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  • 18 Jan 2018 1:43 PM | Deleted user

    Posted on January 18, 2018 by TWC in Arts & Entertainment

    BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG — At artist Ya La’Ford’s exhibit, “Glyphs,” on display at Florida CraftArt through Jan. 20, there is a palpable energy as viewers step into a gilded vortex of mirrors, lines and hieroglyphs.

    Visitors to the gallery are quickly transported by the boldly designed sculptures that incorporate and invite public contributions to the site-specific pieces. Familiar, everyday objects – the mysterious “cosmic ladder” suspended from the sky, a re-envisioned “receptacle of dreams” that was once a garbage can and a luminous bowl of “future-thoughts” that could have been a giant chair frame — have been transformed into powerful fetish objects by La’Ford’s practiced and detailed application of thought, inspiration, spiritual depth and gold layers.

    Ya La'Ford, Masks, ae, featured

    “I wanted the St. Pete community to experience art as a life-long treasure, and the purpose of this particular exhibit was to display how art has this intrinsic value that exists to revolutionize the social, cultural and historic context of the human journey,” explained La’Ford.

    Although La’Ford has been weaving the evocative power of the universal ley line throughout her work for a number of years, in “Glyphs” the Tampa Bay and New York-based artist found herself heavily influenced by a recent global tour that included stops in Cuba, Columbia, Thailand, China, Turkey and Egypt.

    Her penchant for creating work that engages both a sense of self-reflection, community activism and the inner eye of spiritual wisdom is revealed in the glittering, fiery crystals and multi-dimensional reflections cast by the collection’s panoramic display of mirrored walls.

    “I really wanted that color gold because of the effect it had on me while I was in Egypt and its association with illumination, love, compassion, courage, passion, magic, wisdom. Gold is a precious metal that is associated with wealth, grandeur and prosperity…as well as sparkle, glitz, and glamour. I believe that added to a mirrored surface, the work would allow the community to see themselves as valuable and as precious as gold.”

    Ya La'Ford, Art, ae, featured

    At the opening night reception held last Saturday, the petite artist – sporting flowing locks, circular frames and chunky pendants — encouraged the audience to write down thoughts that might inspire those who will come after us.

    “I’m interested in what we communicate to future humans and how we can be the best person that we are as human beings — in this country and traveling abroad. In this participatory exhibit, what I’d like you to do is think about what you would say to future humans 500 years from now,” instructed La’Ford, gesturing to the large golden ladder extending up into the gallery’s height.

    “What message can you share with them, what can you say that can inspire them to continue, to think about how strong we are as humans? I want you to think about, not just yourself, but what does it mean to exist and how can we groom ourselves to be better in humanity.”

    Encouraging visitors to grab some paper, jot down their thoughts and toss them into the golden can that sat beneath the ladder, the moment of shared inspiration reminded the viewers that there is power in mutual creativity and joined consciousness.

    On hand for the reception were fans, family members, students and other St. Petersburg arts and professional community members. Alexandria Reed, one of La’Ford’s students at St. Petersburg College, shared her impressions of one of her creations.

    “She has messages inside of the art; like you can see the word, ‘Evolve,’” explained Reed, pointing into the giant gilded bowl. “She asked people to contribute – I wrote something that she put in there! It’s like she put it in a pot and we can all reach in and get inspiration.”

    Of the gold glittered geometrically designed mirrors, Reed observed that the intricate designs were like “cells of the skin; nobody’s skin is perfect – but in her art, the gold makes it seem as if it could be anybody’s skin, regardless of their color.”

    Another guest, civil engineer Robert Harvey shared: “I love her work. With my background, I love her use of line and space, of glass and sculptures. For me, it’s almost spiritual, the way she grasps the untouchable.”

    La’Ford said her exhibit offers St. Pete an opportunity to join her in an ongoing exploration of world cultures that are contemporary and ancient.

    “I’m really inviting the community to contribute their own personalized contemporary hieroglyphs via words, quotes, drawings; that’s really the core of this show. I’m exploring how the past, present and future really give us a renewed sense of self and figuring out how we connect to each other, how we are cohesive together and can have more communal pride, reflecting and moving forward into 2018 and beyond.”

    “Glyphs” is open at Florida CraftArt, 501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, through Jan. 20. For more information call (727) 821-7391.

  • 21 Dec 2017 4:02 PM | Deleted user

    The Warehouse Arts District Association (WADA) announced today the selection of Diane Bailey Morton as its new Executive Director. 

    When asked to comment on the WADA Board of Directors unanimous decision to hire Ms. Morton, WADA President Mark Aeling said, "Diane is a true community leader. She has had a stellar professional career and has been very supportive of the arts community in both service and philanthropy. We are fortunate to be able to hire an Executive Director now that we would hope to have been able to hire 5 years from now. Needless to say, we are thrilled to have her on board.”

    Diane Morton has practiced law in the Tampa Bay Area for over thirty years. She began her career as an Assistant State Attorney where she handled high profile felony cases. She opened her own trial practice in St. Petersburg and handled labor and employment cases. She served as General Counsel of the Tampa Police Benevolent Association and the Tampa Firefighters. She was named General Counsel to C1 Bank and guided the bank through the successful merger with Bank of the Ozarks. 

    “I have known Diane for many years.  Diane has a true love of the arts and is a consummate professional in all the tasks she undertakes.  We are lucky to have her and are excited about her advancing the mission of the Warehouse Arts District,” says Rob Kapusta, WADA Vice President.

    Morton is a fixture in the local arts community having served over twenty years on the Board of Trustees of American Stage. She and her family sponsored all ten years of the August Wilson Century Cycle at American Stage. She served on the International Relations Commission for the City of St. Petersburg which included being a homestay parent for exchange students from Takamatsu, Japan. Morton has sponsored numerous theatre productions for The Studio@620, Stageworks and FreeFall theatre. She served on the Boards of Great Explorations, USF Alumni Association and the Florida Bar Grievance Committee. 

    Ms. Morton commented, "This position combines my love of community with my love of the Arts. I am looking forward to putting my business experience to work for the whole district.  What WADA has created is nothing short of remarkable and I am excited about helping the organization reach its ambitious goals.” Ms. Morton can be reached at diane@whereartismade.com.

    #  #  #

    The Warehouse Arts District Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit arts organization dedicated to building and sustaining 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 Warehouse Arts District.

  • 01 Dec 2017 1:32 PM | Deleted user

    By Janelle Irwin  –  Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal

    The Warehouse Arts District Association is asking the state for $500,000 to continue renovations within the district aimed at economic development throughout the city. If approved, the appropriation would pay for an arts education center in the up-and-coming St. Petersburg district near Midtown. Any leftover funds would be used to create additional large studios for artists who need more space like sculptors and welders.

    The district is an economic development catalyst in the area wedged between one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and the popular Grand Central District. City leaders hope the Warehouse Arts District’s popularity stemming from the well-attended monthly Art Walk to interactive studio spaces like Zen Glass will have a spillover effect into surrounding neighborhoods surrounding it.

    In an appropriations request that Warehouse Arts District Association Vice President Rob Kapusta filed, he says funding would help add artists to the district, which could increase jobs and attract local visitors and tourists.

    The filing lists substantial community support for increasing studio space in the district including a $175,000 financial commitment from the city of St. Pete and $550,000 in private investments. The St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership also contributed $40,000, the document shows.

    The Legislature approved $400,000 for similar renovations within the district in its 2017-18 budget. That money renovated a large warehouse adjacent to the Pinellas Trail into 28 artist studios that are now completed and 100 percent occupied. One of the artists relocated to St. Pete from Puerto Rico after being displaced by Hurricane Maria, according to Kapusta.

    The current funding ask would be appropriated the following budget year to continue that growth.

    The district sits between First Avenue North and 10th Avenue South and between 16th and 31st streets. It’s populated mostly by warehouses and small manufacturing facilities.

    As spaces became increasingly vacant and the buildings in disrepair, artists saw an opportunity to revive the community into an arts district by taking advantage of affordable rent. An informal group of artists began looking at ways to revitalize the area in 2011.

    While the district has a long way to go before it is one of the city’s hot spots, it’s following a similar path as the Edge and Grand Central districts as well as the 600 block of Central Avenue. Those areas are now populated with hip bars, restaurants and boutiques, and property values are reflecting the growth.

    Some of the original occupants along the 600 block of Central Avenue have since been priced out due to rising property values. Kapusta said the Warehouse Arts District Association, a non-profit organization, plans to preserve affordable rent in the space it owns and is continuing to renovate.

    The Warehouse Arts District shares another successful tool — it’s bisected by the Pinellas Trail and easily connected to downtown. As the city looks to redevelop land on the Tropicana Field site, the district’s prospects become even brighter. A Tropicana Field master plan puts new development adjacent to the Warehouse Arts District that could further drive economic development. 

    The 2018 Legislative Session convenes Jan. 9.

  • 27 Nov 2017 11:49 AM | Deleted user

    By Alev Aktar - New York Post

    Clear blue waters and long stretches of sand have always been the appeal of St. Petersburg, Fla. But these days, visitors are just as likely to dive into the Tampa Bay town’s vibrant arts and culture scene.

    Over the last decade, the Sunshine City has evolved into a creative hub, with world-class museums, thriving galleries and bold street art that have the once-neglected downtown booming again. And soon there will be much more to admire: Three ambitious new museums will open in St. Pete over the next two years, cementing its reputation as one of Florida’s cultural hot spots.

    Here’s how a short trip to the ’Burg should look:

    After a blissed-out day at the beach, head into town for a late-afternoon stroll through the dazzling collection of glass sculptures crafted by Dale Chihuly at the Chihuly Collection. Stock up on colorful wares at its gift shop, then hit nearby Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails for oysters and craft cocktails.

    In the mood for something sweet? Grab a gourmet ice pop at The Hyppo, which boasts a staggering array of flavors from pumpkin cheesescake to pineapple cilantro. After the sun sets, savor a fresh catch at one of St. Pete’s fine restaurants; you can’t go wrong with the olive oil-seared grouper at FarmTable Cucina ($30). After dessert, shuffle on over to the historic St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club — known as the world’s largest club for the sport — for a few late-night matches.

    Thanks to St. Pete’s laid-back yet imaginative spirit, there’s more art to check out the next day. More than 80 — and counting — eye-catching outdoor murals wrap buildings, walls and a main downtown intersection. “They create a sense of community,” says Derek Donnelly, a local talent behind a number of works. “I credit the art with helping turn around St. Pete.”

    Donnelly helps promote the annual Shine St. Petersburg Mural Festival, which wrapped its third iteration last month and is gearing up the next one in the fall of 2018. Local, national and international street artists from as far away as Australia gather to create large-scale, open-air works over 10 days.

    According to Donnelly, the best place to start a mural tour is the alley behind the stores on the 600 North block of downtown’s Central Avenue. The lane is so jammed with trippy wall tattoos — including several of his compositions featuring dinosaur and sea creature — that even the dumpsters are decorated.

    Don’t forget a visit to St. Pete’s popular Dali Museum, ($24 for adults), which houses the largest collection of works by the mustachioed genius outside his native Spain. On a smaller scale, more than 75 galleries dot the town’s seven arts districts. In the Warehouse Arts District, don’t miss the astounding glass works at Duncan McClellan Gallery — or its romantic sculpture garden, or its hot shop demonstrations by a team of artists.

    Best of all, St. Pete has much more creative capital in the pipeline.

    The first outpost — the Imagine Museum, which centers on glass art — opens its doors in January. A repurposed school will exhibit pieces from 55 renowned glass artists, including Harvey Littleton and Marlene Rose.

    The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art will also debut early next year. Occupying most of a city block, it will showcase works in oil, ink, stone and steel — evoking the frontier spirit and celebrating life in the wild. The works were collected over decades by Tom James, CEO of investment company Raymond James, and his wife Mary.

    The biggest passion project of all is downtown’s $70 million Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, scheduled to open in spring 2019. The monumental building, designed by Cuban-born local architect Alberto Alfonso, is being purpose-built to display businessman Rudy Ciccarello’s extensive decorative arts collection.

    With so much art on tap — as well as year-round sunshine and those irresistible white-sand beaches — it’s worth adding St. Pete to your vacation short list.

    Where to eat and sleep

    From landmark hotels to catch-of-the-day restaurants, St. Petersburg has the hospitality waterfront covered. Here’s a look at some local favorites:

    • Hotels
    Modal TriggerBase yourself at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach.HP

    Active much? Take your pick of four sports at the historic Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, which features 18 holes, tennis courts, a private 74-slip marina and two pools (from $264).

    For a chic sleep, book a reservation t the 18-room Birchwood Inn. You can’t beat the elegant rooms with four-poster beds — or the spectacular rooftop lounge (from $310).

    The Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach is about 40 minutes outside of downtown St. Pete but mere seconds from a spectacular beach. (Clearwater Beach, in fact, was rated the best in the country by TripAdvisor last year.) With a pool and a spa onsite, it’s easy to unwind here (from $174).

    • Food
    Modal TriggerThe Reading Room’s stylish staff.Partho

    Cool and creative, the Reading Room serves delicious garden-inspired and wood-fired fare. Many of the herbs and vegetables are grown in the beds outside.

    The seafood-centric menu changes daily at swanky Sea Salt, but the dishes are always fresh and succulent. Don’t miss the happy hour.

  • 13 Nov 2017 11:05 AM | Deleted user

    "If you don't feel the love in St. Pete, you're probably not breathing."

  • 30 Oct 2017 4:25 PM | Deleted user

    Photo and article via Emily Bowers USFConnect

    Finding an affordable and legitimate studio space was next to impossible for art students in St. Petersburg, until now. The St. Petersburg Warehouse Arts District has now initiated ArtsXchange, a program that gives students access to a studio to display and sell their art.

    The ArtsXchange’s grand opening on Oct. 26 celebrated the completion of the program’s first phase, the opening of 28 new studios. The event was packed with locals, excited to show their support for the arts community.

    Among them were U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who spoke about their appreciation for the arts and helped cut the ceremonial ribbon.

    ArtsXchange aims to expose students to what it means to be a professional in the art world, and involve them in the larger art community.

    For $25 a year, students gain membership and have access to the studios, galleries, and various educational opportunities.

    “We created a segment of our membership for students because we believe student artists are apart of our community,” said Renee Dabbs, executive director of ArtsXchange. “We also believe they can come in and get a lot … Our future is that we are going to do more education for students.”

    Benefits of membership include the option to submit artwork to the ArtsXchange annex show, participate in their member-only art shows, and gain access to a personal studio.

    “It’s a wonderful facility,” artist Ted VanCleave said. VanCleave works in the Warehouse Arts District. “It’s brand new. It’s the best studio any one of us have had. It’s so nice, so well designed, so well lit. They really thought it through,” VanCleave said.

    With the warehouse’s location on the route of the Second Saturday ArtWalk, a local art touring event, student members have a unique opportunity to gain exposure for their work. The warehouse also serves as a space for mentoring programs.

    All types of artists are welcome to participate, and there is also no time limit to memberships and access to the studios, so long as the yearly fee is paid. Students can paint the walls, hang any and all of their art, and immerse themselves in the local arts community, all for $25 a year.

    To register for the student membership, go to


  • 24 Oct 2017 6:14 PM | Deleted user

    Article via Janan Talafer at 83 Degrees

    With the official ribbon cutting for the Arts Xchange on Thursday, Oct. 26, the long-time vision for an affordable artist incubator in St. Petersburg is finally coming to fruition. 

    A project of the Warehouse Arts District Association, the nonprofit Arts Xchange will house 28 artist studios and event space for gallery openings, private and public parties and educational classes. 

    There’s even a communal area with lockers for up and coming artist entrepreneurs who want to come in to share a workspace, says Mark Aeiling, president of the Warehouse Arts District Association Board of Directors

    According to Aeiling, more than $1 million in grants, contributions from the state and city, as well as private donations have been raised to help get the center up and running.

    The project has a multiple phase plan that stretches out over the next five to 10 years, says Aeiling.  The first step is to get the building completed and artists moved in. Then comes landscaping, educational programming and branding for the area.

    Demand for affordable artist studios

    The new two-story, 9,200-square-foot center is a testament to the tenacity of local artists who were committed to making it happen.  

    Created out of a former warehouse that was most recently part of the old Ace Recycling property -- and before that, the Soft Water Laundry complex, the Arts Xchange sits on three acres of land close to the intersection of 22nd Street South and 5th Avenue South.  

    On Dec. 30, 2014, the Warehouse Arts District Association purchased the land and existing buildings on it with the goal of creating an “affordable, sustainable and accessible space for artists,” says Aeiling.

    A sculptor who owns MGA Sculpture Studio, Aeiling leases one of the buildings adjacent to the Arts Xchange. He was among the artists who were early pioneers in moving into the area, before it gained a reputation as the Warehouse Arts District and became known as a “cool” part of town.

    While the Warehouse Arts District continues to have an edgy, industrial vibe, the influx of artists has transformed the district into a sought-after commodity.  Developers are noticing. Property values are starting to jump.  

    “We are being approached by a lot of development opportunities,” says Aeiling.  

    The Warehouse Arts District’s success and St. Petersburg’s ever-growing reputation as a city for the arts is a big plus for economic development, but also a concern for working artists.

    “This is a pattern you see around the country where the artists move in and everything starts to turn around. Attention gets drawn to the neighborhood and rents go up,” says Aeiling.  

    He hopes the Arts Xchange can serve as a model for other communities-- an arts facility supported by community investment.

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future the Warehouse Arts District was a wonderful, bustling district, but where few artists can afford studio space other than the Arts Xchange,” says Aeiling.  

    Fortunately, he says, as a 501c3 nonprofit, the Arts Xchange is protected from future development with below-market rates rents to keep it affordable for working artists.

    New neighbors include distillery

    The location for the new center is ideal. It’s the gateway to the Warehouse Arts District. The new American Freedom Distillery, scheduled to open in November, will be a neighbor. 

    The Morean Center for Clay at the Historic Train Station is a block or so away. The Pinellas Trail is in the backyard.  

    Aeiling says he hopes the Arts Xchange can be the catalyst that eventually connects the Arts Xchange with the Pinellas Trail and other artists studios in the Warehouse Arts District, as well as the Deuces Live Main Street District, home to the historic African-American community.  

    He envisions creating a pedestrian friendly corridor that makes it easy to get around the district on foot or bicycle without worrying about traffic.

    The first step toward making that happen is now underway.  Aeilig and his team are working on a 15-foot sculptural gate that will visibly link the Arts Xchange with the Pinellas Trail. Visual artist Carrie Jadus will be painting several murals on the building that will be visible from the Pinellas Trail.  And thanks to a South St. Petersburg CRA grant, a portion of the Pinellas Trail will soon receive lighting.

    Who's moving in?

    From an initial pool of 40 artists who expressed interest, 23 were selected. 

    “The selection process wasn’t about assessing skill level or talent, we were looking for diversity and artists we felt had the financial resources to make this type of commitment,” says Aeiling.

    Not all are the visual artists or sculptors that you might expect. The first group of tenants includes those in the literary field and performing arts, as well as photographers and jewelry makers.  

    They also range in age from early 20s to mid 60s. And while most are from Pinellas County, there are a few relocating here from Miami and Michigan.

    “This is about creating a community center for the arts that represents St. Petersburg,” says Tracy Kennard, director of operations for the Warehouse Arts District Association.

    Building the new arts center wasn’t without its challenges, says Aeiling. The first hurdle was to transition the Warehouse Arts District from a member organization to a more formal association with a board of directors.

    Then the first architectural plans came in over budget and the group had to go back to the drawing board. Aeiling credits contractor Huffman Construction for being flexible and working with them to bring in the $900,000 construction project under budget.

    “Like any adaptive reuse of an existing building, every day there was a new problem that required creative solutions,” says Aeiling.  

    In a building that once cleaned linens for most of the city’s hotels, back when St. Petersburg was a bustling destination for winter visitors, artists will now work in a unique facility that retains the Warehouse Arts District industrial vibe.  

    Sealed concrete floors, corrugated walls, exposed pipes and barn-style doors can be found in many of the studios. White blank walls will double as gallery space to showcase the artists’ work. There’s also LED lighting and energy efficient infrastructure such as R-30 insulation and ductless mini-split air conditioning units for each studio.

    The grand opening takes place on Thursday, Oct. 26, from 7-8:30 p.m. with a ribbon cutting, art exhibit, live music and donation bar. The evening is open to the public and free of charge but reservations are encouraged.  

  • 11 Oct 2017 6:10 PM | Deleted user

    via I Love the Burg

    Over two dozen artists are moving into newly constructed studios at the ArtsXchange (515 22nd St. South), a project of the Warehouse Arts District Association. The building houses more than 2,500 square feet of gallery, education and event space.

    The idea for the studios came after realizing that rising property values in the area might price working artists out of the neighborhood. Together with their supporters, the artists formed the nonprofit Warehouse Arts District Association in 2012, hoping to create sustainable, affordable studios in the area. In 2014, the WADA purchased the ArtsXchange property on the site of the old Soft Water Laundry. Construction of the new studios began earlier this year. They are the first phase of a long-term plan to create even more artistic, educational and community spaces on the site.

    Grand opening ceremonies will take place from 7pm to 8:30 pm on Thursday, Oct. 26. The event is free and open to the public and includes studio tours, a gallery exhibition and remarks by Mayor Rick Kriseman.

    An incubator for all forms of art

    Inaugural tenants represent a broad range of artistic disciplines. Additional ArtsXchange tenants include Dazzio Art Experience, MGA Sculpture Studio and Soft Water Studios.

    More than 400 artists (10% from outside Florida) have signed up in advance for working space in the ArtsXchange facility. St. Petersburg is developing a national reputation as not only an arts destination, but also a welcoming community for new artists to locate and open up shop.

    For updates on the ArtsXchange and go to the Warehouse Arts District’s website.

  • 29 Sep 2017 3:24 PM | Deleted user

    The ArtsXchange St. Pete is a project of the Warehouse Arts District Association. It was conceived as a response to the increasing need for affordable working space for artists within the District and the city.

    It started as a dream.  A collective vision.  An architect's plan.  It sounded as if the Warehouse Arts District Association was trying to do the impossible.  Buy 50,000 square feet of warehouse property in the heart of Midtown and turn it into affordable art studio space.  It was a daunting task when the property was bought in late 2014.

    Fundraising was going to have to be aggressive and persistent.  There were many public forums to explain what the plan was.  How it would work, what it would take.  It had to have the support from so many individuals, foundations, organizations, the City of St. Petersburg and the State of Florida to make it happen.

    With funding in place, construction began earlier this summer.  As in any construction project, especially in one that was restructuring an existing space, adjustments had to be made along the way.  But the construction team lead by Admir Avdovic of Huffman General Contractors, kept at it and it is estimated to be ready for occupancy in October.  Phase I of the ArtsXchange is just the beginning of the ambitious plan of the Warehouse Arts District Association.  Stay tuned....

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