Monday, March 9, 2015

Part 1 A Casual Conversation with Wayne Atherholt St. Pete Director of Cultural Affairs

Recently I had the opportunity to set down with Wayne Atherholt, St. Pete's new Director of Cultural Affairs, to chat about the current status of St. Petersburg as a home for artists and as an arts destination.

Wayne is a warm and charming individual will a real love for the arts. This is the first of a  6 Post series where Wayne lays out in some detail his vision for St. Petersburg as an Arts Destination and how all of it will come together to help artists.

My questions are in bold.

"Tell me a bit about your background," I began.

"I was born in Pennsylvania," Wayne began, "Spent most of my early days there. I got my bachelors degree from Penn State University and a Master's Degree in International Communication from American University in Washington.

I was on a track to go into the CIA or some State Department thing and I was working for the French News Agency in DC at the time.

I got a book called Megatends and read it. It talked about these 10 Sunbelt Cities that are up and coming including Tampa St. Petersburg. Something about Tampa/St. Petersburg struck a chord with me the weather, location, daily nonstop flights to London at the time and so I moved here after Grad School. That brings us up to 1985.

I have worked for a number of museums, cultural attractions. I was the first marketing Director for the Salvador Dali Museum in the 80's and 90's. I was with the Florida International Museum, the
Titanic was my first show there, went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa heading up all of their earned income, I was the director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach.

I got to be 50 years old and wanted to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up and came to the conclusion that I was happiest in the Arts in St. Petersburg and here I am."

"Where do you see the St. Pete artist community going in the near term?" I asked?

"I think it's on the cusp of going to the next step and there has been a series of those steps over the years," Wayne continued. "They are coming much closer together, if you will.

The first one was when the Arts Community was first founded here in 1916, next was the opening of the Fine Arts Museum in 1965, then the Dali museum in 1982. You're are starting to see these major shifts happening more and more frequently.

I think we are really on the cusp of truly being a place where people will come to buy and collect art, to experience cultural facilities, to be a consumer of the cultural experience, whether it's buying a ticket to the Dali Museum, or a performance at the Mahaffey, that kind of thing and really having a community of artists that are creating art here.

We have a burgeoning Clay industry, we have a burgeoning Glass industry, so I think we are on the cusp of going to that next level without necessarily seeing a single institution leading that like the Dali did or the International Museum did when they opened up.

It's more of a community based type thing where now you've got multiple arts districts and really what we are looking for is more visitors to come in and buy art."

In the next Post Wayne talks about the Kriseman administration's new focus on the Arts Destination and the issue of artist subsidy verses sustainability.

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