What’s cooking? Update on Crab Devil’s Peninsularium art experience in Tampa

When 83 Degrees last wrote about Crab Devil’s up-and-coming immersive arts attraction, Peninsularium’s status was very much in the initial phase of getting ideas off the ground, solidifying a home base, and sending out requests for proposals to artists.

Almost 12 months later, eight proposals -- in addition to some in-house projects -- have been accepted for shipping containers that are in the process of being transformed into mesmerizing artist-created spaces and Crab Devil now owns the property under their new building that will house not only the Peninsularium, but also Tempus Projects, Deviant Libation Brewery, and potential space for an artist residency. 
 
“For Crab Devil, it’s a really big deal to own this property because of all of those shipping containers. It is modular, so it could get up and move if it needed to, but it’s great not to have to up and move in a few years. Now, we can really dig in,” says Tracy Midulla, Creative Director of Crab Devil.
 
An official unveiling party of this mural Cultural Currency will be held Oct. 24 from 2-5 p.m. at 3800 N. Nebraska Ave. with food, drinks, and musical performances.
What are some things you can expect next? Some containers will include a Floridiana-inspired motel room, a laundromat with tricked-out washers and driers, an indigenous extinct or soon-to-be-extinct bamboo room, a limestone mermaid cave, a seashell room, and a skunk ape research center. There’s also word that there will be a Pageant Wagon Stage Theatre -- one of those box-like, moveable theaters that’s a box that one side either folds up for an awning or open up for a stage -- along with a secondary project space in the courtyard. Most exciting is that all of this, including Tempus Projects, will have regular engagement and gallery hours.
 
“It’s kind of a moving target, but the final finished installation of the Peninularium is close to 30 shipping containers. There’s a good chance at opening we’ll be closer to 20 containers with plans for expansion,” explains Devon Brady, Company Officer of Crab Devil. “We’re doing it this way so it can be done in phases of self-contained boxes to store until we’re ready for them. Beyond that, the longer-term goal is that every year we’d build out a small number of containers. From there, we can do some swapping out of things, pulling older ones out and replacing them.”
 
Arts lovers are thinking: When is it going to be open already?
 
“Our amended timeline is that we would love the Tempus Projects and Deviant Libation Brewery occupying the building and open by early 2021. If we can get the Peninsularium open in some way by 2021, we will be happy, but there are a lot of moving pieces that we have no control over, which is the frustrating part,” Brady says.
 
Cabinet of Curiosities
 
In June, Crab Devil sent out a call for proposals for their Cabinet of Curiosities, a collection of Florida-inspired, artist-made objects that encapsulate weird, wonderful, and kitsch to put on display in a “freebie” common hall that leads into options to either go to Tempus Projects, the brewery, or the Bait Shop that leads to the Peninsularium. 
 
“We had a huge response to the call and had way more submissions than we could accept with our budget. We have either committed to purchasing or accepted proposals for 20 artists so far. We also have a list of artists we were going to reach out to in the future whether for the Cabinet of Curiosities, to be peppered throughout the artistic experiences, or lead to some relationships to sell works in the store,” Midulla says. “We will also have a rotating collections cabinet that will provide visitors with something new each time. If we end up having to do a timed entry to the Peninsularium due to COVID, this will be a good waiting area. I think it will be a really engaging space with a bizarre variety of things.”
 
Tempus Projects x Illsol x New Roots Collective collaborative mural
 
While COVID-19 brought a lot of unpleasantries, it also spawned an exciting new mural commission between Tempus Projects/Crab Devil, Illsol, and New Roots Collective that sprung up out of the BLM movement. The project comprises two large-scale panels that will hang on one of the shipping containers, featuring the front and back $20 bill with Harriet Tubman as the focal point. Instead of keeping it a traditional mural, the boards will be engraved for a bas-relief effect before being painted.
 
“We want to broaden our reach and appeal and be radically inclusive. Roots Collective was doing things we weren’t doing, so we wanted to create a dialog with them through this project,’’ Brady says.

The general plan was to riff off of a Harriet Tubman $20 bill proposed under the Obama administration, but now the bill is not happening at all. 

“A California-based artist started a project with making these Tubman stamps to stamp over the current bill. That project is right up my alley in terms of sort of interventions I like to see: It was politically charged, controversial, but essentially open-source,” Brady says. “I like that our project is a street response to this governmental officialdom of the $20 bill. This collaboration allows Crab Devil to use our router and tools to get started, then let Illsol and New Roots Collective do their riffing on top of it, so there’s underlying texture carved under the graffiti. We can see more projects like this springing up.”
 
An official unveiling party of this mural Cultural Currency will be held Oct. 24 from 2-5 p.m. at 3800 N. Nebraska Ave. with food, drinks, and musical performances. 
 
Keep up-to-date with happenings with Crab Devil and the Peninsularium on their social media accounts:
  • Crab Devil (more informational): @crab_devil
  • Peninsularium (images and artist takeovers): @peninsularium
  • Crab Devil on Facebook

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. Visit her recent line of inlay “wearable paintings.”
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