2017 Best in Shows — A Year of Collaboration

A look back at memorable moments in visual arts, theater, dance and music, observed by theξCreative PinellasξJournal contributors.
2017 was history-making on multiple fronts, but in the arts community it was all aboutξ banding together, reaching out across the bay and working with peers and mentors to pioneer big new events and alliances, and present high-profile happenings that drew bigger crowds than usual to local arts events.
Noelle Mason’s Love Letters/White Flag (Book of God)Œæ(2016)

The Skyway Exhibition trifecta:ŒæThe historic Skyway collaboration demonstrated “that there is an abundance of talented contemporary artists creating work very relevant to the national discourse on art, on par with the rigor found in more established art communities and able to hold its own in any city but thankfully hangs its hat in Tampa Bay,” saidŒæCreative Pinellas Editor Danny Olda in his review.
A milestone in the Tampa Bay regional arts community and monumental effort in collaboration, the history-makingξSkyway: A Contemporary Collaborationξheld court at the Tampa Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Art in St. Petersburg and the Ringling Museum in Sarasota.
Standouts included a compelling interplay between by artistsŒæNoelle MasonŒæandŒæGregory GreenŒæat the Museum of Fine Art, whose worksŒæexplored violence and depicted meticulous preparations for mass violence specifically. InŒæLove Letters/White Flag (Book of God)Œæ(2016), Mason reproduced journal entries of the Columbine High School Massacre shooters as more than 200 hand-embroidered handkerchiefs.ŒæGreenäó»s installation,ŒæWorktable #9, He of Righteousness, (Minneapolis, Saint Petersburg)Œæ(2017), offered a bomb-building workshop frozen in a moment mid-task, as if the bomb-maker were merely taking a bathroom break.
The sculptural, meditative installations ofŒæBabs ReingoldŒæandŒæCharles ParkhillŒæused time-worn wood to convey their messages.Œæ In paintings such asŒæPalpable BlurŒæ(2016) andŒæFuturist FeelingsŒæ(2016), artistŒæWalter MatthewsŒædisplayed works with an equally confident color palette and brush stroke.Œæ One of the biggest attention-grabbers:ŒæAkiko Kotaniäó»s imposing yet snuggly ŒæSoft WallsŒæ(2016) greeted visitors in the center of the space.ŒæNeil Bender of Tampa created an installation for the MFA, and Eckerd College professorŒæKirk Ke Wang set up at the Ringling.

Paul Wilborn reads his story set in the golden era of Ybor City. Photo: Daniel Veintimilla

MFA’s Literary Carousel:ŒæŒæA SunLit Festival event, presented byŒæKeep St. Pete Lit, ŒæäóìThe Literary Carousel at the MFAäó featuredŒæprominent Bay area writers reading prose and verse inspired by vintage photographs from theŒæMuseum of Fine Artsäó» permanent collection. Participants included Tampa Bay Times Features Editor Stephanie Hayes, author and Times writer Ben Montgomery, freelance writer Sandra Gadsden, Palladium Executive Director Paul Wilborn, Creative Loafing Editor David Warner, author Steph Post and Creative Pinellas Assistant Editor Julie Garisto. Their pieces fetched laughs, gasps and awe with a diverse range of tone and subject matter. ŒæTopics ranged from a jealous sports car to a schizophrenic actor to missives from a Nuclear Holocaust. The photos specially curated by Robin Oäó»Dell, Curatorial Administrator & Manager of Photographic Collections, andŒæTodd Bates, a St. Pete-based freelance creative director and founder of theŒæCarouselŒæevent series, took on a memorable new life.
La Lucha at Clearwater Jazz Holiday October 2017 on Oct. 23, 2017. Photo: Daniel Veintimilla

La Lucha’s big week at Clearwater Jazz Holiday and Creative Pinellas’s Emerging Artists exhibition:ŒæLa Lucha breathes new life into jazz with their expert musicianship and ingenious improvisations. The St. Petersburg-based trio comprises three best friends from three different parts of the world — Colombia, Mexico and the United States, and their repertoire mixes jazz standards, Latin-inspired rhythms and original compositions.
Drummer Mark Feinman, a recipient of Creative Pinellas’s Impact Returns grant, created a finely textured original composition. La Lucha performed the breathtakingly genre-defying piece, conjuring elements of experimental jazz, Pink Floyd atmospheric indie like Sigur Ros and 1960s sci-fi movie scores.
The Emerging Artists exhibition took place in the gallery next to the home of Creative Pinellas‘s offices at the former Gulf Coast Museum of art, at 12211 Walsingham Road in Largo. The exhibition features new work from the 10 2017 Emerging Artist grantees representing five disciplines:ŒæGloria Muí±oz, Literature/Poetry;ŒæKellie Hanson, Choreography;ŒæMark Feinman, Music Composition/Jazz; Desireí© MooreŒæandŒæJeff George, Media Arts/Film-Video; andŒæNathan Beard, Jacob Troyli, Kenny Jensen, Shannon Leah HalvorsenŒæandŒæElizabeth Barenis, Visual Arts.
A few days before, La Lucha performed their first set on their own with major guest playersξ at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday.ξξJeff Rupertξon sax,ξMarty Morellξon vibraphone andξMichikoξξon congas joined La Lucha fora tight, wonderfully varied set with their uniquelyξretooled standardsξand originals by each of the musicians onstage.
The Southeastern premiere of Flying, Sheila Cowley’s play at Tampa Repertory Theatre about veterans of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, includes (from left) Holly Marie Weber, Rosemary Orlando, and Becca McCoy. Photo: Megan Lamasney

Flying at Studio@620:ŒæIt’s always great to see a local success story unfold especially when it happens to a gracious and deserving artist like Sheila Cowley. HerŒæfull-length drama premiered in an Equity playhouse on May 26 in Upstate New York, earned inclusion in the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston and was part of new play festivals in Chicago and in Austin in May.ŒæFlyingäó»s Tampa Bay full-production premiere featured the dazzling Becca McCoy as the lead, directed by Robin Gordon. The co-production spanned both sides of the bay atŒæTampa Repertory TheatreŒæin September andŒæThe Studio@620Œæin October.ŒæCowleyäó»s research included poring over a number of oral histories and memoirs of women who flew military planes in WWII so men could go and fight. äóìTheir stories are not widely known but theyäó»re amazing,äó she said. äóìThese were all brave women working hard, flying back and forth with target flags so men could practice shooting airplanes from the ground, dive-bombing pilots in training so they could learn how to dogfight, working as test pilots before and after planes were repaired because no one wanted to risk a male pilotäó»s life doing that, and getting broken-down planes off the ground on their last flight to the scrapyard.äó
Charles Richardson, Freddie Fred and Cam Parker at the debut of Hive Courtyard.

The fabulously collaborative Hive Courtyard of muralists, musicians and more:Œæ The festive Oct. 15 premiere collaboration took place in tandem with the SHINE mural festival and featured local/regional muralists pulling out all the stops. The event offered the best of both worlds of artistic professionalism and DIY spunk, along with local music, food and retail vendors. If you were feeling the gentrification blues, the Hive event reminded about the magic that sparked St. Pete back to life.ŒæŒæCam Parker — who recently received publicity creating the Lady Gaga mural in Tampa and getting kudos onstage from the pop diva — went all out and transformed his mural completely in the span of a week.ŒæVan Der LucŒæsurprised the crowd with a giant cryogenic bee. Jennifer Kosharek offered “Interesting dichotomies,” andŒæAndrew SpearäóÖs dragon seemed to come to life.Œæ Other memorable works includedŒæBekky Beukes‘ entrance-wall-encompassing phoenix woman andŒæŒæJennipher ChandleyäóÖs intricate portrait.
Honorable mentions:ξ
Our Trail: Performances on the Pinellas Trail
The Arts Xchange Grand Opening
The Shins at Jannus Live
Stephanie Gularte’s Local Stage Debut at American Stage
Irma be damned — freeFall Raises the Roof amid hurricane aftermath
Women representing in force: Girls Rock Camp Showcase, Women’s Collective forms, Artists at Women’s March, Cunsthaus
Literary journal Odet publishes
Project Primavera Music Festival debuts
— Danny Olda,Œæ David Morris, Eva Avenue, Daniel Veintimilla and SK West contributed to this report.
 
 
 

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