Both Fleeting and Ongoing
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We’re celebrating the vibrant artists and arts organizations in our county by sharing favorite Pinellas arts experiences.
What I always think of is the magical labyrinth lit by luminaries that Coralette Damme built by hand at The Studio@620 from fallen branches she collected and so carefully arranged. On a beautiful fall evening in 2013, it arced across the room and invited you to step inside.
We’d been to 620 many, many times, but this was the first exhibit we experienced right after we moved to St Pete from Tampa 10 years ago. Coralette transformed the Studio into a glowing Earth-toned oasis for her solo exhibit Lost in the Wilderness – and I slowly walked her candlelit path many times before we bought her painting titled HOME, that lives over our fireplace.
I wished that we could bring the thousand twigs and branches of Coralette’s curving handmade path home with us, unfurling as you open the front door. But I’m grateful I explored that temporary forest pathway while it lived, and it’s a treasured memory.
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The Golden Gurlz Live! was one of my favorite Pinellas arts experiences.
For years, the late Garry Allan Breul produced special event readings during St. Pete Pride. These one-night-only performances held primarily at American Stage raised money for Metro Inclusive Health.
All of the artists donated their time and talents for a tremendous cause. We would always produce some type of parody that was heavy on camp and featured over the top drag performances. We decided to look beyond classic Hollywood/Broadway properties and produce two parody episodes of The Golden Girls with songs/arrangements by Michael Raabe with hilarious ’80s commercial spoofs created by T. Scott Wooten.
It was so popular that one-night-only turned into two weekends and 4 Sold Out shows.
It was just a perfect collaboration for our arts community and the funds raised broke some records. There is some talk of remounting these special Pride events this summer. Stay tuned!
My favorite Pinellas arts experiences. . .
- Seeing exhibits of Gary Lemons’ artwork at The Carter G. Woodson Museum and The Studio 620
- The “Say What” reading series at The Studio 620
- Voodoo Macbeth at The Studio 620
- The Decades of Day Work readings produced by Your Real Stories
- Seeing the plays Pipeline & Dutchman at American Stage
Hard to pick a favorite Pinellas art experience among so many. One surprise, Creatives Exchange Artists Collective, whose existence I just found out about, involving artists from both Pinellas and Hillsborough.
Founded ten years ago by Jenny Carey, this collective of professional women artists and creators have monthly breakfast get-togethers. Last month they hosted a celebratory event fittingly titled A Decade at the Table.
The three day event, November 9-11 at the Kress Contemporary in Ybor included an art exhibition, an artist talk panel, poetry reading, and dance performances.
Including both past and present members – Lori Ballard, Paula Brett, Jenny Carey, Suzanne Camp Crosby, Kimberli Cummings, Melissa Fair, Brenda Gregory, Eileen Goldenberg, Cindy Hennessy, Victoria Jorgensen, Candace Knapp, Kim Radatz, Debra Radke, Gianna Russo, Kate Swann, and Suzanne Williamson, they form a fun dynamic group.
From their event brochure – The making of artwork can take place in solitary for many disciplines. A collective of like-minded artists provides multiple perspectives, unique voices, space and community to support their interests. We take as many opportunities as possible to share our own resources with other like-minded artists and the community.
Note – Two of the Collective’s members Victoria Jorgensen and Candace Knapp are also participating artists in the current Creative Pinellas 2023 Arts Annual.
My favorite place apparently no longer exists… the home at 109 Parkland Avenue in Clearwater still stands but the amazing yard full of animal ceramics and fine china sculptures no longer exists….
It was beautiful while it lasted and I’m so happy now to have a few photographs of it! I have no background on the motivation behind its creation or who did it, but I loved it.
I imagine it was created by an older person with a little time on their hands… When I visited, the house still had a television antenna/aerial that went up about 20 feet, and that was in 2013!
Those aging TV aerials are art in themselves.
I never do well with superlatives — so my answer isn’t a favorite, per se, but rather two things I appreciate.
For the past two years, I’ve produced and performed in the Broadway Cabaret at UUSP in St. Pete.
The other is ReadOUT in Gulfport, which I attended in 2023 and directly support as a contractor for 2024.
One of my favorite art experiences – hands down – was a collaborative public art project here in Tarpon Springs to build community awareness about Peace4Tarpon – a community initiative which began in 2010 making Tarpon Springs the first Trauma-Informed community in the United States.
The project was inspired by our Community partner, Reverend Marni Harmony’s remembrance of a Buddhist peace flag festival in the Pacific Northwest. She had the vision of having our own version of that here in Tarpon Springs to build community awareness of Peace4Tarpon by having people of all ages create peace flags.
She was joined by art therapist Kathleen Sullivan in seeing the vision become a beautiful reality. Their goal was to have 10,000 peace flags flying at Craig Park during the April 2013 Tarpon Springs Fine Art Festival.
Of course, there were a few hoops to jump through to make that happen on City property without lots of red tape but our City Manager Mark LeCouris saved the day. He determined that if we created this as a temporary Public Art installation, all would be ok. So that’s what we did.
It was truly a community collaboration. The motel across the street from the park donated clean used cotton sheets, volunteers cut them into uniform sizes and the Unitarian Universalist Quilters group sewed the finished flags onto strings for hanging.
For weeks, blank flags were distributed throughout the city to all the schools, after school programs, various organizations and even our Library had a Peace Flag Creating event.
The instructions were to create a flag about what peace meant to you. We ended up with over 4,000 flags which were hung at the park but also in businesses up and down the street.
The youngest person to create a flag was 18 months and the oldest was 87.
On one very windy April day in 2013, the day before the Tarpon Art Show, a small group of volunteers were able to hang all of the flags. They were glorious.
That night, however, we had a huge rainstorm with lots of wind and we all feared the worst – that the flags would be ruined and on the ground the next morning.
To our amazement, the flags were all fine! It was such fun seeing the kids who made flags come look for their creations. Saying things like “I made one with a dove and peace sign – have you seen it?”
Our Deputy Fire Chief filmed the whole installation event so we can watch the magic happen all over again!
One of my favorite paintings — an art experience in Pinellas County that I have always treasured — is Salvador Dalí’s Self-Portrait (Figueres).
I have used the portrait as a prompt in the Persistence of Memory Memoir classes I’ve given at the Dalí Museum in downtown St. Petersburg. Whenever I bring out-of-town guests to visit the museum, I always steer them to this small, odd picture.
Not as grandiose as the masterworks in the museum’s permanent collection (and certainly not what most people expect from a Dalí work — there isn’t a melted clock in sight), this quirky little painting nonetheless embodies for me the spirit of the Catalonian artist — as well as the yearnings of all young artists who long to be seen as the geniuses they know they are.
Dalí painted Self-Portrait (Figueres) when he was 17.
“For artists, the great problem to solve is how to get oneself noticed,” wrote French novelist Honoré de Balzac in his 19th century novel Lost Illusions.
During his lifetime, Salvador Dalí was one of the most successful in doing just that. He certainly was never shy about promoting himself and often went to great lengths to attract attention.
In 1936 he gave a lecture in a deep sea diving suit and almost suffocated. Someone stepped on his air hose and the audience at first thought his flaying about was part of the act.
In 1958 he went on 60 Minutes and discussed with Mike Wallace why he once stuffed a Rolls Royce with cabbage and drove to the Sorbonne.
In 1969 he was photographed, strolling down the streets of Paris walking an anteater.
Dalí started shaping this unique artist persona — and building up his confidence — early on. “I will be a genius, and the world will admire me,” he wrote in his diary when he was 16. “Perhaps I’ll be despised and misunderstood, but I’ll be a genius, a great genius, I’m certain of it.”
A year later — in 1921 — Dalí began to work on his Self-Portrait and his image.“I’d let my hair grow, and wore it long like a girl’s hair,” he explained in his 1942 autobiography, The Secret Life.
“Looking at myself in the mirror I would often strike the poses and melancholy appearance of Raphael… I wanted to give myself a ‘weird appearance’ as soon as possible, to compose a masterpiece with my own head.”
The year 1921 was an important one for Dalí. His mother died in February. Shortly after, he was accepted to the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. To look the part of a young dandy, as he explains in The Secret Life, he “bought a large black felt hat, and a pipe which I did not smoke and never lighted, but which I kept constantly hanging from the corner of my mouth.”
In the self-portrait he is wearing that large floppy black hat and sporting that pipe as well as wearing a black cape and a red scarf, an outfit that he would don the next year at the Residencia de Estudiantes when he started classes at the Madrid academy.
“That Dalí chose to use these props for this early self-portrait indicates that at the age of 17, he was already consciously building an eccentric public personality,” writes the Dalí Foundation, based in Dalí’s hometown of Figueres, in its blurb on the painting that now hangs in St. Petersburg.
With one eye staring out from the center of the canvas, the figure in that painting is dark and brooding. The boy already is beginning to embody the man Dali was to become.
I was at the Dalí for their monthly meditation. It’s free and really worth it – we meditated looking at a Monet painting that’s included in their current exhibit, Dalí & The Impressionists. And lo and behold, Dalí’s Self-Portrait (Figueres) is included in the Impressionist exhibit in a section on portraits! It was like seeing an old friend in an unexpected place.
In my memoir writing classes, after showing participants Self-Portrait (Figueres), here is the prompt I give them. . .
ASSIGNMENT: You are a 17, looking into a mirror. What are you wearing? Do you have any trademark piece of clothing that you wear or prop that you always have with you? How is your hair fixed? What do your eyes tell us about what you are thinking? What are your circumstances at that moment of time? Have you experienced a great loss, like Dalí had, at 17?
Are you as sure of your destiny as he was at that age? Do you like what you see in the mirror or are you obsessing over flaws?
Describe yourself and then tell us where you will be going after you check yourself out in the mirror.
Ray Domingo’s a Gulfport artist who’s creating phenomenal work, in Gulfport and beyond.
Most Gulfport visitors know him for his whimsical giant gecko statue on the beach, but his most impactful piece is American Odyssey.
His serious side definitely deserves more attention.
As a visual artist who works alone, radio, audiobooks, or any kind of storytelling have been my studio companions for the many years I have been working as a professional artist.
Directed by Bonnie Agan, the Radio Theater Project consists of a series original performances by an ensemble cast of actors reading and in some cases, premiering new plays never before heard as well as a fresh take on classics.
These are interspersed with live music and all are interpreted by a sign language interpreter for the hearing impaired. Sound stylist Matt Cowley creates accompanying sound effects using everyday objects as well as more traditional sound devices.
Although recordings are available on Soundcloud, I prefer the luxury of real people practicing their craft.
When I attend these great performances, the feeling of awe and wonder returns to me from being read to as a child, seeing my first play, reading plays and hearing live music. These experiences fill me with wonder and nourish my heart and soul.
Most definitely The Pier.
Especially the spot between the white sand beach and Vinoy Marina.
At night, it is magical aesthetic experience.
And largely empty.
As a person who must avoid Covid, it is a godsend.
And the Gizella Kopsick Arboretum on downtown St. Pete’s waterfront.
Adjacent to the North Shore pools is this gem of a palm garden. It is probably the most under-used and under-appreciated public space in St. Pete.
A highlight of 2023 was a night with The Florida Orchestra, but not in the usual way.
Instead of tackling Anton Bruckner’s massive Symphony No. 7 in full, the musicians paired it down to the essentials in a reduced version for a dozen players.
Was this chamber-size performance at St. Pete’s Palladium Theater more fascinating than the monolithic original? Yes, because it opened the ears to hearing Bruckner as an intimate experience, with one-voice per part – albeit two violins − rather than the phalanx of brass, woodwinds and strings that normally bellow forth for 65 minutes.
The group consisted of a pair of fiddles, a single viola, cello, double bass, clarinet and horn, four-hands piano, timpani and harmonium. The music was prepared in 1921 by members of Vienna’s Society for Private Musical Performances, founded by Arnold Schoenberg three years earlier with the idea of making noteworthy music accessible through smaller forces due to the cultural disruptions of the First World War.
Bruckner’s magnificent vision emerged with bracing clarity, and made us wonder what a delight it would be to hear all of Bruckner, or Beethoven or Mahler, wearing less orchestral clothing.
“All the notes and harmonies are the same, you just don’t have the big number of players,’’ said music director Michael Francis. “There’s something really compelling about it, and it takes you on an emotional journey once your ears get used to it.’’
I am surely biased to talk about this exhibit but I don’t lie when I say that I was amazed by the solo exhibit by the French international artist Chantal Derderian-Christol that is happening until the end of December at the Mirella Cimato Gallery inside the St. Pete Opera Company.
Chantal has a long and active career of international exhibits and prizes, and her paintings and sculptures are in private and public collections all over Europe. She works with large scale acrylic paintings and monumental sculptures on steel.
One of her steel sculptures is being exhibited at the Orange County Cultural Center in Orlando as part of their 2023 Sculpture on the Lawn program – and one of her large-scale paintings at the Red Dot Miami festival just last week.
Chantal has a love for life and fearless expression. Her mostly abstract work ranges from passionate strokes and vibrant colors to mysterious and reflective shapes and colors. She plays with stillness and movement, energetic and calming.
Her centerpiece is a 13×16 feet free canvas that makes you dive into her world as soon as you enter the space. I will stop spoiling it and let you go see it for yourself.
As a disclaimer she happens to also be my mother-in-law. 😊
When someone mentioned an exhibition of quilts to me, I was not excited. Expecting to see traditional squares of multiple materials sewed together for a bed covering, I was not at all interested.
However, in this exhibition at The James Museum in St. Petersburg in September 2022, I experienced a different approach to an old-time craft.
The exhibition was titled, Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West. Over 100 contemporary women quiltmakers told the unique stories of enslaved Africans and free African Americans in the American West.
The individual quilts paid tribute to the often-overlooked contribution of the pioneer spirit of African Americans. Curator Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi begins the timeline with Esteban’s 1528 arrival in the West and continues through the Civil Rights Movement.
Large irregularly-shaped quilts hung on the walls. Each one was unique in its artistic approach using rich bold colors of fabric, digital prints, machine applique, delicate hand-stitched patterns, and other materials.
The beautifully crafted quilts had me mesmerized for hours. I even went back to see the exhibition a second time.
One of my favorite quilts that immediately caught my attention was, Call Me Mrs. Mary E Pleasant: The Midas Touch. It tells the story of Mary Pleasant who from 1814 to 1904 made a name for herself in the Gold Rush-era in San Francisco. She began in racial slavery as an indentured servant girl and ascended to a self-made millionaire.
The artist, L’Merchie Frazier, created the quilt using irregularly-shaped fabric, adding digital prints and creating texture with cotton batting. Most fascinating to me was her use of 18-karat gold foil to honor Mary Pleasant’s financial sensibilities and wealth.
Another intriguing quilt described the fascinating story of Cathay Wiliams a.k.a. William Cathay: Female Buffalo Soldier. Born in 1844 she was the first African American woman to join the United States Army disguised as a man.
She served as America’s only female Buffalo Soldier from 1866 to 1868. The artist Georgia Williams used African mud cloth, printed fabric sheets, and embellished it with buttons, to recognize this courageous and remarkable woman.
This beautiful colorful quilt, The Horse Whisperer by Felecia Tinker, tells the story of a cowboy Robert Lemmons (1848-1947) who was born enslaved but gained freedom at the end of the Civil War.
His unique way of capturing wild horses earned him a small fortune and in 1870 he purchased a ranch in Carrizo Springs TX. I was inspired by the quilt and the unusual story of a Black cowboy.
Although many quilts depicted the victories and achievements of women and men, some told the painful stories of racial discrimination. One of these stories was told through the creation of quiltmaker Carolyn Crump.
The Truth Hurts: Riches, Resentment, Revenge, RIOTS was a gripping reminder of how hatred and bigotry can destroy dreams of a better life.
The quilt was remarkable in its originality and exquisite in its creative application of three-dimensional effects. She used cotton fabric and other materials to tell the horrific story of the Tulsa Massacre of 1921.
A self-made and prosperous Black community also known as Black Wall Street was attacked by white mobs. Carolyn Crump explains, “The quilt depicts bloodshed and destruction, the hangings of affluent African Americans destroyed by jealous whites.”
A compelling quilt that attracts the viewers yet repels them as they learn of this tragic history.
This quilt exhibition at The James Museum was stimulating and imaginative and at the same time educational. It was truly engaging in its history and rewarding in its creative approach to contemporary quiltmaking. It was an memorable event.
freeFall Theatre, St. Pete
Sunken Gardens, St. Pete
Pinewood Cultural Park, Largo 🙂