The New Studios@5663 in Pinellas Park

A Celebration of Prince – Let’s Go Crazy!
The Reopening of Renovated
Studios@5663 in Pinellas Park

 . . .

John Gascot, working Latin Pop artist and founding member of the Pinellas Arts Village in Pinellas Park, remembers lighters on its opening night some eight years ago. Lighters or camera flashlights because there was no power… used by visitors to view the art.

Today, co-owner of the new Studios@5663, he might see flashlights again like at those music festivals and concerts when the audience “lit up the place” with their Bic lighters and camera phone in honor of the performer.

This time at last Saturday’s highly anticipated “A Celebration of Prince: Let’s Go Crazy!” – where folks went crazy over the iconic, innovative music maker and performer – the celebration marks the reopening of the Studios after a six-month renovation by Gascot and Laurie Elmer, who purchased the building late last year.

“Let’s Go Crazy!” Prince exhibit – photo by Emily Stehle

You can call me biased in describing the party as among the most important events to happen in the art scene in Pinellas County in 2024. I’m one of the seven artists who have been preparing for the occasion, at least in our minds, for the last six months or longer.

And for Gascot and Elmer, it’s something they’ve been waiting for… well, forever!

John Gascot says, “I’ve been dreaming about this forever” – ever since I’ve been in Florida. Gascot, an award-winning Queer Latin American artist and muralist, creates in a variety of styles including painterly and geometric abstraction but “Latin Pop” is his signature look.

“It combines elements of Folk, Pop and Cubism,” Gascot explains, “in various narratives blurring cultural lines which divide us.”

Hell on Heelz by John Gascot

His accessible art promotes diversity and simultaneously celebrates and challenges social and gender roles dictated by various cultures. The figures in his paintings are often large and curvaceous, representing feminine strength and beauty.

Gascot owned and operated a studio/gallery in Milford PA, the APA Gallery, and later the Workhouse Art Center in Lorton VA before moving to Florida in 2014. He created Diversity Arts Inc. in 2017, as a nonprofit organization to “support underserved youth and communities by providing safe environments, guidance and materials for creative self-discovery, expression and sociocultural interaction.”

Setting up the Let’s Go Crazy! exhibit – photo by John Gascot

The most significant influences in his art practice – Fernand Leger, Stuart Davis and Prince. His work has a sense of fun, play and curiosity but invites the viewer to observe, explore and make up their own story.

Elmer says, “We’d been looking for a bigger space/building for us to own after we (Urban Dog Studio with Knicki Lucrezi) realized we needed more space for a working photography studio.” Gascot recalls interviewing and approving them as new artist tenants four years ago.

Elmer has a bachelor of arts degree in fine art printmaking, but ended up working in the corporate world as a senior director at Abbott Labs. A hobby photographing nature and wildlife changed when she received an SLR camera from her boyfriend at the time, veterinarian David Elmer, for graduation.

Together they explored Florida learning about critters and she did conservation photography and began seriously learning the art and history of photography. Ten years later, now married to Elmer, she was tasked with decorating the lobby of his new business, Pinellas Animal Hospital.

What did she do? Always the creative pragmatist, Elmer decided to invite the hospital staff – well really, their pets – to sit for family portraits. She became an accidental pet photographer and that led to more client work and an introduction to editorial work resulting in her work for more than 10 different magazine titles.

Urban Dog Studio – Knicki Lucrezi and Laurie Elmer

So that early decision to take photos of pets led her to become an expert in photographing animals showing their personalities. At times, photography sessions take hours (getting the dog or cat comfortable enough to forget there are people in the room with cameras). In some cases, the perfect photo pops up when, in the process of packing up, the animals start behaving like themselves.

Together with Urban Dog partner Knicki Lucrezi, a St. Pete photographer met online, the two host the award-winning podcast, “Let’s Bark about It Tampa Bay.”

John Gascot and Laurie Elmer – photo courtesy of Studios@5663

The working artists Gascot and Elmer say creating their all-inclusive community arts center where “wellness meets art,” has been focused on providing truly affordable artist working space and community event rental space while offering young people the opportunity to learn and do art. The Spa @5663 with more than 20 years’ experience in therapeutic and relaxing massage therapies, will also serve as a temporary home for certified massage therapists who want to rent studio space.

It also provides others the opportunity to teach classes and workshops that aren’t all visual arts based, such as music (ukulele!), yoga, pet training classes, etc.

The Gascot/Elmer partnership has already garnered a much sought-after award. Elmer and her chosen nonprofit partner, Diversity Arts, are among 10 recipients who were recently awarded a $10,000 grant through Creative Pinellas for the National Endowment for the Arts.

John Gascot’s flaming red closet doors

Creating a New Arts Community Takes Years

The planning for the new Studios@5663 took place over many years, through trial and error with Gascot leading the way. Support and assistance from the City of Pinellas Park and community partners he developed along with his daily record of managing and directing the Arts Village, past experience as a gallery owner and arts entrepreneur, and experience in the local art community has led to this – his commitment to create an arts oasis in Pinellas Park.

With Elmer, they’ve a start. They renovated the 4,000 sq. ft. building, literally building it with the involvement and approval of the resident artists.

We’re all impressed by the professional lighting in the corridor gallery

Glitches Along the Way 

Some of the challenges. . . the carpet tiles were removed early on in the reno project and were stained and then sealed. Only the sealant turned into a sticky mess.

The sealant was removed with a solvent but that resulted in fumes so no work could be done as far as moving anything into the building. This happened within a week of the June 1 opening.

A leaky roof had to be repaired. The kitchenette cabinets installed at standard height had to be lowered by two inches to be ADA compliant. As a process, both Elmer and Gascot went through frustration and worry. In the end, all of us are very happy with the result of a brand-new studio facility that meets our needs beyond our expectations.

We now have eight artist studios of varying sizes (220-870 sq. ft.), an ADA bathroom, a large 575 sq. ft. Main Gallery space and corridor space for exhibits and special events. The 870 sq. ft. Urban Dog Studio is available for rental for photography sessions and special events.

My relationship with the Studios is very simple. We are a “studio art family” with all of us sharing furniture, equipment and advice. In my short 1 ½ years there, I’ve accumulated “stuff” for my studio or art practice (upcycling garbage and transforming trash into art) from every artist in the building.

My studio stuffed with stuff

Other Members of My Studio Art Family


Ron Diana
Certified Massage Therapist and Wellness Educator
Designated “Spa” manager to oversee room rentals and appointments
Twenty years of experience in massage therapies and wellness education

Knicki Lucrezi
Laurie Elmer’s pal since 2003 and formed Urban Dog Studio is 2019. Her background includes years of experience in fine art photography and lifestyle portraiture.

Tricia Lynn Bush, CRI
Wildlife Painter
A Bob Ross Certified Instructor (Landscape)
Self-taught and self-motivated, Tricia practiced as a registered nurse in healthcare administration.

Terry Scopelliti
A local, national and international award-winning fine art photographer, I know Terry for his humorous photos of Barbie (before she became an even bigger cultural icon with the Barbie movie) and her shoes.

My Prince interpretation starts with this box

Back to Saturday’s Celebration of Prince

If you don’t know who Prince is, Gascot says, “We’re not speaking…

“Prince is the first artist I encountered that I could relate to… who gave me the look at gender expression not dictated by the norm,” he adds.

If you do know Prince, you’ll see the work of more than 20 visual artists interpreting their favorite Prince songs, on display through June 26. Mine is Raspberry Beret

5663 Park Blvd.
Pinellas Park FL


About Emily Lee Stehle

Emily is a transformative trash artist who upcycles trash into art. She was an Emerging Artist for Creative Pinellas in 2020-21, Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, 2018 and Florida Cafard, 2017. She works at her new studio, Studios@5663.

Current exhibitions include

Solo Show at John Brock Art Alcove, Palm Harbor Library, through July 1. Free. Artist’s Reception, 5:30-6:30 pm on Thursday, June 6.

Interwoven Legacies: Celebrating 25 Years of the Tampa Bay Surface Design Guild in Honor of Marlene Glickman through August 4 at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, Tarpon Springs. Free.


Become a Creative Pinellas Supporter