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St. Pete event celebrates wealth of local muses




Beyond the goddesses of Greek mythology who preside over song, poetry, arts and sciences, Merriam-Webster defines muse as “a source of inspiration; especially, a guiding genius.” 

St. Petersburg will recognize its own local creative guiding geniuses this Friday, Jan. 29th, at its third annual MUSE Awards. The awards are designed to recognize the breadth and beauty of the city’s arts and culture and “pay tribute to those that continue to inspire and guide St. Petersburg to its standing as an international arts destination.” 

The event, to be held at the Museum of Fine Art, promises to be a night of surprises, pop-up entertainment and of course, artists and fine art down to the food that is served. Proceeds will benefit artists, arts education, and arts & cultural organizations through the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance programs and services. Tickets are available, but going fast. 

“Collectively, the MUSE award winners this year have each made a very distinctive contribution to our community,” says John Collins, Executive Director of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance. “They are all very involved with community engagement, and these awards were created to shine a spotlight on St. Petersburg.”

Collins uses the term “transformational” when describing any of the winners. It’s hard to argue with that.  

The winners include nationally and internationally acclaimed Artist Steven Kenny whose captivating blend of surrealism with the classic human figure earned him the MUSE Visual Arts Award. Originally from New York, Kenny has been a resident of St. Petersburg for over three years, crediting in an interview with wowxwow.com the Salvador Dali Museum for initially drawing him to the City and his subsequent excitement about the creative energy of the local grassroots art scene as factors in his decision to move. 

The MUSE Arts Ambassador Award recognizes a beloved St. Petersburg artist (of any discipline) who is a stellar representative of the “City of the Arts” to the world. Among her many accolades, Collins praises this year’s winner, muralist and installation artist Ya La’ford, for her “singular commitment to not only doing a mural in a tunnel, the ‘Sunnel,’ but her experiential workshops that have made art very, very relevant in our community.” The artist and professor whose work has been displayed recently at Miami Art Basel, Harlem Art Flux and Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum is also known for her work with children. On Martin Luther King Day of this year, La’ford’s “King’s Dream Unite,” a 30x30 mural created in collaboration with 25 students from MYcroSchool Pinellas, was unveiled on the side of the historic Manhattan Casino in St. Petersburg

The MUSE Patron of the Arts award goes to the J. Crayton Pruitt Foundation which made a “leadership gift” of $200,000 to the Warehouse Arts District enabling the creation of the ArtsXchange, which in just its initial phase will provide 11,000 square feet of affordable studio and performing arts space for the district’s artists of all disciplines.

The St. Petersburg City Theatre recently celebrated its 90th anniversary is the oldest continually operating community theatre and will be recognized with the MUSE Performance Arts Award.

Last but not least: the literary arts. Maureen McDole, Author and co-Founder of Keep St. Pete Lit, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting greater St. Petersburg’s literary community through arts, education and events will receive the MUSE Literary Arts Award. McDole says she sees her organization -- which has provided free classes to over 400 students in the past six months through its LitSpace -- as a “vehicle to spread literary love around our community.”  

“If Keep St. Pete Lit can be a catalyst to creativity and healing in people's lives through literature,’ says McDole. “What's better than that?”

Winners will receive an original hand-blown glass bowl by acclaimed St. Pete Artist Duncan McClellan. 

Read more articles by Kendra Langlie.

Kendra Langlie is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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