All about Art on the Block: Poetry Posts to open calls to artists

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has made it her mission to nurture and support the local arts community ever since her election in 2019. One way she has done so is with the Art on the Block Program, an initiative aiming to bring art and artists into neighborhoods, making more art accessible and approachable to all. 
 
Right now, the City of Tampa is looking to pool more regional artist proposals to be considered for future Art on the Block projects. While many artists may automatically think that their work wouldn’t be suitable, think again: The City is looking for artists of all disciplines in 2D, 3D, and performance like textile, music, dance, and more.
 
“The go-to response for projects like this is murals, but there is so much untapped potential for what we could do. There are a lot of artists the Arts & Cultural Affairs team doesn’t work with based on what they do because the types of media aren’t conducive to large-scale projects but could be very appropriate and work well for temporary projects in neighborhoods,” says Robin Nigh, Manager of the City of Tampa’s Arts & Cultural Affairs. “We want to see how people can engage the arts in neighborhoods in different ways.”
 
Before the deadline for project proposals on Dec. 17, the Tampa Arts & Cultural Affairs team will host a webinar and Q&A session on Wednesday, Nov. 17. The webinar will be moderated by Tampa Arts Alliance Executive Director Michele Smith and is designed to give artists a chance to learn more about the program, ask questions and share some ideas, and take away fears of applying.
 
“This RFQ is also a way to challenge artists and allow them to grow. We can keep doing more if people keep asking for it; we are running at full speed, but we are happy to hear requests and all of them are written down,” Nigh says.
 
New project: Poetry Post
 
In a collaboration with the City of Tampa Wordsmith Gianna Russo, local artist Eileen Goldenberg, Melissa Davies with the Arts & Cultural Affairs, and Nigh launched the Poetry Post, a new mobile public art sculpture. The Poetry Post, which debuted in late October, offers a place where the community can both read some poems and submit their own.
 
The project first got started when Davies and Nigh contacted Goldenberg to come up with some ideas for how to illustrate stanzas from Russo’s work as well as a poetry contest that she had sent out in April during National Poetry Month. The prompt was to write something that is a celebration of Tampa.
 
“People enjoyed writing about their treasured part of Tampa. It’s important to take time to appreciate certain things, especially through poetry, which is a sort of undervalued art form in the U.S. With my poetry contest, we had submissions from the literary community as well as everyday people that wanted to be part of it, and I thought that was wonderful,” Russo says. “It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to more projects like this as Poet Laureate.”
 
The structure of the Poetry Post is set up like a moving billboard on wheels, with some selected poetry from the contest along with Tampa-inspired imagery. A small ornate box on the side of the billboard is where the community can submit their own poetry as the Poetry Post at scheduled events where it will be at throughout the community.
 
“As I was working on the Poetry Post structure, I had a friend cut a window in the box with a piece of glass so people could see other poems in there and be enticed to add theirs,” Goldenberg says. “One of my favorites is ‘Haunting Davis Islands’ by Rhonda Nelson, as she describes her spirit as she passes on and revisits all of her childhood haunts. I was really inspired by this project, I love Gianna’s work and all of the poems were fun and moving.”
 
For more information about the Arts on the Block information session webinar, visit the City of Tampa’s Facebook page or the EventBrite invitation. To find out more about Arts on the Block, see calls for entries and programs and projects
 

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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