Made in Tampa: Peninsularium, a Florida-themed arts compound

Many in the arts scene know of Santa Fe’s now famous Meow Wolf, an immersive arts attraction that transformed a vacant bowling alley into otherworldly places. Soon, Tampa will have a similar destination with Crab Devil’s Peninsularium.

Crab Devil is a local art collective comprised of artists, creators, philanthropists, curators, and other arts-related individuals aiming to highlight Tampa artists and Florida’s unique culture. Collaborators include Devon Brady, Janine Awai, Mike and Kelli LeMieux, Bob Ballard, Sarah Howard, Gianna and Neil Gobioff, Tim Ogden, and Tracy Midulla.

The Peninsularium will be designed as a family-friendly experience in a permanent installation comprised of artist-created spaces that touch on much of what makes Florida unique: kitsch, strange narratives, and bizarre characters.
 
“When we worked with the New Orleans Airlift, an artist-run initiative that collaborates with communities, on The Music Box: Tampa Bay in 2016, it opened our eyes to what is possible for immersive spaces,'' says Devon Brady, Company Officer of Crab Devil. "The Floridian theme is how we differentiate ourselves, by tieing ourselves into the location. Other arts attractions like Meow Wolf or Sleep No More [in New York] may use local artists, but the projects aren’t specific to that area. We want to highlight what makes this area special and different, and show that our caliber of artists are just as good as anywhere else.”
 
While Crab Devil is separate from other arts entities in the Tampa Bay Area, it has strong ties to Tempus Projects, a 10-year-old gallery and creative space in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, and will be housed under the same roof -- one that is currently under construction.

The 1-acre compound currently being built is in Ybor Heights at 3800 N. Nebraska Ave. It will be split into thirds: one part Tempus Projects, one part Deviant Libation Brewery, and one part common space. An upstairs area will be dedicated to Tempus Projects’ residency program. The Peninsularium itself will be comprised of repurposed shipping containers snaking through the acre of land next to the building, with the entrance inside Tempus Projects.
 
“At this point, we are launching the program to get other people involved. We’re going to need a lot of hands on deck and feature as many artists as possible,” Brady says. “You’re probably not going to see much of us until the next year as far as the Peninsularium goes. As we’re building out these containers, we’ll probably do some pop-ups to show what we’ve been working on.”
 
The main building is anticipated to be operational by late March 2020, with an additional 16-18 months to go for the artist-designed shipping container spaces.
 
“This is a tourist-run endeavor, but we also want to have something that brings the community here on a daily basis with the brewery component. Something like this is needed in the sense there is nothing like it in Tampa or even the state of Florida,'' Brady says. "It has a unique ability to engage all age groups. The other part that's exciting to me is the opportunity to revitalize the arts scene. Meow Wolf started with a few artists and now they have 450, with some making $80k a year.”

“If we could do a fraction of that here, we could employ a large part of the arts community that are struggling to make a living off their talents,'' he adds. "This could be a critical mass that sets off other projects to target the experience economy.”
 
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Read more articles by Caitlin Albritton.

Caitlin Albritton is a freelance writer based in Tampa with a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and a MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. When she's not looking at art throughout town, she can be found making it. You can keep up with her visual art on Instagram @caitlinalbritton or on her website.
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