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Greek, Caribbean music highlight heritage festivals in Tampa Bay Area in June

Tarpon Springs merchants are planning their inaugural Opa! Palooza, a celebration of their Greek heritage, June 9-11. The event features authentic Greek music and up to 90 vendors of arts and crafts.

And in Tampa, Caribbean music is featured at Tampa Bay Caribbean Heritage Festival on June 3 at the University Area CDC.

The Tarpon Springs Merchant Association is hosting Opa! Palooza, being organized by SIK Promotions of St. Petersburg. It hopes to attract visitors to the community known for its sponge docks in the off season, says Suzanne King, SIK’s Owner.

“We want to do cooking demonstrations, other kinds of authentic talks, workshops. We’re talking with the guy that designs and makes the diving helmet,” King says.

The free event runs from noon to 9 p.m. on June 9, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 10, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 11 on Dodecanese Boulevard.

The itinerary includes a Battle of the Bands Saturday night, with the winner being chosen to perform at Tarpon’s Seafood Festival, also organized by SIK, in November. Odyssey and Ellada will perform and author Demetra Tsavaris-Lecourezos will be on hand for storytelling. A petting zoo also is planned.

Also in Tarpon Springs, the One Act Plays Festival runs from June 8 to 11 at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, 324 Pine St. General admission is $18 for a performance of 10 plays by 10 playwrights, with shows at 7:30 p.m. June 8, 9 and 10. The curtain rises at 2 p.m. June 11.

In Tampa, the Caribbean festival is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. at 14013 N. 22nd St. Performances by Jah Movement, Teddyson John, Fete Fit/Get Moving, DJ Spice, Voz y Accion de Puerto Rico and Tropical Groove Jazz are planned. Tickets are $10, with children 10 and under free.

The event, hosted by CANDO-Caribbean American National Development Organization, Inc., features food trucks and children’s activities.

Here are some other events planned in June.

Rock the Park is slated at 6:30 p.m. June 1 at Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park downtown. This free monthly music series concert, which is for all age groups, features Zigtebra, Luxury Mane and Ari Chi.

St. Petersburg Opera Company is featuring The Tales of Hoffmann at 7:30 p.m. June 2, 2 p.m. June 4, and 7:30 p.m. June 6 at the Palladium Theatre, 235 Fifth Ave N.

• The 24th Annual St. Pete Beach Corey Area Craft Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 3 and 4 at 595 Corey Ave. The free event includes handmade pottery, jewelry, paintings and more.

• Clearwater Spring Concert Series: Third Eye Blind -- Take a trip back in time with this alternative rock band along the water at Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater. Show begins at 8 p.m. and tickets start at $31.

• The 16th Annual St. Armands Circle Craft Festival kicks off June 10 at 411 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota. The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 10 and 11. Learn more here.

• Carrollwood Cultural Center has a number of events planned for June, including an outdoor market with crafts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 10 and Cypress Creek Dixieland Jazz Band at 8 p.m. June 10. Get the details on these and other events here.

• Independent film buffs, music lovers and foodies gather from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every third Thursday (June 15th, July 20, etc.) for Flicks And Food Trucks at The Grand Central at Kennedy at 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd., in Tampa’s Channel District. The event is free.

• Travel vicariously at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa. Its International Photography 2017 Exhibition showcases winners from June 23 to August 18.

• The 15th Annual Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 24 and 25 at 271 Main St., Dunedin. The event is free.

Learn more about the June art scene in Tampa Bay at Arts Tampa Bay and at Creative Pinellas.


Skyway: Open call to local artists for collaborative exhibit at Tampa Bay Area museums

A new collaborative project between the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), St. Petersburg and the Tampa Museum of Art will bridge the selected works of local artists in a joint, simultaneous exhibit called Skyway in June 2017.  

An open call to artists is currently underway to artists from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties. There is no entry fee for submissions and the online call closes Dec. 15, 2016.

“One of the great powers of art is in bringing people together and stimulating dialogue -- do you like it, do you hate it, what would you have done differently, and so on,” says Seth Pevnick, Chief Curator at the Tampa Museum of Art. “Too often with exhibitions, the dialogue can go no further than that. But with this exhibition, many of the artists in our community will have the opportunity to display their art on a bigger stage and join in the conversation in that way.”

The exhibit will be juried by six curators, two from each participating museum and a visiting juror. Any original artwork, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, photography, video, performance and site-specific installations completed after January 2016 are eligible for submission.

“Our main goal will be to highlight what we feel is the most important and interesting visual art being created in the region,” says Pevnick. “It will be exciting to see how everything balances out in terms of media, themes, approaches and home counties.”
  
“We also aim to provide context for the work of area artists -- our goal is to give a sense of the selected artists’ overall oeuvre as opposed to a single perspective through one or two works,” notes Katherine Pill, Curator of Contemporary Art at the MFA. 

This isn’t the first time the Tampa and St. Pete museums have collaborated. The much celebrated My Generation: Young Chinese Artists, the contemporary Chinese art exhibition was co-organized and co-hosted for the first time in the United States simultaneously at both museums in 2014. The two museums also hold a shared patron event called Bridging the Bay each fall.  

Pevnick says the exhibition builds on this partnership, but that he believes the idea for this show came about at the director level after Michael Tomor took the helm as Executive Director of the Tampa Museum of Art in 2015. He says Tomor had done a similar collaborative exhibition at the El Paso Museum of Art, collaborating with the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez and talked with his colleagues at the MFA and the Ringling shortly after his arrival in Tampa. 

“And then he brought the idea to me, suggesting that we do something similar in Tampa,” says Pevnick.  “Our curatorial colleagues at the MFA and the Ringling were also excited about the idea, and it has been fun to work with them in the planning stages thus far.”

Pevnick says they hope they will receive many submissions and that the exhibit “will allow us to get to know many more of the artists in the region, and also to raise the profile of selected artists, both locally and beyond.”

For more information on the call to artists, click on this link.

Weekend fun: New, shady venue for Temple Terrace Arts Festival

While last year’s Temple Terrace Arts & Crafts Festival was literally taken by storm -- a tornado ripped through the stands, forcing it to close a day early -- this year’s event is taking place in a new venue with new partners, bringing the arts, nature and history together at this community event, now in its 43rd year.  

The festival takes place November 12-13, 2016, 10 a.m to 4 p.m in historic Woodmont Park. Admission and parking are free of charge.

“Given this new location, it’s a real opportunity to see and experience the beauty of Temple Terrace, while enjoying the event,” says Kim Straub, of the Temple Terrace Arts Council. “The community is very, very proud of this area -- it’s going to be our best festival yet.”

The juried festival is attracting some 80 artists and crafters from across Florida and the country -- a 40 percent increase from last year. However, the event this year weaves in some other interesting community and cultural draws. 

Though the event officially starts at 10 a.m., Saturday morning kicks off with a 5K, 10K and fun run sponsored by the Junior Women's Club called aTrot Through the Terrace.

A “stunning historical tribute” to the community will be unveiled in the Woodmont Gazebo at noon on Saturday where artwork created by local artist Tim Boatright, will be gifted to the new city mayor in a ceremony beginning with a bagpipe procession and ending with a presentation by the Temple Terrace Preservation Society. 

The Temple Terrace Garden Club will be hosting a standard garden show called Around and About Temple Terrace at the Festival on Saturday from 1-5 p.m. in the Clubhouse at Woodmont Park.  A juried photography exhibit is part of the show. 

Of course, art remains the heart of the Festival.  

One of the most popular features of the festival is the public art project. This year Straub says all visitors of all ages are invited to participate in “message totems.”  Utilizing large cardboard tubes, leftovers from industrial printers, the tubes will be cut into sections for individuals to create a message. 

“If you have a message you want to give to people -- happiness, an emotion -- do a design,” says Straub who will have paints and “a couple hundred shapes for people to do.” 

The completed totem sections will be stacked 10 feet tall to form a traveling exhibit. It is free to participate and all are welcome.  

Other highlights for families and kids include the Fresh Views art exhibit, a display of elementary school children’s work from 11 local schools, and raffles for kids to win baskets of art supplies. There are also raffles for adults -- $1 per ticket to win a $50 art shopping spree at the festival. A silent auction will be held for “sitting chairs” painted in the style of  specific Impressionist artists by Temple Terrace resident and artist Terry Klaaren, best known locally for his outdoor MOSI creation of the Recylosaurus Rex.

Live performances will take place throughout the event, including a Saturday evening presentation with pianist Mac Frampton at 7 p.m. around the corner from the Woodmont Park at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church, benefits support Trinity Café (ttpresbyterian.com) a non-profit organization feeding the homeless.

For more information on the 2016 Temple Terrace Arts & Crafts Festival, send an email by following this link or call (813) 988-ARTS.

How to design a street banner for Clearwater

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

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

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

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

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

MOSI collaboration aims to enrich experience for those on autism spectrum

MOSI is making changes to its museum for visitors on the Autism spectrum.

The Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) has developed a partnership with Behavioral Consulting of Tampa Bay (BCOTB). Working under the motto “partnering toward a more autism accessible experience,” the duo hopes to offer families and children in the autistic community more opportunities to participate, without overstimulating.

“Accessibility and inclusiveness is at the heart of what we are all about,” says Grayson Kamm of MOSI. “So as we look at ways to eliminate any barriers to accessibility that we have unintentionally created, it's a perfect fit to have a partnership that helps us understand the best ways to serve families who have members with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

Some of these barriers include revising maps and signs so families will know what kind of sensory exposure they will experience (lights, sounds, etc) and rearranging some exhibits allowing families to bypass sections that may be cause over stimulation. MOSI is also incorporating these changes on its new website, set to launch in September.

“Our families are always searching for places where they can spend time together that will be supportive of their needs and won’t overwhelm them,” BCOTB President and Founder Kelley Prince  stated in a press release. We’re excited to help MOSI take that to the next level.”

BCOTB works one-on-one with families on the spectrum, with programs customized for each child's needs. The company has been honored with an Autism Impact Award from the International Center for Autism Research and Education, as well as named Most Valuable Resource by Autism Speaks Tampa Bay.

Grayson says the some of the changes BCOTB has recommended will come quickly, while others will take some time, however the community can aid in this process.

“Things like maps and signage can be upgraded without any major delay,” he says. “Larger projects, like rearranging exhibits to group them in a more sensory-friendly way, depends on available funding and planned maintenance schedules; donations or a dedicated funding source would allow us to speed up this process.”

To find out how you can help, click here.

Who is hiring in Tampa Bay? June job news roundup

From jobs in healthcare to technology to the nonprofit sector, the Tampa Bay region has plenty of opportunities for jobseekers. Read on to see who is hiring in this June job hiring roundup from 83 Degrees.

Make a difference in a person’s life with your work at Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute. They are seeking a Research Coordinator III as well as a Registered Nurse (RN) in Sarasota. Both positions require a bachelor’s degree in nursing as well as three years of experience.

Technology firm ConnectWise in Tampa has an opening for an Accounts Receivable Specialist. In this role, the specialist is responsible for new client billing set-up, adjustments, invoicing and collection. Ideally, candidates will have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or related field, and three years of related experience.

As a growing company, there are several other positions at ConnectWise  including a Customer Service Liaison, several sales positions and a System Engineer. 

Emcare located in Clearwater is recruiting a Scheduling Coordinator. As a scheduling coordinator, you are responsible for ensuring clinicians fill shifts needed at various locations. To meet the requirements for the position, a candidate must have a bachelor’s degree and one year of scheduling experience, recruiting experience is a plus.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota is seeking an Event Relations Coordinator. This position requires excellent organizational skills and attention to detail. A bachelor’s degree and two years of even and/or hospitality experience required. The candidate must also be proficient in MS office products, be able to move 40 lbs, and be capable of setting up tables and chairs for catering special events.

Want to work near Winter the infamous dolphin? Clearwater Marine Aquarium is in search of a Development Assistant. Responsibilities include monitoring development fundraising programs, assisting with promotions, organizing donor communications and coordinating recognition events among other duties.

Other positions open at the aquarium include Manager of Sea Turtles and Aquatic Biology, Grant Writer, Major Gift Officer and Retail Support & Vendor Specialist. 

Hiring in the Tampa Bay region? Send a note to tips@83degreesmedia.com. Hired? Reach out on Twitter @83degreesmedia if our job listings put you on the path to success.

New roastery in NoHo Tampa helps you create your own coffee blend

Tired of your usual cup of joe?

There is a new coffee shop that can help with that, but The Lab in Tampa's North Hyde Park neighborhood is much more than your average coffeehouse. For one, co-founder Roberto Torres, calls his establishment a coffee bar and roastery. In other words, you can buy one of the rotating rare brews Torres and his team has brewed, or you can make your own. You can create your own coffee here.

“There are less than five facilities in the world like The Lab,” Torres says.

Torres says he got the idea after becoming familiar with the craft beer scene in Tampa. He saw the growing popularity with individuals wanting to brew their own beer, even distribute it and sell it. He figured why not coffee?

The Lab at 1703 W. State St. is a “collaborative community,” according to Torres, where anyone can try their hand at roasting.

“What I love about this concept is that it can serve so many purposes,” Torres says. “For example, a bride and groom can come in and make a blend that they can use as party favors at their wedding, or a boutique hotel in the Tampa Bay area can create a private label and put it in their rooms.”

Different coffee beans are rotated all the time and rare microbatches are served at the coffee bar, for those looking to just taste and not brew.  

Torres who also owns Blind Tiger Café in Ybor and Seminole Heights has been a successful entrepreneur in the Tampa Bay area for a few years. So what is it about the Tampa Bay area that is so attractive for innovators like himself?

“Tampa is in an expansion mode,” he says. “We are competing with other cities like Atlanta, Charlotte and Austin, but what we have going on in Tampa is exciting and I am looking forward to how we can continue to contribute to this expansion.”

Car sharing network zips into downtown Tampa

A car sharing network has arrived in downtown Tampa.
 
Zipcar, which offers on-demand, self-service access to cars, is now up and running with a fleet of 14 vehicles. These vehicles can be accessed at several locations, including the Tampa Convention Center, the Barrymore Hotel Tampa Riverwalk, the Skyhouse Channelside Apartments, the University of Tampa, Tampa International Airport and the Tampa Westshore Marriott.
 
“Reservations can be made on our mobile app for an hour or several days; gas, insurance and 180 miles of driving is included,” says Katelyn Chesley of Zipcar.
 
Six new Zipcars are now available downtown by the hour or by the day. In addition to using the mobile app, reservations can be made on Zipcar’s website or over the phone.
 
The benefits of having a car sharing network in the downtown area are plenty, according to Chesley. It gives residents and visitors the opportunity to travel to local destinations that are not within walking distance, it helps reduce the amount of cars on the road and businesses can use it as well.
 
“The official launch in Tampa builds on successful Zipcar programs at the University of Tampa, Tampa International Airport and the Tampa Westshore Marriott,” says Chesley. “With a number of members already using Zipcar in Tampa, we were eager to expand to the downtown area to provide more residents and visitors with convenient access to wheels where they live, work and play.”
 
In addition to the fleet of vehicles in Tampa, Zipcar members can reserve and drive vehicles in 12 other Florida cities where the company operates. For more information, visit the company’s website

Gasparilla Film Festival features big names, diverse films

The 2016 Suncoast Credit Union Gasparilla International Film Festival (GIFF) opens with a gala at Tampa Theatre on Wednesday, March 30th, and then will showcase over several days more than 100 new films.  

The festival culminates in an awards ceremony and closing night film  "Everybody Wants Some'' directed by Richard Linklater -- the highly anticipated sequel to "Dazed and Confused'' -- at the Ritz Ybor on Sunday, April 3rd, 2016. 

The Suncoast Credit Union Family Fun Day, free to the public, will also take place on the last day of the festival at Ybor City’s Centennial Park complete with movies for kids and other activities.

It’s the festival’s 10th anniversary and this year’s organizers have informally dubbed it "The Year of the Director.''  Nearly 100 percent of the screenings this year will host the film’s corresponding director and much of the talent as well, says Festival Executive Director Monica Varner.

For example, she notes, director Gavin Hood of  "Eye in the Sky'' -- the modern warfare thriller staring Helen Mirren -- will be in attendance at the Opening Night event, where the film debuts in Tampa. "It's a big deal and sets the tone for whole festival,'' says Varner. Some other big names coming to town next week: Actress and Singer Rita Moreno, who will be awarded GIFF's Lifetime Achievement Award, and Actress and Choreographer Rosie Perez. 

The Cuban connection

The Cuban-Tampa connection has been in the news a lot lately and will continue right through next week when three Cuban-themed films will be debuted at the festival as well.

Film Director Ron Chapman says that the Tampa Film Festival, though "young'' on the circuit of festivals, is "creating a reputation for itself among filmmakers and the film community'' due to the skill demonstrated, the skill in curating the festival, and the Tampa Bay region's curious and engaged audiences. 

"The festival itself [also] has great leadership in the way they treat the films and the filmmakers -- it makes you feel happy,'' comments Chapman who says this is not always the case. 

Chapman should feel happy -- last year he chose Tampa's festival for the world premier of his film "The Poet of Havana'' about Cuban singer and songwriter Carlos Varela, which was bought by HBO Latino as a result of the screening. The film also won the Audience Choice award for Best Documentary. This year, audiences will see his new documentary "The Forbidden Shore,'' which highlights dozens of Cuban musicians and some of the 30+ unique genres of music the island has to offer. "Craving Cuba'' and "Havana Motor Club'' are the other Cuban documentaries to be shown at the festival.  

"Cuban films are a big deal,'' says Varner. 

Varner encourages everyone to attend, though she realizes "it can be a bit intimidating because there is so much to pick and choose from.''  

If curious about the lineup, download the full program guide from the GIFF website. Tickets are reasonable -- most are $12 -- and there is a question and answer session after every screening.  

"Having an opportunity to talk with the directors and actors, having that interactive experience,'' is special, says Varner.  

Sarasota Whiskey Obsession Festival at Michael’s on East features local distilleries

Whiskey enthusiasts in southwest Florida have a reason to raise their glasses -- snifters, for those in the know -- as the date approaches for the fourth annual Whiskey Obsession Festival, taking place March 30 - April 1 in Sarasota, FL. 

Held at the Michael’s on East Restaurant and Wine Cellar, the Whiskey Obsession Festival is one of the largest whiskey festivals in the United States. Dozens of master distillers and professional ambassadors descend on Sarasota to share their knowledge and to sample and sell their finest whiskeys at the annual festival. The main tasting event on April 1 will feature master classes, cigar pairing, exclusive on-site package sales and VIP pours.

The Whiskey Obsession Festival features more than 250 whiskies from around the world, including fine spirits from Scotland, Ireland, France, Japan, Canada and the United States. This year, the festival will also feature several independent distillers representing the growing craft spirits scene in the greater Tampa Bay area. 

The makers of Wild Buck American Rye Whiskey, husband and wife distilling duo Kevin and Natalie Goff, are based out of Weeki Wachee. Wild Buck Rye is made using only local, non-GMO 401 black rye -- a grain varietal specially adapted for the Florida climate. The Goffs grow 401 black rye on their own farm in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Reserve and receive harvests from the Melton Family farms in Dade City.

“There’s such a big movement for crafts spirits right now -- but it has to be quality… Most people get rye out of places like Minnesota or Colorado, but the problem is that when you grind it, it can smell stale or moldy. That wasn’t acceptable to us. We wanted it as fresh as possible,” says Natalie Goff. 

Natalie adds that she and her husband distill their whiskey, and sanitize, polish, fill and cork each bottle by hand.

“We don’t have any automation. … It’s really a quality measure. It’s a labor of love,” she says.

The Goffs will return to the Whiskey Obsession Festival for the second year following a successful, sold-out launch of their Wild Buck Rye at last year’s festival.

Also in attendance at this year’s festival will be the St. Petersburg Distillery, founded in 2014 in the midtown area of St. Pete, just south of Central Avenue and west of downtown. St. Petersburg Distillery’s “Old St. Pete” line features locally inspired spirits including Sweet Corn Whiskey, locally sourced from Okeechobee and distilled in vintage copper pots from the 1930s, and Tippler’s Orange Liqueur, made from natural Florida Temple oranges -- peels and all.

St. Petersburg Distillery PR Manager Hanna Marcus says that the distillery is excited to serve its WSWA award-winning “St. Pete Sour” cocktail at the Whiskey Obsession Festival, featuring the distillery’s Sweet Corn Whiskey, Tippler’s Orange Liqueur and American Royal Mead. 

Although the Whiskey Obsession Festival focuses primarily on whiskeys -- including scotch, bourbon, rye, single malt, blend, Irish and Japanese whiskeys -- the festival will also feature a selection of cocktails, rums, cognacs, and even barrel-aged beer. Tampa’s own Coppertail Brewing will feature a barrel-aged brew at this year’s festival. 

The Whiskey Obsession Festival kicks off on March 30 with the “Dram Dance” party at downtown Sarasota’s historic Gator Club, featuring Brooklyn-based electronic music artist, Brothertiger. The festival’s Panel of Whiskey Experts Interactive Tasting and Discussion takes place on Thursday, March 31. The main event’s Grand Tasting and Master Classes start at 6:30 p.m. for VIP ticketholders and at 7:30 p.m. for general admission on April 1 at Michael’s on East. 

For a full event schedule and to purchase tickets, visit the Whiskey Obsession website.

Real-time art of every flavor: St. Pete Synesthesia event

In a rolling metamorphosis of creativity not before seen in the area, a day of local artists inspiring art real time – like a collaborative domino effect -- will take place at The Studio@620 Saturday, March 26, 2016. 

The day long event, entitled “Synesthesia,” plays on the medical term to describe a condition in which one sense, for instance: hearing, is perceived also as another sense, such as sight or taste.  

The day will start with a story written by 5th grader Lilly McDole to be performed by actor Becca McCoy to a group of dancers and sound artist Matt Cowley, who will then create dance and sound inspired by the story.  The day cascades from there – Sculptor James Oleson will watch the dance to gain inspiration and create a sculpture, which then will serve as the next piece of the puzzle, handing the torch to songwriter Jonathan Cho, etc.

“People only see just what’s in front of them,” says Playwright and Radio Producer Sheila Cowley, who organized the event based on something similar she’d seen in New York’s Electric Pear Productions and Athena Theatre. “Actors put together something based on the song, then a piece of art, then a poem, then a song to be taught to the audience. …” 

The day-long Synesthesia event, involving more than a dozen artists, will incorporate storytelling, dance and sound art, visual art, music, devised theatre, poetry, group harmony and movement, and photography. 

“There are so many great artists in St. Petersburg, who all support each other’s work and are interested in each other’s work,” continues Cowley.  The concept is to leverage that, allowing artists to “see what kind of spark that creates for their own art, drawing inspiration from places they don’t usually use, and then passing that on.” 

At 8 p.m. that evening, the art will be performed and experienced in order at Studio@620 in front of an audience. For ticket information, click here.

Inaugural Fourth Friday event to launch March 25th on Tampa Riverwalk

A group of organizations is launching Downtown Tampa Fourth Friday on March 25, a new evening event celebrating the growing local arts and culture scene.

The event, which will take place from 4-9 p.m. the fourth Friday of every month, will focus on nine downtown cultural venues plus six to 12 restaurants located on or close to the Tampa Riverwalk. All are invited to visit one of the anchor destinations to get a free wristband, which includes complimentary rides on the new Pirate Water Taxi and special offers from participating venues and restaurants. For example, the Tampa Museum of Art will continue to offer “pay as you will” admission to all visitors on Fridays from 4-8 p.m. The March 25 kickoff will also feature participation by the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning at designated riverwalk parks.

Participants will be encouraged to park once and then take the riverwalk, Pirate Water Taxi or hop on a bike with Coast Bike Share to visit the various venues.

The idea for Fourth Friday grew organically from a collaboration between the Tampa Museum of Art, Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Henry B. Plant Museum and the American Institute of AIA Tampa Bay, according to Donna Chen, Director of Marketing for the Tampa Downtown Partnership

“It’s totally grassroots. Back in the fall, these four downtown cultural attractions decided to help support each other’s First Friday events through cross-promotion,” says Chen. “From that collaboration, they said, ‘Hey, this would be a great idea to do on a bigger scale,’ and they reached out to the partnership for help.

“We corralled all our downtown attractions and destinations to discuss what we could do and started planning a recurring event to celebrate and tell the story of the growing, incredibly rich arts and culture scene we have in downtown Tampa.”

The group decided to build on the success of the “First Friday” event format, but agreed to choose a different week to avoid confusion. They landed on “Fourth Friday” as a distinctive brand that shares the advantage of alliteration, Chen says. 

“We’re very excited. We think this will be extremely successful. As the riverwalk expands, we want people to understand how the walkway is really like a string of jewels connecting world-class destinations along the way,” she says.

Although the event lacks a dedicated budget, Chen says Fourth Friday is supported by community partners including the Friends of the Tampa Riverwalk, City of Tampa, Visit Tampa Bay, Arts Council of Hillsborough County and Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture & the Arts. Between the partners and participating venues, she says they pack a strong marketing punch through their combined efforts. 

“We’re all going to be promoting this through social media, press and our websites and regular communications. Together we have a very strong voice with a big megaphone. We can reach hundreds of thousands of people just through our combined social media outreach,” says Chen.

Hosting venues include:
 
Tampa Museum of Art
Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
Stageworks Theater
Straz Center for the Performing Arts
Tampa Theatre
Tampa Bay History Center
Henry B. Plant Museum
 
Setting up at host venues:
 
Florida Aquarium – Location TBD
AIA Tampa Bay – setting up at Tampa Museum of Art
 
Glazer Children’s Museum will not be participating this month, but plans to begin to do so in April.  

More details on the monthly events will be available at Fourth Friday, where visitors can sign up to receive updates by email. 

Gasparilla Festival of the Arts promises fun, activities for all ages

Art is in the air -- the open air -- in downtown Tampa, and everyone is welcome.

The 46th annual Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts (GFA) kicks off March -- the month of culture under Tampa’s iconic Gasparilla umbrella. Pulling top local and national talent, the festival is one of most prestigious and selective of open air arts festivals in the country, according to organizers, and runs March 5-6 at Curtis Hixon Park and Kiley Gardens. Admission is free of charge.

“Tampa Bay has a lot going on by way of the arts,”  says Jodie Orozco, the GFA’s Marketing Chair. “There is an arts renaissance going on in Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota. We are exposing the entire area to that.”

With over 100,000 visitors anticipated and hundreds of exhibitors, the festival could seem overwhelming to newcomers. Here are some key highlights to guide your experience.

Families and kids

Outdoor festivals, especially ones with a top-notch park on-premise and plenty of room to run around, are generally a good bet for families. But the GFA has a unique program parents rave about: The Art Collectors in Training Program. There are also opportunities for kids to make art. 

The Art Collectors in Training Program is located at a dedicated tent in Kiley Garden. Children ages 6 to 14 are invited to browse a “kids-only” shopping zone, a collection donated by festival artists. Kids get to select their own artworks, some priced between $5 and $10, and are encouraged to find the artists of their purchased pieces in the festival. Last year, more than 130 artists donated 750 pieces, and raised $4,800.  Proceeds go to the Children’s Cancer Center. 

“Our program gives children the opportunity to choose a piece of art without the help of their parents,” says Brenda Gregory who leads this initiative. “We provide children with the freedom to see art as something that can have personal meaning to them.”

The Festival partners with the Tampa Museum of Art, which runs The Children Activity Area, allowing kids to create art during their visit, too.  

Kids have the opportunity to learn techniques from featured artists, color, paint and draw. Currently showing at the Museum is the Spanish sculptor “Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape” exhibit.  Orozco says the children's activities will leverage that theme. 

The Art Collector in Training program and the Children’s Area are open both days 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. respectively.

Chalk Walk and Art Car Extravaganza 

Also fun for families, is the Chalk Walk that will take place “under the eaves of the Tampa Museum of Art” where 10 commissioned Chalk Artists will bring their large form chalk drawings to life in an interactive experience in front of your eyes.

On display in Kiley Gardens, visitors can see the Carmada fleet of a dozen art cars and vote on their favorites. Three cars will be painted live by a team of local muralists -- including a vintage VW bus -- while DJs spin throughout the afternoon. Adults and kids can get their hands dirty here, too, exploring the Nomad art bus and contributing to its collaborative mural.

The Art – emergent and established

The art on display is diverse – from woodwork to jewelry to printmaking to oil, etc.  Because it is a juried festival, the organizers are able to cull the best from the hundreds of applications they receive. The exposure and  $75,000 in prizes, is a big draw. In addition, “we help our artists to sell a lot of work,” says Orozco. Though she notes there is no pressure to buy. You can preview some of of the works on the GFA web gallery. 

The Festival promotes and invests in up-and-coming artists who have never before displayed art in a juried festival. The Emerging Artists Program, which provides the artists with the booth and cash for its display infrastructure, was created to “recognize and showcase the artwork of these artists who wish to pursue a career in the visual arts career.” Fifteen emerging artists were chosen from 120 applicants to participate. Their tents are displayed in Kiley Garden and the artists are eligible for a $1,500 Emerging Artist Award. 

For those who want to rub shoulders with the best of the show and its creators, there is a galaRE VIP reception on Saturday night, which brings together patrons and the juried festival award winners, with a backdrop of live bossa nova music and Capital Grill catering. Tickets for this event can be purchased through the website. 

There appears to be something for everyone.  

“Enjoy the festival as you would a museum. Interact with artists,” suggests Orozco. “There is a great variety of art to choose form whether your preference is glass art or painting or ceramics there is always something to choose from.”

How Gasparilla Interactive Conference aims to inspire attendees

The Gasparilla Interactive gathering in mid-March will focus on a creative theme: discovering inspiration. 

During the inaugural event in 2015, the Gasparilla Interactive Founder's Club focused on branding the first-year festival as a companion to other well-known and well-attended Gasparilla events that take place in Tampa each spring - the film and arts festivals, for example. 

The focus on branding helped establish Gasparilla Interactive and made sense, since the event's roots are in AAF Tampa Bay and Ad 2 Tampa Bay; lead event organizer Vinny Tafuro is a past president of both organizations.

The second time around, the conference "covers a broader range of topics, and focuses much more on entrepreneurship and the future” than technology alone, Tafuro explains. 

For 2016, replacing the word ‘festival’ with conference was a specific choice, Tafuro says. 

“We discussed what attendees should expect to leave with," Tafuro explains. "We felt that regardless of current industry or profession, everyone should walk away feeling inspired about the future in some way.”

Gasparilla Interactive Conference will draw presenters from big-name companies in the tech world, like product designers Gabe Valdivia of Facebook and Alison Chefec of BuzzFeed. Tampa’s World IA Day organizer Amy Espinosa will moderate a discussion on information architecture between the two.

Gasparilla Interactive Conference presenters also include:To see all of the speakers scheduled to present at Gasparilla Interactive, click here

“Anyone who wants to be inspired by, and prepared for, the vast opportunities that technology affords us to create value” should consider attending, Tafuro says. “Regardless of industry.”

Gasparilla Interactive Conference is a non-profit event that will be held March 10-11 at the Hillsborough Community College’s Ybor City. Register and find more information by clicking here.

Follow along with the Gasparilla Interactive Conference by using the hashtag #GasparillaIX.

New water taxi aims to transport passengers on Tampa area waterways

Yacht Starship Dining Cruises is launching a new pirate-themed water taxi service around Tampa that will help “landlubbers” travel the high seas of the Hillsborough River, Hillsborough Bay and Garrison Channel. 

Pirate Water Taxi will offer three 50-foot vessels that make stops at 14 locations along the waterfront in the Channelside District, Davis Island and downtown Tampa. Passengers aboard each vessel will enjoy the convenience of onboard restrooms and concessions while the captains, acting as pirates, engage guests with witty, whimsical narrations. 

“The pirate inspiration is part of the rich Gasparilla tradition here in the city,” says Troy Manthey, president and CEO of Yacht Starship Dining Cruises. Manthey, who hails from New Orleans and is a fifth-generation Mississippi River passenger boat captain, began cutting the currents of Tampa Bay when he visited the area in 2001 and realized the potential here. “I wanted to open up the beautiful waterfront to the community.” So he did, when he established Yacht Starship. Now, Manthey hopes his Pirate Water Taxi service, which debuts on February 27, helps locals and tourists connect with Tampa’s growing number of waterfront attractions.

“There will be multiple stops between The Florida Aquarium and Rick’s on the River, including Ulele, Curtis Hixon Park, Bayshore, and other places.” Unlike other water taxi services, which often have just one vessel, Pirate Water Taxi will field three. “That way, one boat can be undergoing maintenance, another can handle a private charter, and we’ll still have a vessel operating for public service,” he explains. The water taxis will operate seven days a week, with extended hours during weekends and special events. 

While Tampa Bay’s new water taxi will handle the utilitarian duties of ferrying 40 to 50 people around downtown Tampa, Manthey stresses that his new water taxis will be more than just another way to get around the city. 

“This service is as much a tourism attraction as it is a mode of transportation,” he says. “Our captains will be cast as pirates and they will engage with passengers, telling them about the area, where the best places to go are, and what they can enjoy at each attraction.”

Pirate Water Taxi will be officially unveiled Friday, Feb. 26, during a christening ceremony at the Tampa Convention Center. Hearkening a longtime tradition for launching new boats, bottles of champagne will be smashed against the new water taxi vessels, and the boats will be ceremoniously named. 
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