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Wow! Free rides on Tampa streetcars till 2021

A significant Florida Department of Transportation grant awarded to the Hillsborough Regional Transit Authority means free rides on Tampa streetcars for the next three years.

The free rides will enable people to get easily between downtown and Ybor City with greater frequency and by paying nothing at the fare box.

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Cities reclaim waterfronts: From Tampa to Brooklyn to Cleveland to Boston, etc.

Cities across America are reclaiming waterfronts as tools for creating a sense of place that includes development of cool places and spaces where people want to live, work, play and stay.

Take Tampa, for example, as a city that increasingly ties its future to its waterfront. Witness the Tampa Riverwalk, Water Street Tampa and the Channel District leading the way. New housing, shops, restaurants, art venues, and green spaces complete with bike paths, dog parks and walking trails, are here to stay.

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Tampa's waterfront developments continue to attract global attention

"Today, Tampa’s waterfront is a magnet for investment: The city’s downtown has become the locus of a wave of construction projects that will bring an estimated $13 billion on investment to the Tampa region through 2022, according to Dodge Data & Analytics,'' reports CURBED, an online magazine about growth in cities.

The multibillion-dollar projects are attracting millennials, empty nesters and young professionals who want the urban lifestyle and access to water for transportation and recreation.

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Art Snax: Woodturn a mead goblet, and other art events on local menu

Father’s Day is coming up and if your Dad is anything like mine, he’s extremely hard to buy for. But what is one of his life passions? You betcha, it’s beer. Instead of getting him a lame tie this year, why not woodturn your own beer/mead/beverage-of-choice goblet (fit for a BBQ king) with him on June 24 at the Florida School of Woodwork with Rudy Lopez?

“They are just fun things to do, so that’s why we’ve been calling them our Sunday Fundays, which get people introduced to the fun hobby of turning on a lathe. There a lot of things you can do, like plates and cups, and of course, beer goblets. It’s an easy hobby to get into because it doesn’t take up a whole lot of space or use a lot of tools. This is something you could do on your balcony or a little corner in your garage, so we wanted to give people the opportunity to do it in a really fun way,” says Kate Swann, executive director of the Florida School of Woodwork.

To make a goblet, what’s called a “blank” is put on the lathe. You start out making the cup part of it, using gouges to hollow out the middle of it before working on the outside of it. The goblets are about 4-5 inches by the end of the class, and they all come out uniquely yours. While they aren’t dishwasher safe, there are a few ways to seal the inside of them from torching the surface to adding a sealer.

Probably one of the best parts is you get to test it out next door at Garagiste Meadery right after. It’s clearly a win-win situation, but if alcoholic beverages aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other upcoming beginner classes to check out too.

“One of the things I’m doing now is working on the calendar for the rest of the year, so we will be including more Sunday Funday things like a beer mug or carving a spoon. These will be really fun classes were people can just come and play,” Swann says.

“Generally speaking, the demographics of the school are 40 percent female, 60 percent male. The age is between 23-65 for women, and older for the men -- 28-70 years old. We have all different professions: brain surgeons, teachers, and firemen. The bottom line is, people realize are longing to have something to do with their head and hands together. My belief is that evolution has given us a 3-pound brain, opposable thumbs, and heart -- and those things love moving together. This is why making anything is a really fun thing to do, and is so satisfying. With these classes, there isn’t a big barrier to woodworking.”

Other upcoming art events:

• Flaccid-barreled rifles and tasseled, bulbous American flags. … Who knew soft, plush sculptures could become weapons for political and social criticism? Open through June 16, “Power Play” at Cunsthaus features the soft sculptures of Natalie Baxter, a Brooklyn-based artist.

• Get ready for some summer jam sessions: on June 7, the Rock the Park free concert series at Curtis Hixon Park starts at 6:30 p.m. with bands including The Porch Sessions, Nathanael Hyer & The Rail Car Choir, and Danielle Mohr. 

• With the Dali Museum over in St. Pete, we tend to like our art a little weird in this town. Relish in the beautiful, surreal, but a bit bizarre films of Suzan Pitt on June 8 with the screening of three of her animated shorts -- “Asparagus,” “Joy Street,” and “El Doctor” -- hosted by Cinematheque Ybor at The Bunker from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

• Didn’t get enough of your inner weirdo out at during the screenings of Suzan Pitt (see event above) at The Bunker? You’re in luck because on June 13, the Second Screen Cult Cinema will be showing “Fantastic Planet” (1973) from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Never heard of it? Here’s a little sampling

• When you think about art collections of major institutions, it can be a little sad to think about all the beautiful artworks that are nestled away safely, but out of view of the public. In a huge effort to address that, USF CAM’s new exhibition “Restricted – Hidden Gems from the USF Collection” will be bringing artwork -- from the likes of Claes Oldenburg, John Cage, Lynda Benglis, Mernet Larsen, and many more -- out of the darkness. I know I have some burning questions to ask (like, who makes decisions on what pieces to collect? Is there a theme to their collection?), which is why the best time to visit the CAM will be on June 14th during their curator tour from 6-8 p.m.

• If you’re a musician looking to network and learn more about the music business from other professionals, then the Tampa Music Conference on June 16 might be worth putting on your iCalendar. Not only will there be panel discussions, there will also be performances in the evening but registration is required.

• I know, school’s finally out so why would you want to go to another class? Nixing the ole’ grading system, this one will keep your attention more than Chem. 101: On June 16, learn the art of Shibori Japanese Indigo fabric dying at The Paper Seahorse. Registration required beforehand.

• Summer is the time where you have all this free time to do the things you want to do, then you find yourself bored once you have it. Why not check out Mergeculture’s linoleum block printing workshop on June 21 and also on June 24? Hack away at a block for a few hours, then leave with a printmaking masterpiece.

• Creatives Exchange is a collective of local women artists -- ranging from photographers, painters, ceramicists, filmmakers, and sculptors -- who will be exhibiting at HCC Ybor City Campus Art Gallery on June 28. Featuring the works of Paula Brett, Jenny Carey, Suzanne Camp Crosby, Kimberli Cummings, Melissa Fair, Eileen Goldenberg, Brenda Gregory, Cynthia Hennessy, Victoria Jorgensen, Candace Knapp, Kim Radatz, Debra Radke, Rose Rosen, and Suzanne Williamson, “Seeing Now” is an exhibition gathering insight on a contemporary woman’s perspective. The show will be up through July 31.

• With the 4th of July coming up, freshen up your history of America with “Pop Goes America: An American History Musical Revue!” by the Carrollwood Players Theatre. In a silly take on the pilgrims to the Civil War, this is a play the whole family can enjoy. Performances will be going on from June 29 to July 1.

Boat sculpture near Tampa Riverwalk oozes kinetic energy

There’s more to see than just the Hillsborough River during your jaunt down the Tampa Riverwalk. 

While you might see some kayaks, rowboats or electric boats floating on the river, you’ll find only one boat-as-public-sculpture greeting walkers at the entrance of NOVEL Riverwalk -- a developing apartment complex run by Crescent Communities, who commissioned this project. This 27-foot skeletal yacht frame, with bow sticking upright in the air proudly, has been dubbed "Charley'' by its creator Mark Aeling of MGA Sculpture Studio in St. Pete.

But who is Charley?
 
Charley Morgan of Morgan Yachts is a bit of a boat genius, having designed and built over 10,000 yachts through his lifetime; he’s 88 years old and has only just retired a few years back.
 
"I had met Charley through the St. Pete Artwalk, but I had heard his name before because he is very respected in the sailing community and internationally,'' Aeling says. "I was doing research on wooden boat hulls for this project and had a hunch Charley had more information. I found out he had worked on an amazing project 'Heritage' designed in the 1970s for the America's Cup [one of the biggest races in sailing]. It was an absolutely gorgeous boat.''

"Charley has an unbelievable breadth of experience, and I felt like the piece should be dedicated to his life’s work.''
 
As a self-taught engineer, Charley has led an exciting life from an early age: When he was 17, he entered a boating race that went from St. Pete to Cuba. He had to have special permission to race because the boat that he built in his own backyard didn’t have a motor. This ended up launching his career in becoming a specialist in hull design.
 
"Charley even helped consult on the structural engineering of the sculpture itself because the aluminum needs to sustain hurricane winds,'' Aeling adds.
 
Using the famous racing yacht "Heritage'' as inspiration, it took 4 months from concept to completion before it was installed in late March across from the Tampa Bay Times building near The Straz. It has similar aesthetics as MGA Sculpture Studio’s “Budding Vortex” sculpture that was also commissioned by Crescent Communities back in 2016 at the entrance of one of their communities on North Lois Ave.; they both have a kinetic sculpture quality with their blade-like construction.
 
"When you repeat forms in space, it creates a visual resonance and makes you want to move around the piece, so it's kinetic in a way in that it makes you move yourself in relation to the piece,'' Aeling says. "We wanted to create traction to draw people in and relate to that notion of the Riverwalk.''

NYT reports on investments in Downtown Tampa, Bay Area

Tampa's recent growth, including multibillion dollar investments in downtown and along the waterfront, are highlighted in a recent New York Times article, "How Developers Discovered Tampa's 'Best Kept Secret'.''

The publicity alone, not to mention the actual investments, are spurring growth unseen in Tampa since the late-1970s, early 1980s as witnessed by John Naisbitt in his book, "Megatrends.''

Read the complete story.
 

Art Snax: Represent, and other art events on local menu in April

Over the course of time, artists and galleries have been questioning the works being shown in exhibition spaces: What is determined as “art” or “fine art?” Is graphic design “art?” Why are ceramics sometimes deemed just “craft?” 

In a move considered more off-the-beaten-path, Cass Contemporary in Tampa will be presenting the works of illustrators in “Represent.”
 
“This is our first all-illustrators exhibit, so we’re really excited. With this show we picked illustrators that were experts in their craft, and the rest was up to them. We give them the artistic freedom to make whatever they want. The work is all different, so it’s been a surprise everyday when we get a package of work for the show,” says Janet Malin, Gallery Director of Cass Contemporary.
 
Eight artists will be participating with two of them local artists you may already know: Conrad Garner and Palehorse. National artists include Monica Garwood, Rewina Beshue, and Skye Bolluyt. International illustrators Hilda Palafox, Lorraine Sorlet, and Agostino Iacuri hail from Mexico, France, and Germany, respectively.
 
“What we’re doing is holding the opening night on April 27 at 7 p.m. at Armature Works in their theater, then the exhibit will run at the gallery (2722 S. MacDill Ave.) as usual where it will be up for 12 weeks,” Malin says. "Armature Works is a multi-use space. The part that everyone is hearing about is their food hall, but they also have a big courtyard, the theater that’s on the second floor, and an upscale rooftop lounge that will be opening up soon.”
 
The opening reception is free and open to the public with food, drinks, and a great crowd.
 
Other upcoming art events:
  • If you’re a fan of the handbuilt, a touch of kitsch, and a bit of the grotesque, don’t miss out on the next USF Kennedy Family Visiting Artist Lecture on April 3 from 4-5 p.m. at FAH 101. Roxanne Jackson is a ceramicist and sculptor who is interested in themes of extinction, death, and transformation, creating narrative-ish objects that riff off horror films and pop culture.
  • PhilFest hosted at the Phillipine Cultural Foundation will be coming back to town from April 6-8. Touted as the biggest Phillippine Festival in Florida, come see who will be dubbed Mrs. Philfest, check out the art exhibit at the Bayanihan Arts and Events Center’s Grand Sampaguita Ballroom, and we can’t forget the Yugyugan Street Dancing Competition. The full entertainment schedule can be found on the PhilFest website to plan ahead.
  • The Kitchen Table Literary Arts is sending out a call for Tampa-area Black women and women of color who are writers, poets, publishers, editors for a networking mixer on April 7 from 1-3 p.m. at Stageworks Theater.
  • Feelin’ jazzy? On April 9, Brain Rainwater and the Florida College Jazz Band will be dishing out tunes from jazz to swing to blues during their jazz concert at Florida College’s Puckett Auditorium from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.
  • After merely watching a YouTube video of their America’s Got Talent performance, it’s clear Sons of Serendip has got that it factor. Don’t miss their April 12 performance at the Straz Center and get your tickets now.
  • Looking to support the local art scene, but also wanting an invite to a killer party? The Tampa Museum of Art has you covered with their Strange Beauty: Pride & Passion 13 fundraiser on April 14, which will have a surrealist spin this year.
  • During the University of Tampa Alumni Reader Series on April 17, Donna Long, Christian Collier, and Jen A. Miller will be coming back to their alma mater to read experts from their work at the Scarfone/Harley Gallery from 7-8 p.m.
  • Never heard of Carnival? It’s just one of those things you have to experience instead of explain. On April 21, the 13th Annual Tampa Bay Caribbean Carnival will be heading to the Florida State Fairgrounds for a day of dancing, music, colorful headpieces, and definitely a lot more.
  • As the school year winds to a close, USF will be presenting the opening reception for their BFA Thesis Exhibition “25 Cents Per Play” held at the Carolyn M. Wilson Gallery on April 27 from 7-9 p.m. The exhibition will be open from April 23-May 3.
  • People usually think of oranges and strawberries when they think of Florida, but don’t discount those tomatoes! On April 28, eat your way through the Ruskin Tomato and Heritage Festival from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. They'll even be picking a Tomato Festival Queen. And what about a tomato eating contest, and some arts and crafts? You have that here too.

Portico Cafe, homeless people thrive together

A coffee shop in downtown Tampa is thriving with zero job turnover since its meager beginnings built on a mission to employ the homeless.

The Portico Cafe, created by the United Methodist Church, is a safe place to gather and take classes too.

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Tampa business leaders, Rays team up for new stadium

Baseball forever! That's the new mantra touted by business leaders behind an effort to build the Tampa Bay Rays a new stadium in Ybor City, just minutes from downtown Tampa.

Chuck Sykes and Ron Christaldi, along with elected officials Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, say a new stadium would be a good investment for the region. 

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Call for site-specific public art for Water Street Tampa

Just when artistic opportunities seem few and far between, there come some heavy-hitting ones like this: A professional artist is sought to create a site-specific piece of public art to be incorporated into the open plaza area -- designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects -- located between the new USF Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute and the Water Street Tampa Community Wellness Center’s office tower in  downtown Tampa.
 
The project budget is $600,000, with three funding sources of the city, which is contributing $400,000; USF, contributing 100,000; and Strategic Property Partners, LLC adding in $100,000. The project is to be completed by Spring 2020. Applications are due Feb. 23 by 5 p.m., with decisions made by all three parties.
 
““They don’t have any preconceived notions. They’ll be looking at existing works from artists and asking for proposals. The plaza is an open space that called for it. The properties around it are all ones that through one program or another all generate funds for public arts, which is why the city is involved. We’re working with them to make sure it’s a wholistic artwork that pulls the whole site together,” says Robin Nigh, manager of the City of Tampa’s Art Programs Division.
 
With more building and renovation happening in the downtown Tampa area, the incorporation of arts into the infrastructure and planning of the city is more important than ever. Tampa’s Public Art Program has invested in around 560 works throughout the years, with the oldest piece dating back to 1903 with T. Ramos Blanco’s sculpture “Honors to Mothers.” This is in line -- but somewhat lower -- than Miami’s Public Art Collection that boasts over 700 pieces.
 
“The arts have always been involved in the development of Tampa. The ordinance was just revised last year and allows a lot of projects like this to happen. It’s just a tremendous opportunity for artists. They will be selecting whatever works best for the plaza, but of course local artists will be considered,” Nigh says.
 
Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park already has multiple public art projects underway, and Nigh hints that there are additional calls to artists coming soon.
 
Follow this link to find out more about the project and application.

Liberty Group to build new hotel in Channel District

Liberty Group CEO Punit Shah plans to build a new hotel containing Hampton Inn and Home2Suites on the same piece of property in downtown Tampa's Channel District. 

“The reason I love dual-branded properties is there are just so many efficiencies associated with them, both in the design and the operation,” Shah tells the Business Observer. “There’s one front desk, there’s one pool, and other amenities are shared. And we’ve found that the two different brands often appeal to two different customers.”

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Art Snax: The Urban Conga lecture, and other art events on local menu

As an award-winning design and architecture firm, The Urban Conga is serious about fun and gathering people together to interact in real time. On Jan. 9, founder and executive direction Ryan Swanson will be presenting “Playable Cities” as a free event in part of the USF School of Architecture & Community Design’s Spring 2018 lecture series.
 
“Play is a strong activity where people break barriers and engage with people they wouldn’t normally interact with. When we think of city development, we think about creating buildings and parking, but we forget about how a person travels through this space. There are these really great community gathering spots, but people are still disconnected so we ask how we can get people to interact with one another. We think of it as place-making through play-making,” Swanson says.
 
The lecture will in part be an overview of who The Urban Conga is and what they do, but also digging into how they accomplish their projects. As a graduate of the USF School of Architecture, Swanson will be discussing the potential of “play” to be a game-changer for urban planning in the future.
 
The responses to Urban Conga’s projects have been energetic, but sometimes cities question it at first … until thousands of people show up the week their project is installed. Because of this initial doubt from municipalities, they have been working with the British Council to develop qualitative and quantitative studies to see how their work affects cities, from personal experiences to the traffic and revenue it can create.
 
“We’re looking at things that already exist in the public realm and architecture, and take it one step further. It’s the idea of how play can be used in everyday spaces. It’s not just about kid’s playgrounds, but it could also be sidewalks, alleyways, or benches that act as platforms for community activity and allow people to escape their monotonous routine,” Swanson explains.
 
Other art events coming up:
 
  • CASS presents ''Naughty by Nature'' at its satellite gallery, the Epicurean Hotel, on Jan. 12. Featuring new watercolors by Jason Pulgarin, his street art aesthetic -- inspired by cartoons, fashion, and graffiti -- is captured in works on paper.
  • On Jan. 12, join artists Javier Castro, Yunior Aguiar Perdomo of Celia y Yunior, and Glexis Novoa at the USF CAM for a lively discussion surrounding art, politics, and the environment during the exhibition reception for ''Climate Change: Cuba/USA.'' The artist talk, moderated by curator Noel Smith, will start at 6 p.m. at the Barness Recital Hall, followed by the exhibition reception from 7-9 p.m.
  • Get on your boogie shoes and get ready to bust a move at Tempus Project’s (NO MEDIA) Dance Party on Jan. 13. Just as the name states: no phones, cameras, or screens to get some real face time with your friends. Just disconnect and dance!
  • Part fashion show, part art party -- you can’t really go wrong with that combination. On Jan. 13, see who’s rocking the runway during ''Cocktails & Couture: Apocalipstick'' at The Ritz Ybor, with designs from Elizabeth Carson Racker Fashion Design Boutique, Halle Elizabeth Couture, Juliet Retro, Kingsland by Kevin Arnett, Sew Addicted, and Spellbound Stitches. Come for the fashion, but stick around for the music and performances. Tickets range from $13-60.
  • Even if you don’t have a yard for a big garden, you can learn how to utilize wall space for planting at the Vertical Garden Workshop: Design and Maintenance hosted by Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association on Jan. 16. But these gardens aren’t just beautiful; they’re also beneficial (who doesn’t want noise reduction and lower A/C costs?) The workshop will be run by Hal Thorne, Debbie Kotalic, and Dan Ballay of GSky Plant Systems, and cost $75 per person ($90 after Jan. 5).
  • The group exhibition "Beyond Tradition: Contemporary Reflections in East Asia,'' featuring works by 8 East Asian artists who explore traditional styles and techniques in a contemporary manner, will exhibit at USF’s Carolyn M. Wilson Gallery from Jan. 17 – Feb. 1. The free lecture, “Embrace or Rebel?,” by Dr. Hyewon Yi surrounding this exhibition will be on Jan. 18 in FAH 101.
  • About once a year, Santaella Studios opens their doors for an art show and open house so the public can see what the artists’ have been up to their unique cigar factory studio spaces. The event will be on Feb. 2, and a portion of the proceeds of this event will go toward Children’s Cancer Center.
  • If you’re into punkish sounds, energetic beats, or experimental drums, you should check out the bands Career, Permanent Makeup, and Sean Hamilton who are lined up to play at CL Space in Ybor on Feb. 9. Adam Roberts’ photography exhibition will provide the backdrop for the concert.

Gasparilla Festival of the Arts gives emerging artists a big opportunity

Getting your footing in the art world can be a struggle for emerging artists, but the Emerging Artist Program at the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts gives a unique opportunity to show work in one of the largest outdoor festivals in the country.
 
“The idea was to encourage artists who were just starting out and didn’t have the portfolio to compete with career art fair artists so they could see what it was like and have a mentoring aspect along the way,” says Ann-Eliza Taylor, Chair of the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts Emerging Artists program.
 
The number of candidates has gone up each year, with 125 submissions last year. This year, they will be selecting 15 artists to show their works. What’s even better is that there is no booth cost to the artist; in fact, selected artists get paid a $250 stipend for show expenses. Additionally, they will provide a tent for the weekend as well as mentoring.
 
“Last year, Libbi Ponce was selected and she did an interested installation piece along with smaller works she sold. Because the emerging artists have the benefit of not having to pay booth fees, they can take more risks. They don’t have to be concerned about making money, but they can use this as a catalyst to apply for other exhibitions and shows. We are really trying to break out of the mold. It doesn’t have to be a traditional art fair booth, so we are really encouraging the artists to be as creative as they want to be,” Taylor says.
 
Not only is the festival a great way to garner collectors and art sales, one of the emerging artists will be selected for the $1,500 Emerging Artist Award by jury.
 
So what exactly qualifies as an emerging artist? As long as you don’t have a professional artist record of exhibiting in museums, art centers, major galleries or juried outdoor art exhibitions and you don’t have more than 25 percent of your total income produced from artwork sales, you are eligible to apply.
 
“For the future of this program, I want to continue to support new artists and would like the program to be more involved with interaction and mentorship throughout they year. As a festival, we are trying to be more involved in the community and do more outside the month of the festival,” Taylor explains.
 
The deadline to apply is Jan. 7. You can find additional information, see the works of previous emerging artists, and get the link to the application (with a small application fee of $10) here.

Water Street Tampa project starts coming out of the ground

Construction work has begun on a new University of South Florida medical school as part of the Water Street Tampa urban design project on downtown Tampa's waterfront.

The USF Health building project is the first in a series that will include shops, office space, a hotel and apartments.

Read the complete story.
 

Hurricane Irma spares Tampa Bay Area compared to other coastal communities in Florida

More than 95 percent of households and businesses had power restored in the Tampa Bay Area within a week of Hurricane Irma's blast across Florida September 9-12.

While serious damage caused by wind and flooding affected many individuals, particularly in low-lying areas along local rivers, the overall impact was much less in the Tampa Bay Area than in other parts of Florida.

Read the complete story.
 
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