Literary Carousel Delights and Amuses at the MFA

Through the show-and-tell art of the ekphrastic — a literary interpretation of a piece of visual art — prominent Bay area writers penned prose and verse inspired by vintage photographs from the Museum of Fine Artsäó» permanent collection last Thursday.

The wordsmiths read their original works aloud in sequence with slide photo presentations in the museumäó»s Marly Room.

A SunLit Festival event, presented by Keep St. Pete Lit, ŒæäóìThe Literary Carousel at the MFAäó 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, and Todd Bates, a St. Pete-based freelance creative director and founder of the Carousel event series, took on a memorable new life.

“This iteration of Carousel was unique in that it combined images selected from the MFA photographic collection with the words of some very talented local writers,” Bates said. “I was so pleased with the outcome, the pairing worked really well and the audience loved it. I’m hoping we can do it again next year!” Let’s thank the scribes:

Photo by Daniel Veintimilla
Leonora LaPeter, Tampa Bay Times Enterprise writer tapped her acerbic sense of humor and skillful observation skills to muse on oddities and strange inventions of her photos’ subjects.


Stephanie Hayes, Features Editor at the Tampa Bay Times,ξdrew comedic inspiration from an abandoned sports car withξAmericanaξundertones.


Ben Montgomery, Tampa Bay Times writer and authorŒæof ŒæGrandma Gatewood’s WalkŒæread an ominous tale with unsettling Œæimages of mid-century atomic bomb test sites.


David Warner, Editor in Chief of Creative Loafing Tampa. performed his humorous passage in a one-man show of sorts about an actor with a delusional multiple personality disorder. It was very theatrical!


Paul Wilborn, Executive Artistic Director of the Palladium told a nostalgic and evocative tale about Ybor’s past, mixed with Mexican-style soldiers, inspired by vibrant nightlife snapshots.


Sandra Gadsden, freelance journalist and “Digital Nomad.äó wove an intricate, imaginative story of an outlandish prospector.


Julie Garisto, Alive Tampa Bay and Creative Pinellas contributor, waxed on the adventures of an eccentric matriarch and philanthropist who founded her own social club and hobo camp.


Steph Post, author of the recently published novel Lightwood, scaled great heights for her story about a high-flying circus act.


Oäó»Dell told Creative Pinellas that äóìa selection of the photographs shown in Literary Carousel, along with a portion of the writings created for the event will be installed in Miriam F. Acheson Gallery of Photography starting on June 3rd and remaining on display for three months. It is not an ‘exhibition’ per se, but more of an installation.” The MFA St. Petersburg “also hopes to record the writers reading their pieces, which will be put on the MFA app.äó CalledŒæMFA Viewpoint,Œæit allows you to experience the Museum through virtual tours, historic articles and great recordings of each of the available pieces. (Available in both iTunes and Google Play stores)

Todd Bates, founder of Carousel introduces the writers.

It was a great event both for literature and photography enthusiasts, who were treated to old black and white prints, some painted with color, some gelatin silver, but all of them invoke a variety of situations and emotions.

The Museum of Fine Arts is at 255 Beach Drive N.E., St. Petersburg.

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