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WADA in the St. Pete Catalyst

Linoleum block prints by Gainesville artist Diana Tonnessen are part of "Vacationland," opening Saturday at Soft Water Studios.

Dada, WADA and a whole new season of art

Published Oct 5, 2022
By: Bill de Young

It’s the St. Pete equivalent of fall foliage – a sudden burst of color coming from our closely-knit visual arts community. Saturday brings the October edition of the monthly Second Saturday ArtWalk, which is always a treat once the fall calendar rolls around and the evening air is bit cooler (let’s not go so far as to call it “brisk” just yet). Some places will offer you refreshments, some have music. Others have … surprises.

Nothing quite like an open-air trolley ride between groups of studios and galleries, where the art is fresh, if not exactly pumpkin-spiced. What’s special about this particular weekend is the sheer number of brand-new shows, and arts-celebrating events, available for the discerning eye for the first time.

And the autumnal stars have truly aligned, because Gulfport’s First Friday ArtWalk (similar to St. Pete’s, but without the trolleys) takes place Friday, 5-9 p.m. For once, everything happens on the same weekend.

In St. Pete

At the Tully-Levine Gallery, inside the Arts Xchange, Saturday evening brings a reception for DADA AT WADA, the former a reference to a 20th century European art movement rejecting rationality and embracing the absurd, the latter a reference to the Warehouse Arts District Association, which operates out of an office adjacent to the Tully-Levine.

Says Markus Gottschlich, WADA executive director: “I like that Dada says two things that seemingly do not go together: ‘Screw you and your assumptions of what art is or should be,’ and ‘I care enough to invite you to re-think and re-consider.’”

The participating artists are Andrea Pawlisz, Mark Mitchell, Gianna Pergamo, Saumitra Chandratreya, Hardison Collins III, Juan Santos Garanton, Wasil Bakowicz, Neverne Covington and Paul LeRoy Gehres.

“What I find fascinating,” adds Gottschlich, “is that 100 years after the initial ‘movement,’ it is just as applicable today as ever. A response to the non-sensical.

“In a way, hurricane Ian is ‘Dada.’ Was there not an attempt to scientifically forecast precisely all possible paths and, yet, nature seemingly arbitrarily  – or at least not accessibly to our imposed logic – decides to shift the path last minute, causing destruction and mayhem on parts of the state that were much less-prepared.”

Seemingly non-sensical – but in a way perfectly logical – are the appendages WADA has attached to Saturday’s reception: Live piano painting by artist Pawlisz, and an interactive “instrument petting zoo” with musicians from The Florida Orchestra.

The celebration of Dada continues Oct. 16 with an afternoon performance by Dutch “sound poet” Jaap Blonk.

“At the core, Dada rebels against societal and cultural norms and against the elite,” Gottschlich concludes. “To me, it is inherently asking that art should be for all, and that’s something that WADA certainly does stand for.” 

Elsewhere on the Arts Xchange campus, Soft Water Studios is debuting Vacationland, consisting of nostalgic carnival paintings by Bonnie Shapiro and whimsical linoleum block prints of vintage Florida scenes from Diana Tonnessen.

Next door at MGA Sculpture Studios, as always, there’s something large and bold being created – in this instance, it’s a St. Petersburg Fire Department memorial, in its early stage (not yet cast in bronze).

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The Warehouse Arts District Association (WADA) is a 501(c)3 non- profit arts organization dedicated to creating a vibrant arts community within and around the Warehouse Arts District in St. Petersburg, Florida at 515 22nd Street South.

Our mission is to build and sustain a vibrant arts community in St. Petersburg that supports the success of all artists and the community at large through a broad spectrum of tools, including community revitalization, marketing, advocacy and educational programming within the St. Petersburg Warehouse Arts District. 

We are a cultural arts destination in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg dedicated to flourishing our community through artistic endeavors, support, and highly curated art.


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