Changing downtown St. Petersburg: Art in the Park becoming Art in the Park(ing Lot)?

The decision to leave Williams permanently came after a week of coordinating with the Parks and Recreation Department to move the event to South Straub Park, near Demens Landing. Parks and Recreation officials initially told Silvia that Art in the Park could use South Straub every Saturday until the end of January with the possible exception of Jan. 9, but later told her that a city ordinance required a permit and city sponsorship to sell wares in the park. The permit requires a non-profit status, which Art in the Park does not have at this time -- although Silvia is working to change that.

Parks director Cliff Footlick claims the city strongly encouraged Silvia to move the event back to Williams Park and even offered to waive the ordinance in an effort to encourage positive activity in a notoriously downtrodden green space. Silvia denied the offer out of concern for the park’s homeless and otherwise derelict activity as well as the bus presence, which, she feels, discourages foot traffic.

Leslie Curran, owner of Interior Motives Gallery and a District 4 City Council member, contacted Silvia on Dec. 8 with the idea to use the parking lot location. The lot’s owner, John Warren (who also owns Savannah’s and was a candidate in this year's mayoral race) agreed to allow use of the space free of charge. Other possible locations included the Pier approach, the USF Bayboro campus and the Grand Central District.

Now in its third season, Art in the Park is a coordinated effort among dozens of vendors, the City of St. Petersburg, and the Downtown Neighborhood Association to promote St. Petersburg as an arts destination and encourage activity in St. Pete’s green spaces. Participating artists sell handmade arts and crafts items including jewelry, paintings, birdhouses, and metal sculptures.

After three seasons in Williams Park, Art in the Park coordinator Christine Silvia has decided, as of Dec. 8, to move the weekly arts and crafts fair  permanently out of Williams, to an as-of-yet undetermined location.

As recently as Dec. 11, Silvia considered housing the weekly event temporarily in the parking lot between Interior Motives and Creative Clay, at 1110 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg, across from Savannah’s Café; however she has since cited BayWalk as a possible location for this Saturday's fair, due to the limited space of the parking lot and the menial foot traffic in that area. The final  location will be confirmed Thursday afternoon. Though Silvia is currently recovering from a heart attack suffered on the morning of Dec. 11, she is still actively seeking a new location.

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