New free tour turns Ybor City into a walkable art museum on Thursday

It all kicks off at HCC Ybor.

click to enlarge "Nature Queen 33," 2021 - Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, "Nature Queen 33," archival pigment print, 30 x 45 in., 2021. - Image courtesy of the artist.
Image courtesy of the artist.
"Nature Queen 33," 2021Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, "Nature Queen 33," archival pigment print, 30 x 45 in., 2021.
How do you experience art in a neighborhood without an art museum? This is no mystery for artists living and working in Tampa, which is full of such places.

Tampa artists experience art by making it, showing it in Tampa’s many art galleries, and going to see their friends’ art shows in neighboring galleries. Most of this art-making and art-showing falls under the radar of Tampa Bay’s museum-going public. The result: many Tampa Bay area residents are seeing more artwork from out of towners than artwork made in Florida.

For the non-artist, experiencing art in neighborhoods like Tampa’s Ybor City requires an event. Lucky for us, one such shindig is coming up.
The new “Ybor Arts Tour” happens on Thursday, Oct. 27 from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. The tour is free with a reservation and starts by getting a wristband inside Gallery 114 at Hillsborough Community College’s Performing Arts Building located at 1411 E 11th Ave. in Ybor City.

After a year of exciting changes to Ybor City’s art scene, a group of Tampa art insiders, including Hillsborough Community College Gallery Director Amanda Poss and Tempus Projects’ Founder Tracy Midulla, put together their first Ybor Arts Tour.

The idea, Poss told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, was to create a “signature arts event” that would solidify art and culture’s role in Ybor City’s identity.

The tour encompasses 10 Ybor City art spaces, some old and some new, most within a city block of each other. Five of the spaces are housed within a single building—the historic Kress building’s second floor annex on 7th Avenue—and are celebrating their grand opening during the tour.

Begin at Gallery 114 in HCC Ybor’s Performing Arts Building, where you can get a wristband and free parking. The small gallery, a fixture of Ybor’s arts scene since the 1980s, hosts Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, formerly of Orlando.

Raimundi-Ortiz is a multidisciplinary artist known for exploring her Afro-Latin culture and identity in her work. She does so by literally placing herself within the work. Before the pandemic, Poss tells us, Raimundi-Ortiz mainly did performance art. She’s most well-known for creating a 40-pound dress out of Hurricane Maria debris and parading down Orlando’s cultural corridor during UCF arts week in 2019.

“In our show, we have what she calls performance portraits,” Poss told CL.

“Sanctuary” presents four portraits in which Raimundi-Ortiz stands in the Florida wilderness wearing homemade costumes and headdresses. Accompanying sculptures, loosely matching the headdresses in the photos, stand against a dappled green background like the bits of Florida wilderness captured in the photos.

The goal of the work, Poss tells us, is to create a space of “maximum chill,” hence the title Sanctuary.

"I just wanted a space, especially after the last couple years, of peace,” says Raimundi-Ortiz, who is flying in from Virginia to give an artist talk at 6 p.m.

[email protected] Ybor City Campus, 1411 E 11th Ave. 5 p.m.-7 p.m.
From Gallery 114, make your way to The Bricks, which has been showing art since their beginnings in 2010. Although primarily a restaurant offering food, coffee and cocktails, owner Brian Schaefer also operates a dedicated event space separate from the Bricks dining room.

"There are people who are familiar with the Bricks, yet still don't know that space is there and that it functions as an art gallery-type space,” local muralist, Michelle Sawyer, told CL. "I basically started in art at the Bricks.”

Sawyer curated just about every art event in The Bricks’ first three years before moving on to focus on murals. Then around March 2022, Schaefer reached out to see if Sawyer would be interested in returning to curate arts shows in The Bricks’ event space.

Sawyer describes the space as a happy medium between a traditional gallery space and a pop-up shop. The Bricks events space gives self-taught artists who might be uncomfortable approaching a traditional gallery the opportunity to show their work in town for more than one night or one week. Shows at The Bricks stay up for about 6-8 weeks, which gives the artists lots of quality wall time and gives Sawyer the time to focus on her murals in between.

“In Search Of…” occupies the space now. The themed art show features work by local artists Indie Reece, Ron Simmons, and Joerod “Surreal Styles” Collier, and is available for viewing between 6 and 8 p.m.

Circle back to The Bricks at the end of the tour for an afterparty with 50% off food and drinks along with complimentary appetizers.

1327 E 7th Ave. 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Afterparty at 9:30 p.m.

From The Bricks, walk down E. 7th Avenue to meet the artists of Ybor Art Colony, which hosts an open house from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Ybor Art Colony is the oldest Ybor City arts institution on the tour—artists have occupied this space since the 1970s. Current residents include Marilyn Binder Silverman, Elizabeth Fontaine-Barr, Karol Batansky, Ron Watson, Lynn Manos, Damien LaRue, Alex Torres, Greg Latch, Stefan Marmon, Jim Sykes, and Eric Ondina.

1521 1/2 E. 7th Ave, no. 7. 6 p.m.-8 p.m.

Joining the old studio spaces in Ybor Art Colony are several new studio spaces in The Factory on Fifth, which celebrates its first anniversary this November. The building is about a mile from everything else on the tour, but if you make the hike, you’ll have the opportunity to meet several more working Tampa artists. 2710 E 5th Ave. 5 p.m.-8 p.m.

Make sure you leave plenty of time to explore the Kress building’s second floor annex, where six new art spaces opened just this month—Tracy Midulla’s Drift and Tempus Volta, Emiliano Settecasi’s Department of Contemporary Art, Jessica Todd’s Parachute Gallery, Tampa Drawers Sketch Gang’s Quaid (stylized “QUAID”), and a microcinema.
If some of these names sound familiar, it’s because many of these folks had spaces in the Heights pre-pandemic before being priced out of these neighborhoods. It’s a common refrain in the Tampa Bay area. Artists settle into an inexpensive neighborhood and beautify the place. Businesses take notice and start to move in. Gentrification pushes the artists out. It happened in Ybor City in the early 2000s. And it happened again in Seminole Heights during the pandemic.

But now, thanks to a new wave of pro arts and culture developers and philanthropists, Tampa artists are moving back to Ybor City, including some of the folks who were priced out of Seminole Heights during the pandemic, like Quaid.

“Quaid not having a space was breaking my heart almost as much as Tempus not having a space,” Midulla told CL. Now, both Quaid and Tempus have designated spaces in the Kress building’s second floor annex.

Tempus operates two spaces within the second floor annex: Drift and Volta.

Drift is a small space designed for independent curators to host a show. The gallery name references the nature of showing art outside of your own space.

"If you don't have your own space, you go from place to place," says Midulla. "That’s Drift."

There won't be a show in Drift during the opening, as they're in the middle of a national call for curators, but exciting things are coming.

“I'm really excited for Drift,” Midulla told CL. “I’ve noticed an interest in our local community in curatorial projects. I think that more people with creative vision are starting to appreciate their own need to pull ideas together and connect works and connect artists.”

“We've got to nurture those things,” Midulla continues. “Wouldn't it be great if this became a city where people wanted to come to share their curatorial adventures with us? I think that in the last 15 years, we've had a real boost in people making space for artists, so I think the next step is to make space for curators.”

While Drift is a space for independent curators, Volta is a space for emerging artists and small solo shows. The word Volta, which means “to turn back” in Latin and Spanish, feels appropriate as so much of the Tampa arts scene turns back to its Ybor roots via these new spaces in the historic Kress building.

The gallery currently hosts Gabriel Ramos’ “Nestled in Shadows,” a collection of five hauntingly beautiful black and white paintings on canvas.

Up and comers Emiliano Settecasi and Jessica Todd fill out the annex with The Department of Contemporary Art and Parachute Gallery.

Settecasi spent years working with Midulla and Poss before striking out on his own with 2019’s “Rapscallion.” We look forward to seeing him continue the story he started with "Rapscallion" in The Department of Contemporary Art.

“I’m trying to model it as kind of a micro-museum,” Settecasi told CL, “and similar to what I’ve done at Quaid before, which is have ample space for exhibitions and be showing exhibitions, but also have space for a small retail area like a museum store, or in my case, department store.”

Another promising emerging curator, Jessica Todd, established the new Parachute Gallery in the Kress Annex earlier this month. Todd’s Parachute gallery is devoted to showcasing fine crafts like the Babette Hershberger ceramic vessels sitting on the window ledge in the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, “Close to Home.”

The annex also features a microcinema, Screen Door, that you can preview during the arts tour.

1624 E 7th Ave., 2nd Floor Annex. 7 p.m.-9 p.m.

Florida developers are constantly changing our local landscape, and Tampa creatives have had no choice but to adapt.

“The arts grew out of Ybor and we all got priced out and pushed away and scattered,” says Midulla, “and I feel like the landscape here is changing and it's pro culture and I think that there are people who are making room for us in this neighborhood.”

This is exciting news not just for the artists involved, but for Tampa residents who are about to have more fun art events and entertainment options to choose from when filling out their social calendars.

The Kress annex is barely ready to accept visitors right now—they just got their keys three weeks ago—yet they’re already opening their doors to the community they love. And the future is bright.

There’s a word that kept coming up as I interviewed tour organizers and participants for this feature, and that word is potential. With ArtSpace, Gas Worx, Meatyard and Crab Devil projects on the horizon, Tampa artists are getting excited and you should be too.

About The Author

Jennifer Ring

Jennifer studied biology for six years, planning for a career in science, but the Universe had other plans. In 2011, Jen was diagnosed with a rare lung disease that sidelined her from scientific research. Her immune system, plagued by Scleroderma, had attacked her lungs to the point of no return. She now required...
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