This Tampa area is the best-kept secret in the art scene

Check out what Clay Hollenkamp and Shelby Baerwalde are doing with art at Plant City’s historic Bing House Museum.

click to enlarge Periphery Call for Submissions - Image courtesy of Clay Hollenkamp and Shelby Baerwalde
Image courtesy of Clay Hollenkamp and Shelby Baerwalde
Periphery Call for Submissions

When Clay Hollenkamp returned to Plant City after seven years away in DC, he was surprised to find a growing art scene.

“More than ever before, people are attending art classes, joining creative groups and enjoying cultural activities,” Hollenkamp said.

Both Hollenkamp and Plant City photographer Shelby Baerwalde credit MAKE Plant City with drumming up enthusiasm for the arts in the area. According to the Plant City Observer, the group of creatives packed Plant City’s Corner Store restaurant upon their first meeting in September 2017 

“MAKE Plant City’s been huge,” Hollenkamp said more than one year later. “We meet once a month. It’s kind of like a networking thing, where everyone comes together and talks about what projects we have going on… Through that, I’ve come to learn how much talent there is in Plant City. It’s encouraging to see how much is going on and how many people are doing interesting things, but they have to go, a lot of times, to other parts of the county, or Pinellas County, or other parts of the state to exhibit their work.”

Before MAKE Plant City came along, the Plant City arts scene consisted of The Classroom Gallery at the historic 1914 Plant City High School, run by the East Hillsborough Art Guild, and the annual Fine Art Show at the Florida Strawberry Festival.

Now venues across town host art events. Plant City residents paint rocks at Uncle Mike’s Smokehouse (see Plant City ROCKS). Krazy Kup and The Strawberry Tap host paint & sip classes, and galleries pop up all over downtown. According to the Plant City Observer, Plant City is in the midst of an “arts renaissance."

The only thing in short supply, according to Hollenkamp, is conceptual art.

“There’s a lot of pictures of strawberries, landscapes, and animals in Plant City, and they may be fantastic examples of those,” says Hollenkamp, “but sometimes it’s just a picture that you’re thinking, ‘Oh that’s pretty,’ but it doesn’t take you anywhere else. We want to have art that takes the viewer somewhere.”

That’s why, for the first time ever, Hollenkamp (of Join the Circus Productions) and Baerwalde (of Miel Arts) are joining forces to bring you Periphery, an art exhibition at the historic Bing House featuring narrative artwork that focuses on marginalized communities.

“The Bing House was a rooming house that, during segregation, was open for African-American travelers to come through,” Hollenkamp said, “because of its history against segregation and of supporting marginalized groups, and having that background, we thought it was a perfect place for our exhibition.”

The artsy duo is now calling for Tampa Bay area artists to submit their work for inclusion in the show.

“We want anybody and everybody to enter,” Baerwalde said, “the only thing we are specifically asking for is something that has meaning to the artist.” Artists are welcome to price and sell their artwork at the show. In addition to this, Periphery is a juried art show with cash prizes.

For the public, Hollenkamp and Baerwalde will set up more than a simple art show — they're planning a community event with food and drink and live music on opening night.

“We’re trying to do something that’s accessible not just to the art aficionado,” Hollenkamp said, “something that people will want to attend even if they’re not always coming for the art, but they’ll get something from the art while they’re there.”

Periphery has the potential to be an exceptional art show. It’s also an wonderful excuse to visit Plant City and experience its historic downtown, which is only about four blocks from Bing House. Hollenkamp and Baerwalde recommend Krazy Kup for coffee, The Corner Store and Norma’s Ybor City Cuban Shop for sandwiches, The Strawberry Tap for elevated bar food and drinks, and The Mercantile for shopping.

Periphery: An Exhibition | Bing House Museum, 205 Allen St., Plant City | Jan. 25, 5-10 p.m. (opening reception); Jan. 26, 12-6 p.m. | Submission deadline Jan. 16 | 813-215-5803 |

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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