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  • 13 Nov 2017 11:05 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    "If you don't feel the love in St. Pete, you're probably not breathing."

  • 30 Oct 2017 4:25 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Photo and article via Emily Bowers USFConnect

    Finding an affordable and legitimate studio space was next to impossible for art students in St. Petersburg, until now. The St. Petersburg Warehouse Arts District has now initiated ArtsXchange, a program that gives students access to a studio to display and sell their art.

    The ArtsXchange’s grand opening on Oct. 26 celebrated the completion of the program’s first phase, the opening of 28 new studios. The event was packed with locals, excited to show their support for the arts community.

    Among them were U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who spoke about their appreciation for the arts and helped cut the ceremonial ribbon.

    ArtsXchange aims to expose students to what it means to be a professional in the art world, and involve them in the larger art community.

    For $25 a year, students gain membership and have access to the studios, galleries, and various educational opportunities.

    “We created a segment of our membership for students because we believe student artists are apart of our community,” said Renee Dabbs, executive director of ArtsXchange. “We also believe they can come in and get a lot … Our future is that we are going to do more education for students.”

    Benefits of membership include the option to submit artwork to the ArtsXchange annex show, participate in their member-only art shows, and gain access to a personal studio.

    “It’s a wonderful facility,” artist Ted VanCleave said. VanCleave works in the Warehouse Arts District. “It’s brand new. It’s the best studio any one of us have had. It’s so nice, so well designed, so well lit. They really thought it through,” VanCleave said.

    With the warehouse’s location on the route of the Second Saturday ArtWalk, a local art touring event, student members have a unique opportunity to gain exposure for their work. The warehouse also serves as a space for mentoring programs.

    All types of artists are welcome to participate, and there is also no time limit to memberships and access to the studios, so long as the yearly fee is paid. Students can paint the walls, hang any and all of their art, and immerse themselves in the local arts community, all for $25 a year.

    To register for the student membership, go to


  • 24 Oct 2017 6:14 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Article via Janan Talafer at 83 Degrees

    With the official ribbon cutting for the Arts Xchange on Thursday, Oct. 26, the long-time vision for an affordable artist incubator in St. Petersburg is finally coming to fruition. 

    A project of the Warehouse Arts District Association, the nonprofit Arts Xchange will house 28 artist studios and event space for gallery openings, private and public parties and educational classes. 

    There’s even a communal area with lockers for up and coming artist entrepreneurs who want to come in to share a workspace, says Mark Aeiling, president of the Warehouse Arts District Association Board of Directors

    According to Aeiling, more than $1 million in grants, contributions from the state and city, as well as private donations have been raised to help get the center up and running.

    The project has a multiple phase plan that stretches out over the next five to 10 years, says Aeiling.  The first step is to get the building completed and artists moved in. Then comes landscaping, educational programming and branding for the area.

    Demand for affordable artist studios

    The new two-story, 9,200-square-foot center is a testament to the tenacity of local artists who were committed to making it happen.  

    Created out of a former warehouse that was most recently part of the old Ace Recycling property -- and before that, the Soft Water Laundry complex, the Arts Xchange sits on three acres of land close to the intersection of 22nd Street South and 5th Avenue South.  

    On Dec. 30, 2014, the Warehouse Arts District Association purchased the land and existing buildings on it with the goal of creating an “affordable, sustainable and accessible space for artists,” says Aeiling.

    A sculptor who owns MGA Sculpture Studio, Aeiling leases one of the buildings adjacent to the Arts Xchange. He was among the artists who were early pioneers in moving into the area, before it gained a reputation as the Warehouse Arts District and became known as a “cool” part of town.

    While the Warehouse Arts District continues to have an edgy, industrial vibe, the influx of artists has transformed the district into a sought-after commodity.  Developers are noticing. Property values are starting to jump.  

    “We are being approached by a lot of development opportunities,” says Aeiling.  

    The Warehouse Arts District’s success and St. Petersburg’s ever-growing reputation as a city for the arts is a big plus for economic development, but also a concern for working artists.

    “This is a pattern you see around the country where the artists move in and everything starts to turn around. Attention gets drawn to the neighborhood and rents go up,” says Aeiling.  

    He hopes the Arts Xchange can serve as a model for other communities-- an arts facility supported by community investment.

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future the Warehouse Arts District was a wonderful, bustling district, but where few artists can afford studio space other than the Arts Xchange,” says Aeiling.  

    Fortunately, he says, as a 501c3 nonprofit, the Arts Xchange is protected from future development with below-market rates rents to keep it affordable for working artists.

    New neighbors include distillery

    The location for the new center is ideal. It’s the gateway to the Warehouse Arts District. The new American Freedom Distillery, scheduled to open in November, will be a neighbor. 

    The Morean Center for Clay at the Historic Train Station is a block or so away. The Pinellas Trail is in the backyard.  

    Aeiling says he hopes the Arts Xchange can be the catalyst that eventually connects the Arts Xchange with the Pinellas Trail and other artists studios in the Warehouse Arts District, as well as the Deuces Live Main Street District, home to the historic African-American community.  

    He envisions creating a pedestrian friendly corridor that makes it easy to get around the district on foot or bicycle without worrying about traffic.

    The first step toward making that happen is now underway.  Aeilig and his team are working on a 15-foot sculptural gate that will visibly link the Arts Xchange with the Pinellas Trail. Visual artist Carrie Jadus will be painting several murals on the building that will be visible from the Pinellas Trail.  And thanks to a South St. Petersburg CRA grant, a portion of the Pinellas Trail will soon receive lighting.

    Who's moving in?

    From an initial pool of 40 artists who expressed interest, 23 were selected. 

    “The selection process wasn’t about assessing skill level or talent, we were looking for diversity and artists we felt had the financial resources to make this type of commitment,” says Aeiling.

    Not all are the visual artists or sculptors that you might expect. The first group of tenants includes those in the literary field and performing arts, as well as photographers and jewelry makers.  

    They also range in age from early 20s to mid 60s. And while most are from Pinellas County, there are a few relocating here from Miami and Michigan.

    “This is about creating a community center for the arts that represents St. Petersburg,” says Tracy Kennard, director of operations for the Warehouse Arts District Association.

    Building the new arts center wasn’t without its challenges, says Aeiling. The first hurdle was to transition the Warehouse Arts District from a member organization to a more formal association with a board of directors.

    Then the first architectural plans came in over budget and the group had to go back to the drawing board. Aeiling credits contractor Huffman Construction for being flexible and working with them to bring in the $900,000 construction project under budget.

    “Like any adaptive reuse of an existing building, every day there was a new problem that required creative solutions,” says Aeiling.  

    In a building that once cleaned linens for most of the city’s hotels, back when St. Petersburg was a bustling destination for winter visitors, artists will now work in a unique facility that retains the Warehouse Arts District industrial vibe.  

    Sealed concrete floors, corrugated walls, exposed pipes and barn-style doors can be found in many of the studios. White blank walls will double as gallery space to showcase the artists’ work. There’s also LED lighting and energy efficient infrastructure such as R-30 insulation and ductless mini-split air conditioning units for each studio.

    The grand opening takes place on Thursday, Oct. 26, from 7-8:30 p.m. with a ribbon cutting, art exhibit, live music and donation bar. The evening is open to the public and free of charge but reservations are encouraged.  

  • 11 Oct 2017 6:10 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    via I Love the Burg

    Over two dozen artists are moving into newly constructed studios at the ArtsXchange (515 22nd St. South), a project of the Warehouse Arts District Association. The building houses more than 2,500 square feet of gallery, education and event space.

    The idea for the studios came after realizing that rising property values in the area might price working artists out of the neighborhood. Together with their supporters, the artists formed the nonprofit Warehouse Arts District Association in 2012, hoping to create sustainable, affordable studios in the area. In 2014, the WADA purchased the ArtsXchange property on the site of the old Soft Water Laundry. Construction of the new studios began earlier this year. They are the first phase of a long-term plan to create even more artistic, educational and community spaces on the site.

    Grand opening ceremonies will take place from 7pm to 8:30 pm on Thursday, Oct. 26. The event is free and open to the public and includes studio tours, a gallery exhibition and remarks by Mayor Rick Kriseman.

    An incubator for all forms of art

    Inaugural tenants represent a broad range of artistic disciplines. Additional ArtsXchange tenants include Dazzio Art Experience, MGA Sculpture Studio and Soft Water Studios.

    More than 400 artists (10% from outside Florida) have signed up in advance for working space in the ArtsXchange facility. St. Petersburg is developing a national reputation as not only an arts destination, but also a welcoming community for new artists to locate and open up shop.

    For updates on the ArtsXchange and go to the Warehouse Arts District’s website.

  • 29 Sep 2017 3:24 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    The ArtsXchange St. Pete is a project of the Warehouse Arts District Association. It was conceived as a response to the increasing need for affordable working space for artists within the District and the city.

    It started as a dream.  A collective vision.  An architect's plan.  It sounded as if the Warehouse Arts District Association was trying to do the impossible.  Buy 50,000 square feet of warehouse property in the heart of Midtown and turn it into affordable art studio space.  It was a daunting task when the property was bought in late 2014.

    Fundraising was going to have to be aggressive and persistent.  There were many public forums to explain what the plan was.  How it would work, what it would take.  It had to have the support from so many individuals, foundations, organizations, the City of St. Petersburg and the State of Florida to make it happen.

    With funding in place, construction began earlier this summer.  As in any construction project, especially in one that was restructuring an existing space, adjustments had to be made along the way.  But the construction team lead by Admir Avdovic of Huffman General Contractors, kept at it and it is estimated to be ready for occupancy in October.  Phase I of the ArtsXchange is just the beginning of the ambitious plan of the Warehouse Arts District Association.  Stay tuned....

  • 14 Sep 2017 4:24 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    via Charlie Frago, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG — A project that a developer labeled "an experiment in enlightened capitalism" got the green light from the City Council on Thursday. The Orange Belt Station project promises to bring a craft distillery and, perhaps, an alternative weekly newspaper to the Warehouse Arts District.

    PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Creative Loafing, craft rum distillery could be the tenants for new 'town square' in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District

    The council also received updates on the Manhattan Casino negotiations and Commerce Park project along 22nd Street S, known as "The Deuces," which have divided the black community and become a major issue in the mayoral race between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker.

    Howard and Lucinda Johnston are spearheading the Orange Belt development, which would create a craft distillery run by their son, Chris Dixon. The site at 600 26th St. S would include space for artists' lofts and galleries and office space for what the Johnstons hope will be occupied by Creative Loafing, the alternative newspaper.

    The Johnstons said they wanted to nurture struggling artists and businesses and would exercise "voluntary rent control."

    The Orange Belt project was the first of three potential developments south of Central Avenue that have rankled some, but are supported by Kriseman as spark plugs for revitalizing the poor and predominantly black neighborhoods in Midtown, a key voting battleground.

    Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said all three proposals will create at least 100 jobs.

    "We celebrate this. We're proud of this. We're nowhere near done," Tomalin said. "The onus is on us as stewards of our resources to make sure these people deliver on their promises."

    The projects were criticized by former mayoral candidate Theresa "Momma Tee" Lassiter for being the latest example of gentrification in Midtown at the expense of the black community.

    "This means war," said Lassiter, who said she had gathered hundreds of signatures of residents opposed to the mayor's plan to put a Floribbean restaurant in the Manhattan Casino at 642 22nd St S.

    The Orange Belt deal with the city grants a 25-year lease of the city-owned property, a former brownfields site, at $1,200 a month. The Johnstons and city real estate officials said they expect to eventually buy the property for the $185,000 appraised price.

    Council member Ed Montanari said he thought that was a sweetheart arrangement.

    "I'm all for commerce, but I also want to protect this city's property," he said. "This just looks to me like we're giving this property away for $1,200 a month."

    The Johnstons have donated $2,500 to Kriseman's re-election campaign, although Montanari did not mention that fact. Montanari supports Baker in his bid to unseat Kriseman.

    Council member Karl Nurse said building on the environmentally compromised site, once occupied by Atherton Oil Co., was a good use of the land.

    "I'm trying to figure out what the gift is here. I think at some point you just say thank you," said Nurse, who has endorsed Kriseman.

    Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, whose district covers the property, said it would be a good addition to the rapidly changing neighborhood.

    "I like the idea that no one will be priced out of this," she said. She too endorsed Kriseman.

    However, officials said the city wouldn't have any legal right to hold the Johnstons to their promise to practice voluntary rent control.

    The council approved the Orange Belt lease agreement by a 6-1 vote with Montanari opposed. Council member Charlie Gerdes did not attend the meeting. He was at a family wedding.

    Alan DeLisle, the city's top economic development official, also briefed the council on the progress of a 14-acre Commerce Park parcel on the west side of 22nd Street S across from the Manhattan Casino. The manufacturing and retail portions of the project are progressing faster than the workforce housing component, he said, but the constellation of business owners including a marine industry businesses and a high-end motorcycle dealership and service center have to complete their plans by May 2019, DeLisle said.

    "The ball is really in their court," he said.

    Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727)893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.

  • 28 Aug 2017 4:18 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Sean Streicher, WTSP

    ST. PETERSBURG - From painting to pottery, there are a lot of ways to get creative in St. Petersburg.

    Whether you’re looking to hone your skills, or you’re just starting out, St. Pete is loaded with studios to help you reach your goals.

    Classes can range from 1 hour to several weeks, and vary in cost depending on medium and length of the class.

    Zen Glass Studio has been around since 2002, their “Make Your Own” workshop will teach you how to make a wineglass, pint glass, glass beads or even a paperweight in just one hour.

    Co-Owner Dave Walker says it’s not really about the end product, it’s about having fun, “If people like it, great. If people don’t like it, great. It’s for you to have fun.”

    If you’re looking to take an art class, below are a few websites I found that might help you find the right studio.



  • 10 Aug 2017 2:59 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Podcast by Barbara Sinclair, Executive Director of Creative Pinellas

    Mark Aeling is a master sculptor, a lifelong craftsman and, as he calls himself, a maker. His artistic practice is translating ideas into tangible, physical – and often very large – objects.

    Mark’s MGA Sculpture Studio is a mainstay of St. Petersburg’s Warehouse Arts District. Through his work with the Warehouse Arts Association, Mark’s helping to create the new ArtsXchange, with affordable studio space for working artists.

    His sculptures are created in a traditional artisan studio, with apprentices learning the craft and assisting on Mark’s large-scale public art projects. He creates works inspired by shapes in the nature, and is adventurous in exploring new techniques.

    You’ll enjoy this fascinating conversation with an artist who thrives on the challenge of problem-solving and gets inspiration from constantly asking, how can I build that?

    Find out more about Mark Aeling’s work and the Warehouse Arts District:

  • 20 Jul 2017 11:40 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    The retirement of our executive director, Mary Jane Park, is just around the corner.  On behalf of the organization I want to thank her for her commitment and work during her tenure with the Warehouse Arts District Association (WADA). 

    As donors, members, and others interested in our work, we wanted to give you some information about how the Warehouse Arts District Association is moving forward.

    The Board of Directors has formed a Search Committee that has just begun meeting.   We expect to spend the remainder of the summer developing a thorough process and to have a formal announcement/application out this fall.   The Committee is comprised of Board members who have expertise in the skill areas that a new executive director will need to be successful in the position.

    WADA currently has on staff a Board consultant who is filling the role of interim director as well as an excellent COO who has been integrally involved with the organization since its inception.  

    The position will be well advertised, most likely around mid-October.   We would like to fill the position in January, but finding the right person is more important to us than the precise timing.

    We will keep you informed of our progress as the process moves forward. 

    The chair of the Search Committee, Wendy Durand, can be reached at wendy@durandpottery.com.   Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact her.

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