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2020 WADA Membership Recap

06 Jan 2021 3:05 AM | Anonymous

Dear Warehouse Arts District Association Members

  • For the last year, I volunteered as Membership Chair of the Warehouse Arts District Association (WADA) and I spent the last four years on the Board, serving in many different capacities during that time. I wanted to let you know that I am stepping down from both positions, but I leave truly excited about all the good things that are on the horizon for the district and the association.  

    Despite a difficult year that evidenced the necessity for flexibility and resilience, WADA had many accomplishments in 2020.  WADA was established in 2014 with a goal to advocate for artists and the arts community and provide affordable artist studios. We originally bought five old warehouses. Soft Water Studios was the original space that was operational, along with MGA Sculpture Studios next door.  After years of fundraising and hard work, WADA opened the ArtsXchange studios in September 2017. In 2019, WADA acquired an adjacent strip of commercial spaces we call The Shoppes and renovated several of them to rent as additional studio space. 

    We now have about 40 artists with studios on the ArtsXchange compound and another approximately 240 artists who are not on site. This year we installed pavers, added landscaping and streetlamp lighting, with electrical outlets and water spigots, which enabled us to begin holding an Outdoor Marketplace. In July, artist and WADA Board Member Ya La Ford collaborated with a group of students from Mt. Zion Christian Academy to create a mural “Community Woven Revealed” on the ArtsXchange campus. 

    Regarding membership, a year ago, founding Board Member extraordinaire Teresa Sullivan and I conducted focus groups to determine what our members valued and needed from us.  From what we heard, we developed these priorities:

  1. Strengthen community (among artists and to the broader community)
  2. Promote artist members (social media, website, regular member exhibits)
  3. Improve communication with members (membership meetings, newsletters, social media groups)
  4. Tighten administrative processes (updated benefits, updated website, def ined member levels, automated renewal processes)

Here’s a recap of what we’ve done related these priorities:

1. Strengthen Community

  • Frances McSwain Pruitt and J. Crayton Pruitt Arts Education Center. WADA raised $225,000 to build an Arts Education Center at the ArtsXchange Campus.  The groundbreaking is happening in early 2021. We are thrilled. The center will house a dance studio and three classrooms to serve local youth and adults from South St. Petersburg neighborhoods. We can't wait to have children and adults learning and growing through art classes. See our list of sponsors and consider a donation (Thank you!).
  • Artist Education. Despite limitations related to COVID and social distancing, WADA’s amazing education committee organized a free three-day painting workshop with professional artist, Robert Simone, available here, and an encaustic workshop with Shelly Jean. They additionally collaborated with local museums to bring private tours to WADA members, including the James Museum, the Tampa Art Museum and the Imagine Museum.
  • WADA Art Tubs for select Pinellas County Schools. WADA Art Tubs are a student directed, independent activity allowing students to explore architecture through a set of artisan-made building blocks where students have the opportunity to create their own buildings, inspired by art-focused buildings in St. Petersburg, Florida. Tubs are set up for elementary art classrooms for grades K-5. 
  • Artist Relief Fund. WADA was fortunate to have the generous support of donors; we were able to give 20 grants of $500 each earlier this summer. See more info here.
  • In April, WADA hosted a community Feeding Tampa Bay food bank. In June, we hosted a community “Meal and Heal” event that offered meals and free access to therapists.  
2. Improved Communications 
  • We now have a weekly email newsletter, a WADA Facebook Member Network group (for members only), and a blog on our website
  • We hosted General Membership Meetings in February and September where organization leaders provided updates.
  • A Membership Committee of amazing volunteers met monthly to discuss membership and collaborate.

 3.     Promoting Members

  • Profiles and Promos. We began profiling a member every week in our blog, digest, and on social media. We list your events on our website calendar if you provide them. (Fill out this form to have your events listed or email us).  We have also now a social media coordinator assisting us in promoting members! 
  • Second Saturday Art Walk. Though the city canceled Art Walk from March through July, WADA and select others have been hosting Art Walk in a limited capacity since August. The ArtsXchange Outdoor Marketplacebegan in November during Second Saturday Art Walk and will be held each month with Art Walk, giving a vehicle for more artists and artisans to exhibit and sell work. 
  • Calls to Artists
    • Despite a crazy year, we had five artist calls this year for members. See here. We had two member shows – with the themes “Cocktail Hour” and “Imagine” in the Burka Member Lounge.  Additionally, ArtsXchange artists presented a gorgeous display of their collective works in the Tully-Levine Gallery. 
    • Call to Artists for the WADA Art Tubs sought artistically detailed color renderings of these six local buildings: Dali Museum, Museum of Fine Art, Carter G. Woodson Museum, Royal Theater, Palladium, and the Museum of American Arts and Crafts Movement. 
    •  In partnership with the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, we just wrapped up a Call to Artists related to the mental health community campaign called “You Good?,” which is an initiative of the Pinellas Wellness Connection.  See more at www.yougoodpinellas.org. We will be awarding $20,000 in artist commissions. See the You Good Call to Artists here
    • Modern Tampa Bay Homes Artists Call. In April, MTBH selected eight contemporary artists to showcase and ultimately commission works for buyers of a new seven-unit development in the Grand Central District, called AD Lofts. These eclectic residences will celebrate local artists in the area, with close proximity to all the Warehouse Arts District has to offer. The artists selected include: Carrie Kilgore, Dana Killion, Geoffrey Baris, Lesley Jeffery, Mark Mitchell, Nathan Beard, Pamela Van Sant, and Tom Amidon-Rivero. Check out this MBTH catalogue featuring these member artists.

Given all this growth, thank goodness we were able to hire new staff: Audrie Cuddy-Ranon is the new WADA Director of Operations and is holding regular office hours from 10 – 5pm, Monday – Friday in the Burka Lounge at the ArtsXchange. 

I am thrilled to have been a part of WADA for so long and intend to stay part of the community and volunteer.  A new membership chair should be forthcoming in the near future, but for now, should you have questions or concerns, you can continue to reach out to me at joinwada@gmail.com or to Audrie at audrie@whereartismade.com.

Let’s hope for an amazing 2021. 


Caryn Nesmith

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