Ask The Locals: Margaret Murray

click to enlarge Ask The Locals: Margaret Murray - HEIDI KURPIELA
heidi kurpiela
Ask The Locals: Margaret Murray


“I envision buying that place and painting the ice cream cone neon green and renaming all the flavors after disco songs.” —Margaret Murray

Earlier this year, Tampa Bay’s resident filmfest guru, Margaret Murray, made the jump from executive director of the Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (TIGLFF) to donor development manager for the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in St. Petersburg. Murray, who grew up in St. Pete, made an indelible impression on local cinema buffs even before leading TIGLFF, having launched Movies That Move in 1999, a pop-up theater series that predated St. Petersburg Preservation’s beloved Movies in the Park by more than a decade. Armed with a low-powered FM transmitter, Murray showcased acclaimed independent movies at locations across Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.

“The first time I ever went to an outdoor film was at Bryant Park in New York,” Murray says. “They showed Citizen Kane and Patty Hearst came out and introduced the film. It’s pretty hard to beat that.”

Murray was a three-peat at TIGLFF: executive director from 2001-2003, program director from 2009-2010, and back as ED in 2014-15, after earning her Master’s in arts administration from Savannah College of Art and Design. She earned her nonprofit cred working at a variety of arts and cultural organizations, including WMNF Community Radio and the Morean Arts Center, and for three years produced Washington, D.C.’s Reel Affirmations Film Festival, hailed as the nation’s LGBT film festival. She’s also been a prime mover in the area’s literary scene, leading the charge to preserve the Jack Kerouac house in St. Pete as a museum. She’s thrilled to be at the MFA, where she’s surrounded by art every day. “It’s a constant source of joy,” Murray says of her new museum gig.

Best place to watch a popcorn flick: MUVICO SUNDIAL 19. “I just saw Magic Mike XXL at Sundial with about a dozen gay men and it was the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a long time.”
Best place to watch an art house flick: CINEMA @THE MFA. “Not to plug where I work, but museums and galleries are programming a lot of great cinema series lately. I just saw a documentary at MFA about this scandalous feminist lesbian photographer in 1930s New York (Berenice Abbott: A View of the 20th Century).”
Best local documentary: LITTLE MONK by CHAILLE STOVALL. “It was about this young kid being brought up through the ranks of monkhood, and it was shot by a 14-year-old filmmaker from St. Pete. I showed it at a children’s film festival I ran in the early 2000s. I wonder where the director is now; doing amazing things I’m sure.”
Best place to buy snacks you can stash in your purse at the movies: LOCALE MARKET. “You can get a craft soda and a small piece of chocolate and you’re set. It’s quite a civilized way to enjoy a movie.”
Best dive bar: EMERALD BAR. “Hands down, the Emerald is my Cheers. I can walk in any time day or night and know I’m home.”
Best lunch break: CRAFT KAFÉ. “Craft Kafe got it right from the start — and those of us on the west side of St. Pete needed it. It reminds me of coffee shops I’ve been to in D.C. and Philadelphia. The atmosphere is welcoming and the food is good, good, good.”
Best place to study uninterrupted: STARBUCKS near the Tyrone Mall. “When I was in grad school, I was there five or six hours at a time and I never ran into anyone I knew.”
Best breakfast nook: RAE RAE’S CAFÉ. “I don’t know what they put in their vegetarian eggs benedict, but they’re so delicious. I take my granddaughter there and she’s become addicted to the Hollandaise sauce.”
Best walk down memory lane: MERRY PIER in Passe-A-Grille Beach. “I grew up going to Merry Pier with my grandparents. My grandfather was a fisherman and that’s where his boat would come in. There’s something so relaxing about sitting there, watching the pelicans swoop in and the fisherman reel in their catch.”
Best place to volunteer: ST. PETE BIKE CO-OP. “You see every aspect of St. Pete come through the doors of the bike co-op. Sometimes it’s a homeless guy who needs a bike to get to work. Sometimes it’s a cyclist who needs a little part for his $2,000 bicycle. Everyone is treated the same.”
Best dramatic flair: freeFALL THEATRE. “They are so committed to elevating the theater scene without relying on safe productions. I remember when I saw Cabaret for the first time there. It was so provocative and sexually charged and the theater audience — young and old — was eating it right up. freeFall is a perfect example of ‘If you build it, they will come.’”
Best place of worship: SUNSET BEACH. “For a few years a group of friends and I would gather Sunday afternoons to watch the sun go down over Sunset Beach. We all said it was like going to church. It was magical.”
Best bang for your buck: BROCANTE VINTAGE MARKET. “I found these old light fixtures there that came from a post office. I went online and found bright red braided pull cords to go with them. They look awesome in my house.”
Best sweet spot: TWISTEE TREAT on St. Pete Beach. “I envision buying that place and painting the ice cream cone neon green and renaming all the flavors after disco songs. I can see the bright lights and hear the music already.”
Best healing touch: MARTIN KEANE at CLASSICAL MEDICINE OF ST. PETERSBURG. “I can say without hesitation that Martin Keane has kept me alive. I go there for acupuncture, Qigong and my homeopathic remedies. Five years ago, I was in a car accident and I called him before I called my insurance company.”
Best local landmark: KEROUAC HOUSE. “From the outside it looks like any other house. Inside, it’s so rich with history. When Jack Kerouac lived here, St. Pete was kind of a provincial town. I feel like if he would’ve moved here a little later he could have ridden a cultural wave with so many other artists.”

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