Tenacious Teixeira — Downtown Clearwater’s Art Fashionista and Intrepid Civic Leader
An in-depth look at the multifaceted Lina Teixeira.
by JULIE GARISTO
Dec. 28, 2017
Art fashionista Lina Teixeira knows how to get the job done — on multiple fronts.
The self-proclaimed “late bloomer” emerged just in the past decade as a high-profile Wearable Art designer. She’s also a prominent civic leader in addition to other notable accomplishments.
Owner of Galleria Teixeira — an art gallery, retail and events space at 617 Cleveland St. — Teixeira creates imaginative custom shoes and clothing as well as ready-to-wear ensembles. Her looks range from offbeat to magically ethereal.
A published author and “special concepts director,” she choreographs photo shoots with intriguing accents and embellishments. Her work has been commissioned nationally and internationally for magazine spreads and branding campaigns.
Initially, she rented her spot as a private workspace, but the tenacious Teixeira was ready for another challenge: bringing people to downtown Clearwater.
“As I began to care about my fellow downtown merchants and residents, I realized that with the privilege of having a business here comes a responsibility to contribute to the success of downtown,” she said.
Teixeira volunteers for three downtown Clearwater civic organizations: She’s president of the Downtown Clearwater Merchants Association, a member of the advisory board of the Clearwater Development Partnership and has been recently elected to the Downtown Development Board.
Business-savvy and artistically experimental, she operates from both sides of her brain on all cylinders. She warns anyone making the mistake of underestimating her that she’s a “5-foot-2 Latina” and can hold her own among the most entrenched suits in the city of Clearwater.
While you could call her a whirlwind, the brunette force of nature bears down with patent-leather high heels, rocking a shaved-on-one-side hairdo with magenta highlights. Forceful yet approachable and affectionate, Teixeira has enough charisma to power all of the lights on Cleveland Street.
Creative Loafing named her “Best New Downtown Crusader” in its 2017 Best the Bay edition. Embracing her superhero status, Teixeira had the word “Crusader” tattooed on the inside of her wrist a couple of weeks ago.
The designer’s current expeditions include bringing exposure to fine art and working artists downtown via her gallery as well as ambitious public campaigns.
She plans to host events every month in her space. The first one of the new year will take place on Jan. 26, when the Galleria presents “The Purge,” a silent auction/art party that calls on local artists to bring in the works taking up space in their studios to sell at a steep discount. Friend and Tampa artist Jose Gomez worked with her on the idea and hosted a successful Purge in his studio earlier this month.
“2018 is going to be a pivotal year,” Teixeira effused, hopeful about discussions she’s been having with three arts non-profits. Her intention is to provide brick-and-mortar spaces and events involving artists of all skill levels and backgrounds.
In other Clearwater news, the Imagine Clearwater project just got passed. The endeavor will involve tearing down Harborview Center — a huge white elephant for decades — to allow for more green space with bike paths and an amphitheater that will replace the afternoon-sun-facing stage in Coachman Park; positioned in a different spot.
“I think it’s crucial that downtown have its own identity and one of the best ways to do that is with music,” Teixeira said. She credits Ruth Eckerd Hall, overseer of the historic Capitol Theatre, for attracting crowds with high-profile concerts and the Blast Friday street fest. Other organizations presenting cultural events include Bazaar Art and the Clearwater Arts Alliance.
Teixeira, undeterred by negative perceptions around the Church of Scientology’s presence downtown, stipulates that people from all backgrounds run businesses in the district. “We have Muslims, Jews, Catholics,” she iterated.
“Lina’s passion about downtown Clearwater is a breath of fresh air,” said Anne Fogarty-France, downtown manager for the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. “She has brought a new energy to the Downtown Clearwater Merchant’s Association and created a core team to coordinate events that bring more visibility to the downtown.”
* * *
Not all that long ago, Teixeira was a working mom nowhere near the public eye. Married to Franco Persechino, the 48-year-old Dunedin resident helped him run a medical research facility in Clearwater. Together, they have a son and daughter.
In 1993, Lina and Franco came to the Bay area from Montreal on a whim in a packed Honda Civic. Their decision was part of a game — they’d decide where to move based on the residences of people they met while on their honeymoon. It took them three encounters to settle on Florida.
“The first one was from Cleveland and the second, I think, was from Idaho,” she said with a laugh. Once here, they scraped by paycheck to paycheck until they ran their own business.
How did the art career, business and civic leadership come about? “It was all an accident,” she jokes. “Everything about me is an accident. I wish I could say it was all well-planned, that I worked so hard for it, but that isn’t the case.”
Lest you think Teixeira isn’t a good planner. She is an absolute stickler for time management, slowing down long enough to maintain a meticulously color-coded day planner. She attributes her professionalism to her corporate background.
“Artists, I love them, but [pounds fist on desk] deadlines are not a suggestion,” she said with a raised eyebrow.
While Teixeira’s designs can be challenging and provocative, there’s a side to both her and her work that conveys old-fashioned elegance and romanticism. She didn’t see a movie until she was 20 and was raised in a strict Catholic household — a life a world away from the free-spiritedness of many American artists born after the ’50s.
Teixeira’s parents came to America from Portugal not knowing a word of English with less than a dollar. “My father has a fifth grade education and my mother has a second grade education, and they gave me a good life; I never went hungry,” she explained. “I may not have had luxury, but I always had cute little dresses on Sunday for church.”
She wanted to be a fashion designer since she was 5 but was discouraged from studying art. To her parents, it was just a hobby.
“My mom and dad were, like, no, you’re going to have a good-paying job,” she recalled. “You either became a nurse, a secretary or a teacher. So I became a nurse.”
Around two years ago she sent her father magazine articles, interviews and other clippings on a flash drive. His response was unexpected: “He called me and said, ‘I have a confession to make; I feel very guilty.’ He said my elementary and high school teachers had secret meetings with him, asking them to put me into art school, and they said no. I was really upset at first, but then I realized something: When I look back, I think to myself, I have a college education and I made my share of mistakes raising my kids. … How did they go from Portugal to Canada with only 75 cents to their name?”
That determination turned out to be hereditary. With no formal art education, Teixeira started designing fashion and wearable art while filling in backstage at the fashion shows of her fashion–model daughter, Bianca Persechino.
“My daughter was very introverted,” Teixeira recounted. “She was always reading books. So I decided to to put her into a modeling and acting school so she could make friends — and she just happened to be this great model. It’s like there’s this button on the back of her neck that whenever a light shines on her she becomes this person that she’s not every day. So, me being an ethnic mom, I went to every shoot and fashion show until the day she turned 18 because she was a minor and my responsibility.”
One day there was a missing gown three days before a shoot. “I think I can do it — don’t cancel the shoot!” Teixeira shouted as if reliving the ordeal.
Soon after another designer called in sick, so she went into her closet and started digging. “I took a lot of stuff out, ripped it apart, sewed parts of it together, and then it just evolved from there.”
Teixeira got two big breaks, one right after the another. The first came about after attending the Dunedin Fine Art Center’s Wearable Art Show in 2012.
“I was there to support George (Medeiros) and Scott (Durfee) of Spathose, and one of the models who gave a lot of work to my daughter — Aylen Suarez,” she explained. “I didn’t have a chair and I was wearing the most uncomfortable shoes, and I didn’t even notice. That’s how magical it was.”
Teixeira applied to participate in the 2013 show and got in. Her first collection, “Something Borrowed” paid homage to the wedding ritual with a wide variety of materials such as mop heads, doilies and surgical gloves. Corsets, elaborate and cartoonish headpieces and accessories complemented classic silhouettes — recognizable touchstones of her style.
Naturally, Bianca, 20, now appears regularly in Teixeira’s Wearable Art shows. So does her son, Lucas, 16. She says she already knows her theme for next year but is keeping it under wraps.
Soon after the 2013 Wearable Art, the Museum of Fine Art in St. Petersburg invited Teixeira to participate in the ekphrastic show “Three Magical Worlds Collide,” which required her to design three pieces inspired by works in the museum’s permanent collection.
Teixeira started working around the clock designing at her house. She said she had models fitting till 10 o’clock at night.
“My husband said, ‘Enough, do it legit or stop doing it at the house.’ The upheaval prompted her to open her own dedicated space three years ago.
“My best advice, honestly,” Teixeira shared, “ is to be aware of what’s going on around you because there are opportunities all of the time. None of this was planned — the photography was not, the directing was not, the branding and the Wearable Art were not and the gallery was not. It’s not about consciously doing something. It’s about being present and involving yourself.”