CARMADA ‘22 Street Carnival

By Mitzi Jo Gordon
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Phase One
Warming the Engine

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NEA/Pinellas Recovers Grant Update

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Hurry up and wait. It’s a commonly heard phrase in production-focused creative spaces, like film sets, where many moving parts must fall into place before a single decisive moment occurs – such as a grand opening gala, or an on-location tracking shot.

I’m in that slow-rolling phase right now, lining up details for the upcoming Street Carnival. Call it pre-production or foundational work, this is an indispensable (if somewhat undramatic) aspect of my creative practice with Carmada. Kind of like warming up a diesel engine before you hit the road.

An interactive art-on-wheels experience, Carmada presents art car events that encourage curiosity and exploration. Since establishing the project in 2014, I’ve partnered with nonprofits and artists to bring these events into public places. As curator, my work centers on developing an enticing, accessible space where visitors can immerse themselves in street art.

Posing behind the wheel-of a Crosley Truck painted by Cam Parker in 2020 – photo by Mitzi Gordon, shot at Localtopia 2021

This year, the CARMADA ‘22 Street Carnival officially kicks off the SHINE Mural Festival on October 15 with a daylong celebration of art on the road in Childs Park, St. Petersburg. The event plan calls for car-painting demos, street mural painting, NOMAD Art Bus activities and more.

My first step after receiving a Pinellas Recovers grant in support of the Street Carnival was to draft emails, and plenty of them. I contacted arts organizations that shared letters of support, thanking them and sketching out next steps. I wrote to the artist who I hoped would paint live at our October event (spoiler alert – she will! – reveal coming soon), and to drivers who might want to display their art cars. I became a communications hub. It may not be flashy, but without this kind of work, colorful public events don’t take place.

Jujmo painting at Carmada during Gasparilla Festival of the Arts 2016
– photo by Mitzi Gordon

Naturally, there’s waiting involved. Waiting to hear back from drivers. Waiting to sign agreements. But once that waiting ends, everything again surges forward, and there are dozens of things to do – finalize site plans, announce artists, order supplies. It can be a fun process if you enjoy crossing things off lists – as I do, using Google Drive to keep all my spreadsheets and images organized along the way.

Since its beginnings in Tampa’s Kiley Garden, Carmada has expanded on both sides of the Bay in partnership with Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, SHINE, NOMADstudio, Creative Clay and other cultural organizations. At its core, the project is designed to educate about the arts and support creative engagement. Carmada offers paid work opportunities for artists while sparking inspiration in visitors, who get to take home their own creations and happy memories.

Art activities at Carmada during Gasparilla Festival of the Arts 2022
– photo by James Zambon

It’s a heartwarming thing to see when it all comes together in the moment, as I know it will during the October event. Meanwhile, I’ll be at my computer, waiting for confirmations and driving all the pieces steadily forward.
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The CARMADA ‘22 Street Carnival comes to St. Petersburg
on Saturday, October 15, in partnership with the SHINE Mural Festival.
This project is produced with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts,
Creative Pinellas and the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners.
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Mitzi Gordon is a recipient of the Pinellas Recovers Grant,
provided by Creative Pinellas through a grant from the
National Endowment of the Arts American Rescue Plan.

Art car by Leo Gomez, painted at Gasparilla Festival of the Arts 2022 – photo by James Zambon

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