Wednesday, January 30, 2008

County Connection

The entire Pinellas county government management team showed up at our last Friday Morning Group meeting. Well, OK, not exactly. However, we were joined by our old friend, Michele Tuegel from the Pinellas County Cultural Affairs Department. Michelle brought us copies of the slick new newsletter she has been working on. It was just over a year ago that the Pinellas Arts Council became a department in the county government with its new name - the Pinellas County Cultural Affairs Department. Thus this newsletter was Michelle's first collaboration with the County Communications Department. It was just about this time that Marcia Crawley, Pinellas County's Communication Director walked in to join us. Now Michelle and Marcia swear they didn't plan this, but I dunno...

Actually, it was a real treat to have Marcia join us. She has been active at The Studio@620 and has been wanting to be able to join us for some time. But that drive to Clearwater kept getting in the way.

Michelle also brought us news of a Cultural Tourism Workshop to be held in conjunction with the Convention and Visitors Bureau on February 8th. The workshop will focus on helping arts organizations better market themselves. The workshop will be held at the Collaborative Labs at the EpiCenter on 58th Street and Ulmerton. For more on county art happenings, be sure to check out the Cultural Affairs Departments' retooled website.

Another topic discussed last Friday was affordable live /work space for artists. The St. Petersburg City Council has placed a new emphasis on affordable housing this year with the creation of a Housing Services Committee. A committee meeting last Thursday impressed upon me that there is funding available from state and federal sources to assist in providing affordable housing. So why not try to have some of that money spent on affordable live / work space for artists? Peter Kageyama had gotten me some information on just such a project he is working on in Michigan, The Armory Arts Project. This is a very interesting adaptive reuse of an old National Guard Armory providing live / work space and a large gallery display space for artists.

Michelle Tuegel told us about something being worked on closer to home in Tallahassee. The Art on Gaines project there just received a $350,000 grant from Artspace
, a Minneapolis based non profit whose mission is
to create, foster and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported last week that
Arts on Gaines is envisioned as a mixed-use development where artists live, work and hold exhibits; where organizations and businesses devoted to the arts share space and ideas, an incubator for arts-related commerce and creativity; and where an eclectic collection of restaurants and retail stores serves a bustling clientele.

A model of neighborhood revitalization.
Just the sort of vision we could use around here. If we want to keep the arts buzz going in St. Petersburg, we are going to have to keep innovating. Standing still only gets you farther behind in the end.

Speaking of vision, Kudos to the artists of the former Gallery Royale for contributing equipment (lighting & such) to the burned down IMAAGO Art Gallery's reserection efforts.