Resolutions for a better art scene

Encouraged by developments over the past year, CL’s art critic wants to see more in ’13.

click to enlarge p>WALL POWER: Akut, aka Damir Tabakovic, who along with Center One, worked on a mural in St. Pete’s Warehouse Arts District, an enclave that showed marked growth in 2012. - SHANNA GILLETTE
p>WALL POWER: Akut, aka Damir Tabakovic, who along with Center One, worked on a mural in St. Pete’s Warehouse Arts District, an enclave that showed marked growth in 2012.

Call me greedy but 2012 was such an exciting year for the visual arts in Tampa Bay that it just makes me want more. Looking back at what last year brought and what’s in store for the year ahead, here’s what I wish for in 2013 ...

More murals. Public art in St. Petersburg got a boost at the grassroots level as artists made their mark on private buildings at the invitation of property owners and community activists. In the Warehouse Arts District, Akut and Center and BASK and Tes One paired off to create two enormous works, while in downtown St. Pete Dan Lasata breathed new life into the eastern facade of the [email protected], BASK and Tes covered a wall behind the State Theatre, and artists paid homage to Bill Woo, the beloved painter of marine life who passed away in November, with a tribute mural. More than mere decoration, the resulting public artworks rival the murals that Miami’s gallery district, Wynwood, has become internationally famous for. The ’Burg doesn’t need to copy Miami, but it rarely hurts to borrow and adapt a proven idea. Let’s support more murals, and how about an annual or biennial street art fest rooted in St. Pete’s arts-and-industrial neighborhoods? (Tampa also got in on the mural action through municipal commissions; check out the city’s latest endeavor in progress along Adamo Drive, between 17th and 19th streets in Ybor City, painted by HCC students led by artist Michael Parker.)

A thriving Warehouse Arts District. When glass artist Duncan McClellan relocated his studio to St. Pete three years ago, calling his new ‘hood the Warehouse Arts District seemed like a stretch. Today, McClellan and his neighbors — among them artists Catherine Woods, Mark Aeling and Dan Painter — can say “I told you so.” 2012 brought an influx of other artists into the burgeoning district, including Charlier Parker Pottery and Zen Glass Studio, now open across the street from McClellan’s gallery and soon-to-debut hot shop. Despite the possibility of an unfortunate acronym — WAD? — the district has become the hippest arts address in town.

More love for the Lens. I understand opposition to architect Michael Maltzan’s redesign of the Pier — or I think I do. Why funnel taxpayer money into a risky re-visioning of an icon of old St. Petersburg? (The St. Pete we all love and love to bemoan the evolution of.) Maltzan’s Lens wasn’t my first choice of designs, but it’s got some winning attributes: a breathtakingly elegant shape, more environmental sculpture than architecture; a thoughtful relationship with the surrounding water; and open, flexible space designed for active use by residents rather than retail profit-making. I empathize with the nostalgia some St. Pete residents feel for the existing Pier, but the city is rapidly becoming home to world-class attractions, e.g., the Dalí Museum — and the current Pier isn’t one of them. Carol Mickett, moderator of the Dalí’s “Our Town” forum series, hopes to orchestrate a public interview with Maltzan early in 2013. If she does, let’s turn out, hear the architect and ask tough questions, and then get behind the project.

Exhibitions of the moment and of the world. The exhibitions that Tampa Bay art museums plan to host in 2013 are a wet dream for lovers of 20th century American art: To See as Artists See: American Art from the Philips Collection (Feb. 2-Apr. 28) at the Tampa Museum of Art, Chuck Close — A Couple of Ways of Doing Something (Jan. 31-March 31) at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, and Philip Pearlstein’s People, Places and Things (March 2-June 16) at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. I’m not complaining — these will be excellent shows. But the world outside of Tampa Bay is abuzz with contemporary art from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. I’d love to see more of it here. It may be only a matter of time: the MFA just hired a new curator of contemporary art thanks to a $2 million donation by philanthropists William and Hazel Hough during 2012.

A new gallery for Tampa. St. Pete’s gallery scene is thriving thanks to a diverse ecology of privately owned and non-profit art spots, from the smart, edgy C. Emerson Fine Arts to Michele Tuegel Contemporary, a new gallery for fine craft and art, not to mention Bluelucy, Pale Horse, ARTicles, Creative Clay’s gallery et al. By contrast, Tempus Projects defines Tampa’s scene. South Tampa art dealers like Clayton Galleries thrive in that rarified zone of posh living, but what has happened to the promise of Ybor City and Seminole Heights as art hubs? It remains unfulfilled. (Box On Fifth, a space that cropped up for about four months in 2012, hinted at the potential in Ybor.) Will someone — a USF art alum, perhaps — please bring Tampa a new art space in 2013?

Synergy across the arts. January’s upcoming Shakespeare Festival — a collaboration between the Florida Orchestra, American Stage, Sunscreen Film Festival, the Dalí and others — reminds me of the magic that happens when institutions across the arts collaborate.

To fête the Bard, they’ll be putting on a St. Pete-based mix of dramatic readings, film screenings, musical performances and an exhibition of prints. It’s a long shot, but in 2013 I’d love to see more of such collaborations. (Wouldn’t it be great if Arte, the City of Tampa-sponsored Latin American culture biennial, which last took place in 2010, made a comeback?)

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