Postcards from Pinellas

A Tampa Bay-based arts writer
journals her experience exploring
Pinellas County’s art scene

. . .

When you’re an arts writer in Pinellas County, arts and culture are life. They are my inspiration and my favorite pastime. The line between work and play often blurs, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I love finding inspiration in family outings and introducing friends to new arts attractions. That is the joy of living and working in the arts in Pinellas County.

The Arts Coast magazine recently compiled favorite Pinellas County arts experiences from a wide range of artists. Here are a few of mine.

Greetings from Central Avenue
St. Petersburg FL

Thursday, November 2

My November ART’n Month began on St. Pete’s Central Avenue in the middle of the week.

I’d promised to deliver the origami props for Sheila Cowley’s [disclaimer – the managing editor of this publication] Twice as Spectacular to St Pete Pride before Thursday evening rehearsals.

Since I was driving to St. Pete anyway, I crossed Taj Tenfold’s Sewing Seas mural off my ART’n Month Scavenger Hunt list. The Arts Coast asked me to write about their ART’n Month scavenger hunt, and I’m trying to hit as many stops as possible.

Sewing Seas is one of several SHINE murals adorning the buildings that line St. Pete’s Central Avenue. St. Pete’s SHINE murals are among Pinellas County’s best art attractions – over 100 reside in downtown St. Pete and the surrounding arts districts.

You can view them all, along with their locations, at

If you live in Pinellas County, you’ve probably driven past several murals by accident, but it’s always fun to follow a map to new public art at the end of each SHINE festival. This year’s SHINE wrapped on October 22, bringing 17 fresh murals to St. Pete. You can download the map online and check ‘em out

Greetings from St. Pete Pride
St. Petersburg FL

Saturday, November 4

The cast of Twice as Spectacular put my origami props to work during the play’s premiere at St. Pete Pride that Saturday afternoon.

St. Pete Pride’s outdoor courtyard, though somewhat hard to find, was the perfect location for the premiere of a short play that celebrates the diversity of families in our world.

In addition to the Pride Parade each June, St. Pete Pride sponsors and hosts arts & culture events in St. Pete year-round. You can follow them on Instagram or Facebook @stpetepride for event announcements.

Greetings from Highlander Park
Dunedin FL

Sunday, November 5

Greetings from Highlander Park, where the Junior League of Clearwater-Dunedin’s Art Harvest occurs. Now in its 59th year, Art Harvest regularly draws more than 200 participating artists, many of whom reside in the Tampa Bay area.

I met artists from Clearwater, Safety Harbor, Bradenton, Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs. But I also met artists from as far away as Detroit MI and Southbury CT at this year’s event.

Although art writers don’t typically review art festivals, I go to meet artists who I might profile later. I enjoyed Bradenton artist Linda Heath’s Gyotaku fish rubs, which I’m fairly certain I’ve seen in a local restaurant. And Clearwater artist John Herman’s one-of-a-kind smiling wooden fish made me smile.

Come to think of it, there was a lot of great fish-inspired art at Art Harvest this year.

I’ve been going to Art Harvest with my Mom since I was a kid. We duck into the Dunedin Fine Art Center every year to see their holiday show. The show’s highlight has been handmade ornaments for many years. Rosemary Nolletti’s cutesy crochet monster ornaments are my favorite.

Greetings from the
Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art
Tarpon Springs FL

Thursday, November 9

I’d already planned a full day when Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art Director Christine Renc invited me to hear our artist friend, Nathan Beard, speak at the Tarpon Springs museum. But I’m glad I came.

Beard spoke about his Mapping Memories series, which converts significant milestones in a person’s life into data points and maps them into art. The works tell a beautiful story of one man’s attempt to remember and connect with his extended family.

Beard’s one of several SPC faculty members Renc invited to speak at the museum this fall as they showcased arts and education.

Beard gave his talk surrounded by artwork made by Pinellas County Schools students. The work had a depth to it that I wasn’t expecting from a bunch of teenagers. But today’s teenagers have been through a pandemic, and it shows.

Renc tells me that this year’s student artwork is so good that several gallery visitors have asked if they could buy it, and I must admit that I’d love to bring Siena Van Beynen’s Handle with Care home with me.

Greetings from The Sponge Docks
Tarpon Springs FL

Thursday, November 9

While in Tarpon Springs, I crossed another item off my ART’n Month Scavenger Hunt list. The hunt takes participants from North County to South County. The goal is to introduce people to all the ways you can enjoy arts and culture in Pinellas County.

The main cultural attractions in North Pinellas are the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, the Dunedin Fine Art Center, the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center, the Pinellas Trail murals, and public libraries.

And there are the sponge docks, where I took this picture, sitting underneath a bronze sculpture of a sponge diver. Greek food, history, sponges and seashells are the attractions here. The sponge docks are Pinellas County’s little Greece.

Greetings from Creative Pinellas
Largo FL

Thursday, November 9

As the sun set over Ybor City, I left a reporting gig at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts and drove back to Pinellas County for the Arts Annual.

When Creative Pinellas held its first Arts Annual in 2018, the idea was to host an arts festival so large it would attract arts and culture tourists to Pinellas County.

As far as I can tell, the event hasn’t attracted many tourists yet, but it has become one of Pinellas County’s largest and most popular arts events.

Arts Annual provides the perfect opportunity for Pinellas County artists to celebrate and share what they made in the past year.

It’s also a chance for Pinellas County residents to brush shoulders with Pinellas County’s most talented, innovative and prolific visual, literary and performing artists. I wish more people realized this.

Greetings from Pioneer Park
Dunedin FL

Saturday, November 11

If you ask a Pinellas County resident what Dunedin’s art attractions are, Pioneer Park probably wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet the park hosts several art events throughout the year.

There’s the Creative Artists Guild of Dunedin’s monthly Art in the Park, Movies in the Park on Fridays in October, and Dunedin Wines the Blues blues music fest every November. For Dunedin residents, Pioneer Park is a cultural hub, with events for every season.

After an afternoon spent moderating an artist panel in Ybor, my best friend and I drove to Dunedin, carrying our lawn chairs into Pioneer Park just in time to catch the last half of RJ Howson’s set before The Betty Fox Band hit the stage at the 33rd Annual Dunedin Wines the Blues.

Greetings from the
Safety Harbor Resort & Spa
Safety Harbor FL

Sunday, November 12

One of the best things about being an arts & entertainment journalist is being able to design custom adventures for your friends at the last minute. When my friend, in town from Orlando, said she’d like to eat seafood and do a history tour before leaving the Tampa Bay area, I knew exactly where to take her.

I chose Safety Harbor, home of my fellow Pinellas County writers Laura Kepner and Warren Firschein. These two literally wrote the book on Safety Harbor. They also helped write the script for the Florida Stories walking tour of Safety Harbor, accessible through Florida Humanities’ Florida Stories app.

We started at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa for some living history. When we asked the staff about the historic spring, they told us it was underground, pumping spring water into the resort’s pools.

Then they offered us a spa tour.

Afterward, we went to Bar Fly for a seafood dinner.

Greetings from the
Knight Oceanographic Research Center
St. Petersburg FL

Monday, November 13 

Art intersects with so many things in Pinellas County, including science. In 2019, the University of South Florida College of Marine Science at St. Pete’s waterfront campus started Art & Science Night. They invited artists to meet USF scientists, hear about their research and create art inspired by these interactions.

After the project took a forced pandemic break, I participated in Art & Science Night 2.0 this year at the Knight Oceanographic Research Center.

I joined a group of about a dozen Tampa Bay-based artists as they toured USF Marine Science labs, learning about ocean layers, pH, sea creatures, sea grasses, red tide and viruses.

Sr. Biological Scientist Tracy Shaw showed me an anglerfish mating pair preserved in a jar. A small male clung to a much larger female fish. The male is so miniscule that I didn’t notice it until Shaw pointed it out.

“When they find each other in the deep sea, the male bites onto the female and eventually just gets absorbed into her body,” said Shaw. “That’s kind of the deep-sea way because the deep sea is a very big, empty place.”

As she says this, I see my painting – two fish, alone together in a vast expanse of black water.

Greetings from The Poynter Institute
St. Petersburg FL

Tuesday, November 14

For the second night in a row, I am back at USF St. Petersburg. This time, I park in the muddy overflow lot outside of The Poynter Institute — Pinellas County’s temple of journalism.

It was raining, but people still came in droves to hear Tampa Bay Times book editor Colette Bancroft speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Hull about Hull’s new memoir, Though the Groves.

Popular St. Pete indie bookstore Tombolo Books initially planned the event at their store. They changed the venue to Poynter upon realizing that their space was too small to accommodate the amount of people who wished to attend.

Tombolo and Poynter events are educational experiences for both published and aspiring writers. I left the auditorium that night with a signed copy of Through the Groves and two additional memoir recommendations, Harry Crew’s A Childhood: The Biography of a Place and David Carr’s The Night of the Gun.

Greetings from the Museum of Fine Arts
St. Petersburg FL

Wednesday, November 15

The Museum of Fine Arts consistently hosts impressive contemporary art. I always look forward to their press previews, when curators give local media a private tour of the latest exhibitions before they go on view to the public. It’s one of the few places for which I still write the occasional art review. (Most media outlets prefer previews to reviews these days.)

Today, I’m here for a press tour of The Nature of Art, the MFA’s first campus-wide exhibit. The exhibition shows new work, but also draws from the MFA’s permanent collection.

The most interesting thing about this exhibition is that you can flip the title, and it still holds true. The Nature of Art is as much about the art of nature as it is about the nature of art. Art and nature intersect in the most interesting ways throughout the sprawling exhibition, on view at the MFA through April 14, 2024.

Greetings from The Mosaic House
Dunedin FL

Saturday, November 18

Sometimes Pinellas County visitors, and even locals, miss out on studio tours and art classes in artists’ home studios. Perhaps they don’t know about them or feel more comfortable in museums, but arts insiders know that visual artists’ studios are an integral part of Pinellas County’s art scene.

Through the years, Dunedin artists Carol Sackman and Black White have turned their home studio into a mosaic masterpiece. The Dunedin Fine Art Center spotlighted the couple in Fall 2022, making them the subject of both an exhibition and an arts documentary (now available on PBS).

I saw the home once before, when they participated in the Dunedin Youth Guild’s Holiday Tour of Homes years ago. But today, I’m taking a tour arranged by the Dunedin Fine Art Center.

Since it’s now the weekend, I brought my mother along. My mother introduced me to North Pinellas’ arts scene with my first summer art camp at DFAC decades ago. Today, I tried to return the favor in a small way.

Greetings from Highlander Park
Dunedin FL

Saturday, November 18

Another weekend, another event in Dunedin’s Highlander Park. This time, it’s the Dunedin Celtic Music Festival. What Greek culture and Greek food is to Tarpon Springs, Scottish culture and craft beer is to Dunedin.

And this festival combines them both — bagpipes and beer. The Dunedin Scottish Arts Foundation organizes the annual festival, the same foundation that’s organized the Dunedin Highland Games (also in Highlander Park) every spring since 1966.

This year’s festival brought touring Celtic rock bands Mudmen, Syr and Clover’s Revenge to Dunedin. Dunedin Brewery brought the beer. It was a beautiful afternoon to drink beer and listen to music in the park – I’m glad my friend suggested it.

Greetings from The Factory
St. Petersburg FL

Saturday, November 18

Finn from St. Pete’s new Heiress Gallery invited me to a special event at The Factory this evening. And though I already had a full day, I’m not eager to turn down invitations to fun art events in Tampa Bay unless I need to stay home and write.

So I hopped in my car and drove south for You Have Nothing to Worry About, a clever collaboration between Heiress and Martha Joy Rose’s Museum of Motherhood (also in The Factory).

The event led to some great conversations about how artists include their mothers in their creative work and where motherhood and creativity intersect. NYC-based photographer Melissa Spitz spoke about how her mother became the subject of a series of photographs on view at Heiress from November 17-December 30.

At the Museum of Motherhood, Joy spoke about how becoming a mother was her life’s most creative act, and Factory artist Lucky Leroy talked about how he included his late mother in some of his projects.

I wonder how many other local artists have included their mothers in their work. What a great Mother’s Day story this would make.

Greetings from Main Street
Dunedin FL

Sunday, November 19

I reserved Sunday for family. We started at the Tarpon Springs Seafood Festival before going to the Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival.

It was a perfect Florida day — not too hot, not too cold. It’s just right for Pinellas County’s outdoor seafood, art and music festivals, of which there are several at this time of year.

Dunedin’s Main Street buzzes with events in fall and winter, and this weekend’s no exception. The 30th Annual Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival was in full swing when we arrived that afternoon. Arts and crafts vendors lined both sides of Main Street.

It seemed like everyone was out doing early holiday shopping. Orchids mingled with metal fish, watercolors, and handmade snakes with hair made of yarn.

We soak it up like sunlight. It’s fall in Florida.

Greetings from the Fenway Hotel
Dunedin FL

Wednesday, November 29

I’ve driven past The Fenway Hotel building my whole life, long after and long before the building operated as a hotel. I didn’t go inside until June 2018, when I accompanied local journalist Meaghan Habuda to the newly remodeled Fenway Hotel’s press preview.

After decades of not being a hotel at all, The Marriot was restoring the old Fenway Hotel building to its original purpose — hosting Florida tourists in a jazz-age setting.

Since then, I’ve watched the Fenway integrate into Pinellas County’s arts and culture scene, hosting everything from local jazz musicians to pool parties, The Dunedin International Film Festival gala, and visual art made by local artists. The Fenway Hotel is more than just an architectural landmark – it’s a lively drinking and dining, arts and culture destination.

This November, The Fenway hosted work by St. Pete visual artist Gianna Pergamo as part of Creative Pinellas’ Beyond the Walls. Saxophonist Peter Neumann enveloped us in live jazz while visitors sipped boozy hot chocolate near the lobby Christmas trees.


Here’s to a New Year Full of
Arts and Culture in Pinellas County!


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