Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Part 3 A Casual Conversation with Wayne Atherholt St. Pete's New 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.

We met in Wayne's office at City Hall.

My Questions are in Bold:

"Is there a place for direct artist subsidy from the City or do you feel there is a better way to support artists?"

"I think the best thing we can do is to find customers. That's what I have heard. Find customers for the artists and galleries and bring them here.

There is sort of a progression of the arts experience. Most people who come here if they are going to have an art experience they are more than likely going to go to the Dali Museum or the Chihuly exhibit or the Fine Arts Museum, that's sort the leading cultural experience here in St. Pete.

If you can get them a little bit further on down Central Avenue you have Studio 620, Florida CraftArt, Morean Arts Center, The Florida Holocaust Museum, a lot of little galleries they can get to an arts experience that is easily walkable.

If you can get them to go further down to the Edge, or Grand Central they are going to have yet another experience and there are great arts oriented businesses there such as ARTicles Gallery, Pinot’s Palette, Grand Central Stained Glass, Craftsman House and Painting With a Twist.

Getting them down to the Warehouse Arts District, the Train Station (Morean Center for Clay) and some of those places is a little bit more challenging right now. If you can get people to have the entire urban experience, which really is a cultural and arts experience here, I think they would be sold.

We’re continuing to work with this district, as I mentioned, to improve lighting, signage and other things so that people can walk from Duncan McClellan Glass to Zen Glass and Funktionhouse and
Soft Water Studios and be able to walk to Gallery 909 a bit further south in the historic Deuces area.

These are people who may relocate here.

Not everybody is going to buy art. At some point somebody will buy say a coffee mug with some design on it a local artist created. That's their first "art" purchase.
Many people will think that is not an "art" purchase, but for many people they bought a mug that was designed by an artist. It has the artist name on it, there is a little biography card, they can follow them on Facebook if they want. Maybe they will buy a poster or a print by that artist and hang it or frame it. Then maybe they will buy an original piece of art.

Not everybody starts off buying a $2,000 or $3,000 painting.

There are some wonderful collections here in the City and throughout the state. They all got started with one piece."

"Help me understand the difference between and "arts destination" and an "artist community".

"An arts destination is going to have the infrastructure for cultural tourists. We started this back in the 90's with sidewalk cafes." Wayne continued.

"We have some of the other ancillary things like a book store. We have the largest book store in Florida with Haslams.

Those are the types of things along with the Gas Plant Antique Emporium, some antique malls, restaurants, hotels, you have the entire infrastructure here; and then you have got the arts facilities themselves. You are now able to draw people to an arts destination. You actually see the arts community within that destination.

So to sell the destination is to also sell the artists community where people can see glass being blown, they can see pottery being thrown and they can see artists painting.

They can come here and take a class for 6 weeks if they want too, they can do a 2 day seminar, they can hear a lecture, and they can go to see a number of museums.

It's sort of an a la cart menu that a visitor can choose from.

So as you can see, there are a lot of opportunities. They just need to be packaged up properly.

The Central Avenue Trolley pretty much links up all of those specific experiences, and you are starting to see branches off of that primarily on M.L. King Street and 22nd Street and of course along the water front."

In the next Post Wayne lays out some preliminary ideas and plans for arts events and an Arts Festival.

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