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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.”

Read the complete story.
 

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.

Art Snax: The Black Friday Alternative, and other art events on local menu

If you shudder at the thought of battling your way through the mall on Black Friday, why not check out “The Black Friday Alternative”? Hosted by the Tampa Bay Etsy Crew and Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café, browse through local makers (full list of artists on event page) to find some unique gifts for loved ones all while supporting local artists.
 
The Tampa Bay Etsy Crew was founded by artist-entrepreneur Julie Richarme back in April 2008 when she was browsing the Etsy and noticed an abundance of artists and makers in the local area.
 
“I just thought to myself, here I am working from home, and it can be kind of a lonely thing. I thought it would be a great way to build a community to talk shop. I put together the team, and now we’re up to around 1,500 active members. We do meet up in person, like when we do our one big annual summer event at the St. Pete Coliseum, which we call our ‘Craft Party.’ It’s like a craft show where we have vendors, free crafts, and swag bags. In between our summer event and holiday market, we have some smaller meet-ups to discuss projects or just to get out of the house,” Richarme says.
 
The Black Friday Alternative event starts on Nov. 24 at 4 -- 10 p.m., and while this isn’t Ella’s first holiday sale, this will be TBEC’s first time at this venue. With around 50 vendors that have been carefully selected through a jury process, you can expect only the best for your gift-buying needs.
 
“What makes our holiday market stand out is that everyone there is a local small business, and everything is either handmade or vintage. We’re pretty excited about this event coming up,” Richarme says.

Other art events on the radar:
 
  • With the Arts Council of Hillsborough County’s recent Arts & Economic Prosperity Study, it’s clear how the arts impact Tampa in a positive way -- but what about arts education? At Oxford Exchange on Nov. 17, learn more from Alex Harris with “Arts Education as an Economic Engine” at 8 a.m.
  • What started out as a poetry reading in Keith Rodger’s living room has expanded over the past seven years into the longest running Spoken Word/Open Mic in the Tampa Bay area. Join Black on Black Rhyme on Nov. 17 for a night invigorated by speech.
  • Desireé Moore’s solo exhibition “Bare Your Teeth” kicks off Nov. 18 at Cunsthaus with the opening reception starting at 7 p.m., with worth that explores the social norms placed on women through film. While you’re in that neck of the woods, stroll over to Tempus Projects next door for Neil Bender’s solo show opening reception for “Head Cream”.
  • Did you know that USF has a killer print atelier -- hiding in an obscure part of the campus--that invites some big-name artists to do specialty editions throughout the year? If not, now’s your chance during Field Trip: Graphicstudio to tour the facilities and get to see some prints come hot off the press on Nov. 18. Hosted by The Contemporaries of the MFA St. Pete, this event is $10 for The Contemporaries members, and $20 for non-members.
  • It’s the giving time of year, but handing off your money doesn’t have to be so boring. With HamBINGO Mary’s 3rd Annual Fundraiser for Tempus Projects on Nov. 20, bring your game face and some cash, and you too can receive a little fun for your generosity in supporting your local arts community.
  • There are some movies that you just can’t rent from Redbox. As part of additional programming coinciding with the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts’ “Under the Cuban Sun” exhibition, the film “Soy Cuba (1964)” will be screened as part of “Night Visions,” their monthly film-based programming hosted by Second Screen Cult Cinema on Nov. 21.
  • Coinciding with their exhibition “James Rosenquist: Tampa,” USF CAM will be giving you an insider look with their “Art Thursday: Secrets of the Rosenquist Prints” on Nov. 30.
  • Burlesque for a cause? You bet. Femmes & Follies will be back at the Honey Pot this year for their 4th Annual Rhinestones & Rescues! Burlesque, with proceeds from their burlesque and 2018 calendar release benefitting Suncoast Animal League.
  • During “Skyway: A Contemporary Collaboration” featuring local artists, the Tampa Museum of Art asked who should be given the limelight for an encore show, and you  all delivered on your vote. “Skyway Selections: Audience Choice” from Dec. 1-April 1 will feature the work of Elisabeth Condon and Bruce Marsh.
  • If you haven’t worn out your wallet by the beginning of December, the 5th Annual Oxford Exchange Holiday Gift Bazaar on Dec. 2 – 3 might have what you need for that person that’s hard to buy for with lots of local makers on their roster.
  • Taking rock music to a whole new genre with “An Intimate Evening with The Florida Orchestra and Sting at TFO on Dec. 9, they will be rocking out through the night to celebrate The Florida Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary.
  • Even if you already know the story, it’s still a staple of the holidays. Tampa City Ballet presents “The Nutcracker” at USF Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. for a one-night performance, so now’s the time to get crackin’ on your plans. Tickets are priced at $30.
  • Holiday music for your ears: the Tampa Metropolitan Youth Orchestra Winter Concert this year will be on Dec. 16 at USF School of Music Concert Hall. Admission is $10 for students and seniors, $15 for adults.
  • What better way to build up to the crescendo of the holidays than with a orchestra/acrobatic live performance? Cirque Musica Holiday presents “Believe” on Dec. 22 at Amalie Arena to fill you up with all of that jolly holiday spirit.

First geek bar, no sports allowed, opens in Largo

Steering away from the local sports bar trend, a new bar in Largo targets geeks, nerds, brainiacs who want to enjoy a tasty brew without competitive athletes going at it in the background.

Conversation too may win as people take their eyes off the ball to talk to each other. What a concept!

Read the complete story.
 

Florida has more toll roads than any other state

Tolls, user fees and user taxes pay almost 70 percent of the costs of Florida roads. Share the costs with tourists who use the roads has long been the thinking behind local decision-making.

What will the consequences be when more fuel-efficient cars take to the roads, mass transit expands and federal funding cuts start to speed up?

Read the complete story.
 

New segment opens on Coast-to-Coast Connector Trail across Florida

A new 5-mile segment of bike trail on the north end of Pinellas County now connects the Pinellas Trail to Pasco County.

The extension is part of the 250-mile-long Coast-to-Coast Connector Trail crossing Florida west to east.

Read the complete story.
 

Water Street Tampa: A new name for downtown Tampa waterfront under development

What's in a name? A whole lot of prospect for the future of downtown Tampa. Strategic Property Partners, the developers of more than 50 acres along the downtown waterfront, lands on a new name for the urban design district that includes a Wellness District and abuts the Channel District.

Welcome to Water Street Tampa. And the innovative thinking behind it.

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From dead zone to destination: Tampa story of transformational change runs along waterfront

Transformational change is often the result of a shared vision, relationships, long-term investments and perseverance. Nowhere is that successful combo better illustrated than in the story of the evolution of Tampa's downtown waterfront.

The story is captured well in Politico Magazine by Tampa Bay Times writer Richard Danielson who takes a look at three decades of progress in the Tampa Bay region's largest city. Whether you have lived through the last 30 years in Tampa or are new to town and curious about the city's history, the story of Tampa's journey offers valuable insights.

Read the complete story.
 

Giant Florida watermelon makes a comeback thanks to Lakeland grower, Tampa chef

The Florida Favorite, once Florida's official watermelon, largely disappeared around World War I when it fell out of favor due to not being pest-hardy enough. But with the help of local bees, Lakeland Farmer Will Crum, 33, has rehybridized it by cross-pollinating the Georgia Rattlesnake and Bradford watermelons.

Tampa Chef Greg Baker and wife-business partner Michelle Baker plan to serve The Florida Favorite at their Seminole Heights restaurant Fodder and Shine starting this summer.

Read the complete story.


  

 

Vinik Family Foundation brings popular LEGO exhibit to downtown Tampa

"The Art of the Brick,” a touring exhibition of imaginative Lego creations by Nathan Sawaya that has been attracting crowds around the world for a decade, is coming to downtown Tampa June 23rd to Sept. 4th at 802 E. Whiting St.

The exhibit is being made possible by Penny and Jeff Vinik, local philanthropists, who brought the plastic balls play area called The Beach Tampa to Amalie Arena last summer. "The Art of the Brick'' will be on display at 802 E. Whiting St.

Read the complete story.
 

City of Tampa seeks proposals for adding shops, restaurants along Tampa Riverwalk in downtown

The City of Tampa recently released a Request for Proposals to solicit interest in developing more dining and retail options downtown. The RFPs apply to The Tampa Riverwalk by Curtis Hixon Park and near the Tampa Convention Center.

“Anyone who has been downtown lately knows how popular it has become as a destination for residents and travelers alike,” says Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “That’s why we’re looking at any and all opportunities to bring Tampanians diverse restaurant and retail choices to the urban core.”
 
Details on the RFP packages are located on the city's website.

Painting the essence of Florida beach communities

Violetta Chandler, Mary Rose Holmes and Helen Tilston are often seen at work along Gulf Boulevard and various sites in Indian Rocks Beach capturing in a vibrant impressionistic style the unique local architecture and beachscapes.

Now their work Plein Aire Cottage Artists is being captured in a TV documentary by Tampa producers Lynn Marvin Dingfelder and Larry Wiezycki. 

Read the complete story.
 

Smoking a cigar in Ybor City still goes with the territory

Even as creatives, techies, design firms and defense contractors increasingly call Ybor City home, the national narrative around the historic Tampa neighborhood largely spins around cigars and cigar making.

Welcome to a visitor's take on what it's like to spend a few days on Seventh Avenue and nearby.

Read the complete story.
 

NYT spends 36 hours in St. Pete Beach

The New York Times spends 36 hours in St. Pete Beach to luxuriate in the white sandy beaches and laid-back ambiance that goes with experiencing the Gulf coast in Pinellas County.

Food, drink and the great outdoors provide the narrative.

Read the complete story.
 
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