September 7, 2019 | By Amanda Sieradzki
Journalism Instructor Janet Keeler
Leads Panel on Living ‘The Creative Life’
September 12, 6:30-8 pm
What is the life of an artist? How does the role of an arts critic factor into that life?
USF St. Petersburg journalism instructor Janet Keeler is seeking answers for herself and her students. Keeler has assembled a panel ranging in artistic disciplines and experiences to speak on pursuing “The Creative Life.”
The discussion is open to the public and will take place 6:30 p.m. on September 12 at The Studio@620 in downtown St. Petersburg.
Keeler sees herself as a connector, bridging people together through writing and new experiences. While this panel serves as a hands-on learning opportunity for her Entertainment and Culture Reporting class—a new offering in the USF St. Petersburg Department of Journalism and Digital Communication—it also aims to open up a dialogue between artists and the community.
Keeler spent 35 years in newspaper journalism and feature writing, and served as Food Editor for the Tampa Bay Times. Now at the helm of a classroom, she emphasizes the responsibility of pop culture journalists to educate and be fair while providing context to readers. She’s also embracing a newfound freedom to dive into her own artistic pursuits.
The Arts Coast Journal spoke with Keeler on taking part in playwriting classes, earning her doctorate in education and giving a voice to the St. Petersburg artist.
Arts Coast Journal: In what ways do you pursue a creative life?
Keeler: My mind is always going with some idea. Teaching at the university, a lot of my creativity is funneled into my classes and how I can create assignments that interest people and get their juices going on certain topics.
I always have projects on the backburner. There’s a YA novel sitting there begging for me to finish it and a couple of plays… my journalism background has made me really driven by the deadline. When I have a deadline I can get it done. That’s part of my admiration for other artists. They’re not always working on a deadline. Their deadline is somehow internal and they’re able to pull it off which I find very impressive.
Arts Coast Journal: What was the impetus for this panel coming together?
Keeler: We’ve read a lot in recent years about how St. Petersburg is a vibrant community for the arts, but I don’t think people hear from artists quite as much. So I was curious myself, which is how it always starts…
… In the journalist code of ethics, one of the things we like to do is give voice to the voiceless. To hear from people who don’t always have a platform. These people do have platforms and they are doing work that’s getting put out there, but I don’t think they get to talk so much about what their life is like as an artist.
Arts Coast Journal: How did you choose the artists on the panel?
Keeler: I was looking for different ages, genres and levels of experience. Carrie Jadus is more of an established artist in our area. She has an interesting background because she studied electrical engineering and is quite successful in the Warehouse Arts District.
Jake Troyli is a younger artist with his MFA from USF. He was a Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist [in] 2017 and has exhibitions in Sweden, Chicago, San Francisco and Atlanta so he’s really making a mark for himself.
Matthew McGee has been an actor for over 20 years and is a drag artist here, so I think he brings an interesting look to the panel in that he is a seasoned actor and has a niche in how he performs.
J.C. O’Leary is a jazz pianist with La Lucha, but he’s also a neuroscientist and professor at USF. I think it’ll be fun to hear from him how he balances all that and is quite successful in two different realms.
With Sheila Cowley, I really wanted a writer because that might be an area we don’t think so much of, and I feel like recently she’s experienced a lot of great success with her plays. She brings an interesting outlook to the panel because she is so generous in her creativity and is such a deep well of information.
[Full disclosure: Sheila Cowley is Managing Editor for Creative Pinellas’ Arts Coast Journal.]
Arts Coast Journal: What are you looking forward to discussing with the artists, especially given the diverse array of disciplines?
Keeler: I wanted them to talk about how they mesh their artwork with the professional work they do to make a living. Can you make a living here doing art?
I’m looking forward to them talking about creativity and how they view it. I’m also going to ask them how the media plays into it for them and how they’ve felt about what’s been written about them. It’s easy to write something about a [national] movie, book or television show because the chances of those people coming back to you is not as likely to happen. But when you’re writing about local people there’s a different sensibility, so I’m interested to hear how they feel about how they’ve been covered and how that affects their careers.
Arts Coast Journal: Why do you think it’s important to have this conversation in St. Petersburg right now?
Keeler: There’s a lot of discussion about art right now and what it means to the community. Hearing from artists is important because they’re a crucial element in of all this. There was a lot of discussion about the artwork that’s going in at The Pier and in public art in general.
It’s energizing and interesting as [artists are] becoming a bigger part of the fabric of our community. So often we see their work, but it’s good to hear from them as people, too.