Newly formed Tampa Arts Alliance aims to unite support for local arts community

During the last Tampa mayoral race in 2019, community conversations and candidate forums often went down a path of discussion involving what more could and should be done to support local artists and other creatives who feel under-appreciated or even neglected when it comes to investing in neighborhoods and creating a sense of place.

Out of that and the election of Mayor Jane Castor came almost monthly meetings and presentations about how best to support art and artists while shaping an inclusive, diverse, and vibrant city that engages community members, attracts investments — both private and public  -- and encourages the leadership, mindset, and ideas necessary to inspire, design and nurture a local culture that makes support for the arts a priority.

The result? Philanthropist Neil Gobioff, President of the Gobioff Foundation and CFO of Crab Devil, and Tampa City Councilman Bill Carlson, President of Tucker Hall and co-Founder of Cafe con Tampa, are taking the lead to form the new Tampa Arts Alliance as a non-governmental, nonprofit organization aiming to increase visibility and support for the arts in Tampa. 

Ideally, such support will come in many different forms, like securing funding for the arts through foundation and government grants, making connections between artists and arts organizations, growing the purchasing power of art lovers and collectors, and advocating for the creation of a designated arts district in Tampa

“One initial goal is for the Tampa Arts Alliance to host an Arts Forum as soon as we can,’’ says Gobioff. “We want to create an open dialogue with the arts community and work with them to raise up everyone in the community. We often talk about how in the past, the arts community always seemed to struggle to hold on to their piece of the pie. My hope is that through the Tampa Arts Alliance we can work to make sure the struggle is eased because everyone is getting a slice of a much bigger pie.’’

“A personal goal,’’ Gobioff continues, “would be to see the Tampa Arts Alliance serve as the catalyst that helps to unite the Tampa arts community.”

These goals will be tackled by a newly appointed Board of Directors, who are volunteering to promote Tampa arts. Initial board members include Gobioff as Chair; Dana Warner, an artist, teacher, and arts advocate, as Vice-Chair; Kathy Durdin, an artist and collector, as Treasurer/Secretary. 

Additional board members include Attorney Gary Sasso, a past board chair at the Straz Center; longtime art collector, USF Arts supporter, and Philanthropist Sara Richter; Tax Attorney Frank J. “Sandy” Rief, III of the Duckwall Foundation; Jennifer R. Malin, a marketing expert now with the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay; Lauren Brigman, a community activist and nonprofit liaison who chairs the board of Stageworks Theatre; Banker Henry Gonzalez, III of Beach Community Bank, a former board president of the Tampa Bay History Center; Attorney Jeff Gibson, who serves on the Tampa Bay Business Committee for the Arts; and Executive Director Michele Smith, Founder of The Resiliency School.

“There are some definite advantages when you’re not working inside a government bureaucracy,’’ Gobioff says. “We can respond to needs quicker and without the same reporting requirements. It’s completely understandable for those requirements to be in place for a government organization, but I’m hoping if we end up doing granting in the future that we can minimize the impact on the artists or organizations. I think there’s definitely more flexibility.”

To find out more, visit the Tampa Arts Alliance.

To see related stories reflecting the depth, breadth, and diversity of the local arts community, check out Arts coverage in 83 Degrees.
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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. Visit her recent line of inlay “wearable paintings.”