Retro Beach Bash helps relaunch Contemporaries series at MFA

Flash back to the days of "Beach Blanket Bingo" and "Where the Boys Are" at the museum this Friday night.

click to enlarge INDOOR FUN: Martin Parr’s “Japan. Miyazaki. The Ocean Dome.” - © Martin Parr/Magnum Photos
© Martin Parr/Magnum Photos
INDOOR FUN: Martin Parr’s “Japan. Miyazaki. The Ocean Dome.”

Retro Beach Bash
8 p.m. Fri., April 24, at the Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive N., St. Petersburg. $100 admission includes MFA and Contemporaries membership.

The stately Museum of Fine Arts on St. Pete's waterfront is striving to bring in local artists and a younger demographic, according to the MFA's Katherine Pill, assistant curator of art after 1950.

The museum's current Life's a Beach exhibition, which ends April 26, is a stunning assemblage of wacky and wonderful beach-themed photography by Martin Parr and has inspired a kicky fundraising event for the museum that will hopefully recruit new, younger art lovers for its relaunched Contemporaries event series.

"We want to open up a space for contemporary art enthusiasts to gather," wrote Pill in a recent email to CL. "We'd like to say that the educational meets the social at The Contemporaries’ events."

Pill says that engaging directly with artists is integral to the group, whose activities will include lunchtime lectures and field trips to private residences with significant contemporary art collections. 

"We hope to spark interest in collecting, and find that visits to collectors’ homes prove to be most inspiring," Pill says.

TIGLFF president and local arts champion Margaret Murray is on MFA's steering committee for Contemporaries events and has taken the lead in arranging visits to collectors’ homes. This past weekend she led the Kerouac in Paradise Slow Ride and Shuffle Party in St. Petersburg, another event that mixes culture and fun.

"The Contemporaries bring together modern art aficionados, emerging collectors, and artists that shines a spotlight on the museum in an entirely new way," says Murray. "It's such an exciting time to be involved in the arts here in St. Pete, and the Retro Beach Bash perfectly captures the sense of fun and hip that the city is becoming recognized for."

According to Pill's email, The Contemporaries was originally formed in 2002 by Simone DeLoach (then Bennett), a development associate at the MFA, and others including Melissa Rutland. "The group has been inactive for the past few years," Pill says, "but restarting it was part of the job description for my position at the MFA. We’ve spent the last year putting together a steering committee and organizing a number of events, including a visit to the studio of Carol Mickett and Robert Stackhouse, and a trip to the Tampa Museum to see their half of My Generation: Young Chinese Artists."

As for MFA's Beach Bash, the museum is going for a “vintage resort” look in terms of attire — think vintage bikinis, one-pieces and trunks, or Polynesian-style lounge-wear, if you're on the modest side. Says Pill: "There will be what we’re calling 'beach ball chandeliers' hanging from the ceiling, and cabana stripe linens [referencing Martin Parr]. We will be listening to vintage surf music for most of the night, until the St. Pete High Ukulele Club joins us for a short set. After the announcement of the Collectors Circle gift to the Museum, the band SWIMM will play. They’re L.A.-based and just finished playing at Coachella and SXSW, so we’re looking forward to hosting them."

The fest won't have the usual dainty hors d'oeuvres. Instead, more beachy fare will be served, like popcorn, cotton candy, sliders, deviled eggs, and chicken and waffles — what the museum calls “boardwalk bites.”

If the $100 ticket price is too steep for you, keep in mind that it includes both an MFA membership and a Contemporaries membership. For anyone who is already a member, the ticket can be used within a year to renew membership, or it can be gifted.

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