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  • 24 May 2018 11:46 AM | Deleted user
    Article by Claudia Ray of GAI Consultants

    In evolving districts of St. Petersburg, FL, GAI’s Community Solutions Group engages with local stakeholders to craft a vision for the community’s future. 

    If a project’s goal is to make a community more livable, the best and most sustainable ideas for improvement can often come from the community itself. When the City of St. Petersburg, FL contracted GAI’s Community Solutions Group (CSG) to create an enhanced streetscape and neighborhood plan for its Warehouse Arts District and Deuces Live Main Street, we looked for guidance from the people who live in, work in, and visit the areas.

    Developing districts in need of improved infrastructure

    The Warehouse Arts District is a historically industrial area that has seen growing activity by local artists and independent businesses including galleries, distilleries, breweries, and light industry. Deuces Live Main Street (a nine-block stretch of the city’s 22nd Street South) is an adjoining commercial thoroughfare dotted with restaurants, small businesses, churches, and community services.

    Originally configured to serve rail and truck traffic, the Warehouse Arts District needs to better accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and transit, including a growing influx of visitors attracted by popular events such as the district’s monthly ‘ArtWalk.’ The Deuces Live Main Street needs infrastructure enhancement to revitalize the corridor, preserve its heritage as a center of the local African American community, and better serve businesses, consumers, and visitors. The improved streets and neighborhood plan needs to offer both areas safer circulation for people within their respective footprints and better connection to the larger community.

    WADA Study Area

    Giving the people what they want

    Seeking public input and consensus is a results-driven approach that GAI’s CSG follows in our community planning projects. While some planning firms design in the isolation of an office and then present a completed proposal to possibly unreceptive community stakeholders, we work directly with the community from the start.

    The joint streetscape, open space, and neighborhood enhancement plan for the Warehouse Arts District and Deuces Live Main Street used a series of public engagement meetings to gather community members’ impressions of the current state of the project area, identify opportunities for improvement, and determine how to make those improvement ideas into reality.

    Streetscape and public space plan emerges

    Our first step is analysis to define the project area—this includes taking measurements, photographing buildings and public spaces, stakeholder interviews and walking tours, and detailed Geographic Information System (GIS) inventory of various assets. Then we start the ‘listening and understanding’ phase of our work in which we present the data we’ve assembled to a committee of community members and gather their input on ways to move ahead.

    The first task of the community committee is to adopt ‘guiding principles’ that the plan will follow—this framework keeps the process on track and defines the project focus and goals.

    The committee then works together to determine what elements of the project area they value most, what must be improved, what should be preserved, and where there are opportunities to transform. During the Warehouse Arts District/Deuces Live Main Street meetings, these opinions were represented visually in the form of red and green stickers on various photos and maps of the project area as well as relevant examples from other cities. We also worked with the community to select designs for elements like benches, trees, signage, lighting fixtures, bike stands, and more.

    A picture of community goals and opportunities begins to emerge from these exercises, and additional meetings including bus and walking tours strengthen consensus by helping participants clearly visualize where and how the proposed transformations will exist in the real-world environment.

    Growing a cohesive community from the inside out

    This inclusive process has enabled GAI’s CSG to create a streetscape/public space action plan for Warehouse Arts District and Deuces Live Main Street that is shaped by the community and honed by our professional guidance and expertise.

    The action plan includes park space and tree-lined streets with pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, cycling lanes, and improved on-street parking. The plan also preserves and features signature buildings like the Manhattan Casino and Royal Theater and enhances the project area’s connection with the Pinellas Trail, a signature St. Petersburg cycling trail and public space that winds through the community for several blocks. The plan also discusses the urban form of the area and how to guide incremental change over time, so that each measure of investment (public or private) can build toward the vision. The Warehouse Arts District/Deuces Live Main Street action plan concludes with detailed guidelines for project implementation.

    A formula for sustainable success

    The joint Warehouse Arts District/Deuces Live Main Street streetscape and public space action plan responds to neighborhood perspectives about the past, present, and future. The plan identifies more than 30 public-realm infrastructure projects and programs that will support the community’s upward social, cultural, and economic potential while building a more livable physical environment.

    Our inclusive approach to planning considers a community’s heritage, history, and unique sense of place while positioning a complex urban district for future growth, ongoing sustainability, and improved livability for all who call the community home.

    Contact Urban Designer Claudia Ray, 321.319.3094, for more information about the GAI Community Solutions Group’s urban design and planning, landscape architecture, and economics and strategy services.

    GAI Wins American Planning Association Award for Warehouse Arts District/Deuces Live Action Plan

    On May 9, 2018, GAI’s work for the City of St. Petersburg, FL was recognized with the APA Florida Sun Coast section’s Public Outreach and Engagement Award for 2018.

    Public Outreach and Engagement Award

    GAI Urban Designer Claudia Ray (center) and Warehouse Arts/Deuces Live Main Street project contributors accept the APA Florida award. L-r: Fathy Abdalla, Kisinger Campo & Associates; Veatrice Farrell, Deuces Live; Hannah Sowinski, Kisinger Campo & Associates; Gina Marie Fonti, Raw Studios; Claudia Ray, GAI; Mary Jane Park, Warehouse Arts District Association; Brian Caper, City of St. Petersburg
  • 03 May 2018 11:41 AM | Deleted user

    In a 1,100-square-foot space at the ArtsXchange Warehouse District, Thomas Geer is surrounded by wood: wooden utensils, wooden tables, and big pieces of tree trunks.

    Video by Fox 13 Tampa Bay

  • 23 Apr 2018 9:07 AM | Deleted user
    Via I Love the Burg


    Located just outside of downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, the Warehouse Arts District has become a haven for artists in a city with increasing rents. The ArtsXchange is the just the beginning of a collective of spaces to for artists of all styles looking to make it in their career, or just simply make art.

    With a major cut in arts funding by the State of Florida setting in, Warehouse Arts Director Executive Director Diane Bailey Morton indicates self-funding ideas, such as multi-use space, alongside the city’s arts friendly reputation, are key to maintain and nurture a true creative community in St. Pete.

    Artist Nancy Cohen may be a late bloomer in many ways, but as a New Yorker, she prefers the lifestyle, St. Pete offers and the access it gives to artists. The ability to play poker at the Hard Rock doesn’t hurt either.

    Click here to listen!

  • 23 Apr 2018 9:04 AM | Deleted user
    Article by 83 Degrees Medias' Caitlin Albritton

    Charley, 27-foot skeletal yacht frame, created by Mark Aeling.
    Charley, 27-foot skeletal yacht frame, created by Mark Aeling.

    There’s more to see than just the Hillsborough River during your jaunt down the Tampa Riverwalk. 

    While you might see some kayaks, rowboats or electric boats floating on the river, you’ll find only one boat-as-public-sculpture greeting walkers at the entrance of NOVEL Riverwalk -- a developing apartment complex run by Crescent Communities, who commissioned this project. This 27-foot skeletal yacht frame, with bow sticking upright in the air proudly, has been dubbed "Charley'' by its creator Mark Aeling of MGA Sculpture Studio in St. Pete.

    But who is Charley?
    Charley Morgan of Morgan Yachts is a bit of a boat genius, having designed and built over 10,000 yachts through his lifetime; he’s 88 years old and has only just retired a few years back.
    "I had met Charley through the St. Pete Artwalk, but I had heard his name before because he is very respected in the sailing community and internationally,'' Aeling says. "I was doing research on wooden boat hulls for this project and had a hunch Charley had more information. I found out he had worked on an amazing project 'Heritage' designed in the 1970s for the America's Cup [one of the biggest races in sailing]. It was an absolutely gorgeous boat.''

    "Charley has an unbelievable breadth of experience, and I felt like the piece should be dedicated to his life’s work.''
    As a self-taught engineer, Charley has led an exciting life from an early age: When he was 17, he entered a boating race that went from St. Pete to Cuba. He had to have special permission to race because the boat that he built in his own backyard didn’t have a motor. This ended up launching his career in becoming a specialist in hull design.
    "Charley even helped consult on the structural engineering of the sculpture itself because the aluminum needs to sustain hurricane winds,'' Aeling adds.
    Using the famous racing yacht "Heritage'' as inspiration, it took 4 months from concept to completion before it was installed in late March across from the Tampa Bay Times building near The Straz. It has similar aesthetics as MGA Sculpture Studio’s “Budding Vortex” sculpture that was also commissioned by Crescent Communities back in 2016 at the entrance of one of their communities on North Lois Ave.; they both have a kinetic sculpture quality with their blade-like construction.
    "When you repeat forms in space, it creates a visual resonance and makes you want to move around the piece, so it's kinetic in a way in that it makes you move yourself in relation to the piece,'' Aeling says. "We wanted to create traction to draw people in and relate to that notion of the Riverwalk.''

  • 22 Apr 2018 11:28 AM | Deleted user

    Published By Bill DeYoung of St. Pete Catalyst

    Four years after the Warehouse Arts District Association bought up 50,000 square feet of grey, decaying industrial buildings off 5th Avenue and 22nd Street South, the ArtsXchange – as the facility was named – is thriving. Nearly 30 professional artists, in all media, work in comfy, rent-controlled studio space.

    The two-story, 9,200-square foot ArtsXchange main building officially opened, fully renovated and fitted out, last October. With galleries, and event and performance spaces alongside the working studios, it’s become ground zero for St. Petersburg’s ongoing, reverberating cultural explosion – there’s a waiting list to get in, with 400 artists’ names on it. The center’s opening receptions and other public events are routinely packed.

    All of this revitalization is tremendously exciting for Diane Bailey Morton, who became executive director of the nonprofit Warehouse Arts District Association in January. Although the non-legal “borders” of the district cover 1.5 square miles – the Morean Center for Clay is there, and the Duncan McClellan glassworks gallery, in addition to numerous non-arts businesses including breweries, distilleries and coffee-grinders –the ArtsXchange is the beating heart of the city’s so-retro-it’s-hip neighborhood.

    This week, Morton is beginning a capital campaign to get Phase II up and running.

    “We’re going to rehab another warehouse for an arts education building,” she announces. “Including a dance studio, with three classrooms.” The dance studio will be fully equipped, with a professional springboard floor, ballet barres, mirrors, the works.

    On April 26, she’ll reveal the renderings to the association’s donors and benefactors.

    Although the current facility hosts adult education classes on its second floor, the Phase II addition – it’s 2,400 square feet – has been designed for versatility.

    “Three classrooms – it could be anything,” Morton says, “music and voice lessons, whatever we want to do. Anything that will serve the community – if people want to rent it for their dance troupe, their art lessons, whatever. It’ll be multi-use.”

    Morton believes it’s important to embrace other artistic disciplines – not just the visual. As an example, she cites the experimental storytelling/theater company, Your Real Stories, which rents a studio in the ArtsXchange. “We’re committed to that idea,” Morton says.

    Purchasing the buildings, and rehabbing for Phase I, those were the easy parts – the WADA had state and city money, as well as significant private contributions from arts supporters who wanted to see the facility rise from the ashes of a blighted neighborhood.

    This time, it’s up to the donors alone. “Before,” Morton says, “they were buying a vision. Now that we’re bricks and mortar, now that they’ve seen it, I think they’ll believe in us even more. Because we were responsible in how we did it, and it’s turned out beautifully.”

    This year, the Warehouse Arts District Association applied for $500,000 in state funding. They got zip, zippo, zilch – the same amount given to them in 2017.

    “I wouldn’t be doing this capital campaign if the legislature had funded the project,” explains Morton. “I’m never going to ask the community for a penny more than what we need. If we’d gotten that, it would be a different ball game altogether.”

    Diane Bailey Morton is the glass-half-full type – the big raspberry from Tallahassee, she’s sure, won’t stop the irrepressibly forward motion of the Warehouse Arts District. “There are strong challenges, but strong rewards,” she beams. “I am so thrilled with the programming that we’ve done. We have reached so many people. We had a standing-room-only national book launch last week; we got national attention. It was a book on the Pride flag, for children.

    “To be able to do events like that, and support our community in so many different ways, that’s the reward to it all. Look how far we’ve come.”

    Sadly, there’s been no word from the city on its joint action plan, proposed in 2017, to revitalize and link the Warehouse Arts District and the adjoining Dueces neighborhood.

    Inspiration for the contents of the arts education center, Morton beams, came to her during a visit to a revitalized arts center in Lorton, Va. called the Workhouse. The former prison was rehabbed into artist studios, each cellblock representing a different medium.

    “One of the cellblocks was movement,” Morton explains. “And I saw on the door ‘pilates, senior yoga, ballet,’ everything, and I went ‘Wow. That’s really multi-use; that’s a broad base of the community.’ I thought ‘I’d like to do something like that.’”

    She was also inspired, she says, by professional dancer Misty Copeland’s groundbreaking video advertisement for Under Armour training gear. “It’s a visual of her dancing to her rejection letters. And basically, it was all racist: Your feet are wrong, your hips are wrong, your bust is wrong … ‘you could be a professional dancer in Vegas’ was one of the rejections.”

    “Making ballet accessible to everyone,” Morton says, “has always interested me.”

    In the meantime, she’ll work on raising the $375,000 necessary to get Phase II on its feet. Along with the arts education center, the organization is hoping for some site beautification.

    “We need to clean it up,” Morton says frankly. “We’re going to do aesthetic improvements, and tear down the rusted chain link fences and barbed wire. It’s ironic that an arts organization is ugly!”

    The facility’s entrance is difficult to spot from the road. New, effective signage is part of the proposal.

    “Since we’re now having events at night, we also need to make it safer, with proper lighting and security,” Morton adds. “And you can’t have people coming in and out of an education center stepping in potholes. We’ve got to clean all those up.”

    Morton is keenly aware, too, that the ArtsXchange – the association’s baby – is not the only entity within the district boundaries.

    “The Warehouse Arts District is a very large district,” she explains. “It includes 200 businesses. So part of my mission is not only to serve our artists and our artistic community, but to serve the business community. I come from a business background, even though I served on nonprofits for 30 years.” She’s planning a business mixer soon.

    And even though the art business is still a business, Morton always has a moment for levity:

    “We beat all the other districts,” she says, “and here’s why: We manufacture coffee, vodka, beer and whiskey. What else do you need? That’s why everybody wants to be where we are!”

    Influencer: Diane Bailey Morton

  • 19 Apr 2018 10:52 AM | Deleted user
    Article via American Booksellers Association

    Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, Florida, hosted its first major book launch on Thursday, April 12, in celebration of Florida author Rob Sanders’ newest picture book, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag (Random House Books for Young Readers), illustrated by Steven Salerno.

    Rob Sanders meets fans of his new book. (Credit: Candy Barnhisel)

    Rob Sanders meets fans of his new book. (Credit: Candy Barnhisel)

    “I was thrilled to be back in the excitement of planning and hosting a book signing,” owner Alsace Walentine told Bookselling This Week. Walentine, who worked at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café in Asheville, North Carolina, for 16 years, including as the store’s author events coordinator, opened Tombolo’s current pop-up location in December 2017 in the city’s EDGE district and is currently on the hunt for the store’s permanent home.

    According to Walentine, the launch event, held at the ArtsXchange gallery in the city’s Warehouse Arts District, drew more than 100 people of all ages and beliefs, including St. Petersburg City Councilman Steve Kornell, and was part of the fourth annual SunLit Festival, produced by Keep St. Pete Lit. That evening, Sanders read from his book and was interviewed by University of South Florida professor Mellissa Alonso-Teston, followed by an audience Q&A and book signing.

    Sanders’ book tells the origin of the rainbow-colored Gay Pride Flag in 1978 as a symbol of hope and shows its historical impact up until today. This year marks 40 years since the flag’s creation by designer Gilbert Baker; it was inspired by gay rights activist and community leader Harvey Milk, who became one of the first openly gay officials when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, though he was shot and killed the following year.

    Sanders presents his book at an event hosted by Tombolo Books.

    Sanders presents his book at an event hosted by Tombolo Books at ArtsXchange.

    “At many moments it was hard to find a dry eye in the room,” said Walentine. Thursday’s author event included a children’s activity table, a rainbow-colored jelly bean bar, rainbow flag cookies, gifts of handmade natural soaps branded with the book’s cover by a local body products company, and a photo opportunity with the author next to one of the original Pride flags, numbered and signed by Baker.

    “We also partnered with several non-profits to make the evening a success, including the ArtsXchange, and helped to raise $1,000 for local organization Family Resources, which aids homeless LGBTQ youth,” said Walentine.

    Sanders, who Walentine says helped gather all of the donations for the silent auction, is a teacher and writer for young children and the author of Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights, illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr, coming from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on September 25, 2018. His other forthcoming books, Stonewall: The Uprising for Gay Rights (Random House Books for Young Readers) and Ball & Balloon (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), are due out in 2019.  

    "Pride" by Rob Sanders on display in front of Tombolo Books' pop-up store.

    "Pride" by Rob Sanders on display in front of Tombolo Books' pop-up store.

    BTW has been covering Walentine’s journey to open her own brick-and-mortar bookstore since November 2015, when she moved to the St. Petersburg area and began networking, scouting locations, taking business classes, and creating connections with community leaders and the media.

    Read BTW’s previous installments (“Alsace Walentine on Laying the Foundations for Her New Bookstore”; “Plans for St. Pete Bookstore on Track”; and “What’s in a Name?: Tombolo Books”) and find Tombolo on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

  • 12 Apr 2018 11:47 AM | Deleted user

    From Grow Financial - "Meet our friends and members, David Walker and Josh Poll, the artists at Zen Glass Studio!"

  • 08 Mar 2018 11:20 AM | Deleted user

    Jane Seymour with Mark Aeling of MGA Sculpture Studio and WADA Board President

    Jane Seymour with Wendy Durand of Wendy Durand Pottery and WADA Membership Chair.  Jane bought two of Wendy's pieces!

    Jane Seymour with artist and WADA member, Marc Levasseur

  • 08 Mar 2018 11:16 AM | Deleted user

    via I Love the Burg

    March 8 is International Women’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. The Sunshine City is extraordinarily lucky because of the artistic, ambitious and inspired women who call St. Pete home. They have left an indelible mark on the residents of the Burg by creating jobs, breaking barriers and providing opportunities for men and women in industries they harbor a true passion for.

    Today, we look at the women who continue to redefine what it means to be influential and who continue to shape our city.

    Diane Bailey Morton

    Diane Bailey Morton has just been appointed Executive Director of The Warehouse Arts District. The Warehouse Arts District is a non-profit organization with the goal to convert some of St.Petersburg’s land into a thriving community for artists. This includes affordable art studios as well as art education. The Warehouse Arts District has contributed to St. Pete having a thriving arts scene and providing an excellent destination for tourism. Diane has also served on the board of the American Stage, Great Explorations and freeFall Theater. Diane has been practicing law in the Tampa Bay area for the past 30 years including serving as General Counsel for C1Bank, now Bank of the Ozarks.

    Photo by Joey Clay Photography

    Jenny Miller and Katelyn Grady

    Jenny Miller and Katelyn Grady are a married couple who took a leap of faith and transformed an old ice factory into a yoga company. Just last week, the Body Electric Yoga Co. celebrated its fifth year and continues to thrive in St. Pete. Beginning with just four teachers, the BE now has 30 teachers as well as ten on staff. They now have gone beyond their studio and taken yoga all over St. Pete and Tampa through special events, usually free to the public. Jenny Miller and Katelyn Grady truly show that following your heart to do what you love, even if it means taking risks, will pay off.

    Photo by Kelly Nash Photography

    Ya La’Ford

    Ya La’Ford is a local professor, visual painter, installation artist and muralist. Ya began her art journey in St. Pete and has now done shows all over the world. She owns studios in both St. Pete and New York. She is an advocate to keep the city full of art and is responsible for many murals, paintings and installations scattered through St. Petersburg, inspiring others to take part in the arts. Her art can spans the Burg, Boston and all over the world.

    Sarah Perrier

    Sarah Perrier is one-half of the dynamic duo behind Kahwa Coffee, voted Best of the Bay for 8 years in a row. Kahwa Coffee Roasting has been in St.Petersburg since 2006. Sarah started her career as a professional dancer with the Koresh Dance Company in Philadelphia before coming down to St. Pete with her husband, Raphael, to open their coffee company in St. Pete. Fast forward to 2018, Kahwa now has 12 locations throughout the Tampa Bay region. Kahwa Coffee works with and supports local non-profit organizations as well by donating time and products to events or donating proceeds from special coffee blends such as the No. 3, in collaboration with former Rays player, Evan Longoria which has raised funds for Wheelchairs for Kids and now for Where Love Grows which promotes a zero tolerance for childhood hunger.

    Lorraine Langlois and Priya Rajkumar

    Metro Wellness & Community Centers is an organization that provides health services while being advocates for the LGBTQ+ community which includes providing the area with transgender programs and services, counseling, support groups, and substance abuse programs. At Metro Health and Wellness Lorraine is in her 22nd year of running what is now one of the largest and most respected HIV/AIDS and LGBT service organizations. Priya joined Metro Wellness and Community Centers in 2009 as the Director of Quality Assurance and Training. Both women have and are continuing to make impressive impacts in the LGBTQ+ community.

    Trish Duggan

    Trish Duggan is known for her work as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, as well as artist. She is the benefactor of the new Imagine Museum which opened its doors in St.Pete recently. You can read more about the Imagine Museum here. She has also served as President of the Adoption Support Group in Santa Barbara, California. The Adoption Support Group’s goal was to inspire people to adopt children domestically and internationally. Duggan is also known as one of the largest donors to one of the world’s most successful rehabilitation programs to control addiction to harmful drugs and alcohol. This non-profit assists people in their goal to living a substance and addiction-free life.

  • 08 Feb 2018 11:59 AM | Deleted user

    The gallery's first solo show goes to a "crazy mixed" young talent who left a basketball career behind to make art.

    By David Warner

    Jake Troyli is used to standing out in a crowd. 

    “I would say on average, if I’m out in public, that around six or seven people will ask me how tall I am,” says Troyli, 27, a second-year MFA student in studio art at USF who happens to be 6'9".

    The next question inevitably is: Did you play basketball?

    The answer, as it turns out, is yes. He was a star player, transferring from Canterbury School to Pinellas Park High School in his junior and senior years, where he was recruited for college ball, playing at Presbyterian and graduating with a BFA from Lincoln Memorial University. He was especially good at three-pointers — still is.

    He doesn’t play anymore, though, except for the occasional pickup game (“It’s fun to dunk on old men”). These days he’s standing out for a different reason: Awarded a Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist grant last year, he has now been selected as the first artist to have a solo show in the public gallery space of the new Arts Xchange complex in the Warehouse Arts District (WADA), opening during this month’s Second Saturday.

    “I wanted our first solo show to be fresh, original, but yet support an emerging artist. And he grew up here!” says WADA’s new executive director, Diane Bailey Morton. Troyli is the kind of young artist, she says, “who can create a conversation about art.”

    And that’s exactly what Troyli wants his art to do: open up conversations. He’s used to uncomfortable questions, not just about his height, but about his ethnicity.

    “I’m like crazy mixed,” he told me last week at his engagingly cluttered studio at USF. Both his mother and father are mixed race, and he has moved among such disparate worlds — from college basketball, where almost all his teammates were black, to a graduate art program where he’s the only African-American student — that he’s acutely conscious of the differences. “I’ve always lived simultaneously as a mixed man, but also a black man.”

    He deals candidly, often humorously, with this sense of otherness in his paintings, while remaining aware that as an artist he’s both exploring and exploiting it. His stunning large-scale piece “Everything must go … maybe even you!” is an aerial view of an imagined race history museum in a shopping mall, where nude African-American men and women, cartoonishly lanky and near-identical except for breasts and penises, view works by contemporary black artists like Kerry James Marshall and Kara Walker and browse a gift shop where Ku Klux Klan hoods hang next to “I can’t breathe” T-shirts. It’s a barbed critique of the commodification of race, but in working on it Troyli couldn’t get away from the ironies. 

    “I’m a person of color sitting here laboring over Klan hoods — what does that mean?” 

    Like much of his work, “Everything must go” draws you in with its comic sensibility — and then hits you, wham!, when you examine the details. “Humor is a language I love to use in my painting,” he says. “It gives a window of accessibility that makes people more open to talking about serious issues. It’s a good way to be subversive, right?”

    His talents, both visual and verbal, were encouraged by his mother, Ka-Rim Troyli, who provided him with comic books and graphic novels and worked for many years in administrative roles at American Stage. Jake remembers long days spent at Shakespeare in the Park rehearsals when he was 9 or 10, “watching them do Midsummer Night’s Dream and shit. I could read and understand and quote Shakespeare… Then I hated it, but now I think, ‘Damn, that was such a great thing.’” It was at American Stage that he first met Bob Devin Jones, who would go on to found Studio@620 and give Jake his first solo show after he graduated from college. “I am really thankful they gave me that opportunity because that work was so bad.” (The Studio has continued to be a boon for him: He drew pictures of St. Pete’s homeless community for Broken Lives Illustrated, a celebrated documentary that was shown there in 2014, and it was Devin Jones who drew Diane Bailey Morton’s attention to his artwork.)

    He started making money off his art as early as sixth grade at Bay Point Middle, though maybe not via the route a parent would find ideal: He was drawing porn for his classmates, at $5 a pic. He got caught and had to tell his mother, and then his teacher called — not to express her moral outrage but to tell his mother, “‘You know, he’s really a good artist.’” 

    Jake Seated AfroSTUDIO VISIT: Jake Troyli at USF.David WarnerHe drew throughout his basketball career, too: His teammates would ask him to draw tattoos for them. But the artist finally overtook the baller.

    “I had things I wanted to talk about,” he says, “and basketball wasn’t the platform to do that. You’re a cog in the machine.” The questions he wanted to ask — about racial division, about black male stereotypes, about his own role in these systems — weren’t going to be addressed on the basketball court. 

    An important figure in his artwork is Jake himself. Among his self-portraits is one, “Window shopping,” in which he places himself inside a scene reminiscent of a Renaissance painting. “I was really interested in Kerry James Marshall’s thoughts on the presence or absence of the black figure in the history of painting. I wanted to put myself in some of these motifs — the countryside in the background, this little confessional booth. But then I wanted to think how I could not fit into these settings, so I used my Afro to break the plane.” Again, the work is appealing in its whimsy (complete with the little bird ensconced in his ’fro), but draws you into a much deeper conversation.

    As a black heterosexual male painter directly addressing issues of race, he occupies a unique place in the contemporary art world, at least as represented at USF. “I’ve never been more aware of my race than when I’ve been here,” he says.

    But his disarming combination of self-confidence and self-deprecation is rarer still, embodied in one of the most striking images in his show, the self-portrait “Always leave them wanting more.” Dressed in red against a background of royal blue, with dark brown hair streaming behind him and his arms upraised, he’s either plummeting to the ground or streaking across the sky superhero-style,  his facial expression a mix of resignation and  “Wheeee!” His elongated form is literally and figuratively a stretch (the nickname, as it happens, for his position as the three-pointer guy), and that’s what he seems to be doing with his life and his work: The sky’s the limit.

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