Gasparilla Arts Month: Gasparilla Interactive Festival

Fri., March 6, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Cruise Terminal 3, 815 Channelside Dr., Port Tampa Bay. $150 through Feb. 28, then $175 (Founder and Exhibitor packages also available, including attendance at a VIP Opening Reception Thurs., March 5).

For the first time this year, the music, movies and visual arts of Gasparilla’s cavalcade of culture will be augmented by a decidedly tech-y aspect, in the form of the inaugural Gasparilla Interactive Festival. Like other multimedia arts-and-culture gatherings around the country (most notably Austin’s South by Southwest), our annual to-do is looking not only to add a hip Digital Age conversation about new media, innovation and the future of creativity to the mix, but also to involve emerging industries — and, hopefully, the jobs and dollars they’ll bring with them — in an established celebration of life in the Bay area.

“We’ve been talking about the creative class and creative cities for over a decade, so now we have a market of people here that are looking forward, trying to apply that to the community in a number of ways,” says festival Executive Director Vinny Tafuro.

Brought about through a partnership between the Tampa branch of the American Advertising Federation (with whom Tafuro has a long association), local advertising-professionals’ network Ad2 Tampa Bay and the county (through an EDi2 Reimbursement Grant Award), GIF’s inaugural program is heavy on creativity and innovation within the marketing and PR spaces. Featured speaker Faris Yakob, for instance, is best known for conceiving original, forward-thinking strategies designed to set companies (and the agencies they work with) apart. Another keynote speaker, Joanna Lord, is a respected digital marketing guru known for her SEO and online-analytics savvy.

But it’s not all about buzzwords and branding. Another highly touted speaker, Savannah Peterson, is an evangelist for 3D printing, a new technology that’s already changing the face of manufacturing in industries from toys to medical supplies. And Tafuro sees this installment as a bit of a test case; he hopes a successful first year will lead to more awareness, and more opportunities to incorporate a wide variety of programming.

“Our goal was to have the event evolve into whatever the community would be able to support,” he says. “If we had the support of the advertising industry, the county and the private sector, then whatever event developed would give us a good solid platform... We envision an event [with] a day on biotechnology, a day on transportation technology, a day on intellectual property rights, collaborating with the music and film festivals to look at what media distribution might look like in the future.”

The whole idea of GIF is to present something for everyone interested in approaching what they do in new and creative ways — not just the entrpreneurs and viral marketers.

“The hope is that everybody would come away inspired to think a little differently about creativity, innovation and technology, and with a few new ideas,” says Tafuro. “Looking across different industries and seeing ... what’s going on in an industry that may be completely unrelated on the surface may give you an idea of what’s coming or changing in your own work and life.”


As this is its first year, the Gasparilla Interactive Festival is still finalizing its schedule. If what’s on tap so far is any indication, however, Bay area techphiles are in for an intriguing lineup of featured speakers and panel discussions.

Faris Yakob A heavy hitter in the branding world, Yakob is a celebrated strategist and creative director as well as a successful writer and in-demand speaker. Innovative media brand/trendsetter Fast Company called him one of their “10 modern-day Mad Men.”

Joanna Lord VP of Marketing at home-improvement network Porch, she's an experienced and credible digital marketer in an industry littered with “ninjas” and “gurus."

Peter Shankman A PR star with a creative approach to humanizing interactions between companies and people, Shankman is also a well-known futurist who has the ear of influencers in forward-looking industries.

Savannah Peterson A crowdfunding expert, “hardware girl” and activist for gender equality in tech, she’s helped people raise over $4.5 million on sites like Kickstarter to make their dreams reality. Peterson is Global Community Manager at 3D printing community Shapeways.

AI’s Influence On Society And Work A group of innovators, journalists and entrepreneurs discusses how artificial intelligence will affect the future of commerce.
Entrepreneurs and Innovation: A Look Across Sectors Jim Taylor of USF CONNECT takes a look at the role of innovation across a variety of industries.


DO come prepared to network. That means have business cards, flash drives or whatever else available for anyone who wants them. Refresh yourself on who might be there, their titles, and their work. Think up a few good conversational gambits.
DON’T be pushy about your networking. Or loud. Or drunk before, like, 4:30 or so.
DO bring a notebook or recording device, if you’re serious about getting something out of the experience.
DON’T take pictures without permission. There’s an expo component to the festival, and some folks might not take kindly to you Instagramming their concept model before it’s ready for its closeup.
DO wear comfortable shoes. As with any tech conference, there’s likely to be some standing around, some stretching of the legs, and some strolling through exhibitors’ tables. You also might want to take a quick walk over to Channelside for a quick bite or drink at some point.
DON’T dress like you’re a “digital prophet,” e.g. fresh from either the beach or The Matrix. This isn’t Silicon Valley, and you’d still look like an asshole there, too.