The evolution of downtown Clearwater: Check out the infusion of art

(This is part 1 of a 4-part series about the continuing evolution of downtown Clearwater.)

Downtown Clearwater is a pristine historic district with a stunning coastal backdrop, but it has experienced challenges attracting the pedestrian action of downtown St. Petersburg, South Howard Avenue in Tampa, or Ybor City. 

Thanks to financial incentives offered by the Clearwater Redevelopment Agency, the district is off to a good start to attract more people of all types to the district. One of the agency’s objectives has been to midwife an aesthetic and cultural rebirth. Public sculptures and murals have added color and compelling design to the cityscape. New bars and restaurants have opened. 

Strolling the landscaped, manicured sidewalks, outdoor tables beckon diners. Banners advertising Imagine Clearwater in robin-egg blue and yellow stir up anticipation for the makeover of the block occupied by Coachman Park and the Clearwater Library. Plans for the $60 million-plus Imagine Clearwater project include a new garden, a lake under the Memorial Causeway, a half-mile bluff walk with shaded paths and more. Plus Coachman Park will soon get a new name: Coachman Commons, as well as some other major changes.

"As seen by the success of the Dreams of Dali Virtual Reality Experience at Second Century Studios, Tampa Bay citizens want to see high-quality arts in Downtown Clearwater,” says Tarin Mohajeri, Program Coordinator for the CRA. “With a vibrant public art program, downtown art walks, beautiful murals, and amazing performing arts, there is a creative energy that is developing Downtown Clearwater into a cultural destination."

Further evidence of Clearwater’s arts infusion can be found in exciting new things to do and see downtown. 

Stroll by a Free Street Gallery

The artwork you walk or drive by on Cleveland Street makes up the ongoing Sculpture360 exhibition, a rotating collection of temporary artwork that’s part of the Clearwater Public Art and Design Program. Funded by contributions from the city's Public Art Fund and partnerships with local donors and organizations, the ninth season of Scupture360, appropriately titled Season IX, will remain on display through June 2020. It can be seen in the medians of the 400 to 600 blocks of Cleveland Street.

Donald Gialanella created the compelling stainless steel bust "Gaia" inspired by the artist’s fascination with the human face and named after the Mother Earth goddess of Greek mythology. "In a Musical Atmosphere" by artist Adi Ben Dov iDEA combines aluminum and four types of glass. The metal represents the stability, security, and calmness, which characterize Clearwater's growth in the spheres of family, education, spirit, art, and business. The glass represents the city's transparency and brotherhood. The flowing musical notes represent the affinity, respect, and space for Clearwater's art and music culture.

Catch a multicultural exhibition

“Our Perspectives, Our Cultures, Our Community” showcases the work of local artists and students at Second Century Studio in Downtown Clearwater. The exhibition at 331 Cleveland St. features artists with a wide range of cultural backgrounds and abilities, including some impressive members of the Banyan Odyssey, a nonprofit that aids people with developmental challenges express themselves through art. 

According to Mohajeri of the CRA, the exhibition celebrates Clearwater’s diversity and how it is expressed through different art forms.

“Clearwater is a region with people from all over the world who live in community with one another,” she effuses.

Not only are the artists diverse, so are their perspectives. Around 80 works by 45 different artists in a variety of media will be featured, including photography, glasswork, sculpture, and painting. A closing reception will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, which will provide an opportunity for the public to engage with the artists featured in the exhibit and be entertained by some uniquely gifted performing artists.

Upcoming events in conjunction with the  “Our Perspectives, Our Cultures, Our Community” exhibition:

Oct. 19: An artist demonstration day to learn about different mediums from print to painting to pottery, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Oct. 25: Performing arts and storytelling event, 6-9 p.m.
Take part in Clearwater’s monthly Art Walk

Each month on the third Friday of the month, downtown Clearwater gallery owners open their doors after hours, and artists sell works on the sidewalk between the 400 and 600 blocks of Cleveland Street. This month’s theme is “Dark Arts” and takes place 6-9 p.m. on Oct. 18.

Murals! A few large-scale works of fine art wow passersby. Painted across the wall of the Garden Street Parking Garage, Comunidad shows empowered, united women touching hands. Uruguayan artists Florencia Duran and Camilo Nunez based them on sketches of real women. Also, the vibrant Instagram-able Elysian Days can be found at the western wall of 512 Cleveland St. Artist Cecilia Lueza says in her artist statement that she drew her inspiration from the rainforest and the transformative power of nature. 

Get glassy: Glass artist Marlene Rose and TD Glass have works on display in downtown Clearwater. Rose was recently featured on CBS Sunday Morning. Eastern religions and philosophy inform both artists’ works.

For more information, follow these links:83 Degrees Media's 4-part series on the evolution of downtown Clearwater:
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Read more articles by Julie Garisto.

A graduate of Largo High, USF, and the University of Tampa's Creative Writing MFA program, Julie Garisto grew up in Clearwater and now has a home in the Ocala National Forest. Between writing assignments, she's teaching English courses at Saint Leo University and other colleges. Julie has written arts features in Creative Pinellas' online magazine ArtsCoast Journal, Creative Loafing, Florida travel pieces  (Visit Tampa Bay and Visit Jacksonville), the Cade Museum, and features and reviews in the Tampa Bay Times. Her previous journalistic roles include arts and entertainment editor for Creative Loafing, staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and copy editor for the Weekly Planet. Lately, she's been obsessed with exploring Florida's State Parks, small towns, and natural springs.