Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Year's Worth of Friday Mornings

Happy Holidays everyone. Given the press of business and the Holiday season, I have not been able to sit down and write up the last two weeks worth of meetings until now. However, I decided rather than just catch up on the last two weeks, I'd take a look back on the entire year as 2007 comes to a close.

The First Friday of 2007 was not atypical of the entire year. Here's how we got the year started:
Our main focus again was how to support artists in St. Petersburg. It was suggested that one way to do that would be to try and get the City and the County to market us as an art buyers destination. The tie ins with economic and tourist development became rapidly apparent. Michele Tuegel of the County Cultural Affairs Council suggested that for St. Petersburg, it would make sense to approach Mayor Rick Baker. Herb Snitzer indicated he would contact Pinellas County Commission Chair Ken Welch.
We also talked about affordable and mixed use housing development for artists, historic preservation in St. Petersburg, and there was a rather lively discussion about education. And so the year started.

A couple of weeks later we had quite the discussion of the Big A and the Little a. Here's how some of that went:
The St. Pete Times was all abuzz about the Big A shuffle of the Palladium, American Stage and the Florida Orchestra engineered by all the usual Big A suspects. Not a word was written about the Little a artists who actually produce the art for the Big A. So what else is new?
The multi-faceted Peter Kagayama dropped the phrase "creative competitiveness"on us. That has a ring to it doesn't it? And our old friend Nancy Loehr dropped by with County Commissioner Ken Welch in tow.

February started off with a Friday Morning Mojo Moment:
This past Friday, February 2nd, may have been a watershed mojo moment for the Friday Morning Group. Not only were we honored to be joined by Pinellas County Commisioner Ken Welch, we were also able to extend a Friday Morning Welcome to St. Petersburg City Council Member Leslie Curran.

The admonition to arrive promptly at 8 AM was adhered to by a hardy group of talented folks and Ken started right off by asking how we wanted to proceed. Herb Snitzer laid out for Ken the nut of the issue for the Friday Morning Group artists - respect and recognition. Ken was also exposed to the idea of getting tourist development dollars to promote the City and the County as an art buying destination. That will help to support our Community Based artists, but also meets the Tourist Development Council and Convention and Visitors Bureau's missions of heads in beds.
This discussion shaped the course of a large chunk of our discussions for the next few months.
Ken must have asked at least three times, if not more, for the group to tell him what it is we wanted him to do for us. ... Leslie Curran took out her hammer and beat us over the head, gently. She admonished the group to make sure and follow through to deliver our wish list to Ken. ... Sandy Tabor volunteered to lead a mission statement and goal visioning session and or sessions. This is to be the first step in creating a strategic plan for the Friday Morning Group. (Scary, isn't it?) Bob (Devin Jones) stressed that the mission of the Friday Morning Group needed to be focused on Little a artists and how to support them. Group consensus seems to have formed generally around that premise.
That "mission statement and goal visioning session" led to the creation of a plan for the Pinellas Prize and from there OMG - we had a plan :
a "concept paper" that included the Pinellas Prize as a major component... Well, this past week, the Friday Morning Group subjected the "concept paper" to a more or less formal view. And the we did something really astounding - we took a vote! Those in attendance voted unanimously to support the "concept paper" and present it to Commissioner Welch. More than that, we agreed to go back to our various places in the world and try to get support for the provisions put forth in the "concept paper". Our hardy band of volunteers (our committee?) agreed to present the paper to Ken and to be available to him to respond to the questions he would surely have.

Now, I don't know about you, but all that sounds like we are getting awfully formal to me. It also sounds like progress.
As we moved into March, even the Friday Morning Group could not avoid the topic of homelessness in St. Pete. The Art of the Homeless included these snippets:
City Council Member Leslie Curran ... mentioned that Grace-Ann Alfiero of Creative Clay had previously approached the city with a proposal to extend their services to the mentally challenged homeless
Mike Conway reminded us of the Project Home show to be held in Williams Park on March 30th and 31st. This show, planned prior to the current homeless plight emerged in St. Pete, is about artists' concepts of what a "home" means or is.
March closed out with a couple of different views on how different communities view supporting artists. Attitudinal Change was how I described the reception our concept paper ( ) got from the Pinellas County bureaucracy:
... told us right off the bat that our problem was going to be with the $50,000 stipend to the prize winners. That much money going to an individual would be "problematic". ... Bob Devin Jones perhaps said it best when he said placing value on artists is at the core of what we are about. The $50,000 is about valuing artists in the way that our society values things - through financial means.

The real work though is to set out to create the attitudinal change necessary to bring that idea of valuing artists to the forefront. We have the ear of and a proposal before a County Commissioner.
Contrast that with Irish Eyes which started like this:

That about describes our Friday Morning Group meeting last week for me. For those of you who weren't there, well you can follow along below.

Peter Kagayama brought us a very special guest indeed last Friday. Roisin McDonough is the Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the equivalent of our National Endowment for the Arts. Boy did we get an earful about what respect for artists looks like there.
The contrast could not have been more stark.

Moving into April, a conversation began about our concept paper featuring the Pinellas Prize and the Creativity Center:
Last week at the Friday Morning Group a rather lively discussion took place. Judith Powers had written up her comments on our Concept Paper. These comments were distributed to all seven County Commissioners and to Liz Warren, Judith's direct supervisor and to Paul Cozzee, the Assistant County Administrator under which the Cultural Affairs Department now falls (Parks, Leisure and Culture).

Herb Snitzer gave us a brief review of Judith's comments. They were pretty much what was expected after Judith's visit to our Group on March 9th. If you wish to read Judith's comments, you can find them here. The attendees at the meeting pretty much agreed that despite Judith's comments, we would continue to pursue the concepts of the Pinellas Prize and the Creativity Center contained in the Concept Paper. Also, we agreed that what we would do is advocate for our concepts
The conversation continued the following week :
Herb Snitzer and I reported on our meeting with Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel. We had a very good meeting with Commissioner Seel (we tried very hard not to talk about money). ... We did succeed in getting Commissioner Seel to be supportive of the concept. However, the money part was definitely going to be a problem. We were urged again to look to the Tourist Development Council (TDC) as their revenue stream (bed tax on hotel and motel stays) is not going to be impacted by whatever property tax "reform" ultimately occurs.
April closed out with a group discussion about the group itself and a wide ranging discussion on arts and society:
Topics covered included African American Heritage and diversity and tolerance in media in the now post Imus age.

We discussed Bob Devin Jones' opening performance in Permanent Collection at the studio@620 (
Permanent Collection is a searing examination of racial politics that ultimately ask how much space – literally and figuratively – the white world gives to African-Americans. What is the cost of failing to view the world through another’s eyes?

Those who have seen it gave rave reviews and highly recommended that the rest of us go see the play.

Herb Snitzer gave us an update on his activity for the week - a table at the African American Heritage gathering at the Hilton. ...

There was also a discussion of the City's situation with the Public Arts program given the current tax "reform" climate.
Moving into May, we had discussions on Participatory Art , Arts and Attitude and Looking at the Long Term. Lively discussions all.

June began with Ideas Bouncing Around All Over the Place:
About a dozen of us were joined by St. Petersburg City Council Vice Chair Jamie Bennett. Jamie came all prepared to tell us about the situation the City of St. Petersburg finds itself in vis a vis the property tax reforms coming from Tallahassee .

... the City of St. Petersburg has already sent a letter to all the Arts and Social Services groups that the City helped to fund last year. That letter told these organizations that they better count on zero money from the City this coming year. The reason for that, of course, is the uncertainty all the local governments are facing about the severity of the budget cuts that may be enforced by the State Legislature.

... we started kicking around the usual ideas. You know, contacting our state legislators, contacting the Governor.

... it looked like we were really going nowhere fast. And then Peter Kageyama tossed three pennies onto the table. Peter asked us to take a moment and realize we were all creative people in the room and that maybe we should be thinking on the creative edge. The pennies were about an idea to find a dedicated funding source for government support of the arts. Now that's thinking on the creative edge.
As June moved along we discussed Art Happenings and Other Stuff, Smart TV and Looking for Writers (Tom Taggart from WEDU joined us), The Art of Livin' and we had A Whole lot of Art Going On.

In July we had great discussions about an Interesting Meeting & Big Weekend (Herb Snitzer's show at the Museum of Fine Arts among other things), the Sociology of Art and a continuing discussion on the (lack of) local media coverage of the arts.

In August we had a (W)EDUCational Discussion with Joyce Cotton, the Director of Marketing and Community Partnerships at WEDU. And we had a conversation about The Art of Guerrilla Tactics that was brightened by the all too rare appearance of Carol Dameron.

August was also when we began our discussions of the arts with City Council candidates beginning with Cathy Harrelson and Jamie Bennett.

In September, we did some Catching Up and we talked about Preserving the Garden Cafeteria and Some other History. Also in September, St. Petersburg City Council Member Jeff Danner joined us to talk about Advocating for the Arts and the allocation of the funds the City did manage to find for the arts and social services.

In advance of the November City Council elections, October was full of of discussions with City Council candidates, Ed Montonari, Bill Dudley and Herb Polson.

In November, in advance of the announcement of the Rays stadium proposal, we had a lively discussion about designating the Al Lang Stadium site as a park. Through the good offices of St. Pete City Council Member Leslie Curran, we were able to "kidnap" an old friend for a few minutes last week. Nancy Loehr, who more than anyone else was responsible for the formation of the Friday Morning Group. And I had a very pleasant surprise when my good friend Tom Orr came down from Tarpon Springs to join us at the Friday Morning Group. That was a pleasant enough surprise in itself. But Tom had brought his good friend Rose Sperling along as well. Rose is a very talented potter who is currently living in Fort Pierce. We are (I am) trying very hard to get Rose to move to St. Pete. Can't we all do something to encourage her?

In December so far, we have had a very interesting discussion that If I Told You I'd Have To... that featured City Council Member Elect Bill Dudley and special guest Lance Rogers. And city issues were prominent in a discussion that I labeled Meet the Mayoral Candidates?

That brings us up to the last two weeks. With the holiday season, we had some smaller groups but still some interesting discussions. We were also joined by former St. Petersburg City Council Member Jay Lasita.

All in all a year jam packed with very interesting Friday Mornings.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Meet the Mayoral Candidates?

We had a very interesting discussion (how many different ways can you say that?) last week at the Friday Morning Group. As you might surmise from the title of this post, city issues were prominent in that discussion. But more on that later.

I want to make sure I pass along to all of you the information on the benefit for the IMAGO artists next Wednesday in Dunedin. Here is the flier(I hope):

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

And yes, we did discuss art as well. We talked about the Salt Creek opening that was scheduled for last Friday night. And we also discussed Bob Devin Jones' play "C" which was to open last Friday at the Studio @ 620 as well.

Now back to the City happenings. Herb Snitzer related that he has heard nothing about his proposal to document the mural on the wall at the old Piano Exchange (or Garden Cafeteria) if you will. This was followed up by a rather lively discussion about developers and preservation.

And we also talked about the upcoming mayors' race - which is only two years away (November 2009, but who's counting?) This discussion came up because the St. Petersburg Times had run a story the day before about some polling they had done, and specifically related to some potential Mayoral candidates that they polled on.

As Council Member Elect Bill Dudley had joined us, the idea of bring in potential Mayoral candidates to get their view of the arts and perhaps to impart some of our views. Accordingly, we are going to start bringing in the potential candidates to meet with us. The idea is that, perhaps, by starting early we can shape the debate about the value of artists and the arts to our community.

So starting next month, we will try and get these mayoral hopefuls (maybe one per month) in for a chat. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

If I Told You, I'd Have to...

We had a really interesting meeting last Friday morning at the Friday Morning Group. City Council Member Elect Bill Dudley wowed us all by actually coming back to see us after the election. Bill gets major points for that!

Not only did Bill come back to visit with us, he brought a special guest with him. Now I don't really know how we got so far along in life here at the Friday Morning Group that we would consider Lance Rogers to be a special guest. Nonetheless, we were all glad to see Lance. And we were really glad and intrigued to see what Lance had brought for us to peruse. I'd like to tell you about it, but if I told you...

Details about this most interesting project will be published when the time is ripe. And apparently now is not quite the time. But soon, I hope.

And no, we are not cooking up a stadium deal in the back room at Atlanta Bread. But that is another story.