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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
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