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  • 20 Dec 2016 11:18 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Tampa Bay Area: Most anticipated development projects in 2017

    From 83 degrees

    "Development is flourishing all over the Tampa Bay area.
    Shopping centers, high rises, apartments, renovations and re-builds, and more are popping up from Pasco all the way down to Sarasota.
    Development-wise, 2017 holds great promise for local residents as well as for investors considering new projects going forward.
    Here are some of the most-anticipated projects that are scheduled for major work and even completion in the Tampa Bay area in the coming year."

    The ArtsXchange is listed as number 10 - Click here to read about the other 11 who made the list!

    10. ArtsXchange

    St. Petersburg is cultivating its reputation as an arts destination and place where new artists can thrive. But increasing property values make finding studio space difficult.
    That's why in 2014, St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District Association began fundraising for the ArtsXchange, an air-conditioned and affordable studio space for artists of all disciplines.
    Soon after, the association bought a compound of six warehouse buildings comprising 50,000 square feet of space to be renovated. The plan is to first build out 11,000 square feet of space for studios and a gallery, but the goal is to use the whole space for studios, galleries, classrooms, a coffee shop and educational microbrewery and restaurant.
    "In 2016, we made great strides, raising additional money to build between 20 and 30 studios at the ArtsXchange," says Mary Jane Park, the association's Executive Director. "Through the generosity of private donors and public support from the Florida Legislature and the city of St. Petersburg, we will begin construction in December."
    Already, more than 300 artists -- 10 percent of whom live somewhere other than Florida -- have signed up for studio space at the ArtsXchange. The association is currently interviewing those who have applied.
    "By May or June, when the studios are complete, we also will have a community gathering space that will be suitable for classes, exhibitions, performances, meetings and other public events," Park says.
    The association is also working with Deuces Live on an action plan that will enhance the district and bring more visitors to the area.
    "We are in conversation with Pinellas County officials about improvements, such as lighting and landscaping along the Pinellas Trail" Park says. "Our goal is to make the area more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists, especially during St. Petersburg’s monthly Second Saturday ArtWalks."

  • 29 Sep 2016 7:54 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Michel MirabelArticle by Paul Guzzo, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer

    The work of Cuban artist Michel Mirabal emerged as a symbol of renewed relations between his nation and the United States when one of Mirabal's paintings served as backdrop for a historic news conference by President Barack Obama at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

    Now, St. Petersburg is sharing in the symbolism.

    Mirabal has contributed the latest in a growing tapestry of murals around the St. Petersburg Warehouse Arts District — a work featuring U.S. and Cuban flags adorned with flowers and barbed wire colliding in an explosion of colors.

    He painted the work last week on an exterior wall of Soft Water Studios.

    "The barbed wire is the thing we don't like, the things we need to change about both countries," Mirabal said. "The flowers are the things we love — the humanity, the coming together."

    The artist lives and works in Havana and felt right at home during his first trip to St. Petersburg. "We are both lively and love the arts," he said. "There are a lot of similarities."

    The same message has been preached by those who helped bring Mirabal here — officials with the city of St. Petersburg, the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership.

    They want regular art exchanges between their city and the island nation.

    "Art is certainly something St. Petersburg and the culture of Cuba have in common," said Joni James, chief executive officer of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership. "Art is a universal language, particularly between two cultures that sit just across a small spit of water."

    In October 2015, a delegation of St. Petersburg arts leaders traveled to Havana. In December, the city welcomed a high-ranking official from Cuba's Ministry of Culture. The exchange led to an exhibit by Cuban artist Esteban Machado this year at the Morean Arts Center.

    Future collaborations also were discussed between Cuba and the Warehouse Arts District, which covers about 1.5 square miles and consists of more than 20 arts spaces — galleries, studios and warehouses.

    Mirabal's project is the first from the collaboration, and it follows the creation of 21 murals during St. Petersburg's SHINE Mural Festival.

    Mirabal's My New Friend, now hanging in the U.S. Embassy, is a joining of Cuban and American flags made of colored handprints. He is considered one of Cuba's most popular artists, James said.

    "By any standard, he is an incredible artist," she said.

    Now, Mirabal hopes St. Petersburg artists will display their works in his Havana gallery.

    "I want this to be a good relationship. This can be good for everyone."

    Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3394. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

  • 26 Sep 2016 12:27 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Article by Bobby Lewis - WTSP

    The colors are the same and bleed into each other on purpose.

    “I want to represent what the people want,” said Michel Mirabal with a paintbrush full of white paint dripping off the tip. “What I want when people see my work is thinking about all the time we didn’t have a relationship and it’s time to change that.”

    Mirabal stood before a 50-foot long mural blending the American and Cuban flags. Painting such works are his specialty and his latest piece is now on the wall of St. Petersburg’s Warehouse Arts District Arts Xchange building.

    “We are two countries that we have a lot of things to give each other,” he said.

    Mirabal, who is from Habana, Cuba, painted a similar piece that hangs in the U.S. Embassy in his hometown. It served as the backdrop for official meetings between the United States and Cuba when President Barack Obama visited the country in March.

    “Everybody came to take the photos with my painting,” he said with a smile.

    Paul Glass, the owner of the Warehouse District building that is home to Mirabal’s new mural, stood in silence, puffing on a cigar, watching the artist work.

    “I think it just says a lot more about the community that a lot more people are open to chance and I think it’s time to make that change,” he said. “Michel’s work is a wonderful doorway into this change.”

    The painting is something Mirabal hopes is an example of peace between the two nations.

    The painting can be seen along the Pinellas Trail in downtown St. Petersburg. It is the 21st painting painted there by international, national and local artists this month, coming on the heels of the Arts Alliance’s annual SHINE Festival.

  • 21 Sep 2016 7:31 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Article by Dan Matics, Fox 13 News

    ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - St. Petersburg is continuing its push to be the first U.S. city with a Cuban consulate.

    City leaders are showcasing the art work of a famous Cuban artist in an effort to warm up to the nation’s government.

    Michel Mirabal is known internationally; his work being featured by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry.

    Cuban artist's mural helps lobby for consulate (video)

    Mirabal usually uses flags as a centerpiece for his work. He is working on a mural in St. Pete’s warehouse art district, which will be completed Friday, and features a coming together of the American and Cuban flags.

    “This community has a good relationship between my countries – Cuba,” Mirabal said.

    City leaders in St. Petersburg have been working for more than a year on their campaign to be Cuba’s choice for a consulate. Mayor Rick Kriseman has visited the country twice. Joni James, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership says art exports from Cuba would be one benefit a consulate would bring.

    “They [Cuba] are aware of everything that’s happening,” James said. “Having someone like this in town - showing him some hospitality, showing him that we are open to exhibiting his work - it just helps to build that relationship and it lets them know we are sincere in this effort.”

    Mirabal’s mural will be unveiled Friday at Art Xchange’s Soft Water Studios.
  • 01 Sep 2016 6:25 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)
    Warehouse Arts District St. PeteArticle by Robin Soslow, Special Contributor at The Dallas Morning News

    When craving a candy box of sensory pleasures, it's hard to beat St. Pete.

    You can laze on sugary-sand gulf beaches lapped by emerald waves, then catch a trolley to a cornucopia of world-class art, shopping and gustatory delights edging Tampa Bay.

    Famously sunny St. Petersburg has evolved from a Florida retirement haven to cool-culture constellation. Glass studios, brewpubs, gourmet ice pop shops, smart museums and eye-stopping murals swirl in this orbit. The old pier's gone, but there are more places than ever to watch rolling clouds and spectacular sunsets.

    Skip the driving; get a $5 trolley day-pass and dive into a sampler of eye candy.

    Hot glass scene

    St. Pete is earning kudos as one of America's best art cities and a world leader in glass.

    More wonderland than gallery, the Chihuly Collection whisks you into imaginary worlds created by glass master Dale Chihuly and his team. Frequent docent tours reveal ingenious techniques and secrets about each tantalizing sculpture. The collection relocates this fall from bayfront to the Morean Arts Center's block, adding to the explosive energy coursing through St. Pete's Central Arts District. The Morean, which began as a local art club in 1917, displays glass works pretty and provocative. Its backyard Glass Studio offers fascinating daily glassmaking demos and giftable pieces for sale.

    Just west of downtown, the Warehouse Art District is now home to about 200 glass artists. One, Duncan McClellan, has transformed a tomato packing plant into indoor-outdoor glassmaking and gallery spaces.

    Arty party people

    Also in the Warehouse district, the Morean Center for Clay has repurposed a train station by the 47-mile Pinellas Trail, one of America's first rails-to-trails projects that's now beloved by walkers, joggers and cyclists. Towering kilns dot the grounds like mysterious relics. The bohemian Grand Central neighborhood is home to ARTpool (nostalgic vintage), mod clothes boutiques and new Cage Brewing, decorated with a mad-cap cat mural. The Edge boasts attractions from Furnish Me Vintage's four stories of fab to award-winning Green Bench Brewing Co., where you can play lawn games and watch movies in the garden while sipping brews crafted with local ingredients from neighboring coffee roasters to rooftop beekeepers.

    Bayside, there's plenty to refresh the senses: weekend festivals, St. Petersburg Museum of History's "Happy Hour with the Historian," the Museum of Fine Arts' performance-art coffee klatches and bayfront weekend markets.

    Central Arts District hotspots include Florida CraftArt, which showcases wonderfully unique handmades by local talents and serves as the meeting point for new Saturday morning walking tours that highlight street murals by resident and international artists. Peruse enchanting finds at The Swag, newly opened by vintage fanatics, then wheel into neon-lit Cycle Brewing for stealth releases.

    Just south, the Dali Museum gleams by water's edge. Tips: Grab one of the free newly designed audio-visual guides for backstories about the visionary artist and his times, relax in the cool Avant Garden -- and catch the new multi-media "Disney & Dali: Architects of the Imagination" show about these geniuses' surprising alliance. Put on an Oculus Rift headset for a virtual reality tour of a Dali masterwork. This milestone in museum technology is a trippy journey past spindle-legged elephants, the lobster telephone and a chromo-hologram of Alice Cooper.

    Other downtown venues slated to open in the next year include a huge American Arts and Crafts museum and Western art showcase.

    Tasteful views

    Cayenne watermelon, bourbon peach, ginger plum, cilantro....it's hard to choose among the 35 handcrafted varieties at Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops. The rainbow-colored treats are flavored by fresh fruits, herbs and spices. Nearby, Cider Press Cafe serves artful and addicting raw vegan compositions in a high-design dining room of bamboo and polished concrete. Both opened this fall in the Central Arts District.

    A few blocks away, exotic aromas waft from Meze 119's colorful plates, Il Ritorno packs in farm-to-table connoisseurs for popular tasting dinners, and the Canopy Rooftop Lounge pairs zesty, pretty flatbreads with breathtaking bay views. Beachside at the Hotel Zamora, Castile Restaurant chefs arrange locally sourced ingredients into delicious collages.

    Watercolor sunsets

    Beach bars crank up the live music before the fireball sun dips through striped skies into the Gulf of Mexico. Festive, friendly favorites include Caddy's (libations allowed on the sand), Jimmy B's (bandstand, volleyball, free sunset shooters) and Hotel Zamora's new 360° Rooftop. For gorgeous views by the bay, tour the spectacular Vinoy Renaissance Resort. Since first opening Christmas Eve 1925, the classic pink-palace hotel hosted celebrities and titans, served as a military training site during WWII, spun into decay and hit bottom as a low-rent boarding house, then was rescued and restored to its former glory starting in the 1990s, beautified further in recent years.

    After dazzling your eyes, stretch out on St. Pete's sugar-sand beach and give them a rest.

  • 01 Sep 2016 6:20 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Article by Katherine Snow Smith, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer

    Improvements are in the works for the Warehouse Arts District. Close to 100 people at the Warehouse Arts District association's annual membership meeting heard about streetscaping, lighting the Pinellas Trail and 30 new studios for artists.

    Mary Jane Park, executive director, said the organization is halfway to its goal of raising $800,000 thanks to a state grant for $300,000 and $100,000 from the city of St. Petersburg. The money will help pay for renovating a 15,000-square-foot space inside an existing warehouse for 20 to 30 artist studios.

    More than 300 artists, 10 percent from outside the state, have signed up for space in the Warehouse Arts District.

    Park said fundraising is ongoing and construction on the first phase of studios could start pretty soon.

    Meanwhile, the city's economic development department is seeking approval for streetscaping, new lighting, and landscaping along the intersection of 22nd Street and Fifth Avenue S, where the arts district sits.

  • 23 Aug 2016 4:47 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Article By Julie Garisto, AliveTampaBay Correspondent

    Budding Vortex. Photo by Alvarezphotography.com

    Mark Aeling, a local sculptor and president of the ArtsXchange, has been a pioneering force in the St. Petersburg arts community, but his experience and expertise has extended both throughout and beyond the Tampa Bay area.

    Aeling made several sculptures for What Dreams May Come, a critically acclaimed film that won an Oscar in 1999 for Best Visual Effects and was nominated for an Oscar for Set Decoration. He received his M.F.A. in sculpture from Washington University in St. Louis and owns and operates MGA Sculpture Studio, a fine art fabrication facility in the Warehouse Arts District. (Yes, MGA are his initials — the ‘G’ stands for Gerald; “It was my grandfather’s name,” he tells us.)

    Recent studio projects include “Budding Vortex” at The Crescent Westshore, “Ripples of Life” at The Florida Aquarium in Tampa and “Vertical Hum” for Metro Development in Rocky Point — Aeling and his team created the 20-foot abstract metal sculpture with a movement created to represent the wind on water.

    Aeling took some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions for Alive Tampa Bay.

    Would you tell us about a couple of firsts — when you first knew you wanted to become a sculptor and your first high-profile large-scale work?

    I had sculptural aspirations at a very young age. I had my first experience of bliss at the age of 7 making a little playground out of clay. It was the first time that I had an “out of body” like experience and felt connected to something greater than myself. The first high-profile project I did was for the Seattle Opera when I was about 23 years old. I made a couple of pieces of sculptural scenery that were the focus of the production. My first large sculpture commission for MGA was a guilted eagle for a bank in St. Louis. It had a 14-foot wingspan and sat on top of the building. That was back in 1996.

    What were some of the challenges involved with opening up the MGA studio?

    You could say I began the foundation for MGA when I was in seventh grade and asked for a jigsaw, a drill, and some clamps for christmas. I got my first business license for MGA Sculpture Studio in 1996. I built it one job at a time, reinvesting a percentage of my profits back into the company to by equipment. I never took a business loan. I was given the gift of drive and vision at a very young age. I love the experience of creating; it is my religion, and my studio is a shrine. One of the greatest challenges I faced was keeping the doors open through the recession. 2010 was a tough year but 2015 is my best to date.

    Please tell us how you got involved with the Warehouse Arts District’s ArtsXchange and how things are coming along with the facility?

    I have had my studio in the same location in St. Pete for over 11 years now. Long before it was known as the Warehouse Arts District. As the arts community developed we recognized a need for an entity that would help individual artists expand their marketing potential and also create an entity that could interface with the municipality on their behalf. An individual artist’s voice is small but as a group we can be heard. As the success of the district grew it became clear that the same problem would evolve here as in many other areas throughout the country. Artists move into run down parts of town for big spaces with cheap rent. Their creative energy attracts attention. That attention brings with it development. That development drives up prices which drives out artists. I got involved because I wanted security and taking an active leadership role was a way to make that happen.

    The ArtsXchange continues to move forward. At times it is a slow and plodding course but we have some very good people behind the project and there is truth in the mission. We have had a couple of minor setbacks working with the current construction climate in St. Pete. The success of our city in the past year or two, while wonderful, can create some challenges with costs and planning. We have had to make some adjustments in strategy but are now in a good position. Plan on seeing major progress on the ArtsXchange project as well as the Warehouse Arts District as a whole in the next year.

    You don’t appear to be as flashy as some other artists. You use the word “we” on your website. You help other artists and talk about your studio as “a team player.” Do you intentionally like to keep things low-key and collaborative?

    I once heard it said that it is best to be confident in your abilities and humble in your actions, a motto I try to live by. Large-scale sculpture is very labor intensive. I take full responsibility for everything my team creates and I guide the hands that help me but it is often a team effort and those that help feel more connected to the project if it is considered a “we” and not an “I” endeavor.

    From Aurora, Colorado, to college in St. Louis — Florida is such quite a change of pace. What drew you here?

    I was dissolving a business relationship in St. Louis and relocating my studio. I had located there after graduate school because the work was good but I had no binding connection. I was doing an installation on the east coast and took the opportunity to drive south and check out cities for a couple of weeks. I stumbled into Saint Pete and fell in love with the city. Don’t get me wrong I miss the mountains and the dry air very much but the beach is a good surrogate.

    Aeling’s studio and current projects can be seen during Second Saturday Art Walk (every second Saturday of the month) MGA Sculpture Studio, LLC, 515 22nd St. S., Unit E, St. Petersburg; (727) 327-3473, mgasculpture.com.

  • 20 May 2016 12:24 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Episode 12: Tracy Kennard - Founding Member of WADA
    Podcast: http://bit.ly/tracykennard
    Pay it forward: Zoe Bocik
    The Warehouse Arts District has blossomed into one of the most creative neighborhoods in all of St Petersburg. An eclectic group of painters, glassblowers, sculptors & visual artists have fused together to act as a collective voice for the area ensuring stability & success towards future growth. Learn more about this golden nugget from Tracy Kennard, one of the founding members of the Warehouse Arts District Association, about what started this movement, the exciting ArtsXchange project, and what the future for this area has on tap!

  • 20 May 2016 12:19 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    repost from Creative Loafing Tampa, May 19, 2016

    St. Pete’s Warehouse Arts District is making creative connections.

    Linda Saul-Sena  May 19, 2016 1:47 p.m.

    St. Pete’s Warehouse Arts District is a treasure trove of creative connectivity. If you haven’t discovered this juicy mix of studios, galleries and murals, treat yourself to a trip — sort of a visual staycation.

    Just blocks south of Central Avenue’s buzz, on 22nd Street, the Morean Center for Clay is your first stop. The carefully preserved Historic Seaboard Train Station, a red brick classic from 1926, is now a mecca for ceramic artists, offering classes, artists-in-residence programs, kilns and gallery space. It’s a “haven for pottery enthusiasts.”

    In 2015, Beth Morean donated the station to the not-for-profit that runs the programs and oversees the building. The large exhibition space is full of tempting objects for sale, varying widely in style, scale and price. The adjacent work area hums with artists and students focused on their projects.

    And there’s a restaurant on the premises, too: the CA Cafe, which serves tasty homemade soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. During a recent lunch, the clientele was a wonderful cross-section of ceramic artists, government employees, neighborhood residents and businesspeople.

    A scant two blocks away, at 24th Street and Emerson Avenue, is Duncan McClellan’s arts oasis. This abandoned industrial area was mostly below the radar of redevelopment when the talented and hardworking glass artist opened his live/work space there in 2010. He had tried for years to secure a historic building in north Ybor City to no avail, thanks to the intransigence of Tampa’s government bureaucracy.

    Savvy St. Pete bureaucrats, on the other hand, welcomed him warmly. McClellan purchased an abandoned Tasti-Lee tomato-packing plant and transformed the empty space into an elegant, well-appointed gallery representing over 50 international glass artists — a visual feast of glass sculpture, objects and jewelry.

    Ever inventive, he built patios and gardens and a hot shop, too. McClellan realized that educating students about glass-making would be a boon to the area and initiated a program, the DMG School Project, through which thousands of students visit the hot shop and learn the process of glass-blowing.  Additionally, he developed a mobile hot shop to visit schools where transportation was unavailable. He also offers artists’ residencies, classes for the public in glass-blowing and etching, lectures and demonstrations.

    A very social person, McClellan immediately began hosting openings and jazz concerts at his space. By inviting arts lovers to an area almost completely unknown to them, he opened new horizons to artists on the lookout for studio space. 

    His initiative in locating an art facility in this unlikely place sparked a group of artists to organize the nonprofit Warehouse Arts District Association (WADA) in 2011, and three years later the group had raised enough funds to purchase an old 2.7-acre industrial site, just around the corner from McClellan’s complex. Tired of the sad tradition of artists discovering and popularizing an area only to be priced out by developers, their goal is to transform 50,000 square feet of six abandoned buildings along the Pinellas Trail into affordable working spaces, classrooms, galleries and performance spaces.

    So far the group has raised over $500,000, with a goal of $3.2 million by 2017. The proposed ArtsXchange (AX) buildings will house these studios, which will be between 100-400 square feet each. Already there are several studios, exhibition and class spaces operating on the campus.

    The Soft Water Laundry site houses working space for seven, including painters, sculptors, clay and graphic artists. They’ve also offered weekly live model classes for several years, priced at $7 every Tuesday from 6:30-9 p.m. and attracting artists from Dunedin to Sarasota.

    Mark Aeling’s MGA Sculpture Studio enjoys site-specific commissions from throughout the country in a broad range of materials and styles. Works from this studio grace the Sundial retail complex, the Florida Aquarium and a host of homes. Aeling, a district pioneer in his own right, is president of the Warehouse Arts District Association board of directors.

    During the Shine Mural Program last year, Carrie Jadus painted two joyful murals that tip folks off to the idea that this is a special area: “Tesla” and “Little Miss Sisyphus” grace the Genius Central building, which is adjacent to the Pinellas Trail. Jadus, whose studio is at Soft Water, is enthusiastic about the collaborative spirit at WADA.

    “Four years ago when we started opening our studios no one wanted to drive here, so we artists each paid $50/month to pay for rubber-wheeled trolleys to bring people here. After one year, sponsors started picking up the tab because they recognized the value that this monthly arts event, Second Saturday Art Walks, brings to the community.”

    Six months ago, WADA hired Mary Jane Park, a 30-year Tampa Bay Times veteran writer and editor, to promote the area. Her goal is to raise money for WADA projects and to introduce collectors, artists and visitors to the abundant creativity residing in this unlikely location. 

    “Once people find this place,” she vows, “they’re hooked!”

  • 30 Dec 2015 1:50 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Tampa has a historic link with Cuba that dates back over a century, but it’s St. Petersburg that is forging the first major cultural exchange with the island nation’s government since relations between it and the U.S. began normalizing a year ago.

    With it, St. Petersburg perhaps gains an advantage in the competition to host the first Cuban consulate in the U.S. in more than five decades.

    “St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has said that art and culture serve to build relationships and diplomacy,” said Bill Carlson, president of Tucker- Hall, a public relations agency in Tampa that has supported business and humanitarian missions in Cuba since 1999. “We are hopeful this leads to a mutually beneficial relationship between Cuba and the Tampa Bay area.” (continue reading)

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