced by the design of the streetcars themselves.

Celebrate Tampa Bay area arts, culture at Hyde Park encounter

The Tampa Bay Business for Culture and the Arts (TBBCA) and its “pArtner,” Hyde Park Village, are hosting an “Art is Good” cultural encounter to celebrate art and artists at Piquant Epicure & Cuisine on Thursday, June 25th, at 5:30 p.m. The event is open and free to the public. 

“Those who attend the event will get a wonderful flavor and introduction to our artists – not just Tampa Bay-area based, but artists who have followings beyond our area,” says Susana Weymouth, TBBCA’s executive director since January of this year. “We have a very deep talent pool here of all types. We [TBBCA] are really trying to publicize and support art in general.”
 
The interactive event will highlight Hyde Park’s Public Art Initiative, which consists of iconic cheery banners of the “C’mon, Get Happy” and “Forget Your Troubles” variety created by New York-based Artist Deborah Kass and Tampa Bay area artists who submitted pieces inspired by Kass’s work.
  
Of the eight local finalists, the winner, Artist Jon Lee from Clearwater, will be formally announced at the event along with TBBCA’s Impact Award winner for “Patron of Culture & the Arts.” Hint on the latter: what restaurateur and arts champion, whose deep roots in Tampa go back generations, proudly shares his collection with diners at Ulele any day of the week?
 
TBBCA was founded over 25 years ago by local businesses to support and encourage business-arts alliances. The organization hosts cultural encounters and supports local arts events throughout the year, provides scholarships to high school students pursuing higher education in the arts and recognizes local business leaders who have been exemplary in their leadership and support of arts and culture.

“Arts and culture are economic drivers that are essential to the prosperity and wellbeing of our community and contribute to the quality of life,” says Weymouth, noting that arts are good for business. “You need to be able to attract a strong creative class as an employee base, and retain them. We firmly believe that businesses will thrive if their employees can partake in [cultural activities]. And that is what we enjoy in this area, an enormous amount of culture.”

Top Florida artists on display at juried exhibit in Sarasota

A call to artists underway until the end of this June will culminate in the third annual “Florida Flavor” at Art Center Sarasota, a juried exhibition to showcase the extraordinary talents of Florida-based artists.  The show, which is expected to draw more than 300 two- and three-dimensional works, will fill all four of the center’s galleries July 9-August 14, 2015.

This year’s exhibition will be juried by internationally acclaimed Artist Robert Tarbell, known for his arrestive technique in manipulating smoke to create his works. Tarbell’s “Failure to Appear” series was a hit at the 2014 Art Basel in Miami and was awarded the 2014/2015 John Ringling Towers Fund Individual Artist Award. Tarbell, who lives in Sarasota and teaches at Ringling College of Art and Design, says he was "drawn to work that is conceptually strong, technically sound, and incorporates interesting materials or unique processes."

Though the Florida Flavor exhibit is not themed, Art Sarasota Executive Director Lisa Berger says some artists “take it as a theme.” But the real goal of the exhibit is to provide “a broad picture of the diverse talent in Florida.” 

“We get everything from digital art, photography, mixed media, all kinds of paintings, sculpture, even videos sometimes. A really nice mix,” says Berger. 

In addition, she says summer is a good time to attract cultural tourists form around the state. “A lot of people who visit Sarasota, the tourists, people that live in Florida, like to do local day trips and things like that.  It gives our audience a flavor of the state they live in, to celebrate the artists that are working and living here.”

Florida artists who wish to be considered for inclusion in "Florida Flavor" can bring their work to Art Center Sarasota on June 30, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Artists may also submit their work online until June 26, 2015.

Black Lives Matter symposium spotlights social activism through art

Art can be an agent of social change.

That’s the theme of the 2015 Dunham Technique Certification Workshop, which will be held at the University of South Florida in June. The symposium will explore the Black Lives Matter movement through the lens of social activist Katherine Dunham’s legacy in the sphere of performance art.

Dunham (1909-2006), a dancer, anthropologist and author, showcased “relentless dedication to social activism” during her career, explains event organizer Saroya Corbett. 

After studying at the University of Chicago, Dunham spent decades as a social activist: she choreographed "Southland,'' a dance about lynching; refused to perform in segregated theaters in Kentucky; influenced the creation of anti-discrimination laws in Brazil; was one of Hollywood’s first African-American choreographers; went on a hunger strike at 82 years old to shed light on the mistreatment of Haitian refugees; and was at the forefront of social activism in east Saint Louis.

"Placing Dunham at the center of the conversation surrounding social change allows the symposium to explore and identify how the arts and artists create and aid in social change," Corbett says. “Through her example, we plan to identify ways in which we can participate as individuals."

The workshop kicks off a series of activities in the Tampa area. Event organizers hope to attract “scholars, community organizers, participants in the Black Lives Matter movement, artists and the general community of Tampa,” Corbett says. “The arts and artists have a unique capacity to affect change in belief systems and mores."

Brittany Williams, Dancing for Justice creator and coordinator of Million Hoodies Arts Network, as well as scholars Dr. Halifu Osumare and Dr. Joanna Dee Das, will present at the June 28 symposium. 

"Dancing for Justice, the arts and particularly dance can be an integral part of fighting for the full rights and humane treatment for black and brown lives," Corbett says. 

Corbett, who sits on the academic committee for IDTC and the advisory board for the Coalition of Diasporan Scholars Moving, plans to organize a #BlackLivesMatter march near the end of the workshop.

The Institute For Dunham Technique Certification (IDTC) began in 1994, when Dunham and Dr. Albirda Rose first certified dancers in the Dunham Technique. Today, professional performers, choreographers or dance educators can apply for Dunham Technique Certification; once accepted, they must attend 200 hours working with instructors and/or attending workshops for development, training, and testing prior to certification.

Members of the general public are also welcome to attend the courses and learn more about the technique.

Black Lives Matter: The Relevance of Katherine Dunham's Legacy for Today's Social Artists-Activist symposium will take place from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. on June 28 at USF in room TAR 249. The event is free and open to the public.

NEA grant enables USF CAM to bring musical village to Sulphur Springs

The University of South Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) has just been awarded a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to make music come alive in a series of unusual structures to be built in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood of Tampa next spring. 

Sarah Howard, curator of public art and social practice at USF CAM, likens the public art project to a musical village and that depicts the rich cultural heritage of Sulphur Springs. The setting on the Community Stepping Stones property at the Mann-Wagmon Memorial Park “is perfect for this,” she says.

According to Howard, the project, The Music Box: Tampa Bay, based on the original version by the arts cooperative New Orleans Airlift, will create “a wonderful, magical, inventive space that facilitates experimentation not only through the process of building it, but programming it.”  The installation will serve both as an open facility for performance art while the structures themselves will be hands-on and playable. 

In Tampa, the cast of Music Box collaborators will include installation and sculptors from New Orleans, USF art, architecture and music students, and the middle- and high-school children in the Community Stepping Stones program, among others from the community.  

Stepping Stones is an after-school program for underserved youth that seeks to improve lives through the arts. CAM has done other collaborative projects with the group and Howard notes it is important that the students “feel they have ownership and authorship. They become the ambassadors for this project, and it is important for them to see not just design and envisioning, but the process of coming out with a final project.”

Howard says there are currently a couple of structures on the Community Stepping Stones site that need to be torn down.  She plans to repurpose the remnants as building materials, in line with the New Orleans Airlift aesthetic, which she describes as “a little DIY – they use a lot of reclaimed materials. It’s intimate, but otherworldly. … It takes you back in time, not so slick and overdesigned. Real quality of the real deal.” 

Initial envisioning and design plans should begin next January, with the installation complete by the end of March 2016. 

Though still in its beginning stages and in need of additional funding, the project contemplates a month of musical programming with national and local musicians, visits for local schools, educational and history lectures (The Heritage Center is also located at Mann-Wagnon park), instrumentation workshops as well as plenty of time for unstructured play. The Music Box: Tampa Bay will then be moved to the USF campus for further exhibition, with at least one structure remaining permanently at the Community Stepping Stones site. 

Creativity takes center stage at June startup event

Up Global’s Startup Weekend events often bring together a city’s brightest techies, entrepreneurs and advocates for innovation. In June, for the first time in Tampa, entrepreneurs and artists will have the chance to create, invent and innovate during Startup Weekend Design Edition, Tampa Bay.

The new event is the result of the strong showing of the creative community during Tampa’s inaugural Startup Week in February 2015, event co-organizer Ryan Sullivan explains.

“Creatives, just like everyone else, experience challenges on a daily basis, and we wanted to provide them with a platform to solve those problems,” Sullivan says.

The three-day event will follow the traditional Startup Weekend format – over the course of 54 hours, Tampa Bay designers, developers, entrepreneurs and experts from all domains will come together to create an innovative solution to a real-world problem.

This time, the focus is on the challenges faced by those in the creative industry. Local fashion entrepreneurs, interior designers, architects, graphic artists and other creatives are invited to join in on the collaborative event.

Anyone can pitch an idea; teams form around the most popular ones. Over the next few days, teams work to develop a product and a business model to bring their idea to life – this time, with creativity in mind. On the last night, teams will present their visions to local entrepreneurial leaders from creative or design industries and one team will be named the winner.

The goals of a Startup Weekend event in any community are to educate people about entrepreneurship and to encourage networking, says Sullivan, who has organized multiple Up Global events including Startup Week and Startup Weekend Youth Tampa Bay. He anticipates around 50 attendees for the region’s first design-focused startup weekend. 

Lisa Gilmore, founder and lead interior designer at Lisa Gilmore Design, anticipates networking with members of the local creative community during the upcoming Startup Weekend Design event.

“As a creative myself, I know that we can run a bit wild with our ideas,” Gilmore says, “and collaborating with other professionals during Startup Weekend will be beneficial in bringing some of those ideas and dreams to life!”

Startup Weekend Design Edition co-organizer Nancy Vaughn has previously participated in and sponsored Startup Weekend events, and “experienced first-hand the impact that Startup Weekend has on the community,” she explains. As for potential outcomes of the event, Vaughn, principal at White Book Agency, hopes to see “some cool creative businesses started.”

Vaughn, creator of Tampa Bay Fashion Week, suggests examples including “an app that takes everyday colors for use in textiles or wallpaper, or maybe a new runway show seating platform, or wearable technology that allows for automatic VIP check-in. Can someone make that, please?”

“More importantly, I hope that great connections are formed, new ideas are sparked and launched, and everyone has a good time working together,” Vaughn says. 

Startup Weekend Design Edition, Tampa Bay will begin at 6:30 pm on June 5 and conclude in the late evening hours of June 7. The 54-hour make-fest will unfold at CoWork Tampa, 3104 North Armenia Ave. Ste 2.

To register, or learn more about the weekend’s schedule, visit the Startup Weekend Design Edition, Tampa Bay website. Be sure to use the code "83D'' for $25 off. 

Discover more upcoming entrepreneurially minded events in the Tampa Bay area, like Startup Weekend Tampa Bay Youth (May 15-17), in the 83 Degrees Spring/Summer 2015 startup events guide.

Casting call: Musicians, show how 'St. Pete Shines' in the city's new national ad campaign

The City of St. Petersburg will place local singers and bands on the national stage in an upcoming advertising campaign.

During a live competition on Saturday, May 9, musicians who are based in the St. Pete community will have the chance to publicly perform a rendition of the classic song “You Are My Sunshine” at a live, battle-of-the-bands style competition.

Four winners will be selected, and the winning performances of the song will be featured in the city’s first national ad campaign.

Nina Mahmoudi, Creative Services Manager for the City, describes St. Pete as “a city filled with talented people, from artists and musicians to technology innovators and food and brewing connoisseurs.”

"We are a community known for our growing arts and culture,” Mahmoudi says. The casting call is “just one way we are engaging the community to show how ‘St. Pete Shines’.”

Bands and artists who are interested in competing in the “You Are My Sunshine” Music Contest must submit an entry to the contest website by Friday, May 1, 2015. Entry submissions should include a link to your website or reel (new recordings are not required from musicians, as long as a video of the artist performing is submitted).

Finalists will be notified and invited to play their version of “You Are My Sunshine” before a live audience.

The promotional campaign will “highlight our city's greatness," Mahmoudi explains, “and we decided using local talent was the best way” to do that.

Interesting in putting your own twist on the song, but don’t have much experience? That’s OK, says CLEAR Labs executive director Jenn Greacen. Interested parties who have never performed before are invited to submit a pitch video explaining why they should be selected as finalists.

“Anyone who would like to share their love for St. Pete should send in an audition," explains Greacen, whose St. Pete-based marketing agency is partnering with the City of St. Petersburg for the "Casting Sunshine" campaign. "You don't have to be a professional singer, you just have to have love for St. Pete!” 

Fans of the Sunshine City's local music scene are invited to attend the free public concert/competition, which will be held from 4-10 pm on May 9 at Sly Bar in DTSP.

“Even if you are not a performer, the entire community is welcome at the event to cheer on the finalists, help us in our selections, and, just in general, to come out and have a good time,” says Greacen.

Along with the chance to be featured in the campaign, contest winners will receive a $500 cash prize and a recording studio session, and will retain master publishing rights on their rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.”

Visit the City of St. Petersburg's "Casting Sunshine" website to learn more or refer to the contest’s rules of entry for details.

“You Are My Sunshine” Music Contest sponsors include local Sly Bar, The Hideaway Café & Recording Studio, and Urban Brew and BBQ.

Picture this: High fashion, high art intertwined at FMOPA

The works of three international fashion photographers will combine in one show for the first time at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (FMoPA).

"High Fashion: Kristian Schuller, Billy & Hells, Taka Kobayashi,'' curated and hosted by FMoPA in downtown Tampa, opens May 1 and runs through June 22nd. It will kick off at FMoPA’s “First Friday” social hour, 6-8 p.m. on Friday. 

The exhibit, in large-form, brings to life the confluence of fashion and statement, the meeting of commercial and fine art. 

“Fashion photography is a natural bridging between fine art and documenting photography, “ says Zora Carrier, FMoPA’s Executive Director. “It is very much about aesthetic and conception, but also practical information.  This is a show commenting on the universal cosmopolitan of softness and femininity.”

While fashion is the common thread, each of the artists brings a distinct nuance to the table.  

Carrier describes Romanian-born Kristian Schuller, whose work is reminiscent of Daliesque surrealism, as “creating images out of this world,” with a “dreaminess and weirdness” that highlights the beauty of natural elements in stark contrast to the usual venues for high fashion. 

In FMoPA’s exhibit, Taka Kobayashi, of Japan, is working with the classical theme of geisha and fashion, but in a modern context.  Billy & Hells, a German photography duo, portrays pretty, feminine fashions of high aesthetic, “but the faces of the models are sad, with pain and suffering,” says Carrier, creating “a kind of unusual tension.” 

The FMoPA has a back-to-back line up of exhibits through the rest of the year. This summer, visitors can experience Florida-themed large format projects by two Tampa photographers Jason Henthorne and Joseph Gamble. In September, the FMoPA is collaborating with the Florida Aquarium in an underwater photography exhibit, which Carrier says is a joint effort to pay “homage to this deep earth interest.” New York based photographer Richard Renaldi, famous for his “Touching Strangers” project, will exhibit his work on hotel rooms and the “comfort and quirkiness of that.” The exhibit is timed to coincide with Tampa’s LGBT festival. 

Carrier says she is working on positioning the FMoPA as a social venue, “a nice place to come after work, maybe take a photography class.” To this end, she instituted monthly “First Fridays” at the museum, which include an opening or artist’s talk, food and wine. 

In addition to opening the High Fashion exhibit, this week’s First Friday will feature an artist talk by American photographer Jim Reynolds whose CityScapes exhibit is concurrently on display.

Maker convention brings inventors together in the DIY spirit

Gulf Coast MakerCon just keeps growing.

This year’s Tampa Bay area community do-it-yourself celebration will be held at the Florida Living Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 18. Lead organizer Terri Willingham anticipates about 800-1,000 guests at the one-day event. 

Gulf Coast MakerCon 2015 is open to the public and covers a wide array of technical, creative and professional workshops and sessions across more than 80 anticipated indoor and outdoor exhibits, from modern tech like 3D printers to “heritage tech” that focuses on woodworking and fiber arts.

Entertainment and educational opportunities at Gulf Coast MakerCon 2015 range from the Mid-Pinellas Comic Con exhibit and Gamers on the Edge tabletop gaming area to the Tampa Amateur Radio Club and the Tampa Bay Inventors Council “Inventors Showcase” to the USF Robotics Interest Group “Fight Robots” competition and a Young Makers section.

More than 30,000 square feet of available exhibit space triples the size of last year’s MakerCon, and the “makers” who have applied more than double last year’s numbers, as well; about 60, with applications still coming in. 

“We're excited about the diversity of exhibitors and programs we have on tap,” Willingham says.

The annual springtime festival is produced by Eureka! Factory, the nonprofit that Willingham runs with her husband Steve, and is supported by a grant from Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2). 

“We believe Gulf Coast MakerCon showcases the best of our community and inspires others to try their hands, hearts and minds at making and learning new things,” Willingham says. 

The community DIY festival “fits in perfectly with our mission to help move people from passive consumption to active creation --making!” Willingham explains. “A society of capable, creative, self-reliant people is a healthy, empowered and productive society."

Making things -- "products, solutions, services, inventions, games, gadgets, industrial and commercial tools like robots, mechanical devices and assistive technologies, and resources for sustainability," she says, is good for economic development, academic enrichment and personal fulfillment.

Back in 2012, the Willinghams introduced Tampa's first and only maker festival, the Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire. In 2014, the event expanded into Gulf Coast MakerCon. This year, big name community sponsors like USF Connect and the Florida High Tech Corridor have signed on.

“We've got some amazing collaborative partners this year,” Willingham says. “MityMo Creative in St. Petersburg has been doing all our promotional materials and graphic design; TBIC has been actively curating and providing promotional and other event support; Scrap on Spot is sponsoring the Deconstruction Zone; and the Innovation Lab at Seminole Community Library at St. Petersburg College has been organizing our ComicCon and Gaming Festival.”  

Gulf Coast MakerCon 2015 is a designated USA Science & Engineering Festival satellite event, as well as a National Robotics Week event.

Tickets, which are $10 per person ages 13-up and $8 for children ages 6-12, can be purchased online at the event website

Nationally acclaimed works bring dialogue on race and identity to USF

International tour ensemble, Progress Theatre, is performing “The Burning’’ in Tampa at 3 pm Saturday afternoon, Feb. 21, 2015 at USF. The program will be followed by an interactive dialogue and reception with the artists and audience.  

An original work inspired by two horrific real-life African-American nightclub tragedies, decades and miles apart, is written in the innovative “neo-spiritual” aesthetic of Progress Theatre Founder, Director and Playwright Cristal Chanelle Truscott. 

Truscott’s development of neo-spiritualism – the term she uses for “work that engages African-American performance and tradition – from negro spirituals through blues, jazz, spoken word to the present” -- earned her the prestigious Doris Duke Impact Award last year. “The Burning’’ is an a’capella musical of original song, movement and dialogue rooted in African-American tradition.

“The Burning’’ imagines the social and political dynamics surrounding each of the tragic scenarios -- the Rhythm Night Club Fire of Natchez, MI (1940) and the E2 Club Stampede of Chicago, IL (2003) -- and how race, class, gender and generation play out in different ways. Truscott says she wanted to examine “the way we understand identity and community when it’s a matter of life and death.” 

Truscott, an African-American woman and Muslim, was invited to bring the performance to USF as part of USF and Art2Action’s THIS Bridge project. The project hosts national and international performance artists and events with the aim of enhancing understanding of Arab, Middle Eastern and Muslim cultures and identities, over the course of two years. 

“Truscott is an artist who can talk about those identities and the history of African-American Muslims in the country,” notes Arts2Action Founder Andrea Assaf.

This performance also bridges Black History Month with February’s lesser known celebration, Islam Awareness month. Assaf and Truscott both note that the date of the performance is also the 50th Anniversary of assassination of Malcolm X.

Truscott and the Progress Theatre will also participate in the USF Institute on Black Life "Race & Place" conference Friday, February 20th, which is free and open to the public. 

New Hyde Park paper boutique in South Tampa hosts Valentine's Day makers market

Paper Seahorse, a new artisanal paper goods and crafts store in Hyde Park, is the fulfillment of founder Tona Bell’s longtime desire to create a space centered on writing, paper and presentation.

The Paper Seahorse will host a free pop-up inspired retail event, the Makers Market, from 10 am-6 pm on Saturday, Feb. 14. The market’s carefully curated selection of crafts and wares from local artisans will be open to the public.

A unique mix of makers, materials and mediums include: letterpress, leather, girl’s dresses, jewelry, sweets, men’s accessories, and fresh floral and body products. Tampa Makers Market vendors include:
  • Ella Bing: bow ties, accessories, and all things Southern
  • Fortenberry: leather wallets, bags, and other accessories made locally in Ybor City
  • Lellow: girls' clothing remade from recycled materials
  • Strands of Sunshine: ladies' jewelry
  • Tampa Type: vintage typewriters
  • A South Tampa teen who creates confections using homemade recipes and fondant frosting.
Makers markets are the latest iteration of a national and international trend concerning makers, says style consultant Alex English: “Specifically, people who want to use their hands to create products or consumables in small quantities, using the best materials for superior products.”

English, who runs local blog Remarqed, is Bell’s partner in staging the upcoming event. 

English recently worked with Christopher Devitt of Fortenberry on the launch of the Blind Tiger Café and CoWork Ybor. Bell and English are longtime friends who share a “keen appreciation for quality, handmade goods,” English explains. “We love local, and love shopping.”

With the Maker’s Market, Bell and English hope to build awareness of local makers and to help increase their business.

“We all make choices about which brands and people to support with our dollars. Goods with a story, made from the highest quality materials, should at least be an everyday option, rather than the exception,” Bell says. “These makers are, after all, our neighbors and friends.”

St. Pete “does a tremendous job in their community,” says Bell, who hopes to see Tampa shine a similar spotlight on makers. “I think Tampa can do better.  We have found some folks who are indeed motivated by this and hope the momentum continues.“

The Paper Seahorse boutique, located at 211 S. Howard Ave., brings a unique touch of charm to the Hyde Park neighborhood.
Upcoming Paper Seahorse classes set for spring include collage, 'zine making, paper crafts, card making, and lettering. More classes will be added in coming months. Later in 2015, Paper Seahorse will be available to host parties for wedding showers, baby showers and children’s birthdays.

“We aim to have a community creative space where like-minded folks can have a place in Tampa to meet,” Bell says.

Pasco County opens its first STEAM magnet school

The nation’s best schools are places where children can grow, discover and learn in a collaborative environment, asking questions to help them gain a deeper understanding of subject matter in a way that facilitates lifelong learning.

That’s what Pasco County’s Sanders Memorial Elementary School plans to be when it opens in August, 2015. 

The county’s first magnet school for elementary students, Sanders has a unique emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) subjects. 

The STEAM focus is workforce-driven, with the prediction that jobs in STEM fields are increasing at double the rate of non-STEM fields. The addition of the arts exemplifies the role arts play in creative problem solving and innovative thinking critical to all careers. 

“That’s important to Pasco, when we look at college, career and life readiness,” says Jason Petry, recently appointed Principal at Sanders. “We want to start installing an excitement and curiosity about these subjects in students at a young age.”

A New Port Richey native and University of South Florida graduate, Petry has worked in Pasco County schools for all of his career. His passion and excitement about the learning environment at Sanders is evident by hearing him speak. 

“This school will look different, and it will feel different,” says Petry.

The LEED-certified buildings will feature group learning stations, where students will at times move in between classrooms during the day. The hands-on instruction will allow them to make real-world connections. To borrow from entrepreneurship education, Sanders will employ a “failing forward” philosophy, which believes that perseverance through failure is key to providing a positive learning experience. 

As a public school, Sanders will mirror other schools in the district. The curriculum will include the same core standards that other public schools adhere to, but with the addition of STEAM-focused subjects such as computer coding. Arts subjects such as design thinking, music and humanities will be integrated into the curriculum.

“Engagement is a big factor,” says Lauren Burdick, STEAM coordinator, K-12 for the Pasco County School District. “We want to create a felt need in students and relate that to concepts around STEAM.” 

With 1,699 applicants for the 762 openings at the school, the need is evident. According to Burdick, the county has implemented project-based learning and cross-curricular connections in other schools throughout the district as well. 

Pasco aims to expand the model to middle and high schools in the future.

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.  

Ringling College Collaboratory Commitment pledges industry experience for all students

Sarasota’s Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) pledges to bridge the gap between classroom and career path with its new Collaboratory Commitment, an initiative that guarantees every student enrolling in the College beginning in Fall 2015 the opportunity to participate in a professional work experience with real clients, real deadlines and real deliverables prior to graduation. 

In the college’s official announcement, RCAD President Larry R. Thompson says that today’s graduates face a “Catch-22” dilemma:

“There is an expectation that, in addition to demonstrated competence in the discipline in which the new graduates were trained, that they will also be ‘practice ready’ professionals. … They have challenges getting a job because they lack experience; at the same time they need to have a job to get that experience.”

A $1 million+ grant from the Patterson Foundation of Sarasota will allow Ringling College to create a unique institutional model that ensures all students the opportunity to explore an avenue of professional experience that is aligned with their field of study.

Thompson says the college will use the grant to hire new staff, create new programs and expand pre-existing programs to provide industry-specific work opportunities.

“In the past, there were instances where we might happen to have a faculty member who knew somebody and was able to do a project-based thing in their class so that their students would get valuable real world experience with a real client. The problem is that students had to be in that class or in that major to get the experience, so it’s been more episodic than systematic. … What we’re doing now is creating an entire operational system so that we can guarantee that every student will have that opportunity,” Thompson says.

The Collaboratory Commitment will provide all RCAD students relevant work experience through faculty-led Collaboratory charrettes, RCAD Design Center projects with local nonprofit organizations, and film and entertainment industry-focused workshops with industry professionals in the RCAD Studio Lab. It also expands internship opportunities, part-time job positions and freelance work opportunities through the college’s Career Services office.

More than 30 Tampa Bay area businesses are partnering with RCAD in the Collaboratory Commitment.

“One of [RCAD’s] dilemmas is the students who graduate from here tend to leave to go to cities like New York, L.A. or Atlanta,’’ Thompson says. “That’s fine for those who want to do that, but many would like to stay in Tampa Bay area but their problem is finding job opportunities.”

The Collaboratory Commitment, he adds, will help the Tampa Bay region secure the talents of its most creative emerging talent.

“It’s a two-fold thing. On one level, it helps students get the experience, but it’s also a chance for businesses who come in and work with us to find out about how talented our students are, and hopefully to look into hiring them upon graduation,” Thompson says.

Parts of The Invisible Man video web series shot in Tampa

Bathed in palm trees and scenic waterfront vistas, Tampa is not the typical spot used as a stand-in for a Rocky Mountains movie location.

But two independent filmmakers with ties to Hillsborough County made it work.

Sean Malone and Timothy Compton have recreated H.G. Wells’ classic novel “The Invisible Man’’ into a five-part web series set in present-day America. Produced by their company, Waterfoot Films, the web series was filmed in Tampa, North Carolina and Colorado over a 15-month period.

“We really couldn’t have done it without a couple of businesses that helped us out,” Malone says. “The Frontier Cattleman’s Steakhouse on Sligh Avenue near I-275 let us shoot our saloon scenes there. The other was Behind the Fence Bread and Breakfast in Brandon.

“Even though the series takes place in Colorado, we shot a good part of it in Tampa.”

The two former University of Miami film students hatched the idea to turn the classic story into a modern-day adaptation after watching the 1933 original movie about five years ago. But their creative collaborations date back years before then.

Malone and Compton both attended Florida College in Temple Terrace. Although they were on campus several years apart, it was that connection and a mutual interest in filmmaking that brought them together.

During Malone’s eight years in Tampa, he also taught at the University of Tampa. Compton, who lived here four years, earned his bachelor’s degree at UT.

Malone, 33, now lives in Los Angeles, and Compton, 30, calls Chicago home, but their long distance partnership has produced numerous award-winning short films.

They attributed much of the success of producing “The Invisible Man’’ to the supporters of their Kickstarter fundraising campaign.

“A lot of people who helped us out in Kickstarter was from Florida and particularly Tampa,” Malone says.

The creative duo reintroduced The Invisible Man as a cinematic work that reflect both men’s different approach to the genre. Malone emphasized the classic Hollywood feel. Compton saw the film as an intense thriller.

“Sean (Malone) is a very talented cinematographer, so the snowy Colorado vistas are gorgeous,” says Lucy Griggs of JL Art House Productions in Tampa. “He and Tim (Compton) write suspenseful, moving films that portray the struggle between self and other, power and belonging.”

The main character, Griffin, portrayed by actor Johnny Hightower of Tampa, is a creepy anti-hero with issues. The film leaves viewers to decide whether the mad scientist is just crazy or are his actions a result of the personal experimentation.

Following a special screening in Tampa in October, the web series now is available on YouTube and expected to be released on DVD by the beginning of the year.
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