Rhino On Air Bellows About St. Pete's Arts Community

St. Petersburg's historic Kress Building, a classic 1920-era structure that was once part of a five-and-dime-store empire, is now home to small businesses and entrepreneurs like Ann Marie Cash.

A petite woman with a mane of curls, a deep tan and a fireball personality, Cash uses her space in the Kress to air Rhino On Air, an online broadcast in which she engages in lively discussions with some of the Tampa Bay region's most creative,  thoughtful and visionary minds.

On a recent Wednesday morning at 10, Cash is interviewing Matthew McGee, community outreach and marketing director of St. Petersburg’s new freeFall Theatre, a professional black box theater company that opened two years ago in a former Christian Science Church.

McGee is one of two guests on "Connect the Dots,'' Cash's talk show in which she features St. Petersburg's growing number of artists, musicians, actors, designers, as well as art galleries, restaurants, clubs and museums.

McGee is promoting the theatre and talking about the unique line-up of shows, including the current performance of the groundbreaking rock musical Spring Awakening, followed by a "re-imagined'' version of the classic Fiddler on the Roof in the fall.

Brazilian-born Christina Alencar, a fine artist and owner of Bottega D’Arte-Galleria, is Cash's second guest. Alencar just moved her studio from St. Petersburg's Central Avenue district into a building double the size in the emerging Warehouse Arts District.

Now in addition to having enough space for a gallery, studio and workshops, she has plans to build five rental artist studios, as well as open a cafe and a community garden in the back.

"Connect the Dots'' is one of two shows that Cash hosts each week. The other is St. Pete Buzz, where she adds community leaders to her interview list.

Both the station and her shows are a way to feed her passion for the arts and her love of St. Petersburg. She founded the novel internet-based radio station, Rhino on Air, in 2011.

Emerging From Time Of Transition

Cash herself is not an artist, but she is married to one. She and local painter Marc Levasseur got married last year. Rhino On Air's hallways are filled not only with his artwork, but other local artists, including Chad Mize, sculptor and painter Salvador Saint Germain and painter Patricia Filomeno.

Originally from New York, Cash grew up in Puerto Rico and earned her bachelor's degree in business before moving to Miami. Later, she moved to Tampa, and then two years ago to St. Petersburg during a time of transition -- a divorce, children leaving home and getting laid off from her job.

She has a background in technology and sales and at one time founded and owned an independent record label, Real Cash Records that specialized in Latin Hip Hop.  But at this time in her life, she wanted to do something completely different and to get involved in the arts community. 

To meet people, she launched a networking website called, "The Best of St. Pete.'' She joined the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. And she launched an internet radio show with a focus on the arts.

"It was a sort of build it and they will come dream,'' says Cash about what many perceive as a daunting task -- creating a radio station from the ground floor up. 

"Rhino on Air was a way for me to get connected with the arts community and to help local artists gain exposure -- a marketing tool that gives artists a voice,'' she says.

Baby Rhino Leaves The Herd

At first her shows were broadcast out of Rhino Studio, a production studio in downtown St. Petersburg for film and video. That's where the name for her radio station originated, she says.

When the studio changed management and was re-branded as Studio Rhino with a slightly different focus, Cash decided to moved into the Kress Building to set up the station's permanent home. As Cash likes to say, "It was time for the baby rhino (Rhino on Air) to leave the herd.''   

Cash is the station's only full-time employee and serves as both general manager and programming director. Students from Tampa's International Academy of Design & Technology intern there and work as audio engineers. They also help with promoting the station.

While Cash is the station's primary talk show host, she has a list of about six additional hosts, who sponsor shows with their own theme and time slot each week, such as Mojo Moments on Mondays with Barry Foster, founder of the Corporate Coaching Center, and Medical Matters on Tuesdays with chiropractic physician Kyle Remmel. In between shows, you can listen to indie music representing all genres from blues to rock 'n roll.

Although the station isn't yet showing a profit, Cash says the rewards are way beyond the finances.

"I get the opportunity to share the time and space with the amazing people I meet and work with,'' she says. It's a labor of love.

Janan Talafer is a freelance writer in St. Petersburg, FL, who shares a home office with her dog Bear and two cats Milo and Nigel. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Janan Talafer.

Janan Talafer enjoys writing for a diverse group of clients, including print and online publications, nonprofit organizations and public relations agencies. One of the highlights of her writing career was flying with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa FL for a feature about this elite military team. A journalism graduate of Bowling Green State University (OH), Janan’s early career was in health care marketing and public relations for hospitals in Connecticut and Tampa Bay. She is an avid gardener, loves East Coast swing dance and enjoys touring around St. Petersburg on the back of her husband’s scooter.
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