Heights Art Studio + Gallery Tour showcases work behind art

Visiting an artist’s studio never gets old. There’s something fascinating about poking around their flat files full of sketches, scanning their bookshelves, and admiring their set-up (or lack-thereof) that makes you feel as though you could trace their brushstrokes back to the first mark made. It’s almost a way to get to know the artist intuitively, from a private view inside their lair.
Bringing that behind-the-scenes feel to Seminole Heights, Tempus Projects hosted The Heights Art Studio + Gallery Tour on Oct. 21 from noon to 6 p.m. with a self-guided tour of private artist studios and galleries in the area. For a $15 ticket, visitors had unique access to get to know local artists on a more personal level, all while knowing the proceeds of the event will be going toward future exhibition and educational programs at Tempus, a nonprofit organization. 
The thought leader behind the tour is Sarah Howard, Curator of Public Art and Social Practice at the Institute for Research in Art at USF. While at a private event held by Sanchez Cumbas in his home-turned-to studio earlier this spring, Howard came up with a plan to expand this idea.
“It was more of an open house than a formal exhibition, and was nice to get together with like-minded folks. There are a lot of artists in the area who have studios that are either attached or detached to their house, or even in their garages. We wanted to create this studio tour to see what kind of community we can create from that,” she says.

Where the real magic happens
Bushwick Open Studios has long been an event that brings people from the city to the outskirts of NYC, where the real magic happens in the more industrial parts of town where artists can afford studio space (kind of, for now). But with only 16 hours to visit a couple hundred studios and galleries scattered through the city over the two-day event, the “FOMO” can leave you feeling like you’re rushing through studios to see as much as you can.
With a carefully selected 13 venues in the Heights, including Robert Aiosa, Bleu Acier (Dominique Labauvie and Erika Greenberg-Schneider), Coco Hunday (Jason Lazarus), Edgar Sanchez Cumbas, Becky Flanders, Joe Griffith, Illsol (Tony Krol and Michelle Sawyer), LiveWork Studios (Janine Awai, Devon Brady, and Michael LeMieux), Jenn Ryann Miller, Kym O’Donnell, Parallelogram Gallery (William Douglas and Noelle Mason), Phoenix Glass Studio (Susan Gott), Gary Schmitt, Brian Taylor, and Kirk Ke Wang, the limited menu allowed visitors to take their time.
“For this first time, we chose artists we were familiar with or knew they were in the area and had working studios. We wanted to include some of the newer galleries that opened up in the neighborhood as well as the live-work spaces to show people that there are all of these artists living right here where people might not even realize. This tour is more quality over quantity, to highlight certain artists and get people to really slow down, enjoy the work, and getting to know the artists,” Howard says.
Between finished pieces and works in progress, some artists were doing demonstrations throughout the day while others had “other surprises in store.”
A destination for the arts

One could see this event as a move to establish Seminole Heights as a “studio destination,” though across the board artists are finding it hard to seek out affordable workspaces in a more centralized area to create a honed-in art community.
“That’s kind of what we are trying to do is create this arts corridor and show we have the density of artists in the area that are contributing to the cultural fabric of the neighborhood,” Howard explains.
As a way to connect with the community, this event was perfect for those who aren’t involved in the art scene to get to know who the local painter is or learn how the sculptors do what they do, but you may be hesitant in not knowing how to engage. Howard suggests a few icebreakers: Ask about what inspires the artists, or their current influences. What are their plans for future projects? If you’re thinking about collecting, maybe ask the artist where they have shown and where they are placed.
As for the foreseeable future of the Heights Studio Tour? Well, it depends.
“For this inaugural tour, we tried to make it a geographical area that could be broad but accomplishable, from the Lowry Park area and into Ybor. Because we want to do this annually, we wanted to make it so that artists could swap out each year,” Howard says, “We’ll just see how it goes.”

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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