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  • 18 Nov 2018 1:00 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    His book, 'Berlin,' looks at a city's transformation from a liberal place to a fascist one.

    Cathy Salustri of Creative Loafing

     NOV 18, 2018 1 PM

    Jason Lutes Berlin St Petersburg TonightJason Lutes, the author 'Berlin,' a graphic novel about a town devolving into fascism, will be in St. Petersburg at the ArtsXchange tonight.FROM THE BOOK 'BERLIN' BY JASON LUTES; PHOTO BY CATHY SALUSTRI

    Jason Lutes, the artist who created Berlin, a graphic novel that shows a German city's devolution in fascism, will be at the ArtsXchange in St. Petersburg this afternoon. He'll give an artist talk and sign copies of his book.

    The book, a thick, hardbound, graphic novel, engages in a way different from a text novel. According to Alsace Walentine, who sent out a press release on behalf of her bookstore Tombolo Books (who, along with the ArtsXchange and The Florida Holocaust Museum, is sponsoring the event), "The experience of 'reading' pictures along with reading text, slows your cadence and your speed, while activating a different part of your brain. If you're not familiar with reading comics or graphic novels the experience is dramatic. It's not like looking at an illustrated picture book because the panels are little snapshots of action and the unseen action that may occur between two panels while guided by the author, is filled in uniquely by your imagination."

    While we haven't read Berlin in its entirety, we did have the opportunity to page through it. It's a massive thing to unpack, and we imagine Lutes's talk will help with just that.

    While you're at the ArtsXchange, too, take a look at Julie Torres' Water Wars art exhibit.

    Jason Lutes at the ArtsXchange, 525 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg | Nov. 18: 3-5 p.m. | Want a copy of the book? Hit up the sponsoring bookstore, Tombolo books | Never miss a Tampa Bay event — sign up for Creative Loafing's weekly Do This newsletter

  • 06 Nov 2018 12:19 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    The Warehouse Arts District's ArtsXchange credits their support for the area's burgeoning art growth.

    Cathy Salustri from Creative Loafing


    Katee Tully Helen Levinevia the Warehouse Arts District

    If you spend more than a minute around the St. Petersburg arts scene, odds are you know Katee Tully and her wife Helen Levine. They're local arts champions — and Tully's an artist herself. On Thursday, Nov. 8, the Warehouse Arts District Association will dedicate one of its galleries in their honor. 

    Tully is also the former executive director of the Morean Arts Center and her wife, Levine, is the Regional Vice Chancellor of External Affairs at University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

    "Their support of the ArtsXchange has helped transform the former vacant warehouse space into a thriving arts destination that has contributed to the growth of the city," said WADA Executive Director Diane Morton in a release.

    “When we arrived in St. Pete over a decade ago, we could taste the ingredients of the stew that make a great city — innovators, artists, universities and colleges on the rise, and leadership that cares about all residents,” Levine said in the announcement. “We have been proud to contribute to the momentum of the city through our commitment to art and cultural institutions. We hope the Tully-Levine Gallery will be a conduit for future growth and expression.”

    On the fringes of the downtown scene  — as are several significant cultural spots in St. Petersburg — the Warehouse Arts District's ArtsXchange has six buildings spread over 50,000 square feet. The space offers room for one's muse to work his or her magic and has not quite 30 artists working there, including Mark Aeling, who's currently working on a massive art installation for the new St. Petersburg Police Department building. In addition, the main gallery hosts exhibits from across the United States.

    Future plans include adding a dance studio, more classrooms and — of course — a coffee shop, restaurant, and an educational microbrewery. 

    Tully-Levine Gallery Dedication | ArtsXchange, 515 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg | Nov. 8: 5:30-7 p.m. 

  • 30 Oct 2018 2:14 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Steel Recovered From New York City’s Twin Towers Will Become the Centerpiece of Rise St. Pete 

    9/11 Memorial Sculpture Breaks Ground in Downtown St. Petersburg

    Press Contact: Sarah Lesch (813) 727-4077 sarah@playbookpublicrelations.com

    For Immediate Release


    St. Petersburg, FL (October 30, 2018) –  The Warehouse Arts District announces groundbreaking for Rise St. Pete, a monument and park that will serve as a poignant tribute to the 9/11 first responders and to the resiliency and strength of a nation that united together to rebuild after the tragedy. The concept for Rise St. Pete developed when a steel beam from the World Trade Center was recovered from underneath America’s Response Monument at the National September 11th Memorial Museum in New York City and given to the owners of American Freedom Distillery.

    Located in the Warehouse Arts District of St. Petersburg, Florida, American Freedom Distillery is owned by former special operators that played instrumental roles in the American response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and who now reside in Tampa Bay. One of the partners, Mark Nutsch, was the commander of a daring team of Green Berets that fought the Taliban while mounted on horseback. His team was honored with a bronze horse soldier sculpture that is dedicated to the United States Special Forces, America’s Response Monument located at Ground Zero.

    Being a proud member of the Warehouse Arts District Association (WADA), the partners of American Freedom Distillery found a natural and organic collaboration emerge with WADA leaders to create a permanent tribute in the district using the steel beam as the centerpiece. Working with WADA Executive Director, Diane Morton, they secured a vacant parcel on the corner of 5th Avenue South and 22nd Street that will become the location for Rise St. Pete. Just like the 9/11 first responders who have now retired or moved on to ”phase 2” of their lives with new business endeavors, the location embodies a community in transition and growth.

    “WADA is honored to give the Rise St. Pete memorial a home. We understand the transformative, healing power of art, and know the impact this monument will have on residents, visitors, and the hundreds of thousands of active and retired first responders and military personnel who call Tampa Bay home,” added Morton.

    When completed, Rise St. Pete will be a 20’ x 40’ monument with the WTC steel as its central focus. Designed by Mark Aeling of MGA Sculpture Studios, the monument and park will become a gathering place, spurring conversation and reflection by visitors of all ages. 

    An interactive fountain will surround the iron, and it will be guarded by a stunningly dramatic wing made from copper that was recovered during the recent renovation of the Statue of Liberty. The wing is indicative of a community rising and transitioning in new paths of growth.

    Encompassing the memorial will be a blue tile arch, made locally at the Morean Center for Clay, and four trees – symbolic of the Callery Pear Tree that endured the attacks on the World Trade Center and became known as “The Survivor Tree.” Aeling wanted to create a monument that pays tribute to the past while providing a sense of hope for the future.

    “It’s an honor and a privilege to be selected to create this monument. Like a phoenix rises from the ashes ‘Rise’ is all about rebirth, looking forward as a community while honoring our past,” says Aeling.

    Added American Freedom Distillery partner Scott Neil, “We all remember where we were when the terrorists attacked us on 9/11, but the next generation doesn’t have that same connection. Rise St. Pete serves as a powerful tribute to the heroes who responded and is a reminder for the next generation of the power we have when communities unite and help each other.”

    Rise St. Pete breaks ground Veteran’s Day weekend to honor veteran’s affected by 9/11, the first responders to the attacks, those still fighting as a result of 9/11, and the honoring of communities that persevere through dark times.


    Rise St. Pete Groundbreaking Ceremony
    Time: 10:00 a.m., Saturday, November 10, 2018
    Location: 5th Avenue South and 22nd Street
    Groundbreaking event will coordinate with the Remember, Honor, Support Benefit Ride post-ride celebration at American Freedom Distillery


    “Rise St. Pete Rendering”

    ###

    About Rise St. Pete
    Rise St Pete is a 501(c)(3) non-profit governed by a Board of Directors. For those of us that remember 9/11, we knew the course of our nations' history change irreparably that day, and we still carry that feeling we had inside us. However, America's future generations, our children and grandchildren do not know the impact of that fateful day, and we hope that Rise St. Pete will become a moving vehicle to teach them. To donate, please visit risestpete.org.

    About the Warehouse Arts District Association 
    The Warehouse Arts District Association (WADA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit arts organization dedicated to building and sustaining a vibrant arts community within and around the Warehouse Arts District in downtown St. Petersburg. Spanning from 1st Avenue North to 10th Avenue South and 16th Street to 31st Street, the Warehouse Arts District includes the Deuces Live Main Street and is comprised of a thriving community of over 300 businesses that support both the artistic outreach of the organization and the community revitalization. WADA employs a broad spectrum of tools, including marketing, advocacy, community stimulation, and educational programming to support the success of artists and community. The Education Center will serve all citizens, particularly those in the Midtown area, with accessible health, wellness, and art classes. For more information, please visit, warehouseartsdistrictstpete.com.

    About the ArtsXchange
    The ArtsXchange, a project of the Warehouse Arts District Association, is an artistic enclave with over 50,000 square feet of warehouse space that is being renovated into affordable working studios, galleries, classrooms, and performance space. ArtsXchange tenants are from all mediums with most spaces doubling as galleries open to the public on the Second Saturday of every month and a focus on providing arts education to underserved populations. For more info please visit, warehouseartsdistrictstpete.org/ArtsXchange

    WADA Instagram Page: @warehouseartssp
    WADA Facebook Page: facebook.com/warehouseartsdistrictstpete
  • 18 Oct 2018 4:20 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    'El Sueño Americano' runs through November 5 in the Warehouse Arts District by Cathy Salustri.

    ARTS1Dream Discarded Tom Kefer101818SWEET DREAMS: Tom Kiefer’s 'El Sueño Americano' — translated, The American Dream — paints a darker dream.

    If you see one art show this year — or in your life — you need to see Tom Kiefer’s El Sueño Americano at the ArtsXchange. 

    America’s immigration narrative, shaped by years of Americans telling themselves the story of their existence, revolves around the pursuit of the American Dream. Historian James Truslow Adams defined this American trope as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” Before the United States enacted its first immigration law — the 1870 Page act — most Americans arrived as immigrants. As generations drifted further and further away from their homeland, ideas — and laws — about immigration changed. 

    Let’s gently wade backward, before the past two years of presidential narratives about walls, rapists and criminals; El Sueño Americano predates the narrative, and it predates President Barack Obama, too: In the summer of 2003, Kiefer began working part-time as a janitor at U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in Ajo, Arizona. That’s when he began collecting the images on exhibit at The ArtsXchange. 

    Each image — more than 60 small images and a handful of larger ones — are of things carried by immigrants. The owners of these items packed sparsely in preparation for their odyssey. They would have to; according to the US Customs and Border Patrol website, “to effect an illegal entry within the Ajo area of responsibility, illegal aliens are often committing to several days in the remote desert, with little to offer in relief... Rough, rocky terrain, flat desert covered in cactus and brush, and numerous mountainous regions are predominant in the area and make travel, even in accessible areas, difficult.”

    The area under this office’s control encompasses 7,000 square miles. 

    The predominant consideration, then, is to ensure you and your family have enough water. But smaller things get carried, too — rosaries, a small portrait, perhaps, of family left behind. Birth control pills get packed, as do one or two small — quite small — toys for a child.

    What would you take if you were leaving everything to pursue such a dream?

    In 2012, Customs and Border Patrol agents arrested more than 364,000 people attempting to enter America illegally, which is a misdemeanor for first-time offenders. Immigrants not immediately deported stay in detention centers, where agents relieve them of any of their belongings considered “nonessential.”

    In theory, immigrants will get reunited with these belongings when they’re released or deported. In reality, while working at Ajo, Kiefer found many of these items in the garbage, seized and discarded by border patrol agents. He began photographing what the U.S. government called “non-essential” items: Bars of soap. Collections of rosaries. Heart-shaped lockets. Combs.

    Agents consider combs “potentially lethal,” Kiefer explains, and throw them out. Logical, until your eye catches an image of tiny pink combs, the kind used on baby hair.

    Toothpaste and toothbrushes could also be used to kill someone and so agents throw them out. No, immigrants do not have access to oral hygiene products while at detention centers, Kiefer says.

    The American Dream, indeed.

    Wallets. Condoms. New Testaments, one inscribed with the dates where one immigrant had tried — and failed — to become American.

    Rubber ducks. A tiny pink giraffe. A black-and-white stuffed kitten. Children’s toys.

    The tiny children’s toys are what broke me, but it’s the gestalt of the exhibit that worked on me until, when my eye caught the small image of a toy that no doubt fit into a child’s grubby palm, I started to cry.

    This, the Warehouse Art District’s executive director Diane Bailey Morton tells me, is not an unusual reaction. As the ArtsXchange installed the exhibit, people had the same reaction — and they weren’t taking in the cumulative effect.

    For her, it was the change purse featuring three Disney princesses.

    “I had one just like it” as a child, she says. 

    I think back to my Raggedy Ann, given to me as a baby. I’ve had her my whole life. Had my family’s immigration come two generations later, I would have brought her with me as my family chased the American Dream. Had a customs agent taken her from me, I would have been inconsolable. A scene from The Goonies comes to mind, the one where Martha Plimpton’s character says the coins in the wishing well are someone else’s dreams and it wouldn’t be right to take them.

    Kiefer’s compositions — some almost dispassionately mathematical in their mise-en-scène placement — reveal his thoughts on our treatment of these dream-seekers. He would, Morton says, bring detainees cans of tuna fish, with the agents’ blessing. But he couldn’t bring them their most intimate belongings, those chosen from a life left behind to accompany these families on their quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So he photographed them instead; he arranged these weathered, water-stained, hard-loved objects on colorful backgrounds, and he let them tell their side of our American Dream narrative.

    It is not their dream to have, Kiefer’s work seems to tell us. That was our dream

    They are non-essential. 

    El Sueño Americano

    The ArtsXchange at the Warehouse Arts District, 515 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg | Through Nov. 5: Thurs.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. | $10; free, members | 727-826-7211 | warehouseartsdistrictstpete.org

  • 08 Oct 2018 5:18 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Published by Bill DeYoung of St. Pete Catalyst


    The most impactful thing about El Sueño Americano, the photographic exhibition on view at the ArtsXchange gallery (in the Warehouse Arts District) Oct. 8 through Nov. 5, is that it puts a face on the raging debate about illegal immigration – without depicting any faces at all.

    El Sueño Americano (The American Dream) consists of photographs, by former border patrol station janitor Tom Kiefer, of personal items confiscated from men, women and children who were apprehended while attempting to cross from Mexico into Southern Arizona.

    “The policy,” explains the 59-year-old Kiefer in a telephone interview, “was that anything considered non-essential, or potentially lethal, the migrants had to give up. It was confiscated and thrown in the trash.”

    Over an eight-year period, Kiefer collected hundreds of wallets – some with photo IDs intact – bibles, rosaries, items of clothing, toys, books, blankets, brushes and combs, and less personal items including bars of soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, along with roll upon roll of toilet paper.

    Wherever those apprehended wound up, their property was never returned.

    “Everyone has an opinion on this,” offers Kiefer, whose initial task had been to extract packages of pre-packaged food from the dumpster, and bring them to a local food bank. “But the taking of a rosary or a bible, there’s just something inhumane and morally wrong about that.”

    Ironically, Kiefer had only hired on because he couldn’t make ends meet pursuing his passion – making black and white art photographs of the American urban landscape.

    He went to work at the Customs and Border Protection center in Why, Ariz. in 2003. “I was already an artist; it could not have been scripted more perfectly,” he says.

    The food-donation system was already in place when Kiefer arrived; it intensified during his tenure, and he was put in charge. Which is when he began to discover more than cans of tuna and bags of chips during his dumpster-diving expeditions. Even then, he says, “It was five years before I figured out a way in which I could present these items in a way that was respectful and neutral.”

    During those five years, Kiefer stored the found objects in a friend’s garage; he knew the Border Patrol wouldn’t be thrilled if they knew what he was doing.

    What was he doing? At first, he wasn’t sure.

    Kiefer began to see the migrant material as silent witnesses to lives irrevocably changed, evidence that American immigration policies were flawed.

    “This was an object that someone chose to carry with them,” he says. “Of all the things to carry as they risked their lives crossing the desert, this was it. When I first came across a bottle of cologne, I couldn’t believe it. I thought ‘Why in God’s name are they bringing a bottle of cologne?’ I thought it was crazy.

    “But I continued coming across bottles of cologne. This bottle of cologne represented something to them, their hopes, their dreams. Getting ready for their first job interview, or being reunited with someone they hadn’t seen in years. It was a symbol, a talisman of hope, or their new life so to speak.”

    He began to arrange and photograph the items, and resigned – “before they could fire me” – in 2015. “My job,” he explains, “is to engage the viewer, and to have them linger and think about what they’re looking at.


    “If the viewer can engage and start thinking about ‘Who was this person?’ And ‘Oh my God, that’s the cologne I use. The toothpaste I brush my teeth with.’ We are human beings.”

    Although they aren’t part of the St. Petersburg exhibition, Kiefer has recently begun using actual photographs recovered from the dumpster. They’re passport-type photos. It took him a while to add the faces, he says, “because I didn’t know who these people were. I didn’t know if I would somehow be putting their life at risk.

    “But at the same time, it cried out for putting the human face on this. Something like a driver’s license or a photo ID, I don’t think that I would ever do that.”

    Unfortunately, there are no plans for Kiefer to make an appearance at the Arts Xchange. “This is still a self-funded project,” he explains, “but I’m very resolute about it. I could never have planned out my career in this way. The plan was to continue photographing America, using black and white film photography. Kind of in the vein of Walker Evans, who was one of my heroes.

    “But it certainly didn’t turn out that way. And it’s an absolute honor to have come across this project. It could not have been more organic. El Sueño Americano really feels like it has a life of its own.”

    Photographer Tom Kiefer

  • 26 Sep 2018 2:29 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    September 25, 2018 by Press Release

    The Warehouse Arts District Nabs Internationally-acclaimed Artist Tom Kiefer’s “El Sueño Americano” Exhibit
    The Photographic Fine Art Exhibit Makes its East Coast Debut at the ArtsXchange in St. Petersburg, FL

    St. Petersburg, FL (September 18, 2018) – Tom Kiefer is a photographic artist who was working as a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) janitor to pay his bills.

    Kiefer was disheartened by the amount of wasted unopened packaged food items confiscated from undocumented migrants apprehended in the desert and brought to the CBP processing center in Ajo, Arizona. Without the blessing of his superiors, he began to rifle through the trash bins to collect the packaged food and then donate it to a local food shelter.

    Something remarkable happened to Kiefer as he began his adventures in dumpster diving. What he found in the dumpster was more than just the cans of tuna fish, baby food, and Snicker bars that he expected to see. He found other highly-personal confiscated items that were being trashed and became deeply affected by this discovery.

    “I think, for me, to see these objects thrown away like trash, just felt wrong. The wallets with personal identification and credit cards still intact, the medications, toy cars, rosary beads, bibles, and other religious artifacts, they just seemed too important to be at the bottom of a dumpster,” said Kiefer.

    He felt compelled to start collecting these items en masse, unaware of how they would emerge into works of art. However, he found the objects began to call out to him and tell their story. Kiefer said, “I started bringing them home, even though at first, I didn’t know what I was going to do with them. But then the art began to unfold, and it felt like these confiscated, discarded belongings were telling deeply personal and heartbreaking stories about the people crossing our borders.”

    Kiefer’s photographic exhibit “El Sueño Americano” (The American Dream), is a remarkable depiction of the choices undocumented migrants’ make when packing their most valuable items to journey across the border. This visually stunning and powerful photographic art exhibit will have its Florida debut at the ArtsXchange located in the Warehouse Arts District of St. Petersburg, FL.

    Diane Morton, Executive Director of the Warehouse Arts District Association and ArtsXchange, knew this was an exhibit that the Tampa Bay community needed to see and made every effort possible to bring this thought-provoking exhibit to the ArtsXchange.

    Morton believes certain works of art are so compelling that once seen, they alter your perspective and remain in your conscious long after viewed. “The photography in Tom’s El Sueño Americano exhibit lingers and asks the viewer to pause for contemplation on the human experience behind the word immigrant,” added Morton.

    Kiefer hopes his work lends another layer to the coverage and stories we hear in the media about the immigrants who come to the United States.

    Composed of 64 small and four larger photographs of found objects, “El Sueño Americano” offers a glimpse into the humanity of all people looking for a better life.

    El Sueño Americano by Tom Kiefer

    Private Donor Preview Party – October 11th 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
    Second Saturday ArtWalk Opening (FREE) – October 13th 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
    Private WADA Members Only Viewing Party – October 25th 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

    Location:
    The ArtsXchange
    515 22nd St. S.,
    St. Petersburg, FL 33712
    Exhibit is open October 8 – November 5, 2018
    Gallery Hours: Thursday- Saturday 10am – 5 pm
    Phone Number: 727-826-7211
    $10 ticket/Free for WADA Members

    Please visit https://www.warehouseartsdistrictstpete.org/Tom-Kiefer-Exhibit for more information on Tom Kiefer and the El Sueño Americano exhibit at the ArtsXchange.

    Sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times
    Sponsorship Opportunities available.

    ###

    About the Warehouse Arts District Association
    The Warehouse Arts District Association (WADA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit arts organization dedicated to building and sustaining a vibrant arts community within and around the Warehouse Arts District in downtown St. Petersburg. Spanning from 1st Avenue North to 10th Avenue South and 16th Street to 31st Street, the Warehouse Arts District includes the Deuces Live Main Street and is comprised of a thriving community of over 300 businesses that support both the artistic outreach of the organization and the community revitalization. WADA employs a broad spectrum of tools, including marketing, advocacy, community stimulation, and educational programming to support the success of artists and community. The Education Center will serve all citizens, particularly those in the Midtown area, with accessible health, wellness, and art classes. For more information, please visit, warehouseartsdistrictstpete.com.

    About the ArtsXchange
    The ArtsXchange, a project of the Warehouse Arts District Association, is an artistic enclave with over 50,000 square feet of warehouse space that is being renovated into affordable working studios, galleries, classrooms, and performance space. ArtsXchange tenants are from all mediums with most spaces doubling as galleries open to the public on the Second Saturday of every month and a focus on providing arts education to underserved populations. For more info please visit, warehouseartsdistrictstpete.org/ArtsXchange.

    Artist Website http://www.tomkiefer.com/
    Artist Instagram Page: @tomkiefer.photographer
    WADA Instagram Page: @warehouseartssp
    WADA Facebook Page: @WarehouseArtsDistrictStPete

  • 20 Sep 2018 4:03 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)


    By: Laura Moody, FOX 13 News

    ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - In the days after 9/11, the first group of special forces were sent to battle the worst enemy the country had ever know. It was a successful mission, but a covert one, so America would never know. They returned to their lives as if nothing happened.

    Now they're retired, But these days, the only mission they're working on is 95-proof, and building the American Freedom Distillery, set to open sometime this fall in St. Petersburg.

    For former Green Beret Scott Neil, this is the very definition of the American Dream. After a lifetime in special operations, he found a place to retire with his family -- a place to start a business with the brothers he risked his life with.

    "Here are we are 17 years later and a lot of us are retiring and we're returning out of MacDill -- home of Central Command," he explained to FOX 13, "and we were like, 'What are we going to do?' We've spent our whole lives together. Our kids grew up together."

    He was part of the famous Horse Soldiers, which American has recently learned about their bravery. They were the first wave of Green Berets to go into battle in the weeks after 9/11. Four armies of 12 soldiers who came from the four corners of Afghanistan to defeat an Al Qaeda army of 50-thousand. They were outnumbered, outgunned and on horseback.

    It battle so unbelievable they wrote a book about it, there's a documentary up for an Emmy next month and it became a feature film starring a big Hollywood hunk. 

    Their story caught the eye of Hollywood producer, Jerry Bruckheimer. The movie, "12 Strong", starring Chris Hemsworth, came out earlier this year.

    It's flattering, Neil said laughing, but a pretty loose adaptation.

    "When you have the big Hollywood stars, it's all about one man. It's about the Captain and Mark is very humble. He lives with his family here in Tampa," said Neil. 

    Mark Nutsch, the Commander of Horse Soldiers Special Forces, and Bob Pennington, the Deputy Commander, who is portrayed by actor Michael Shannon, both retired and joined Neil, fellow Special Forces comrades Rob Schaefer and John Koko and their friend Elizabeth Pritchard. Soon after, Tyler Garner came on board. 

    They capitalized on the blockbuster opportunity to launch their brand of Horse Soldier whiskey.

    "It became so successful, we sold in a month what we thought would take a year. We sold in the second month what we would be two years," Neil went on, "Just like Green Berets, we're behind the scenes -- unknown. You won't see us anywhere and then we launched our brand the same time the movie came out and we're in over 1,300 locations throughout Florida."

    The civilian world was a foreign one, but they took classes in business, learned about money management and started the paperwork. Now they do it all. They make their own barrels. They make the bottles. The mold for the glass is steel from the World Trade Center. 

    They are distilling and bottling off site right now, but soon they will be making their craft whiskey in the St. Pete location at 5th Avenue South and 22nd Street, n the trendy Warehouse Arts District.

    "The history of America is bound in whiskey," said Neil, "From the whiskey rebellion to the old west, whiskey is very pioneering. Just having a glass means victory."  

    The group traveled the world together learning to make the world's finest whiskey.

    "What we wanted to do was show people what we learned in Scotland in their tasting rooms at Glenfiddich and Glenmorangie, what we learned in Ireland," Neil explained. 

    There will be a restaurant on property, in addition to the distillery, and right in the middle will be two 12-foot log tables that will seat 150 people. A retail shop will sit adjacent.

    "We have our own private bar, and that's the only place you will see things from our past. Our brand is about what we're doing today," he said. "Now we make whisky, not war."

  • 17 Sep 2018 11:53 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    By I Love the Burg


    Tom Kiefer is a photographic artist who was working as a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) janitor to pay his bills. His latest exhibit, “El Sueño Americano,” depicts the choices undocumented migrants make when packing their most valuable items to journey across the border.

    “El Sueño Americano” (The American Dream) will have its Florida debut at the ArtsXchange in the Warehouse Arts District. The gallery will be on view from October 8 through November 5. Gallery hours are 10am-5pm, Thursday through Saturday.

    What inspired “El Sueño Americano?

    Kiefer was disheartened by the amount of wasted unopened packaged food items confiscated from undocumented migrants apprehended in the desert and brought to the CBP processing center in Ajo, Arizona. Without the blessing of his superiors, he began to rifle through the trash bins to collect the packaged food and then donate it to a local food shelter.

    Something remarkable happened to Kiefer as he began his adventures in dumpster diving. What he found in the dumpster was more than just the cans of tuna fish, baby food, and Snicker bars that he expected to see. He found other highly-personal confiscated items that were being trashed and became deeply affected by this discovery.

    “I think, for me, to see these objects thrown away like trash, just felt wrong. The wallets with personal identification and credit cards still intact, the medications, toy cars, rosary beads, bibles, and other religious artifacts, they just seemed too important to be at the bottom of a dumpster,” said Kiefer.

    Kiefer was unaware how the items would become art

    He felt compelled to start collecting these items en masse, unaware of how they would emerge into works of art. However, he found the objects began to call out to him and tell their story. Kiefer said, “I started bringing them home, even though at first, I didn’t know what I was going to do with them. But then the art began to unfold, and it felt like these confiscated, discarded belongings were telling deeply personal and heartbreaking stories about the people crossing our borders.”

    Tom Kiefer’s photographic exhibit “El Sueño Americano” (The American Dream) is a visually stunning and powerful photographic art exhibit.

    Diane Morton, Executive Director of the Warehouse Arts District Association and ArtsXchange, knew this was an exhibit that the Tampa Bay community needed to see and made every effort possible to bring this thought-provoking exhibit to the ArtsXchange.

    The exhibit contemplates the human experience.

    Morton believes certain works of art are so compelling that once seen, they alter your perspective and remain in your conscious long after viewed. “The photography in Tom’s El Sueño Americano exhibit lingers and asks the viewer to pause for contemplation on the human experience behind the word immigrant,” added Morton.

    Kiefer hopes his work lends another layer to the coverage and stories we hear in the media about the immigrants who come to the United States.

    Composed of 64 small and four larger photographs of found objects, “El Sueño Americano” offers a glimpse into the humanity of all people looking for a better life.

  • 02 Aug 2018 4:40 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    By Bill DeYoung of St. Pete Catalyst

    During this afternoon’s meeting, St. Petersburg City Council approved a new site for Janet Echelman’s controversial floating sculpture – at the Pier approach, instead of nearby Spa Beach Park – and Mark Aeling believes it’s time to widen the dialogue about St. Pete and public art.

    “Every time a public art call comes up, there’s always this percentage of the populace that questions why public funds are going towards art,” says the noted sculptor, president of the Warehouse Arts District Association. “‘Why are our tax dollars being wasted?’ is the general tone of that comment.”

    In mid-July, Council voted against putting up the massive Echelman piece on an open stretch of grass on the Pier’s north side, after complaints that it would somehow spoil the view of the waterfront.

    And the conversation – the search for compromise – started all over again.

    Aeling and his wife, painter Carrie Jadus – they’re the first couple of the St. Petersburg arts scene – will speak Friday morning at the Oxford Exchange, across the bay in Tampa.

    “What we want to talk about is just the importance of art in the community, and why public art matters, and what difference it makes,” Aeling explains. “The crux of it is this notion that art is nourishment for the soul.”

    Historically, he adds, “Art tends to be the first thing that people do when their base necessities are met. And it’s as important to communities as the base necessities are.”

    Artist’s rendering of Janet Echelman’s “floating sculpture” at its originally-proposed location, at Spa Beach Park.

    Jadus is a St. Petersburg native with very clear memories of the previous pier – the so-called “inverted pyramid” – as something that always said “St. Pete” to her. “You couldn’t really call it public art,” she says, but for her, it was an integral part of family strolls by the water. “I think the Echelman piece, whether you like it or don’t like it, is going to give that waterfront area personality and soul. There might be people that would prefer to look at something else. But I think that it’s going to affect you in a way that gives you an experience.”

    For Aeling, the $2.8 Echelman project – funded by city government and private investors – is part of a bigger picture. “It’s a huge asset for the community,” he explains, “and it represents a public/private partnership that I think is really positive for the City of St. Petersburg. It shows some serious initiative in that they take the arts seriously.”

    Love at first sight (twice)

    Born in Colorado, Aeling was living in St. Louis in 2005 when he fell in love with St. Petersburg, and decided to move his studio here.

    He was among the founders of the Warehouse Arts District, which took over the 55,000-square-foot Soft Water Laundry compound on three acres of the city’s south side, cleaned it up and divided it into artists’ studios. Centrally located is the Arts Xchange, a meeting, exhibition and classroom space.

    “During Phase One we built 28 studios, and they were all rented before we had them done,” he says. “And there’s a long waiting list right now. We could quadruple the amount of square footage we have.”

    In the planning and fundraising stages is Phase Two, which will add an education center, classrooms, a professional dance floor and more. The proposed budget also includes “campus” improvements – filling in the parking lot potholes, painting a bit and removing the rusty chain-link border fences.

    And putting up new signs. “Nobody knows we’re here,” he laughs.

    “Back when I first got here, I didn’t want anyone to know I was here. We kept it closed up.”

    Now, of course, “it’s become much more popular, but there’s still a huge percentage of the bay area that doesn’t know that the Arts Xchange is here.”

    Aeling, a master sculptor with an international reputation, has the anchor spot – 4,000 square feet – for his MGA Studios. He chose the space because of its high ceilings and wide doors – many of his sculptures are extremely large.

    He’s currently at work on a stainless steel sculpture, 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide, for the exterior of the city’s new police building. For the lobby, he’s creating a 30-foot eagle’s wing made of oxidized aluminum.

    “Ripple Effect,” sculpture by Mark Aeling at BayCare’s administrative facility in Clearwater.

    “When Mark and I first met, I was looking for a bigger space,” says Jadus. “I was working on a commission for Weedon Island, which was huge. I couldn’t even fit it in my old space.”

    Together, they renovated another 4,000 square feet of Soft Water, and turned it into space for five artists (including Jadus herself) and a gallery.

    They had just begun dating at the time. “We decided to test our relationship and form a business partnership,” Aeling says with a smile.

    Aeling and Jadus got married last year. “One of the keys, for us, is recognizing that this is a business,” he points out. “And everybody’s got a different formula for this.

    “Being creative and being talented is a baseline. But success is based on your ability to treat it like a business. And run it like a business. I call it the penance – you have to do the bookkeeping. You have to do the marketing, and the sales, and all of those things that are necessary parts of having a successful entity.”

    While the studios are generally open for friends, family, art fans, thrill-seekers and the curious – especially so during the monthly meet-and-greet Art Walks – Jadus says there’s something special about the camaraderie between creative types.

    “There’s definitely a benefit for artists working together in the same area,” she explains. “Because you’re constantly bouncing creative ideas off of each other.

    “There are personalities, so people don’t always get along, but at Soft Water we have a great group of artists. We visit, exchange ideas and give each other feedback. Being alone, being isolated, it’s just not as enriching of an experience.”

    ‘Because of the arts’

    From small communities, big communities grow.

    “The city has put on this hat of being an arts city,” Aeling believes. “And I think to a large degree, they’re riding on the arts community – there’s still work to be done. The success of the arts here is because of the arts community, not necessarily because of the city’s attitude towards it.”

    The Echelman sculpture, he says, is big step in the right direction.

    “Why is St. Pete thriving right now? I think you could say that, to a large degree, it’s thriving because of the arts, and because of the arts community.

    “There are some really important things that the arts bring to a community – including economic resource. Dollars that go into the arts return investment. So why not spend money on the arts?”

    Carrie Jadus’ Tesla mural at 2232 5th Ave. S.

    Jadus, whose vivid, impressionistic paintings commissioned by St. Pete Preservation and Movies in the Park are among the biggest-selling poster reproductions in local history, is known for, among other things, the 2015 mural of scientist Nikola Tesla at 2232 5th Ave. S.

    At one point, the business owner considered painting over the mural. But a massive outpouring of support, via social media, put a stop to that.

    “I had done bigger art in the studio, but because it’s outside, everyone can see it, it was amazing to me how much it affected people,” Jadus says. “It has a huge effect. It becomes a part of their everyday experience. Public art does that.

    “I don’t think that some people are present enough to actually realize that they’re being affected by it. I think that’s sometimes why people don’t appreciate it. Regardless of whether they appreciate it or not, it allows them to engage in their environment.”

     

    “The Importance of Public Art (And Supporting Local Artists”: Mark Aeling and Carrie Jadus

    At 8 a.m. Friday, Aug. 3 at the Oxford Exchange (Café con Tampa)

    Free

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